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Right to water campaign secures 1.8 million signatures in Europe

A Food & Water Europe media release today highlights that, “The European Water Movement welcomed the submission of 1.8 million signatures to the European Commission, demanding it to ‘implement the human right to water and sanitation’.”

Through the European Citizens’ Initiative, the European Commission is being asked to propose legislation that implements the human right to water and sanitation as recognized by the United Nations General Assembly.

In order to move this forward, 1 million signatures from at least seven different European Union Member States was needed.

An exciting counter-force

The media release says, “This European Citizens Initiative … is a clear signal from citizens asking the European Commission to change its mind-set from a market-based approach with a focus on competition to a rights-based approach with a focus on participative public service. It asks for the aim to achieve universal and global access to water and sanitation and to safeguard our water resources for future generations.”

In late February, Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow spoke to the Chamber of Labour in Vienna, Austria in support of this initiative. 

At that time, Barlow commented, “In a classic example of what Naomi Klein calls the shock doctrine, the European Commission and the European Central Bank are using the financial crisis to promote an ‘austerity’ program that includes privatization of water services in a number of countries. …The Citizen’s Initiative is a most exciting counter-force to this provocation and growing every day.”

Next steps

Gabriella Zanzanaini of Food & Water Europe says, “We expect the European Commission to answer on how and what it will do to achieve these demands in the next three months.” That sets a deadline of March 10, 2014.

According to a European Commission backgrounder, “In the three months following the submission of a citizens’ initiative which has received the required number of statements of support:

  • Commission representatives will meet the organisers so they can explain in detail the issues raised in their initiative; 

  • the organisers will have the opportunity to present their initiative at a public hearing in the European Parliament; 

  • following a careful examination of the initiative, the Commission will adopt a formal response spelling out what action it intends to take, if any, and its reasons.”

This document also notes, “If the Commission decides to put forward a legislative proposal in response to a citizens’ initiative, the normal legislative procedure kicks off. The Commission proposal is submitted to the legislator (the European Parliament and the Council or in some cases only the Council), which will need to adopt it for it to become law.”


The European Citizens Initiative right to water campaign has been endorsed by numerous groups including the Blue Planet Project, Blue October, and the Council of Canadians. We congratulate the European Water Movement for their exceptional work.