This was one Euroscandal that Brussels could not take sitting down. Reports that the European Commission intends to “regulate” toilet and urinal flushes have produced a storm of outrage and bad puns.
How dare Brussels try to impose bog standards on that great British institution, the loo? Could not the eurocrats do something more useful, such as straightening cucumbers or bending bananas? Was it for this that we won the battle of, er, Waterloo?
The European Commission, facing a chain reaction of outrage encouraged by, among others, Ukip, fought back yesterday.
Brussels was not trying to impose standard flush sizes across Europe, the Commission said. It was merely trying to establish the rules for ecologically friendly, water-saving measures to help consumers and promote cross-border trade in toilets and urinals. “This is about the criteria under which member states can award Ecolabel status to products,” said Joe Hennon, spokesman for the European Environment Commissioner, Janez Potocnik.
“If you don’t have criteria then consumers, businesses and local authorities who want to buy green products won’t know which product to choose. Quite apart from the many environmental benefits, Ecolabelled products bring direct cost savings to businesses and consumers, in this case in the form of lower water bills.”
In other words, the proposals put forwards by Brussels would set the rules under which toilet equipment could be sold as eco-friendly across the EU. They would not impose a harmonised cistern size from Orkney to Sicily.
Brussels has proposed that, to qualify for Ecolabel status, a urinal flush should be less than one litre and a toilet flush no more than six litres.
These proposals are roughly in line with what already happens in Britain. New toilets with more than a 6l flush are illegal and less than 6l is encouraged where possible.
But let not the facts spoil a good Euro-scandal story. Paul Nuttall, deputy leader of Ukip, said: “With over 26 million people unemployed in the EU, the European Commission has decided to concentrate on the vital issue of our time – flushing toilets and urinals.
“These people are taking the mickey, they are beyond parody. They have spent time and taxpayer money on ‘user behaviour’ at toilets and urinals. Taxpayers’ money is again needlessly flushed down the pan. Given the EU’s practice of enforcing a ‘one-size-fits-all’ policy, could this really mean that British men and women will be asked to squat over a continental ‘hole-in-the-ground’ toilet?”
Beyond parody indeed.
THE BEST AND THE WORST TOILETS OF THE WORLD
Home to the world’s most sophisticated toilets. Features on so-called “super toilets” can include seat warming, deodorising options, massage capabilities, water jet adjustments, automatic lid opening, automatic flushing and wireless control panel. As of March 2010, 72 per cent of Japanese households were thought to have one.
It has the worst toilets in the world, according to a 2010 survey. In public toilets, it’s not unusual to find a dozen or so “squatters” (holes in the ground) in a row, with no dividing walls. The position one must adopt to use them is said to have health benefits, including as an effective treatment for haemorrhoids.
Everyone has to do it, even explorers, who carry a loo seat at all times. Making camp, they will dig a hole, place the seat on top and cover the setup with a pop-up tent. The door-flap is opened for ventilation.