A big victory for water activists is here as Slovenia has amended its constitution to make access to drinkable water a fundamental right for all citizens and stop it being commercialised. This is what happens when campaignrs have the necessary tools such as citizens evoked referendums to implement the will of the people. Congrats Slovenia!
The article that was added to the Constitution is the following:
Article 70a (Right to drinking water)
Everyone has the right to drinking water.
Water sources are public good managed by the state.
Water resources serve primarily as the sustainable supply of drinking water and water for households and in this part are not treated as a commodity that can be traded with.
Drinking water supplied to the public and to households is provided by the state through local communities direct and non-profit.
“From the 30th January 2016 to 11th March, we have collected a list of more than 51,000 signatures in support of having the inalienable right to water written into the Constitution. We handed this list to the National Assembly on 11th March. Our Citizens initiative therefore has to this date the backing of almost 3 percent of the voting population. Even after handing in the petition signatures, we have continued our efforts by working on a positive pressure and discussing the matter with water and legal professionals. We have also engaged public authorities covering the area of water, political parties and representatives of citizen initiatives in an open discussion. The objective of our actions was to be clearly written into the Constitution that water and water land is a natural public good, over which no-one can acquire ownership rights; that everyone has the right to drinking water; that the water supply of the population cannot be owned by private companies in any legal-formal way, and that the provision of the water supply to the public is a service which should not generate profit and that the water supply of the population has the absolute precedence over economic exploitation in the case of the water crisis or drought or other crises, and that the water resources be managed sustainably, with thoughts on our posterity.By written down unalienable right to drinking water into the Constitution we are thinking about the future in the present, we will show Europe and the world that Slovenian drinking water is a public good that cannot and will not be privatized and should permanently and primarily be used to supply the population (and animals) and only after that for economic purposes in Slovenia and export purposes, provided the water supply allows for it” writes the announcement by the activists of “Civil initiative For Slovenia and freedom, Water into the Constitution, water into the conscience”
Last night the Parliament held the voting. With 64 votes in favour and none against, the 90-seat parliament added an article to the EU country’s constitution saying “everyone has the right to drinkable water”. The centre-right opposition Slovenian Democratic party (SDS) abstained from the vote saying the amendment was not necessary and only aimed at increasing public support. Slovenia is a mountainous, water-rich country with more than half its territory covered by forest. “Water resources represent a public good that is managed by the state. Water resources are primary and durably used to supply citizens with potable water and households with water and, in this sense, are not a market commodity,” the article reads.
The centre-left prime minister, Miro Cerar, had urged lawmakers to pass the bill saying the country of two million people should “protect water – the 21st century’s liquid gold – at the highest legal level”. “Slovenian water has very good quality and, because of its value, in the future it will certainly be the target of foreign countries and international corporations’ appetites.“As it will gradually become a more valuable commodity in the future, pressure over it will increase and we must not give in,” Cerar said.
Slovenia is the first European Union country to include the right to water in its constitution, although according to Rampedre (the online Permanent World Report on the Right to Water) 15 other countries across the world had already done so.
Trade Unions and Civil Society Welcome the Introduction of the Human Right to Water into the Constitution of Slovenia
Joint Press Release by EPSU, Food & Water Europe and European Water Movement*:
Last night the National Assembly of Slovenia passed an amendment to its Constitution to include a new article that recognizes the Human Right to Water. The amendment affirms water should be treated as a public good managed by the state, not as a commodity, and that drinking water must be supplied by the public sector in a non-for-profit basis. It is a great success for Slovenian activists and people.
“Citizens from across the EU and Europe have successfully mobilized to have the right to water and sanitation recognized as a human right – as decided by the United Nations – and have this put into EU law. The European Commission continues to ignore nearly two million voices of the first ever successful European Citizens Initiative. Commissioner Vella should listen to citizens and follow the Slovenian example as soon as possible,” said Jan Willem Goudriaan, EPSU General Secretary.
Water is a controversial topic in Slovenia, as foreign companies from the food and beverage industry are buying rights to a large amount of local water resources. The Slovenian government has raised concerns about the impacts of free trade agreements like CETA in its capacity to control and regulate these resources .
“Trade agreements and investor-state dispute settlement mechanisms can limit the ability of states to take back public control over water resources when foreign investors are involved, as it is the case in Slovenia. To guarantee the right to water and the control over this key resource, the European and the Slovenian Parliaments should reject CETA when it comes to a vote in the coming months,” said David Sánchez, Director of Food & Water Europe.
The amendment is the result of a citizens’ initiative that collected 51.000 signatures to propose a constitutional amendment .
“We welcome the introduction of the human right to water in the Slovenian constitution, as the great result of a citizens’ initiative. Now civil society should be vigilant to guarantee a democratic and transparent management of the integrated water cycle founded in the participation of citizens and workers,” said Jutta Schütz, speakperson at the European Water Movement.
- SAVEGREEKWATER is a member of the European Water Movement since 2012.
 The Slovenian government raised concerns about the ambiguity of terms like “commercial use of a water source” in CETA, how the agreement applies to existing water rights and the future ability of national governments to put limits on concessions already granted without being subject to claim under ICS, among others. The document can be found here
 More information about this citizen’s initiative can be found at their website
Jutta Schütz, Speakperson, European Water Movement, +49 (0) 157 390 808 39 (mobile), juttaschuetz(at)gmx.de
David Sánchez, Director, Food & Water Europe, +32 (0) 2893 1045 (land), +32 (0) 485 842 604 (mobile), dsanchez(at)fweurope.org
Guillaume Durivaux, Policy officer, EPSU, +32 (0) 22501041, gdurivaux(at)epsu.org
PDF file of this press release
European Public Service Union – Food & Water Europe – European Water Movement