The referendum on the water of Thessaloniki

Brief History

The referendum for the privatization or not of EYATh (Thessaloniki water and sewerage company) held in Thessaloniki on 18 May 2014, is a golden page in the history of the city.

The idea was initiated by the EYATh Workers Association in 2011, visited the municipalities of the city, discussed the proposal and asked to take decisions against the privatization of EYATh and in favor of a referendum.

In March 2013 the EYATh Association of Workers invited municipalities, organizations and citizens of Thessaloniki, for the establishment of a great alliance against the privatization of EYATh. Municipalities of the Thessaloniki area, Initiative 136 (K 136), the Citizens' Union for Water (second-level union of water cooperatives) and the 12 non-profit water cooperatives were co-founding members of the coordinating body.

The coordinating organizations and citizens during the 2013 restored the proposal of the Workers Association since 2011, for a referendum on the water. The decision was finally at a meeting on February 17, 2014.

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People vs. corporate rule: Thessaloniki’s great referendum

First, quantitative:

More than 1500 volunteers set up ballot boxes outside the 192 electoral centres of the 11 municipalities of Thessaloniki’s metropolitan area, at the same time as the municipal elections taking place inside. Numerous groups and citizens’ initiatives worked side by side to carry out the plebiscite, with the infrastructural and moral support of the 11 municipal councils. A few volunteers, intimidated by the government’s threats to arrest the organizers for "obstructing the electoral process", failed to show up, however the coordinating groups moved people around quickly and covered the vacancies. There were minor incidents, with some police guards refusing to hand the ballot boxes to the organizers, but legal counsellors intervened successfully in all cases.

218.000 people cast their vote, about 34% of registered voters. Compare this to 55% of registered voters who participated in the municipal elections. About 60% of those who voted inside the electoral centres also voted in the referendum. Had the ballot boxes been inside the schoolyards, in central easy to find places, this figure would have been much higher. Unfortunately the government disregarded the organizers’ call and banished them from the yards.

98% of the vote was for “NO” to privatizing Thessaloniki’s water and sewerage company.

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Solidarity with our fellow campaigners in Thessaloniki

Our Greek friends and fellow campaigners in Thessaloniki need our help and solidarity to keep water in public hands !

In Thessaloniki a struggle against water privatization is going on. As part of the Troika's (European Commission, European Central Bank and IMF) austerity programme the Water and Sewage Company EYATH in Thessaloniki is going to be sold.

The planned privatization of water services has raised broad resistance in Thessaloniki. With the aim of giving voice to the citizens' opposition a general assembly of SOS te nero (Save our water) campaign decided to organize a popular referendum on water privatization, be held on Sunday, May 18, 2014, simultaneously with the first round of local elections.

"This referendum has a movement character, and arises primarily from the desire of citizens to reflect authentic opinion for the future management of the public goods of water supply and sanitation." (Regional Association of Municipalities of Central Macedonia, Unanimous Decision of the Board on local referendum on the privatization of EYATH, 14 March 2014)

The referendum is non-binding, but it is expected that the investors will respect the outcome of the referendum that they are not welcome.

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18 May, Thessaloniki's water referendum: One no, many yeses

Thessaloniki is a lively sprawling metropolis located in the north of Greece. As with the rest of the country, it is affected by increasing unemployment and poverty, a result of the government's Troika-dictated policies, which have driven the economy into a deep recession.

In Greece, as in many other countries in the past, disaster capitalism has utilized the sovereign debt crisis -that it also helped produce- as an excuse to push forward an aggressive campaign of neoliberal plunder: Attack on the populations' social, political and labour rights, dismantling of the health and education system, massive dispossession through mega-mining projects, and privatisation of everything that constitutes the public wealth. Again, as in many other cases, the government and the media are mindlessly repeating neoliberalism's favourite mantra: "there is no alternative".

In this context, as part of the terms of the loathed "memorandum" imposed by the IMF, in 2011 the government announced its plans to privatize EYATH, the state-managed company providing the city's 1.5 million inhabitants with water and sanitation services. Suez, the water sector giant, was quick to express interest in profitable EYATH. As of May 2014, the privatization process is underway, and two bidders, French Suez and Israeli Mekorot, have advanced to the second phase of the public tender.

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Public water and participation win in Lazio

The first law in Italy for a public and participative management of the water, presented by citizens and municipalities, has been approved

After the formidable outcome of the June 2011 national referendum, following a two years process connected with practices experienced by commettees and several municipalities of Lazio, after pressing for 12 months the Regional Government, today, March 17, at last, the Popular Law proposal nr 31 for the public and participative management of the water services of Lazio Region has been approved unanimously.

This law aknowledges the referendum result, starting from the definition of water service as a service of general interest not subject to profit-making purpose, up to the allocation of a fund aimed to support the remunicipalization of present services. This law, at last, reinstates the central role of the local authorities, by outlining the optimal territorial districts on the basis of the hydrographic basins and making it possible for the municipalities to form consortiums and to commit the service also to public subjects, assuring in the meantime the participation of the local communities in the management of this essential good, also with respect to the future generations.

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