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European Commission


Brussels, 22 February 2013

Joint Statement by Commissioners Potočnik and Barnier on privatisation of water services

In reaction to recent media reports, the European Commission would like to state clearly that it does not have a policy of forcing Member States to privatise water services. The Commission recognizes that water is a public good which is vital to citizens and that the management of water resources is a matter for Member States.

The Commission has a neutral position on the public or private ownership of water resources.

For cases where a public authority decides to provide services through a private economic operator, the Commission has proposed rules that will contribute to transparency and effectiveness in the spending of public money by enabling public authorities to make better choices. 

Acknowledging the importance of water, the Commission made sure that its proposal for a Directive on the award of concession contracts fully recognises and supports the autonomy of local authorities regarding the provision and organisation of services of general economic interest, including water. Public authorities will, at all times, remain free to choose whether they provide the services directly or via a third party, notably a private economic operator.

The proposed Directive will therefore not lead, under any circumstances, to imposed privatisation of water services.

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