The European Commission has said it "will have to evaluate" the report of the Expert Commission on water charges following its publication last night.

In its first response to the report, a spokesperson said that the commission had "made its position clear" in its official submission to the Expert Commission on Domestic Public Water Services.

The spokesperson said: "We will now have to evaluate the report, in light of the recommendations of the Expert Commission."

The statement added: "The Commission also notes that the Irish Parliamentary Committee established to examine the report will now start its work with a view to concluding by March of 2017."


Brussels'submission to the Expert Commission came in the form of a letter from the European Commission's Directorate General for the Environment, which is included in the Appendix of yesterday's report.

That letter spells out that the commission believes that in order for Ireland to be compliant with EU law it must adhere to two principles: that the costs of supplying water are recovered from those who use it, and the "polluter pays" principle.

The letter states that the "polluter pays" principle requires that consumers pay charges in return for safe drinking water at the tap and also that there be a proper waste water treatment infrastructure.

The submission went on to say that member states could have regard to the "social effects" of cost recovery.

Other member states which used water metering had dealt with the social effects issue through the use of special tariffs or credits for those households on the lowest income, the letter stated.

The submission also made it clear, however, that a member state could not "dis-apply" water charges once they had been instated.

In May, RTÉ News reported that the commission believed that Ireland no longer enjoyed an exemption from water charges under the Water Framework Directive as its "established practice" under the directive had been the use of water metering.

That report was later confirmed in a parliamentary reply from the EU Environment Commissioner Karmenu Vella to Independent MEP Marian Harkin.

Opponents of water charges have questioned the legal basis of the response by the commission to Ms Harkin.