What a summer! I was expecting the typical Brussels holiday season: empty streets in the European area, hardly any emails, no phone calls and, as the only sound around, the hypnotizing noise of wheeled suitcases while thousands flee the city. But I was wrong, a lot of activity around!
As you have surely heard, the negotiations for a third Greek bailout kept everybody busy. The final outcome was painful for the Greek people, who will be suffering more extra years of austerity. But is was also shocking for the European Water Movement, as the bailout included, once again, the privatization of public water operators of Athens and Thessaloniki as part of the conditions imposed by the “Institutions”, formerly known as the Troika (International Monetary Fund, European Central Bank and European Commission). This new attempt will have to deal, once again, with fierce public opposition and a ruling of the Greek Council of State, which blocked water privatisation last summer because of grave concerns about impacts on public health.
It wasn’t a quiet August for our Irish colleagues either, who had a great mobilization effort last weekend. For the fifth time, thousands of people in Dublin gathered to protest the water charges imposed by their government and the Troika. Things were also quite busy in Spain, with many of the newly elected local authorities after the May elections getting ready to remunicipalise its water services.
But this summer has been one of those moments in which the wheeled suitcases sound connected with the struggles on the ground. Just before fleeing from Brussels, the MEPs in the Committee on Environment of the European Parliament passed a report calling for the Human Right to Water and Sanitation to be implemented in EU legislation. MEPs supported water remunicipalization, and also asked the European Commission to keep water out of trade negotiations. Moreover, they also made a strong call to the European Commission to stop imposing water privatization in countries in crisis, a really relevant signal for our friends in Greece, Portugal and Ireland.
The vote in the Committee was an amazing step for the water justice movement after many years of a campaign that gathered nearly two million signatures asking for the right to water. In the days leading up to the vote in June, more than 20.000 emails were sent to MEPs by citizens all around Europe. And we want to thank you all for that!
Now this report needs to be approved by the Plenary of the Parliament. 751 MEPs will decide if they will stand with citizens, or back the strategy of corporations. And again, you can make the difference. We need to make a last effort to get a strong position from the European Parliament.