SGW has participated with two of its members in the 2-day work meetings of the event «Fighting for Water Democracy in the EU following the right2water ECI» organasided in the European Parliament by the Independent MEP Sofia Sakorafa with the support and presence of MEP Lynn Boylan from Ireland, MEP Stefan Eck from Germany and MEP Joao Pimenta Lopez from Portugal. In the context of this event and as part of our actions in tackling water privatization in our country, we announced the deposition of an official request to the European Council for disclosing any information relevant to the transfer of water services at the new privatization superfund (H.C.A.P.) dated after the 1906/2014 decision of Greece’s Council of State which had judged as uncisntitutional the privatization of water services either by stock percentage or by management privatization. According to European Law, the European Council is obliged to answer to our request in 15 days. It is worth noting that any pressure to privatize water is in violation of the article 345 of the EU Treaty and it is furthermore contrary to the suggestions of the European Parliament’s resolution that urges the European Commission not to push the countries under financial programs as to this matter.
Members of many different organisations, scientific institutions and unions from all over Greece visited Brussels in the past two days and participated in the successful event about the future of water in Europe together representatives of movements from Ireland and Portugal, scientists and members of the European Water Movement such as Food and Water Europe and European Public Services Union.
One by one, the speakers who took the floor described the ongoing issues in their countries and as it was highlighted in the conclusions it became clear that the common denominator in all cases was the lack of actions from the European Commission’s side to answer positively to the demands of European citizens for the legislation of human right to water and sanitation, the halt to the pressure to privatize water and the protection of the resource from commodification. Special mention was made to the fact that the norm in water management is the public administration in a percentage of 90% globally while even the countries who privatized in the previous decades are now remunicipalising with an accelerated pace for the last 15 years.
You can watch all interventions in video. From Greece, three MEPs were present. Those were Mr Papadimoulis and Mr Kouloglou from SYRIZA (who however were not present at the time when the Greek case was discussed) and Mr Grammatikakis from Potami.
The day after the event an informal work group meeting was organized and a resolution has been adopted. The meeting was followed by a press conference. The speakers at the press conference were the organizer MEP Sakorafa (Greece), MEPs Lynn Boylan (Ireland), Stefan Eck (Germany), Joao Pimenta Lopez (Portugal) and unionists and activists from Greece: Mr Giorgos Sinioris , President of EYDAP Union (representing in the panel Unions of Athens, Mr Arhontopoulos President of the Emloyess Union of Thessaloniki and Mr Dragolas President of the Federation of Unions of the Municipal Water Companies of the periphery, Dr Kaklis, Professor of Hydrogeology from the Association of Greek Geologists, Mrs Kanellopoulou from SGW who read the resolution which was adopted and Mr Lymperis from SEKES – EYDAP.
You can watch the press conference by downloading this file to your computer.
Here follows the transcript of the intervention of Mrs Kanellopoulou from SGW in english:
“Much has been said the past months about the existential crisis of Europe and the rise of Euroscepticism. In fact our previous rendevouz in the European Parliament to discuss the future of the water services was annulled because of an emergency plenary on Brexit. Much is said yet little is being done as those with power and those without concur on the spreading of the so called democratic deficit in decision making and yet stay inert as if it is an unstoppable natural phenomenon like a tsunami.
We can all understand why this inertia trends and what a shipreck lies ahead.
Nonetheless, for the time being most of us are on the EU deck drinking our cocktails while democracy, the Rule of Law and the fundamentals of the social contract which are essential for stability and prosperity in societies are diminished and distorted. Most do not seem to care about the iceberg ahead.
We count ourselves on the exceptions. As water activists we tend to be careful with icebergs and let me tell you about the big one we are facing since 2011 in our struggle to stop water privatization in Greece which has miraculously appeared as a clause and condition inscribed and carved repeatedly in the country’s loan agreements with its creditors.
Together with a lot of other activists, unions and organizations, we have run a successful campaign. We convinced with concrete arguments the vast majority of our co-citizens as the referendum of Thessaloniki proved and now Greeks, like Italians in the past, like Parisians and Berliners are contrary to this policy almost unanimously.
We have presented in many occasions in Greece and abroad the rational argumentation behind our position. EYDAP and EYATH servicing roughly 5 million and 1 million people respectively, have already one of the cheapest tariffs per cubic meter in Europe, they are profitable even during the crisis and have a lot of ongoing developmental projects, some of them subsidized by the EU. In our perplexed globalized world nothing is perfect, but in comparison to their titanic rivals of the private sector, the Greek water companies seem like little tidy houses in a landfill of debt and risk.
We’ve also worked hard at EU level by building alliances and pressure and of course we participated in the right2water campaign succeeding in doubling the signatories’ threshold.
Most importantly we won a favorable Supreme Court decision prohibiting the sell –off of more than 50% of the stocks of the water companies. Resting on this decision, we were hoping that the case was closed and that the pride of western civilization its democratic institutions were still standing!
To our ire, we discovered that Mr Tsipras, the Greek Prime Minister who has been till 2015 one of the most vocal supporters of the ECI right2water and a declared adversary of water privatization has somehow been convinced? to proceed with the following:
First his government has accepted to adopt the infamous asset development plan of 19 privatizations which is a binding part of the third memorandum. In this plan there is a provision to proceed with an unnecessary and against the public interest sell of 11% of EYDAP, the Athens water company and 23% of EYATH in Thessaloniki and there is also a scandalous provision for a capital return of 40 million euros from EYDAP’s cashiers to the stakeholders in an unprecedented mingling in a stock market company’s internal affairs. This 40 million on top of another 20 already returned in the form of dividends and the loss of 17 million in the form of an investment in Attica Bank has emptied the cashiers by 77 million and has resulted in putting to risk the economic health of the water service of 5 million people.
As if this was not enough, Mr Tsipras has mysteriously agreed to include both companies to the new Privatization Superfund which by its statute is an entity that does not belong to the public sector and whose Supervisory Board is controlled by the creditors. M. Jacques Le Pap, a French bureaucrat and former collaborator of Christine Lagarde in the French Ministry of Finance is now head of this board. There is not time to guide you through all the details of this new monster privatization fund which controls most of the remaining assets of the Greek State, you can read these in this documentation leaflet we have prepped but trust me when I say that in reality not only the cashiers of EYDAP where emptied but both companies now have had their management privatized in violation of the Supreme Court Decision. On top, the water services are being instrumentalised against their utility statute and are to become golden egg gooses to serve the new Fund’s scope.
Of course, we were never naïve. We know very well, what the lobbyists are doing behind closed doors all these years and why the giants of the private sector want to get their hands on the Greek people’s property. I will not lose my time to criticize their business practices. Businesses are businesses and they can be judged only as such.
The real culprits of the failure of the institutions I am talking about, are, I am afraid others, residing not far from us.
The time for hide and seek is over. We will not tolerate any longer the Commission and other European Institutions playing Schrodinger’s cat, supporting and not supporting privatization, in negotiations behind closed doors. We demand to know how the water services ended up as part of the third memorandum deal in violation of the article 345 of the EU Treaty. We are entitled to know under the Aarhus Regulation and the Transparency Regulation and we will not stop our struggle unless the water services get out of any kind of deals between the Greek Government and its creditors.
With this official document that we will also share in the press conference tomorrow we ask the European Council to disclose all relevant information and we want your support to pressure them for an answer.
Whatever is the answer, It is not the answer that makes us believe the man, but the man the answer to paraphrase the ancient tragic dramatist Aeschylus.
Even if this is presented as the Greek government’ s sovereign decision how are we to be convinced that there is anything sovereign about a government who has signed that it will not legislate anything without the consent of its creditors? And most importantly who is to be held accountable about the misery, poverty, and loss of civil and human rights in Greece? Who on earth are the true culprits and why don’t they come forth and take the responsibility of their actions?
We will do everything in our power together with our friends in the European Water Movement in Berlin, Paris, Italy, Ireland, Slovenia, Portugal, Spain to secure for our co-citizens their right to water. We will not tolerate those who establish institutions of direct democracy and then turn them obsolete by their own lack of actions. We are not going to pretend that there are still democratic procedures by participating in written monologues about best practices in drinking water when the huge iceberg of turning a deaf ear to the citizen’s will and their successful struggles in all Europe stands huge in our EU course.
To legislate the human right to water, to stop the liberalization of water services in EU treaties and trade deals, to stop demanding from indebted countries to surrender their profitable water services as a prerequisite in austerity programs is the right thing to do. And it is such because it is the expressed will of the peoples of Europe. The iceberg will melt under the unified warmth of our hearts and efforts because If you get to a point where the existing institutions will not bend to the popular will, you have to eliminate the institutions, as Noam Chomsky wisely cautions.
NOTE: SGW wishes to thank publicly MEP Sakorafa and her staff for the flawless organisation of the event and the full freedom of actions and speech at the time of the preparation and during our visit which recognises in practice the repeatly expressed political independence of our Initiative.
Photos form the working group meeting and the Press Conference: