2017 – Food & Water Europe Is Ready To Stand Its Ground

We don’t know what 2017 will look like, but we are sure that we want to be ready for some of the challenges we will find for our food, our water, our climate and our democracy. Together, we need to make 2017 a better year. And united we will have the power to do so!

By Andy Gheorghiu, Frida Kieninger, David Sánchez

Many people said 2016 was a bad year. And there were many reasons: the result of the US elections, Brexit, or the high toll of environmental activists that were killed for standing for their communities around the globe. We don’t know what 2017 will look like, but we are sure that we want to be ready for some of the challenges we will find for our food, our water, our climate and our democracy. Together, we need to make 2017 a better year. And united we will have the power to do so!

Trump and the “Corporates States of America”

We are all still recovering from the shock of the US elections and the first steps Trump is taking. But we need to get ready to resist this new government of oil and gas-spokesmen and industrial billionaires. Our American colleagues at Food & Water Watch are already getting ready, relentlessly uncovering the ties between industry and politics and standing up to protect the people and the environment from fracking, damaging pipeline projects and unsustainable food production.

One of Trump’s first official acts was to announce his “America First Energy Plan”, which is rather a “Fossils and Fracking First Plan”. The language is clear and devoid of possible misinterpretations: “The Trump Administration will embrace the shale oil and gas revolution.” His position couldn’t be more straightforward. But that’s no surprise. Trump’s nominee list for his cabinet is filled with former fossil fuel executives and climate change deniers.

Our Energy, Our Climate, Our Future

Many global eyes – including ours – are focused on building international solidarity against Trump’s agenda, and so we are already working to organise the Global Frackdown 2017, as a show of strength and unity of the international struggle against fracking and fossil fuel extraction in advance of the COP23 that will take place in Bonn, Germany, in November, where nothing less than our ability to address our climate challenges will again be at stake, and where the EU will have to walk the talk concerning its commitment to the Paris Agreement.

But we will also be especially vigilant monitoring fracking developments in Europe. In February 2016, the EU Parliament adopted a paragraph in favour of an EU-wide moratorium on fracking and urged Member States “not to authorise any new hydraulic fracturing operations in the EU”. Unfortunately, the Parliament hasn’t been standing so firmly against fracking since. We have to remain watchful even in countries where a moratorium or ban on fracking has been adapted – and particularly in the UK, where many activists are bravely fighting the fossil fuel industry and their attempts to frack in many places across the country.

Things look also very challenging regarding gas imports: The EU pushes for gas, calling it a climate and energy security solution, while this is far from reality. Particularly LNG (liquefied natural gas), significantly reduced in volume and imported from all around the globe, is wrongly considered a possible fuel of the future. In many Member States, projects to receive and regasify liquefied gas are planned. These “LNG terminals” go hand in hand with plans for more gas pipelines, pumping the imported (partially fracked) gas from dubious sources across Europe.

Many of these gassy plans are given a special status by the EU-Commission and declared “projects of common interest” – PCIs. That means that they receive financial support, accelerated permit granting or a faster environmental assessment. Investing public money in largely unnecessary gas infrastructure simply does not make any sense from an environmental, climate, energy, political or economic point of view. That’s why we won’t stop fighting for the hearts and minds of the people, and we will also keep building a growing movement of “gas-tivists” all over Europe and worldwide.

Our Fight For Public Water

This year will mark the third anniversary of one of the biggest mistakes of the European Commission – and they had many. Three years ago, they decided to ignore the nearly two million citizens that had supported the implementation of the Human Right to Water in the EU. It was the first European Citizen’s Initiative (a tool designed to involve citizens in the European agenda) that got support, and we are still paying the consequences on various levels. On one side, the gap between European citizens and institutions is broadening. On the other side, many European citizens are struggling against water privatization, water poverty or lack of access to water and sanitation.

In 2017, we will continue the struggle against water privatization forced on Greece by the European Commission. Irish citizens will keep on their campaign to abolish water charges. And the whole European Water Movement will try to build up on the success at Slovenia – where the Human Right to Water was introduced in the Constitution of this small country a couple of months ago, in an historic moment of global importance.

Challenging The Corporate Trade Agenda

This year will be key to block the new neoliberal agenda coming through the next generation of trade deals. While the Trans-Pacific Partnership was blocked, and TTIP is waiting for a better moment, CETA – the agreement between the EU and Canada – will be voted on in the Plenary of the European Parliament in February if the vote doesn’t get delayed. Blocking CETA is extremely important to stop the corporate takeover of our legislation and to prevent further water commodification and privatization. And we have to focus a great deal more on the development of the Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA), which could be a threat to public services and could have a negative impact on the development of renewable energy and our efforts to reduce global warming.

The Future of Our Food System

Big seed and pesticide companies are merging. And 2017 can be the turning point for our food system. While we are resisting these mergers, like the one between Monsanto and Bayer, we will keep fighting for healthy food in Europe and exposing the expansion of factory farms, with their huge impact on communities, water and our environment.

We Are Ready For The Challenges Ahead. And You?

There are many challenges ahead, but we will not be discouraged from our efforts to build a fairer, sustainable, self-determined and much more democratic future. Let’s unite and keep building our movement together!