Fico: Water Is National Heritage, Government Won’t Give Way to EC

Fico advocates constitutional ban on drinking water export (photo by TASR)

Bratislava, February 23 (TASR) – My Government is determined to advocate a constitutional ban on water exports, due to which the European Commission (EC) launched an infringement procedure against Slovakia in late 2015, said Prime Minister Robert Fico on Tuesday.

“We want the EC to respect the fact that drinking water is a national heritage, strategic raw material, national wealth and that every country has the right to adopt measures for its self-protection,” said Fico.

“We’re ready and we feel strong in this lawsuit. For us, this is a crucial issue. If we retreated under EC pressure from our position, i.e. from the constitutional protection of drinking water, this would be a precedent that wouldn’t concern only northern Slovakia and mineral water, but chiefly the unmatched supplies of drinking water that we have in Zitny Ostrov [along the Danube River in southwest Slovakia],” said Fico, adding that a decision like this could result in unlimited and unregulated exports of drinking water as a raw material.

The cross-border export of water has been banned in Slovakia via the Slovak Constitution since 2014. A Polish firm that wanted to export mineral water from the Tatra region to Poland, after failing to obtain a permit last year, appealed to the EC, accusing Slovakia of violating the free movement of goods. Fico pointed to the fact that nobody is preventing the firm from operating in Slovakia and bottling water in consumer packaging. “However, it cannot export water in tanks or through pipes, as this would mean the uncontrolled, unregulated export of a huge volume of drinking water and a threat to our vital supplies,” stressed Fico.

Fico stressed that around one half of European river basins will suffer from a lack of water in 2030. He didn’t want to speculate on how the lawsuit might end. Nevertheless, he thinks that other European countries might also press for changes concerning water resources.