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WIN! Italians reject water privatization, market rules on water pricing

The New York Times reports, “Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi suffered a stinging political defeat on Monday when voters overturned laws passed by his government that would have restarted Italy’s nuclear energy program, privatized the water supply and granted him immunity from prosecution.” The Bangkok Post says, “Final results showed crushing votes of more than 90 percent against the government in the four referendum questions: on nuclear power; on a law to give Berlusconi legal immunity; and two on water privatisation.”

Bloomberg notes that, “About 57 per cent of eligible Italians voted, exceeding the threshold of 50 per cent needed to make it stick. …Monday’s vote means municipalities will be barred from selling off water services to private investors as part of a plan to finance the upkeep of the nation’s water grid. Opponents of the referendum said that the government will now have to come up with 60 billion euros ($84 billion) to invest in water services.”

The Associated Press reports, “Berlusconi’s conservative government had passed a law mandating that the water supply be privatized by the end of 2011…and another law imposing market rules on water pricing.” The European Public Service Union adds, “More precisely, the two validated referendas ask for the cancellation of two legislative pieces, one is an article in a 2008 law on the privatisation of public services with an economic value, and the other calls for the cancellation of an article in the Environment code that forces water tariffs to be calculated according to capital costs (full cost recovery).”

AP also notes, “Roman Catholic nuns and priests joined the campaign to revoke the law, saying that water was a human right that should not be subject to market rules.” Al Jazeera adds, “The Catholic Church in Italy led the charge against two proposals to privatise local water companies. Many priests said water was a gift from God and shouldn’t be used to produce profits for companies and corporations. It was a message that struck a chord with voters who rejected the idea.” And the Catholic News Service reports, “Last October, Pope Benedict called the U.N. resolution (on the right to water and sanitation) an important step forward. Clean water, he said, was ‘essential to human nutrition, to rural activities and to the conservation of nature.'”

And Reuters reports, “A confidence vote in parliament on June 22, intended to test the government’s majority after a reshuffle last month, will be the next marker of whether Berlusconi has the support to see out his term until 2013.” The Globe and Mail notes, “While Mr. Berlusconi gave no sign that he would step down or call an early election – his government is supposed to run until 2013 – his coalition partner, Umberto Bossi of the Northern League party, is clearly losing his patience with the Prime Minister. ‘Berlusconi has lost the ability to communicate on television,’ Mr. Bossi said after the referendum defeat.”

Blue Planet Project organizer Anil Naidoo comments, “Congratulations to our friends in Italy! This has been an amazing and inspirational campaign. You have raised the awareness greatly and put water squarely on the political and public agenda. This is very positive for the future of water struggles in Italy, Europe and everywhere. We acknowledge the hard work and this wonderful campaign for water justice. Thank you all!”