Wednesday, 19 March 2014

First European Citizens' Initiative endorsed by the Commission

The Initiative's banner
While we most often discuss "normal" commodities, it is not unfrequent to discuss issues which relate very closely to non-market rights of citizens and consumers. The distrinction between market and non-market commodities is not always straightforward and sometimes the European dimension represents a source of additional complexity- and concerns. 

In  the case of water, in particular, the concern with privatisation and universal access to clean, safe water has been at the centre of the first European Citizen Initiative to reach the final stage. The initiative, supported by over 1,5 million European citizens, has been presented before the European Parliament and the Commission in the past weeks. 

Today, the Commission has decided to give a positive response to the initiative- albeit on terms that might leave some of the proponents less-than-enthusiastic.
While Commissioner Šefčovič recalled that "the decision on how best to operate water services is firmly in the hands of the public authorities in the Member States", implicitly excluding any intervention in favour of public water management, he also expressed some important political commitments, namely:
- that the Commission will not pursue further liberalisation of water provision;
- that the domain will be safeguarded from concessions in the context of the on-going TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership) negotiations between EU and US.

The Commission also announced undertakings in the areas of water safety, transparency in the sector, and supporting an open debate on the concerns raised by the ECI at both European and national level.

Besides the merits of the case, it is interesting for all European citizens (and consumers) to see that a new way of participating in EU-level agenda-setting might be finally gaining some ground.

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