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Childers welcomes EU communication that the State can protect Irish water from privatization

Press Release

Thursday 26 Feb 2015

Independent MEP for Dublin, Nessa Childers has welcomed confirmation by the European Commission that protecting water from privatisation would not be contrary to EU treaties or competition rules.

“I think it is important in any discussion about the cost and quality of water in Ireland, that we include the importance of non-privatisation of Irish water into all debates.  We also need to stress from the outset that privatisation is not necessary.

“Across Europe the debate is about the right to water, where many countries are concerned about access being denied by private companies controlling water supplies.

“In Ireland we need to be aware of the critical issue of ownership of water, and ensure that all citizens are entitled to a high quality water supply regardless of their income.”

Ms Childers question to the European Commission and the reply are copied below.


Question for written answer E-008869/2014

to the Commission

Rule 130

Nessa Childers (S&D)

Subject:       Privatisation of water services

Should the citizens of Ireland decide via a referendum to insert the clause laid out below into the Irish Constitution, would this be in breach of the Lisbon Treaty and/or EU competition rules?

‘The State shall treat drinking water as an essential resource and, in the interests of the common good, the State shall not provide for the privatisation or commercialisation of water services for the people.’



Answer given by Ms Bieńkowska

on behalf of the Commission


According to Article 345 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, the Treaties shall in no way prejudice the rules in Member States governing the system of property ownership. As confirmed by the Court, this leaves it for Member States to decide on nationalisation of undertakings, as well as their privatisation[1].

As regards undertakings entrusted with the operation of services of a general economic interest, as for example water supply on a commercial basis, Member States are allowed under Article 106(2) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union to decide how to organise such activities, including by creating a public monopoly or prohibiting the privatization of such monopoly, provided that the development of trade is not affected to such an extent as would be contrary to the interests of the Union and that the fundamental rules of such Treaty are respected.[2]

[1]     See e.g. joined cases C-105/12 to C-107/12, Judgment of 22 October 2013, Essent and others, ECLI:EU:C:2013:677

[2]     Ibid. para. 36.