Brussels – Over 130 civil society organisations, trade unions and individuals from Greece, Europe and around the world have teamed up with 50 members of the European Parliament to send a letter to the bidders of the public water company in Thessaloniki urging them to drop their bid.
The group has sent letters to companies including the French multinational Suez Environnement, Greek groups Aktor S.A and Terna Energy S.A as well as the Israeli groups Mekorot and Arison Investment concerning their reported bids for EYATH, the Thessaloniki Water and Sewage Company.
Under conditions imposed by the Troika to reduce Greece’s debt, EYATH has been put up for sale by the Greek government against the peoples’ wish. The citizens of the city, the workers as well as the municipalities of Thessaloniki oppose the sale of their public water and have set up different campaigns to stop this privatization.
“While in Greece there is no precedent, the international experience has shown that the privatisation of water has often resulted in the skyrocketing of prices and in some cases in the deterioration of water quality. Although the trend in Europe is towards remunicipalization of our water systems, we are being forced to go the opposite way here,” says Maria Kanellopoulou of initiative Save Greek Water. “EYATH is the first case of water privatization that we need to stop to make sure it does not spread to the rest of Greece,” she added.
“Companies involved in water privatization have often found their reputations tarnished, their risks increased and their profits limited. The companies aiming to buy EYATH would be clearly basing their business model on opportunism and should take this as a warning sign of the difficulties to come,” said George Archontopoulos from the EYATH Workers Union.
“Last week the Eldorado Gold Corporation announced the suspension of production at the Halkidiki goldmine in Greece. This is another example of a company which is not wanted in Greece and which the people are prepared to fight against to stop the exploitation of one of their common resources. The residents have managed to stall the mine’s activities by a durable and dynamic resistance. This is the same situation we see for the protection of public water and EYATH in Thessaloniki,” said Gabriella Zanzanaini, Director of European Affairs for Food & Water Europe.
“50 MEPs from the Conservatives, the Popular Party, the Liberals, the Greens, the Socialists and the Left from 18 countries cosigned the letter. This massive participation shows that international and local opposition to the sale of water services will pose a toll over any company that takes part in these privatizations. Companies should make a profit from the trade of private goods, not from acquiring market control over public goods. The European Parliament is sending a clear warning to the Greek government that the privatization of water is neither welcomed nor helping Greece to exit the crisis,” said Kriton Arsenis, Greek MEP, who helped to circulate the letter in the European Parliament.
The groups support keeping the profitable water company in public ownership, where real participation of citizens and workers in the management of water can happen. Considering the current European context where over 1, 600 000 citizens have signed the European Citizens Initiative to protect the right to water and the European Commission’s recent removal of water services from the controversial Concessions Directive, these companies would be going against the tide if they push forward on their bid for EYATH.
Maria Kanellopoulou, savegreekwater(at)gmail.com, +30 694 425 9916
Pablo Sanchez, psanchez(at)epsu.org, +32 474 626 633
Gabriella Zanzanaini, gzanzanaini(at)fweurope.org, +32 488 409 662
Kriton Arsenis, kriton.arsenis(at)europarl.europa.eu, +30 210 324 8222