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Wallonia wants mandatory free tap water in restaurants

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The Walloon government wants to make it obligatory for restaurants and public places to offer water free of charge, but Flanders is against the obligation.

The Walloon coalition agreement states that “it must be ensured that water is offered free of charge in public places and restaurants.” The best way to make that obligation into law is now being looked into, according to a spokesperson for the competent Minister, Willy Borsus.

Free tap water is one of the green parts of the Walloon coalition agreement, as they no longer want to transport water bottles while the Belgian tap water is of excellent quality. However, the Walloon catering federation is against the obligation, as the sale of bottled water represents a large part of the turnover in restaurants, according to them.

“Either that loss will be compensated for by restaurant visitors in another way, or jobs will be lost,” said Jean Louis Simonet of the Walloon catering federation, reports RTBF. Additionally, jobs could be lost in the Walloon water and soft drinks industry as well, as a lot of water in Wallonia is bottled.

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“800 cafés and restaurants, most of them in Flanders, offer free tap water in Belgium,” said Sarah Ehrlich, the initiator of the Facebook page and app ‘Free Tap Water Belgium‘. “Offering free tap water does not have to be negative for a restaurant. It can also be a way to attract customers,” she added.

However, the Flemish government is against the obligation. “Restaurants should be able to choose for themselves whether or not to offer it,” said Hilde Crevits, the Flemish Minister for Economy, reports De Standaard. “We encourage people to drink tap water, but it’s not up to the government to make that obligatory,” she added.

At European level, regulations on the quality and accessibility of drinking water are almost completed. Europe does not speak of an obligation, but rather an encouragement to offer water free of charge.

Maïthé Chini
The Brussels Times

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