Erste erfolgreiche paneuropäische Bürgerinitiative

“The first successful paneuropean citizens’ initiative” was handed in to officials in Brussels, who said they were overjoyed to be meeting with privatization opponents to mark such a happy milestone for grass roots democracy in Europe. They were serious.

The group Right2Water collected 1.6 million signatures protesting new rules that would have made it easier to privatize European water utilities, and in ways large companies would have dominated. Not only was theirs the first initiative to meet the Lisbon agreement’s requirements but “who knows what would have happened” without the discussion Right2Water created, said Süddeutsche.de. In response to the signatures campaign, the commission officials under Michel Barnier canceled plans to enable privatization of municipal water utilities with bidding open to companies from all of Europe. They announced public water utilities would not be subject to the internal market’s liberalization rules.

Currently, a citizens’ initiative that fulfills the Lisbon agreement’s criteria of collecting >1 million signatures from at least seven Member States will get a hearing from the European Parliament and from the European Commission. The European Commission is obligated to issue a statement in response within three months, so in this case by 19 Mar 2014.

Right2Water organizers made three demands: that all Europeans have a right to water and basic sanitation, that the E.U. push internationally for universal access to water, and that the potable water supply not be subjected to the interior market’s rules.

The group clearly achieved some progress on the third demand, preventing the worst from happening for the time being. Regarding the second demand, European parliament president Martin Schulz (S.P.D., Germany) recently caused a scandal in the Israeli Knesset by asking why the discrepancy between the per capita water volumina available to Palestinians and to Israelis.

(Eh ah stah   eh ah FOAL gry chh ah   ponn oy roe PEI ish ah   BIR gah ee nee tsee ah TEE vah.)

Europaweit

“Europe-wide.” A controversial Arte documentary has drawn attention to the new EU water guideline the European Commissioner for Internal Market and Services Michel Barnier (of Nicolas Sarkozy’s UMP party) is about to issue in which local European government water projects will accept bids from all of Europe. Water activist Jean-Luc Touly warned the current plans for the guideline will make it difficult for public utilities to compete against profit-driven private utilities that are, he said, not primarily motivated by consumers’ best interests. 80% of the French water market has been privatized, the 2010 Arte documentary “Water Makes Money” claims to show instances of corruption in that French privatization and there was an increase in French water quality problems post-privatization, Touly said.

Around the world, many privatization contracts appear to have gone to subsidiaries of just a few big companies such as Bechtel (USA), Enron (USA, now spectacularly bankrupt), RWE (Germany) and Suez/Veolia (France). Opening privatization of city water utilities to Europe-wide bidding might encourage reductions in international competition among these providers.

(Oy ROPE a v eye t.)

 

Rekommunalisierung

“Recommunalization,” remunicipalization. A twenty-first-century response to the twentieth century’s privatization trend. After experimenting with water privatization for over a century, for example, many French towns are now reacquiring privatized, for-profit utilities and turning them back into not-for-profit services.

This accords with the ideas of the great groundbreaking French engineer Henry Darcy who experimented with pipe, sand filtration and spring sources to create a technologically and socially advanced water system for the town of Dijon in 1840, a project he then carefully documented in a beautiful book published in 1856. My Texas colleague Patricia Bobeck translated it into English, including the following:

“As much as possible, one should favor the free drawing of water because it is necessary for public health. A city that cares for the interest of the poor class should not limit their water, just as daytime and light are not limited.”

[The Public Fountains of the City of Dijon, 42.]

Austerity measures may be increasing pressure on governments of financially troubled EU countries to sell off their water and other utilities such as Greece’s recent sale of 33% of the Greek state lottery and gambling organizer OPAP to the Czech-led consortium Emma Delta for 712 million euros (of which 60 million was dividends on profits from 2012). Wikipedia says OPAP is Europe’s largest betting firm and as of 2008 the Greek government only owned 34% of it.

(RAY com you noll iz EAR oong.)

Der Mann ohne Gesicht

“The man without a face,” East German spy chief Generaloberst Markus Wolf. Whose son Franz now runs a complex web (a Geflecht or “weaving,” meshwork) of offshore companies supposedly from his registered residence in Gibraltar. The SZ calls his network an empire, stretching from the Caribbean to Russia. Companies in the network are involved in dozens of industries, including surprisingly water utilities (Wasserversorger, water suppliers). Speaking of water, the chains of companies also once helped hide ownership of the oil tanker Prestige after it sank off the coast of Spain in 2002 and its oil spilled onto Spanish beaches. The SZ said the Neue Zürcher Zeitung wrote that ownership was eventually traced to a Franz Wolf company which quickly disappeared.

(Dare   MONN   oh neh   geh ZICHH t.)

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