Adopting a human rights approach to water management, boosting investments in infrastructure and technologies, introducing water consumption labels and price restructuring are among the key recommendations of the six EESC opinions on water adopted at its July plenary. They make up the first wave of EESC proposals for a comprehensive water policy for Europe under its Blue Deal initiative. On 26 October, the EESC will present its Call for an EU Blue Deal to the EU institutions and stakeholders.
In response to the pressing challenges posed by scarce water resources, pollution, aging infrastructure, climate change, as well as a fragmented approach to water policies at EU level, the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) is leading the way with a comprehensive set of recommendations for a sustainable water policy for Europe. Its Blue Deal initiative calls for a unified approach across the European Union in order to eradicate water poverty and ensure that all EU citizens have access to safe and affordable water and sanitation as a human right.
To achieve these goals, the EESC has highlighted the importance of developing resilient water infrastructure and distribution networks. This begins with conducting assessments of the current state of water infrastructure and availability in each Member State to identify investment needs and ensure efficient water management.
The series of EESC recommendations on the economics of an EU Blue Deal include implementing pricing strategies that discourage wasteful water consumption and propose new means of financing water policies.
Moreover, the Committee aims to position the EU as a global leader in water-efficient technologies. It proposes embedding water in all EU industrial policies to reduce water consumption, promote reuse and recycling, and address water pollution. As for agriculture, the EESC suggests a similar approach, ensuring that the water dimension is fully incorporated within the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) framework.
Recognising the power of consumers in driving change, the EESC also wants to promote the use of water-efficient appliances by introducing water consumption labels and circular water consumption practices, empowering individuals to contribute to the solution.
EESC President Oliver Röpke stressed the need for EU action on water, stating:
Tragic floods in Italy and droughts in Spain, Portugal and elsewhere are not a coincidence. It is a reality that we need to start addressing and we must do so urgently. The EESC sent a clear message this week: water resources must become a political priority. We need the Commission to follow this lead after the 2024 elections.
Pietro De Lotto, President of the EESC Consultative Commission on Industrial Change (CCMI), echoed the sentiment, saying:
Water is a precious, scarce and strategic common good. Europe needs to up its game in protecting our water resources and support actions in water saving and reuse. This is why the EESC will propose a new and ambitious water strategy for Europe, covering all EU policies. It is time for an EU Blue Deal.
These proposals will be consolidated in a set of key principles and concrete actions to be presented to the European institutions at the "Call for an EU Blue Deal" conference on 26 October 2023. The EESC's objective is for water to be one of the next EU Commission's top priorities, paving the way for a more water-secure and sustainable Europe with the involvement of industry, agriculture, consumers and civil society.
The six opinions adopted on 12-13 July 2023 by the European Economic and Social Committee:
- Access to water: tackling water poverty and its implications for social policy – Rapporteurs: Kinga Joó, Carlos Manuel Trindade;
- Sustainable and resilient water infrastructures and distribution networks – Rapporteur: Thomas Kattnig;
- The economics of an EU Blue Deal – Rapporteur: Florian Marin;
- Water-intensive industries and water-efficient technologies – Rapporteurs: Paul Rübig, John Bryan
- Sustainable water management and climate emergency: circular and other solutions for the EU agri-food system in a future Blue Deal – Rapporteurs: Josep Puxeu Rocamora, John Comer;
- Water efficient consumption – Rapporteur: Milena Angelova.