The European Commission admitted to promoting water privatisation in countries like Greece and Portugal that use the bailout plan, as a condition to continue receiving the aid funds. Civil society groups have written to commissioner Olli Rehn to demand the cessation of pressure regarding water privatisation.
As Gabriella Zanzanaini, Director of European Affairs for Food & Water Europe stated: “This really demonstrates how the Commission has lost touch with reality. Their ideological arguments are not based on substantiated facts and goes to the extreme of ignoring the democratic will of the people.”
It is a fact that water privatisation has not been very successful before, failing to bring positive results. In specific, Paris and other cities have recently remunicipalised their water services because of the negative effects that privatisation has created.
Furthermore, the Commission’s decision to support water privatisation violates key articles of the EU Treaty that clearly state the EU should be neutral as far as water ownership is concerned. As a result, MEPs have already posed a question to the Commission asking to explain the contradiction between the Troika’s suggestions to privatise water in Greece and the Commission’s obligation to stay neutral on this matter.
As Jan Willem Goudriaan of the European Federation of Public Service Unions (EPSU) has pointed out European citizens will not back down quietly especially since water privatisation has been ineffective on more than one occasion. In fact, the first European Citizens’ Initiative has already been launched aiming to exclude water from liberalisation.
In January 2010, Paris had brought the city’s water supply under public control and in July 2011 announced a cut in water prices by 8% generated by an estimated annual gain of €35 million. Berlin and Budapest are next in line to implement water remunicipalisation.