Yesterday, “over 665,000 Berlin citizens voted in favour of opening the books to disclose details of deals for the partial privatisation of the Berlin Water Works (Berliner Wasserbetriebe). The referendum was preceded by a successful petition, in which the Berlin Water Table (Berliner Wassertisch) citizens’ initiative collected within six months more than 320,000 signatures in support of its demands. In its own words, the Berlin Water Table is a local network of representatives of different groups, initiatives and interested citizens, united under the common theme: ‘Water belongs to everybody—Access to water is a human right’.”
The group is calling for a reversal of the partial privatization of the city’s water supply, and politicians from every party have called for a remunicipalization of the utility.
The Local (Germany’s news in English), reports that, “Berlin sold 49.9 percent of its water works Berliner Wasserbetriebe to investors Veolia and RWE to fill the city’s empty coffers in 1999. According to proponents of the referendum, water prices have increased by 35 percent since then, and are among the highest of any German city.”
“The stated goal of the Berlin Water Table is the repeal and termination of the ‘immoral sales contracts’ underpinning the partial privatisation of the Berlin Water Works and affording the new co-owners unfettered access to budgetary funds. The population continues to pay the bill, whether through excessive water prices and restricted water supply service, or through the loss of jobs and decreasing social spending due to the public debt. The disclosure of hitherto secret agreements was seen as the first step in this direction, because contracts can only be challenged if their contents have been made public.”
“A film well worth seeing, Water Under the Hammer shows, how the Berlin Senate deputies had prepared for the partial sale of the Berlin Water Works. Members of the business committee in the city parliament were invited to England in 1998 to get to know the blessings allegedly accompanying the privatisation of public enterprises. Using the English example, they were shown that managing directors’ salaries had tripled over 10 years, while jobs had shrunk to a third. Water rates to be paid by the consumer increased accordingly. A year later, the Berlin Water Works was in private hands.”
“RWE and Veolia have siphoned off €1.3 billion in the first 10 years of their operations…”
More from the Socialist Equality Party (Germany) at http://www.wsws.org/articles/2011/feb2011/priv-f14.shtml. The Local article is at http://www.thelocal.de/politics/20110214-33091.html.