The European Parliament Fails to Support the Human Right to Water

Brussels – In a vote in the Plenary in Strasbourg this afternoon, the European Parliament has failed to support the implementation of the Human Right to Water in the European Union. The vote on the Directive on the Quality of Water for Human Consumption watered down the measures proposed by the European Commission to ensure access to water for all in the EU.

David Sánchez from Food & Water Europe said in response: “Conservative parties at the European Parliament ignored, once again, the demands of the nearly two million citizens that supported the European Citizens’ Initiative for the Human Right to Water. The proposal from the European Commission was already weak, and today it has been watered down by the right-wing majority at the European Parliament.”

On the positive side, the European Parliament managed to pass some measures to tackle plastic pollution avoiding bottled water use by ensuring the provision of free tap water in public buildings and administrations, encouraging the installation of public fountains in streets and public spaces, and encouraging the provision of tap water in canteens and restaurants around Europe, although the right-wing majority introduced the possibility of charging a fee for it.

“We ask EU governments to improve this legislation in the Council. European citizens will watch closely the negotiations that will take place in the coming months to ensure that their voice is heard and that the human right to water is really implemented,” added Sánchez.


David Sánchez, Food & Water Europe, +32 (0) 485 842 604, dsanchez(at)

International Civil Society Groups Ask the European Parliament to Support the Human Right to Water

Brussels – More than forty civil society organisations from all over the world sent a letter today to Members of the European Parliament encouraging them to support the Human Right to Water in the vote on the Directive on the Quality of Water for Human Consumption that will take place in the plenary in Strasbourg next week.

Marcela Olivera, coordinator of the Inter-American Network for the Defense and the Right to Water (La Red VIDA) said: “The vote at the European Parliament will have a huge impact on access to water for all in Europe, but will also contribute to shape global policies on water. The European Parliament has a great responsibility to push Europe to lead the way to implement the Human Right to Water and to show its commitment to achieve goal number 6 of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.”

The signatory organisations asked members of the European Parliament to support the Alternative Compromise Amendments to article 13 of the mentioned directive that would result in a real commitment to provide access to water for all in the EU. The compromise amendments would also be a big step forward in the effort to stop plastic pollution, as they would encourage restaurants and bars in the EU to provide free tap water, encourage municipalities to install public fountains and encourage public administrations to stop selling bottled water.

Wenonah Hauter, Executive Director of Food & Water Watch added: “In addition to affirming the human right to water, members of the European Parliament can use this opportunity to move Europe closer to its goal of tackling plastic pollution from bottled water. Europe is importing US fracked gas to produce plastic, which is devastating the global environment and local communities alike. Avoiding bottled water in restaurants and public buildings like the European Parliament would be strong signal in the right direction.”


The letter can be found here


David Sánchez, Food & Water Europe, +32 (0) 485 842 604 , dsanchez(at)

European Water Movement – Food & Water Europe – Wasser in Bürgerhand 

The European Commission once again disappoints citizens that supported the Initiative for the Right to Water

Brussels, 31st January 2018. Today European water advocates said the leaked proposal for a new Drinking Water Directive is disappointing and doesn’t meet the expectations of the citizens and organisations that supported the first successful European Citizen’s Initiative (ECI) on the right to water. The review of this directive was framed by the Commission as their only answer to the ECI. Five years later, this draft doesn’t meet any of the demands supported by nearly two million people.

Elisabetta Cangelosi, member of the European Water Movement said, “Five years waiting for an answer and the result couldn’t be more disappointing. Although we welcome the timid attempt of the Commission to include provisions about universal access to water and the emphasis on minorities and vulnerable groups, this text has nothing to do with the human right to water recognized by the United Nations and demanded by citizens”.

The Human Right to Water as defined by the United Nations implies that water and sanitation must be physically accessible, safe, acceptable, sufficient and affordable. The draft Drinking Water Directive addressed just the first three aspects.

David Sánchez, director at Food & Water Europe added, “The proposal from the Commission simply ignores the main challenge for the Human Right to Water in the European context, affordability. With thousands of families having their water cut-off in Europe in recent years for not being able to pay the bills, guaranteeing access is not enough. We need political courage from the Commission to challenge private companies that make profit out of water management to really implement this human right in Europe”.

The proposal also includes provisions to promote free access to water in public spaces, including public buildings, but it falls short as this provision is not specific about it being tap water.

Jutta Schütz, member of Wasser in Bürgerhand added, “The Commission vague wording allows the interpretation that installing vending machines with bottled water would be enough. We need to close this gap so the Drinking Water Directive is coherent with the efforts to get rid of plastics at the European level such as the Plastics Strategy or the Circular Economy Package, and to challenge this unacceptable, environmentally-damaging industry”.


Elisabetta Cangelosi, European Water Movement, +32 488 08 00 21 (mobile), [email protected]

David Sánchez, Food & Water Europe, +32 (0) 485 842 604 (mobile), dsanchez(at)

Jutta Schütz, Wasser in Bürgerhand, +49 (0) 157 390 808 39 (mobile), [email protected]

The European Water Movement is an open, inclusive and pluralistic network whose goal is to reinforce the recognition of water as a commons and as a fundamental universal right.


European Public Service Union – Food & Water Europe – European Water Movement


Trade Unions and Civil Society Welcome the Introduction of the Human Right to Water into the Constitution of Slovenia

foodandwatereuropesloveniawaterBrussels, 18 November 2016 – Last night the National Assembly of Slovenia passed an amendment to its Constitution to include a new article that recognizes the Human Right to Water. The amendment affirms water should be treated as a public good managed by the state, not as a commodity, and that drinking water must be supplied by the public sector in a non-for-profit basis. It is a great success for Slovenian activists  and people.

“Citizens from across the EU and Europe have successfully mobilized to have the right to water and sanitation recognized as a human right – as decided by the United Nations – and have this put into EU law. The European Commission continues to ignore nearly two million voices of the first ever successful European Citizens Initiative. Commissioner Vella should listen to citizens and follow the Slovenian example as soon as possible,” said Jan Willem Goudriaan, EPSU General Secretary.

Water is a controversial topic in Slovenia, as foreign companies from the food and beverage industry are buying rights to a large amount of local water resources. The Slovenian government has raised concerns about the impacts of free trade agreements like CETA (between Canada and the European Union) in its capacity to control and regulate these resources (1).

“Trade agreements and investor-state dispute settlement mechanisms can limit the ability of states to take back public control over water resources when foreign investors are involved, as it is the case in Slovenia. To guarantee the right to water and the control over this key resource, the European and the Slovenian Parliaments should reject CETA when it comes to a vote in the coming months,” said David Sánchez, Director of Food & Water Europe.

The amendment is the result of a citizens’ initiative that collected 51.000 signatures to propose a constitutional amendment (2).

‘We welcome the introduction of the human right to water in the Slovenian constitution, as the great result of a citizens’ initiative. Now civil society should be vigilant to guarantee a democratic and transparent management of the integrated water cycle founded in the participation of citizens and workers,” said Jutta Schütz, speakperson at the European Water Movement.



  • The Slovenian government raised concerns about the ambiguity of terms like “commercial use of a water source” in CETA, how the agreement applies to existing water rights and the future ability of national governments to put limits on concessions already granted without being subject to claim under ICS, among others.


Jutta Schütz, Speakperson, European Water Movement, +49 (0) 157 390 808 39 (mobile), [email protected]

David Sánchez, Director, Food & Water Europe, +32 (0) 2893 1045 (land), +32 (0) 485 842 604 (mobile), dsanchez(at)

Guillaume Durivaux, Policy officer, EPSU, +32 (0) 22501041, [email protected]




Governments and Social Movements Concerned about the Impact of CETA on Water

Brussels – As the EU Council and the European Parliament are about to vote on the free trade agreement between the EU and Canada (CETA, or the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement), more questions have been raised about its impact on water as a resource and on water services. In response to a list of questions raised by the Slovenian Government to the European Commission (1), European and Canadian organizations sent a letter to EU governments raising their own concerns (2).

David Sánchez, a campaigner with Food & Water Europe said: “CETA will open the door to corporate water grabs, and push further commodification of water resources. It also creates new legal uncertainty for public authorities delivering water services.”

The EU and Canada are discussing a draft “Joint Interpretative Declaration” to be published at the time of signature of CETA. The aim would be to clarify the most controversial parts of the agreement. In the leaked first drafts possible impacts on water are denied (3).

Jutta Schutz from the European Water Movement added: “The European Commission and Canada had time enough to take water out of the treaty. Instead, they introduced dangerous provisions written in fuzzy legal terms that will only be clarified when decisions from public authorities are challenged in court. The draft joint declaration is legally uncertain and just a bad joke. If we want to consider water as a commons, and access to water as a Human Right, we need to reject CETA.”



  1. The Slovenian government raised concerns about the ambiguity of terms like “commercial use of a water source”, how the agreement applies to existing water rights and the future ability of national governments to put limits on concessions already granted without being subject to claim under ICS, among others. The document can be found here.
  2. The letter from Food & Water Europe, the Council of Canadians, the European Water Movement, Blue Planet Project and Wasser in Bürgerhand can be found in this link.
  3. A leaked draft can be checked here.


David Sánchez, campaigner, Food & Water Europe, +32 (0) 2893 1045 (land), +32 (0) 485 842 604 (mobile), dsanchez(at)

Jutta Schultz, Speakperson, European Water Movement / Wasser in Bürgerhand, +49 (0) 157 390 808 39 (mobile)

European Parliament Committee Supports the Human Right to Water

Brussels – The Committee on the Environment of the European Parliament voted today on a report about the European Citizen’s Initiative (ECI) on the Human Right to Water and Sanitation, as a result of a campaign that gathered nearly two million signatures from across Europe. Members of the European Parliament confirmed their strong support for the human right to water.

“European citizens have time and again spoken out in favour of water as a human right and a common good. Whenever asked, they have massively supported public water management,” said David Sánchez, Campaigns Officer at Food & Water Europe. “MEPs in the Committee on Environment are asking the European Commission to act accordingly. We expect the Parliament’s Plenary vote in September to confirm this result and the Commission to finally listen to EU citizens.”

By approving all the compromise amendments, the Committee: 

  • Considers it regrettable that the European Commission’s answer to the ECI lacked any real ambition and calls on the Commission to come forward with legislative proposals to make the human right to water a reality.
  • Considers that water is a public good, vital to human life and dignity, and should not be treated as a commodity.
  •  Rejects water cut-offs and the forced switching-off of the water supply as a violation of human rights. 
  • Expresses its concern about countries like Spain, Portugal, Greece or Ireland, where water services are still being privatized and calls the European Commission not to push for water privatization in the context of austerity measures.
  • Notes the growing trend of remunicipalization of water services around Europe.
  • Calls on the Commission to permanently exclude water, sanitation and wastewater disposal from internal market rules. – Considers it imperative that production, distribution and treatment of water and sanitation are excluded from any trade agreements, including TTIP and TISA.
  • Highlights the importance of public-public partnerships as a non-profit model of cooperation among water operators.
  • Demands that EU development policies should fully integrate universal access to water and sanitation based on not-for-profit principles and solidarity.
  • Insists that water, sanitation and hygiene in developing countries should be given high priority and water should be also be a priority in the Sustainable Development Goals and the COP21.

Contact: David Sánchez, Campaigns officer, Food & Water Europe, +32 (0) 2893 1045 (land), +32 (0) 485 842 604 (mobile), dsanchez(at) F