Can two politicians be enemies in a war, insulting each other for years, but end up signing a contract and being besties? Yes, they can, when business perspectives are promising.
This story goes back 16 years. In March 1999, NATO launched an operation to bomb Serbia, when this country was still part of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. On one side, Tony Blair, British Prime Minister at that time, was one of the main supporters of the attack. On the other side, Aleksandar Vucic was Minister of Information in the Government of Yugoslavia.
There was no sign of reconciliation among them during all this time, but life changes. Blair is now an expensive and highly demanded consultant, advising countries as diverse as Rwanda, Albania, Mongolia and Kazakhstan. Vucic is currently Prime Minister of Serbia. Since the NATO intervention, he even had time to edit a lovely book called English Gay Fart Tony Blair – a real attempt of rapprochement, and an ode to political correctness.
But love – and money – is stronger than pride. Last week they both signed an agreement for Tony Blair to help Serbia to “make the Government more efficient”. And what do they understand as “more efficient”? Privatisation. Tony Blair will support the training of expert teams in Vucic’s cabinet to provide expertise in areas such as infrastructure, public enterprises privatisation and direct foreign investments. Sounds lovely, doesn’t it?
The Serbian government is trying to promote privatisation and public-private partnerships through an authority called the Serbian Privatisation Agency, which has listed more than 500 public companies they want to sell to private foreign investors. Among them are some water utilities. No surprise that private water giants, such as Suez, are already visiting Serbia looking for their slice of the pie.
At Food & Water Europe we celebrate reconciliation and genuine friendship. But we have our concerns when it is built over the privatisation of basic public services. Serbia must not give in to the siren calls for water privatisation. They have just opened negotiations to access the European Union in a moment were the debate is about the implementation of the human right to water and sanitation, and privatisation processes are being blocked in Greece, or heavily challenged in Ireland.
In a few weeks the European Water Movement will gather in Brussels to mobilise for the right to water. And we would love to see our Serbian friends joining the tide.
We would also love to see you in the protests in Brussels! Read more about it here.