aint gonna happen

Environment Department denies Europe could force us to pay higher water charges

Independent MEP Marian Harkin said the Commission could tell the Government to increase the controversial charge.

THE DEPARTMENT OF the Environment has denied claims the European Commission could force Ireland to introduce higher water charges.

Independent MEP Marian Harkin had claimed that EU legislation could lead to increased charges.

Harkin said a section of the EU Water Framework Directive states that if countries within the EU choose to charge households for water the fee must take into account the full cost of water services.

She told journalist Karen Coleman this means Europe can, at any stage, request that Ireland increases water charges to cover the cost of running Irish Water, as well as any loans the utility may take out.

However, a spokesperson for the Environment Department denied this was the case.

He told the Government policy on water charges is “fully consistent with the objectives of the Water Framework Directive and reflects the commitment entered into as part of the Programme of Financial Support for Ireland (2010-2013) agreed between the previous Government and the EU, ECB and IMF”.

Harkin said the legislation requires member states to apply to the European Commission for flexibility in how they charge people if they want to avoid passing the entire cost of water services onto households.

TDs Visit Rossport 5 Marian Harkin Photocall Ireland Photocall Ireland

The Midlands-North West MEP said she recently received confirmation from the Commission that Ireland has not done this. She called on Environment Minister Alan Kelly to apply for this flexibility “immediately”.

“So all of the promises we have about water charges remaining at a certain level for the next number of years, what good are they? Unless Ireland immediately requests this flexibility,” Harkin stated.

However, the Department said there was no need for any such action, adding that it was “up to individual member states” to decide if and how to implement domestic water charges.

A spokesperson for Irish Water said the company would not be commenting on the issue as it is a “matter for Government”.

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