European Commission should make itself available to Oireachtas Water Committee – Hayes
Evidence suggests that Expert Group proposals would comply with EU rules
Brian Hayes MEP today (Wednesday) said that the European Commission should make itself available to appear before the Oireachtas Committee on the Future funding of water services.
“If the Members of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on water should decide to get evidence from the European Commission about compliance with the Water Framework Directive, there should be full disclosure from the Commission. The Commission should make itself available to appear before the Committee and should be available to provide evidence or information at short notice.
“Any future system to fund our water services has to comply with the EU’s Water Framework Directive. This Committee needs clear legal advice from the Commission about what system does or does not comply with the Directive, if it is to make recommendations to the Dáil and Seanad.
“The Committee does not intend to hear from organisations that have already sent detailed submissions to the Expert Group. While the Commission did send a letter to the Expert Group, it has not given any detailed evidence as to what does or does not comply with the Water Framework Directive.
“Frankly, I don’t believe the Commission has been very forthcoming in its assessment of the water charges debate. Through the odd letter or response to an MEP’s parliamentary question, the Commission has given often vague positions on the water charges debate. We need complete disclosure from the Commission as we aim to put this issue to bed finally.
“There is existing evidence that the recommendations made by the Expert Water Group will indeed comply with the Water Framework Directive. In the Flanders region of Belgium, everyone has the right to a minimal supply of 15 cubic meters (41 litres per capita per day) of free water per person per year. Above this level, Flemish citizens have to pay for what is considered a ‘wastewater charge’. This system complies with the ‘polluter pays’ principle and closely resembles the system proposed by the Expert Water Group where usage above a normal level would paid through water tariffs.
“The basic idea of the system in Flanders is that those who use water excessively shall be charged more than those who use water conservatively – this is the essential principle behind the recommendations Expert Water Group. Ultimately however, we need the legal advice of the European Commission if we are to get clarity.”