Trading Away Public Water: Trade Negotiations and Water Services

Even as we are still resisting the last one, pushed by the European Commission through the Troika (together with the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund), we are facing another huge risk from new trade agreements that the EU is negotiating at a multilateral scale. The most important and worrying are the nearly finished Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) with Canada; the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP, also known as TAFTA) with the United States; and the Trade in Services Agreement (TISA), negotiated among 50 countries.

Where Do These Treaties Stand?

TTIP
The first round of negotiations between the United States and the EU took place in July 2013. The TTIP is not a traditional trade agreement aimed at reducing tariffs on imports. Both sides recognise that the main target is to remove “regulatory barriers”, which would include an attack on social and environmental standards and regulation. Another primary objective is to create new markets by opening up public services and public procurement contracts to competition from transnational corporations.

CETA
The negotiations for a trade agreement between the EU and Canada were launched in 2009, and they concluded in August 2014. The text includes chapters on regulatory co-operation, food and consumer product standards, technical barriers to trade, public procurement, trade in services and investment protection. The agreement still has to go through the approval process by both parties.

TISA
TISA is being negotiated by a self-selected group of 23 governments representing 50 countries, including the United States and the EU. These countries represent more than two thirds of global trade in services. Talks began in 2012, outside of the World Trade Organization (WTO) framework. The negotiations aim to allow foreign corporations the same access to domestic markets at “no less favourable” conditions than domestic companies. At the same time, the agreement could block local governments’ attempts to regulate, purchase and provide services.

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Europoly

PRIVATISATION UNDER THE TROIKA - Since the beginning of the Eurozone crisis, countries have to carry out extensive privatisations in return for the Troika's bailout loans. In Portugal and Greece especially, oligarchs, large corporations and investors are making cheap purchases, hoping for huge profits. So begins a gigantic game of Monopoly. But there is one crucial difference to the family board game: the rules of Europoly already state who will win and who will lose. An instruction manual.

THE GAME

The rules of the Troika

This game started in 2010: He who lends money dictates the rules. He who borrows money must adhere to the rules. Before the euro crisis, it was developing countries in particular which had to learn this from international investors, but with the euro crisis Europe too is now affected. In Portugal and Greece especially, everything the state has to offer is being auctioned off under great time pressure: waterworks, banks, beaches, airports, electricity grids, ports, palaces – even mineral springs. The first chapter highlights gamers, rules and the financing.

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Eurozone President and Dutch Finance Minister Dijsselbloem suffers crushing defeat in Greek saga

EPSU press communication

Brussels 30 June 2014 - The privatization of the Greek water companies in Athens and Thessaloniki has been frozen. This was the news reported to the General Assembly of the Thessaloniki water company (EYATH) today. Workers representatives cheered the report that the ongoing privatisation of the public company is in direct conflict with a decision of the Council of State which had decreed that the privatization of the Athens water company sought by the Greek government and welcomed by Eurozone President and Dutch Finance minister Dijsselbloem was illegal. The workers, their union and a broad coalition of social movements had already successfully organized a referendum in which 98% of votes cast of nearly 220.000 people said No to the privatization, 18 May 2014.

A statement of the privatization agency HRADF (or Taiped) said that any future decision of HRADF should respect the Greek constitution and the will of the people. Suez and Mekorot have not submitted any bids yet. This is a sign of the uncertain legal nature and unwillingness to engage in a protracted local battle with trade unions, social movements and politicians, all of whom supported the referendum.

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Manifesto for the Commons in the European Union

Common goods are universal: they belong to everyone and they must not be monopolised by private interests. European Institutions, as guarantors of fundamental civil liberties, peace, cultural diversity and the rule of law, must ensure respect for, and the preservation of, these common goods.

Common goods, by definition, belong to the community. Water, the quintessential common good, should not be privatized or commoditised. Nor should this be the case with education and health. They ought not to be treated as commodities, but rather us our common heritage, protected and enriched by the community.

In a context of crisis and austerity, where privatisation is often encouraged, a political approach based on respect for common goods represents an opportunity to establish a new democratic project for European society, one based on citizen participation, respect for fundamental rights and cultural, moral and intellectual development.

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Critical judgment of Council of State: No to the privatization of EYDAP SA!

The justice cancels the transfer of 34% shares of the EYDAP SA to the HRADF - The judgment of the Council of State for EYDAP is a "pilot" also for EYATh.

No to the privatization of EYDAP, from the plenary of the Council of State; this annulled the government's decision to pass (without consideration) the 34.033% of the share capital (36,245,240 shares) of EYDAP, from the Greek State to the Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund (HRADF).

By Decision No. 1906/2014 Case published two days before the current Euro-elections, the Plenary of the Council of State accepted the request of some Athens citizens for EYDAP. With this decision, -which is the "pilot" for the privatization of EYATh-, considered that the conversion of EYDAP in private company is contrary to Articles 5 and 21 of the Constitution, which require the attention of state for public health, and also ensures the right to health protection.

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Water concessions detriment to the public good

Statement by The National Union of Local and Regional Government Workers (STAL)

Portuguese Court of Auditors uncovers profiteering in the water sector

An investigation by the Court of Auditors has uncovered the true consequences of private management of the water sector: private companies pocket hefty profits whilst residents and local authorities are left to pick up the bill.

A report published on 27th February by the Portuguese Court of Auditors into Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) in the water sector vindicates STAL’s ongoing struggle to expose the consequences of privatising public services in the water and sanitation sector. It shows how detrimental these deals are both for local authorities and ordinary citizens, who are forced to pay all the costs whilst private companies pocket hefty profits.

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