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Privatization Pushback: Civil Society Slams Water Privatization Conditions for EU Bailouts

Letter from groups to EU Commission says plan is "economically, socially and democratically flawed"

- Common Dreams staff

Civil society groups Wednesday are slamming the European Commission's continued insistence that privatization of municipal water systems be a condition for receiving rescue funds, a plan the groups describe as "economically, socially and democratically flawed."

"Not only is there is no evidence at all to support the view that the private sector is more efficient, but there is very strong public resistance to privatization. European citizens will not back down quietly on this,” said Jan Willem Goudriaan of the European Federation of Public Service Unions. (Tom Raftery via flickr) In a letter addressed to Olli Rehn, Vice-President of the European Commission and member of the Commission responsible for Economic and Monetary Affairs and the Euro, 24 groups, including Food & Water Europe, Save Greek Water, Italian Forum of Water Movements and Blue Planet Project, write that the privatization plans are based on supposed virtues of water privatization without any factual substantiation. Because of lack of success of privatizing municipal water, European communities who had privatized their water systems have re-municipalized them, the groups write. Their letter sent today is in response to a letter they received September 26 from Rehn acknowledging the privatization conditions.

“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,” stated Gabriella Zanzanaini, Director of European Affairs for Food & Water Europe.

Further, the groups assert that "imposing privatization of water utilities 'appears to be in violation of the EU's supposed neutrality on the question of public or private ownership and management of collective water services.'"

The letter concludes:

We ask you to guarantee that the European Commission withdraws its demands and refrains from any further pressure to impose water privatization conditionalities on Greece, Portugal and any other EU member state. This pressure is flawed, undemocratic and at odds with the EU treaties, and should be terminated immediately.

Jan Willem Goudriaan of the European Federation of Public Service Unions (EPSU), warns that the privatization will be met with strong public resistance.

“The Commission has a lot to explain. Not only is there is no evidence at all to support the view that the private sector is more efficient, but there is very strong public resistance to privatization. European citizens will not back down quietly on this,” said Goudriaan.