European Water Movement: Against EU Treaty the pressure of EU Commission to privatize water services

European Water Movement: Against EU Treaty the pressure of EU Commission to privatize water services
A new letter was sent today signed by more than 20 organizations that belong to the European Water Movement to Commissioner Olli Rehn and the European Commission after the very late response of his directorate (over a year!) on their first letter. Our concerns are shamelessly confirmed since in this text, it is clearly stated that the Commission policy is indeed to impose the privatization of water services in all countries receiving bailouts, including ours.

This response lacks any documentary evidence to support this policy and there is no mention regarding  the legal basis upon which the commission proceeds to the imposition of such loan conditionality clauses, which, as explicitly stated in the letter of organizations, runs counter to the directives of neutrality in relation to the private or public ownership and collective management of water services (Article 345 TFEU and Article 17 1 of the Directive 2006/123/EC on services in the internal market) and the Public Services Protocol of the Treaty. In the organizations letter, it is even mentioned that no initiative has been taken by the Commission to implement the UN resolution of July 2010 that acknowledges access to clean water and sanitation as a human right.

The new letter also refers to the reversal of privatization trend in the water sector that flourished in the 1990s and the new remunicipalization trend,  blowing now in Europe, after the experience of bad economic effects brought about by privatization in various cities. It is also noted that the only serious economic research that has been done on the subject does not support at any time the claim of the EU Commission “that privatization results in cost reduction”.

The initiative SAVEGREEKWATER, cosigns the letter and states unequivocally to the Greek government that it will proceed in all legal procedures to prevent this sad development in the water sector.

We once again call all Greek citizens and associations, scientific institutions and first degree unions and clubs to cosign our petition text, if they are generally in line with its direction so we can stand this time all together against the arbitrariness of the unelected Commissioners and undemocratic, unprofitable and unsubstantiated privatization of water services in our country.

From the part of Greece, the letter is also cosigned by Movement 136 of Thessaloniki.

The letter is cosigned by the Organizations

Água é de todos (Portugal)


ATTAC Hungary


Berliner Wassertisch (Germany)

Blue Planet Project

Coordination Nationale des Associations de Consommateurs d’Eau (CACE)

Coordination Eau Ile de France

Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO)

Council of Canadians

La Coordination Rhône-Méditerranée des Associations des Usagers de l’Eau (CRAUE)

Ecologistas en Accion (Spain)

European Federation of Public Service Unions (EPSU)

Food & Water Europe

France Libertés

Gemeingut in BürgerInnenhand (Germany)

Ingenieres Sin Fronteras (Spain)

Italian Forum of Water Movements

Movement 136 (Greece)

Mouvement Utopia (France)

Save Greek Water (Greece)

Transnational Institute (TNI)

Wasser in Bürgerhand (Germany)

Za Zemiata (Bulgaria)





EU Commission Forces Crisis-hit Countries to Privatize Water

 Brussels – The European Commission is deliberately promoting privatization of water services as one of the conditions being imposed as part of bailouts, it acknowledged in a letter to civil society groups on 26 September 2012.[1] EU Commissioner Olli Rehn’s directorate was responding to questions posed in an open letter concerning the European Commission’s role in imposing privatization through the Troika in Greece, Portugal and other countries.[2] The civil society groups have today written to Commissioner Rehn to demand that he stop “any further pressure to impose water privatization conditionalities”.[3]

The Commission’s push for privatization disregards the fact that water privatization has failed to deliver results in Europe and around the world. Paris and many other cities have recently remunicipalized their water services due to negative experiences with privatization. The Dutch government in 2004 passed a law banning private sector provision of water supply and the Italian Constitutional Court ruled that any future legislation attempting to privatise public services would be unconstitutional.

The Commission has not put forward any evidence to back its stance in its reply, even though research shows that public provision is often more effective than private. It also violates key articles of the EU Treaty that state the EU should be neutral on the question of water ownership.[4]

Members of the European Parliament have already tabled a question to the Commission asking for clarification on the contradiction between the Troika’s recommendations and the required neutrality of the Commission.

“This really demonstrates how the Commission has lost touch with reality. Their ideological arguments are not based on substantiated facts and goes to the extreme of ignoring the democratic will of the people,” said Gabriella Zanzanaini, Director of European Affairs for Food & Water Europe.

“The Commission has a lot to explain. Not only is there is no evidence at all to support the view that the private sector is more efficient, but there is very strong public resistance to privatization. European citizens will not back down quietly on this,” said Jan Willem Goudriaan of the European Federation of Public Service Unions (EPSU).

As movements around Europe are gathering momentum to fight the sale of public water, the first European Citizen’s Initiative has been launched to promote the implementation of the right to water for all in Europe and the idea that water supply and management of water resources should not be subject to ‘internal market rules,’ and that water should be excluded from liberalization.[5]


Pablo Sanchez EPSU

tel: 0032 474 626 633 email:

Olivier Hoedeman, Corporate Europe Observatory

tel: 0032 4 7448 6545   email:

Gabriella Zanzanaini, Food & Water Europe

tel: 0032 488 409 662 email:


[1] (page 4)



[4] The EU’s supposed neutrality on the question of public or private ownership and management of collective water services is outlined in article 345 TFEU and Art. 171 of the Directive 2006/123/EC on services in the internal market.


Initiative for the non privatization of water in Greece



  1. […] European Commission has clearly admitted in a letter addressed to the European Water Movement organizations and activists  that they are imposing the […]

  2. […] Portugal’s national water company are for sale as a result of Troika demands. In response to a letter from NGOs asking Commissioner Olli Rehn how the Commission (as part of the Troika) can justify imposing […]

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