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NEWS: European allies support right to water, counter austerity-driven water privatization

Pigeon, Zanzanaini, and Meera Karunananthan in Brussels, July 2010.

Martin Pigeon, of Corporate Europe Observatory, and Gabriella Zanzanaini, of Food and Water Europe, write in Public Service Europe that, “Public water systems were never designed to generate profits but to deliver clean water to all citizens for public health purposes, making them one of the most essential public services of them all. At the EU level, water services have remained under the control of member states, in accordance with the subsidiarity principle. …The European Commission’s attempts to privatise urban water systems over the last decade have faced strong resistance. But now privatisation has reappeared as one of the bail-out conditions for struggling European Union economies. Will the financial crisis give the commission the opportunity to bypass democratic accountability and create new markets for water companies?”

They continue, “(The European Commission) introduced water services in the General Agreement on Trade in Services negotiations in 2008 and in the free trade agreement currently being negotiated with Canada. But the economic crisis facing Europe has given the commission a new opportunity, and this time it does not need to ask permission from any elected authority. As part of the troika, together with the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank, it is demanding the privatisation of public water services in exchange of loans or debt relief in Greece, Italy and Portugal, exactly in the same way the ‘Washington Consensus’ was forced on developing countries by the World Bank and the IMF in the 1980s and 1990s.”

“That is why Corporate Europe Observatory and Food and Water Europe have joined together with several associations and trade unions in sending an open letter to the commission to demand that this push for water privatisation be stopped immediately. We consider that ‘imposing top-down water privatisation in the context of a deep economic crisis is not only flawed socially and economically but reveals undemocratic policy-making concerning the most vital public service of all. By imposing privatisation of water utilities… the commission appears to be violating EU legislation and the subsidiarity principle’.”

“And after 30 years of water privatisation there is ample evidence that it undermines the human right to water. A new report by the Canadian Blue Planet Project, called Our Right to Water – case studies on austerity and privatisation in Europe, reminds us once more that water privatisation means that ‘services get worse, jobs are lost, and private monopolies enjoy inflated profits for decades, while the amount of money paid by the private buyers is invariably far below expectations. It is not good economics’.”

“Just days ago the Europeans Citizens’ Initiative for the right to water was given the green light, and will be launched soon. This will demand that the commission implement the human right to water in all its policies, and explicitly exclude water services liberalisation. Sign on and share.”

To read Our Right to Water – case studies on austerity and privatisation in Europe, please go to http://canadians.org/RTW. To read more on the European Citizens’ Initiative on the right to water, go to http://www.right2water.eu/ and http://canadians.org/blog/?p=13875. And to read this Public Service Europe article by Pigeon and Zanzanaini, see http://www.publicserviceeurope.com/article/1952/eus-water-privatisation-plans-irresponsible.