After sweltering pressures all across Europe, the European Commission declares once more, in the most unequivocal manner that they do not push the Greek government for the privatization of water services, leaving thus, no space to the Greek government officials to put the blame for their decisions to their international lenders (ECB, EU Commission, IMF). For the Greek government, there comes now the window of opportunity which offers them true political legitimacy and legal means to stop this crime against the public interest, a crime which has geostrategic extensions. Because if this crime occurs it would be contrary to the will of the citizens (17 municipalities of Thessaloniki ask for local referendums to cancel the tender for the sale of EYATH), contrary to rational reasoning (since it implies the selling of profitable monopolies whose infrastructure assets have been paid by generations of Greek citizens who are the “shareholders” of these companies) contrary to the attempt of reducing public debt (the debt of the broader public sector to EYDAP is more than 1 billion Euros!!! while the public sector’s shares value, which is going to be the approximate selling price, is no more than 370 million) and ultimately to the detriment of services quality as the international experience showcases. It is ridiculous while all major European cities remunicipalize water services, having experienced all the bad consequences of privatization, that some amateurs of this brave new world of globalized economy, consider these policies as “development”, a development which by now is only imposed in impoverished third world countries who have lost all sovereignty rights.
The commission agrees to exclude EYDAP / EYATH from privatizations, if requested by the Greek government.
European Commission, apparently under strong international pressure exerted against the privatization of water companies in Greece as well as in the rest of Europe, explicitly states that it is only the Greek government’s decision to sell water companies EYDAP / EYATh. This is the answer of the Commissioner Olli Rehn in the question by Syriza MEP , Nikos Chountis.
In Nikos Chountis’s question, after mentioning the 1.5 million signatures of European citizens initiative «Right2Water», and Article 345 of the Treaty on the Function of the European Union on the EU’s obligation to maintain neutrality concerning the ownership status of enterprises (public or private), the European Commission is asked whether “it would be positive to consider a request from the Greek government to exempt water companies by the general sell-off of public enterprises currently taking place in Greece.”
In response, the Commissioner Olli Rehn said in the most unequivocal manner that the commission “has no policy that obliges Member States to privatize water services,” and that “the management of water resources is the responsibility of the Member States, so for this reason the commission has taken neutral position on the issue of public or private ownership of water resources, in accordance with Article 345 TFEU, recognizing, at the same time, that “water is a public good which is vital for citizens. ”
Furthermore on his reply , Commissioner Rehn indicates the Greek government referring specifically to the Greek privatization program, stressing that “The assets included in the privatization program for the countries of the program is the result of decisions by national authorities alone. The discussions in the adjustment program focus on general funding needs of the program,including privatization revenues from the sale of state assets to investors, but the set up of the privatization program and the selection of assets is the sole responsibility of the Member States “.
Therefore the question remains to the Greek government and to Mr Stournara’s troikan associates why they insist to sell two profitable, and strategically important public companies.
Parliamentary questions 26 June 2013 P-007557-13
Question for written answer to the Commission
Rule 117 Nikolaos Chountis (GUE/NGL)
Subject: Privatization of water companies in Greece
The statement by Commissioner Barnier of 21 June 2013 on the exclusion of water from the Concessions Directive was intended to reassure the public that there were no plans to privatize water.
At the same time, however, the Commission, from within the Troika, has called on the Greek Government to sell off its two largest water and sewerage utilities in Greece, the Athens (EYDAP) and Thessaloniki (EYATH) utilities, effectively privatizing water, notwithstanding Mr Barnier’s assertions and the provisions of Article 345 TFEU stating that the Treaties shall in no way prejudice the rules in the Member States governing the system of property ownership. Indeed, such a move flies in the face of a number of European Parliament resolutions and, more to the point, the express wishes of European citizens as reflected by the 1500 signatures gathered in support of the right2water initiative.
Given that the two utilities are showing a profit and are in a position to modernize their supply networks and services independently and without the need for private capital injections, would the Commission be favorably inclined to a request from the Greek Government that water utilities be exempted from the current wave of privatizations in Greece and, if so, under what conditions?
1 August 2013
Answer given by Mr Rehn on behalf of the Commission
The Commission has already stated that it does not have a policy of forcing Member States (MS) to privatize water services. The Commission recognizes that water is a public good which is vital to citizens and that the management of water resources is a matter for MS, and therefore has a neutral position on the public or private ownership of water resources, in accordance with Article 345 of the TFEU. The Commission has already announced that it will remove water from the scope of the concessions directive and will continue to monitor the situation in this sensitive sector closely.
The choice of what, how far and in which sequence public assets or companies should be privatized remains entirely with the MS, taking into account the various constraints they face and objectives they set for themselves. EU-wide experience offers a variety of different public or private property models for water utilities. In both public and private models, there are cases of problematic outcomes, but also success stories. However, the Commission considers that the creation of a regulatory authority and an appropriate market functioning environment are crucial prerequisites for guaranteeing the success of any of these models to protect consumers’ interests and maintain environmental values.
The assets included in the privatization program for program countries are the exclusive result of the national authorities’ decision. Discussions in the context of the adjustment program are focusing on the overall program financing needs, including privatization receipts resulting from the sales of state-owned assets to investors, but the design of the privatization program and the choice of assets remain entirely with the MS concerned.