Experience from other countries has shown that water privatization has led to skyrocketing of prices and in some cases to dangers in the public health and well being of societies. Access to water is a human right as UN voted in 2010.
Petition addressed to the Hellenic Government and Judicial Authorities of Greece
We, the undersigned Greek citizens, strongly oppose the sale of the country’s water corporations to private entities.
We believe that such a development directly contradicts public interest and we maintain our reservations as to the right of a private corporation (or any other legal entity for that matter) to own the exclusive or partial rights to the exploitation of water resources, water being a natural resource that is absolutely essential to the survival of humans, plants and animals, a resource that is indeed protected by both European legislation (framework directive 2000/60) (1) and the United Nations, which on 28 July 2010 passed a resolution adding the access to clear water in its declaration of human rights (AG/10967) (2).
As for the Athenian public water company, EYDAP, which was founded (Law 1068/1980) as a 100% state-owned company, we have already observed the gradual change of its legal status with the issuance of company shares during the premiership of K. Simitis (Law 2794/1999) and we directly contest the soundness of the latest relevant development, which was to include EYDAP as well as the profitable EYATH (the public water company of Thessaloniki) (4) in the SA-type corporation with the discretionary title “Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund S.A.” founded by Law 3986/2011 (3), in article 1.2 of which is stated that, “The product of the assets utilization is used exclusively to pay off the country’s public debt” (5). The public electricity company, DEI, is also directly related to the country’s water resources. Artificial lakes, reservoirs and hydroelectric plants are crucial for residential water supply and irrigation through the relevant municipal companies. The sale of such assets of DEI is equally condemnable. (6) (7)
USA legislation, which forbids or constricts the collection of rainwater on the basis of a dull rhetoric about “protection” of natural resources, clearly demonstrates the prevalent trend. Today’s privatizations of services and infrastructure will target tomorrow the natural resources themselves, resources that constitute a collective property. At the same time, they meticulously conceal the only true interest of private investors in the water supply industry; this interest is profit.
Perhaps the Greek government is ignoring facts such as the following:
Chile: the World Bank imposed a condition to lend that country which stipulated a 33% profit guarantee for the French water company Suez Lyonnaise des Eaux.
Australia: In 1998, shortly after French Suez Lyonnaise des Eaux took over the water supply, Sydney’s water was found contaminated with parasites and cryptosporidia.
Canada: At least 7 people died after being infected with E-coli in Walkerton, Ontario, following the privatization of water quality control, a task that was assumed by A&L Labs. Said company classified the quality control results as “confidential intellectual property” and refused to publicize them.
Morocco: Consumers saw the water prices triple after Casablanca’s water company went private.
Argentina: When a Suez Lyonnaise des Eaux subsidiary acquired the formerly state-owned water company, Obras Sanitarias de la Nacion, prices doubled and water quality deteriorated. The company was forced to leave when consumers refused en bloc to pay their bills.
Great Britain: Water and drainage bills rose 67% between 1989 and 1995. Service interruption rate went up by 177%.
New Zeeland: Citizens took to the streets to protest the commercialization of water.
South Africa: Water became inaccessible, overpriced and unsafe when Suez Lyonnaise des Eaux took over Johannesburg’s water supply. There was widespread contamination and thousands of people witnessed service interruption.
Bolivia: In 1999, the World Bank recommended the privatization of the Cochabamba municipal water company, Servicio Municipal del Agua Potable y Alcantarillado (SENIAPA). Bank officials openly threatened to withhold $ 600 million of the loan agreement if Bolivia did not accept the recommendation.
After expressing their interest in EYATH’s privatization, representatives of Suez Lyonnaise des Eaux (owner of 5.46% of the share capital of publicly traded EYATH (8), according to Mr. Papadakis) announced that they would meet with the Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund (HRADF) CEO, Kostas Mitropoulos, in order to give formal notice of their intention to participate in the relevant invitation to tender. At the first attempt for the company’s privatization, Suez participate in a consortium with AKTOR (Kathimerini newspaper, 6-6-2012) http://news.kathimerini.gr/4dcgi/_w_articles_economyepix_2_06/06/2012_484426
For all the aforementioned reasons, as well as because we do not recognize the moral right of any elected or appointed temporary administrator of public property, on national, regional or municipal level, to make decisions in matters that exceed his/her purview and even that of the state itself, we demand that EYDAP, EYATH and any other municipal water companies be withdrawn from the privatization menu and that the country’s freshwater springs be preserved. As citizens we maintain that we are sufficiently content with said companies’ operation and publicly declare our determination to resist with all legal means as well as with collective protests in the event that our plea is not heeded.
At a time when public education and public health are shrinking as if they were unnecessary luxury items that cannot be financed, we hereby sound a note of warning. If the fundamental social contract of reciprocity crumbles to the ground, no citizen shall be obligated to pay any direct or indirect taxes. Even if you ignore us and proceed, we, the Greek citizens, shall fight to nullify your actions, as happened in Paris on 1/1//2010. (9)
The history of privatizations has amply demonstrated that the water always returns to its source.
(1) Framework directive 2000/60: water policy must be governed by the principle of sustainability*, i.e. the promotion of sustainably water usage and the institution of a policy that respects waters and protects them from human economic activities.
(2) Signed by 122 countries, while 41 countries (among which were the USA, Canada, Great Britain and Australia) did not participate in the vote. China, Russia, Germany, France, Spain and Brazil saluted said resolution, while Canada attempted to prevent it. UN AG/10967 http://www.un.org/News/fr-press/docs/2010/AG10967.doc.htm
(3) More precisely, EYDAP SA announces, pursuant to Law 3556/2007 and the relevant notification of 27.1.2012, the transfer of 29,074,500 shares and equal number of voting rights, i.e. 27.3% of EYDAP SA’s share capital, from the Greek State to the “Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund S.A.” The transfer occurred following an over-the-counter transaction (i.e. not through the stock exchange) in implementation of paragraphs 4 & 5 of article 2 of Law 3986/2011 (GG 152/Α΄) and Decision No. 195/2011 (GG 2501/Β΄) of the Inter-ministerial Committee for Restructuring and Denationalization (DEAA).
(4) EYATH SA announces, pursuant to Law 3556/2007 and the relevant notification of 11.5.2012, the transfer of 12,348,000 shares and equal number of voting rights, i.e. 34.017% of EYATH SA’s share capital, from the Greek State to the “Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund S.A.” As a result of this transfer, HRADF’s share in the company was increased from 40% to 74.017%. The transfer occurred following an over-the-counter transaction (i.e. not through the stock exchange) in implementation of paragraphs 4 & 5 of article 2 of Law 3986/2011 (GG 152/Α΄) and Decision No. 206/2012 (GG 1363) of the Inter-ministerial Committee for Restructuring and Denationalization (DEAA).
Publicly listed EYATH SA’s net profits rose by 92.3% during the first half of 2011, reaching € 12 million as compared to € 6.2 million in the corresponding interval of 2010. Turnover was € 38.89 million vs. € 37.73 million in 2010, a 3% increase, while profits before taxes amounted to € 15 million vs. € 12.94 million in 2010, a 16% increase. The impressive rise in profits is primarily due to the reduction and rationalization of all types of expenses (administration and distribution), the increase of revenues and the alleviation of tax burdens. Let it be noted that, during 2010, the company additionally incurred a the special tax stipulated by law 3845/2010 as well as the additional taxation that ensued from tax control discrepancies of the last five years (2004-2008).
(5) According to article 2.8, “Third parties’ rights in rem may be pronounced expropriatable by decision of the Minister of Finance, for reasons of great importance to public interest, if they are deemed necessary for the exploitation of a certain asset of the Fund or a company whose share capital is completely owned by the Fund, directly or indirectly, or if they are deemed necessary for the implementation of an investment plan of the Fund’s special successor or a company whose share capital is completely owned by the Fund, directly or indirectly.” This article is deemed equally contestable as article 14 on leasing sea shores and beaches.
(6) The fact that DEI is directly related to the management of water resources is demonstrated by the following excerpt from the company’s website: «Recognizing the water issue not only as a technical matter but also in conjunction with other wider choices, DEI S.A. is implementing a series of measures and actions marked by their preventive nature in terms of protection and integrated management of waters, designed with a sense of responsibility and aimed to maximize overall social, regional, city-planning and environmental benefit from the combined usage of its projects.
Taking advantage of our country’s pronounced geological relief, DEI is constructing downriver dams and creating artificial lakes or reservoirs, utilizing the country’s water potential, always abiding with the principles of sustainability, i.e. respect for a balanced supply-and-demand on the level of outflow basin of each water compartment. Through the dams constructed in Greece’s major rivers, DEI S.A. is contributing significantly to the management of the country’s water resources and in serving the needs of regional communities. The large hydroelectric plants that DEI operates today utilize approximately 30-35% of the technically exploitable water capacity of the country, covering 10% of total electricity demand and supplying nearly 30% of the total electric power of the network. At the same time, since these projects utilize national resources, they limit the country’s energy dependence from abroad while also substituting fossil fuel, thus contributing to the mitigation of the greenhouse effect. Moreover, given that the demand for water (a potentially renewable resource) keep growing, storage of this resource is becoming increasingly imperative”. More details at http://www.dei.gr/Documents/imera.nerou.pdf
(7) “There is no actual list containing DEI’s hydroelectric plants for sale, yet certain plants will be sold”, replied Deputy Minister for the Environment, Giannis Maniatis to Iro Dioti on 9/3/2012. http://www.avgi.gr/ArticleActionshow.action?articleID=674670
(8) 1. The Greek State owns 26,868,000 voting rights, i.e. 74.02%. 2. SUEZ ENVIRONEMENT owns 1,982,870 voting rights, i.e. 5.462%. 3. HMG GLOBETROTTER owns 384,062 voting rights, i.e. 1.06%.
(9) Water services in Paris returned under state control on 1/1/2010. More information here http://www.tni.org/article/paris-local-authorities-regain-control-water-management
* The Treaty of Amsterdam introduced the concept of “sustainable development” which was incorporate in the preamble of the Treaty on European Union (article B) and the objectives of the EU (article 2 of European Parliament Resolution 1794/2011). The term sustainable development was adopted by the World Commission on Environment and Development (1795) in 1987, in its report entitled “Our Common Future”, also known as the Brundtland Report. This report emphasizes the concept of sustainable development as crucial for the protection of the environment and provides the following definition: “Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” This definition contains two fundamental dictates: the prioritization of the needs of the planet’s poorest peoples and the concept of rational utilization and imposition of limits in order to guarantee satisfaction of the needs of future generations. The concept of sustainable development was redefined with the Sustainable Development Commission’s resolution 55/199 of February 5, 2001, which stipulated the protection of the environment, social development and economic development as essential components of sustainable development.