EU Commission says “Yes” to ‘Right2Water’ ECI – However Legal Implementation Remains Undefined

2014-03-19 News

Today, almost two years after registration, and collecting 1,659,543 signatures from EU citizens, the first successful European Citizens’ Initiative, ‘Right2Water’, obtained an official response from Maroš Šefcovic, the European commissioner for inter-institutional relations and administration, who is in charge of handling ECIs:

“Europe’s citizens have spoken, and today the Commission gave a positive response. Water quality, infrastructure, sanitation and transparency will all benefit – for people in Europe and in developing countries – as a direct result of this first ever exercise in pan-European, citizen-driven democracy. I congratulate the organisers on their achievement.”

The European Commission committed itself to several general actions in areas that are of direct relevance to the initiative and its goals, among them, to launch an EU-wide public consultation on the Drinking Water Directive to assess the need for improvements and how they could be achieved, and to step up efforts towards full implementation of EU water legislation by Member States.

For the organizers however the key issue is if and how the Commission will propose legislation.  It could drown the ECI in unclear public consultations and overview of things they would intend to do anyway say critics. In fact the Commission did not oblige itself to any legislative action even so this ECI – as any ECI – asked to do so. This has lead to disappointment among organizers:

The reaction of the European Commission lacks any real ambition to respond appropriately to the expectations of 1.9 million people” says Jan Willem Goudriaan, vice-president in his press release:  “I regret that there is no proposal for legislation recognising the human right to water.

Already two years ago, when the ECI instrument was launched, The ECI Campaign expressed that the ultimate success or failure of the ECI will depend on how the Commission responds to a successful ECI. According to its speaker Carsten Berg: “One million citizens cannot be ignored. A successful ECI must have consequences and lead to political decisions. Only when citizens realize that their actions lead to legal consequences and that they are actually being heard will this instrument strengthen the democratic engagement of citizens. Otherwise it could simply lead to more frustration.

Today’s result makes clear that millions of citizens want to make use of participatory demcracy at EU level however the new ECI instrument must become more binding and fine-tuned in order to really strengthen the urgently needed democratication of the EU. Only then can EU-democracy become more interactive, responsive and representative.