Interview with Richard Seeber
[quote align=”center” color=”#999999″]Richard Seeber, MEP and President of the first Intergroup on Water of the European Parliament[/quote]
Why did you found the Intergroup Water? What were your ambitions and expectations for it?
My commitment to water began with the Bathing Water Directive, where I was a Shadow rapporteur. Subsequently, I was rapporteur to the Commission’s Communication on Floods and Droughts in 2006. At that point I realised that water was of crucial importance to our citizens and the economy. I therefore decided to found the Parliamentary Intergroup on Water, today’s “EP Water Group”, in order to put water higher on the political agenda.
Were your expectations fulfilled?
The EP Water Group is today a very recognised inter-institutional platform in the European water sector. In every meeting, we had between 50 and 150 visitors from the Parliament, other EU Institutions, national and regional representatives, industry, environmental organisations and other stakeholders. In over 20 very fruitful meetings, we have discussed issues of great significance to water in general – energy, agriculture, concessions, financing, innovation, water reuse etc. I can proudly say today that the EP Water Group had its fair share in shaping EU water policy.
More generally, if you reflect on your activity on water issues in the EP, to what degree do you think they were efficient?
Apart from the legislation mentioned above, I was also responsible for the Implementation Report on Water ahead of the Commission’s Blueprint. In this report, I called upon the Commission to work on three objectives: firstly, improving the implementation of current legislation, secondly taking regional criteria better into account and thirdly, mainstreaming water policy into all other relevant EU policies. This has been included in the Blueprint and will be implemented accordingly.
Also, I was rapporteur on the “Priority Substances” dossier, i.e. the Environment Quality Standards Directive. Today, our waters contain an alarming number of harmful chemical substances which need to be monitored and, potentially, phased out. Together with the Commission and the Council, we elaborated a satisfactory compromise to establish a watch list, where Member States could place suspicious substances. We further achieved that pharmaceutical products of concern for water will in the future be analysed through a General Pharmaceutical Strategy.
How do you see the opportunities of the water sector for the European economy?
The European water sector is already a global leader in terms of service provision and technology development. Its growth potential is huge – the annual global turnover in the water sector amounts to 375 billion euros. The water sector further contributes considerably to job creation. In order to secure these achievements, we need to boost innovation and R&D. Only by promoting these drivers we can address infrastructure, efficiency and recycling needs in water management. Several water-related societal challenges, such as the water/energy nexus, will only be met by promoting innovative technologies and research. This might require substantial investment at first – but will inevitably solve key issues in water management while maintaining the competitiveness of the European water sector. Initiatives such as the European Innovation Partnership on Water are therefore highly appreciated, also at the EU Parliament.
What are your plans after the European elections?
Looking back at the past ten years in the European Parliament, I am first of all proud to have been a member of this institution, especially an EPP Coordinator in the ENVI Committee, thus contributing to improve and facilitate life for the European citizens and the raise the environmental performance of the EU. In all, I would like to say that my time in the European Parliament was extremely rewarding. I hope to also be able to serve the European citizens with my activities for the environment in the future, possibly as Director of the Euregio office Tyrol – South Tyrol – Trentino.