Coveney draws blank as EU stands firm on water charges
The EU is standing firm on water charges, confirming that Ireland will eventually have to bring in a levy.
Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government Simon Coveney met with EU environment chief Karmenu Vella Friday to plead Ireland's case following the nine-month suspension of water charges, which came into force this month. A spokesman for Mr Vella said that an exemption from the rules "does not apply" in Ireland's case.
"The Commission's view is that water charges in some form are required for Ireland to fulfil its obligations under the Water Framework Directive," Mr Coveney said after the one-hour meeting at the Commission's headquarters in Brussels.
"To be fair to the [EU] Commission, they've been consistent and they continue to be consistent," he added.
Mr Coveney met Mr Vella to buy some time for an independent water commission to examine the options available, which it is due to do by the end of the year, and for the Oireachtas to hold a vote based on their report.
"What I have asked is that they would allow an independent commission to actually assess the options that are available," Mr Coveney told reporters after the meeting. "Of course they will have to listen to what the European Commission is saying, they can't ignore that, but they will have to draw their own conclusions," he said.
"I think the EU commission will obviously follow that process with real interest and obviously look at the outcomes when they come out," Mr Coveney said of the independent water commission's work.
The Commission's position means that Ireland could still be fined for not complying with the EU's Water Framework Directive, which mandated the government to introduce a "cost recovery" policy for water by 2010.