Irish politicians who were trying to blame Brussels on the water charges issue in pursuit of their own agendas had no legal basis for their arguments. This charge was levelled in the European Parliament in Strasbourg by Marian when she denounced political attempts to blame Brussels in the current controversy.
“My question is ‘Can Irish politicians use the time honoured excuse – Brussels made us do it’ in relation to the payment of water charges?
“The Water Framework Directive gives Member States a clear ‘opt out’ where they can decide in accordance with established practices not to apply water charges. In fact this opt out was put in place for Ireland; the reality is Irish governments have so far not activated that opt out in their river basin management plans.
“So the question now is, what are established practices? Former Commissioner Potocnik himself answered that question in 2010 when he clarified established practice as being at the time of adoption of the Directive. For EU and Ireland that was 2003 - not 2010, not 2012, not 2016, its 2003 when there was no question of water charges being applied. There should be no further argument on this point, the Commission have clarified it already.
“Furthermore in 2014 the European Court of Justice found against the European Commission when they took Germany to court for not charging for certain water services, including personal consumption.
“The Court was clear in its judgement when it stated ‘the EU legislature intended to allow Member States to determine the measures to be adopted for the recovery of costs without extending it to all services associated with water use’.
“This puts beyond question any suggestion that Member States must apply water charges. The ECJ has very clearly stated that Member States have flexibility when it comes to charges for water - that’s how the legislation was written in the first place and that´s how the Court ruled. The Court further states the Directive ‘does not per-se impose a generalised pricing obligation in respect of all activities relating to water use’, once again clarifying that Member States do not have to impose water charges.
“In this case, what’s good enough for Germany is good enough for Ireland and those Irish politicians who are trying to blame Brussels while pursuing their own agendas have no legal basis for their argument”.