Retour au format normal

La Commission européenne soutient ouvertement la privatisation de l’eau, des ONG’s européennes s’indignent

17 octobre 2012

par Marc Laimé -

Une large coalition d’ONG’s et de mouvements citoyens européens ont fermement dénoncé le 17 octobre 2012 la position officielle de la Commission européenne, qui soutient que la privatisation des services hydriques en Europe peut « contribuer à la réduction de la dette (…), accroit les performances des entreprises, et, par extension, la compétitivité de l’économie, en rendant attractifs les investissements directs étrangers »…

- 1. Le 15 mai 2011, une large coalition d’ONGs et de mouvements citoyens européens interpellent plusieurs hauts responsables de la Commission et des institutions européennes, membres de la Troïka, leur reprochant de promouvoir la privatisation des services publics de l’eau, notamment en Grèce et au Portugal, dans le cadre des programmes d’ajustement et de « réduction de la dette ».

PDF - 97.6 ko
Courrier à la Commission européenne, 15 mai 2011.

- 2. Le 26 septembre 2012, une haut fonctionnaire de la Direction générale des Affaires économiques et financières de la Commission, dans une réponse sans équivoque, soutient que la privatisation des services hydriques peut « contribuer à la réduction de la dette (…), accroît les performances des entreprises, et, par extension, la compétitivité de l’économie, en rendant attractifs les investissements directs étrangers »…

PDF - 105.7 ko
La réponse de la Commission européenne, 26 septembre 2012.

- 3. La réponse des ONG’s en date du 17 septembre 2012 :

“Brussels, October 17th 2012

To : Olli Rehn, Vice-President of the European Commission and member of the Commission responsible for Economic and Monetary Affairs and the Euro

CC : José Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission Michel Barnier, Commissioner for Internal Market and Services Janez Potočnik, Commissioner for the Environment Laszlo Andor, Commissioner responsible for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion

Dear Commissioner Rehn,

Thank you for your reply to our letter of May 15th 2012. Despite the urgency of the issues we raised, the reply came after four months of reminders to your services and only after we indicated that we would complain to the European Ombudsman if a response was not received soon.

In our letter, we asked the Commission to stop demanding the privatisation of municipal water systems in countries receiving rescue loans in the context of the sovereign debt crisis. Our letter made clear that the privatisation loan conditions imposed on these countries by the European Commission are economically, socially and democratically flawed.

Your response is astonishing. Not only does it confirm that the Commission has indeed imposed water privatisation on these countries but it actually defends this as the Commission’s preferred general policy for the water sector, implying this policy will continue. Your letter asserts a declaration of beliefs in the general virtues of the privatization of public water utilities, which is wholly unsubstantiated by facts.

Such ideological arguments are simply blind to reality. In 2010, the largest survey ever on water privatisation cases found that no cost savings could be attributed to privatisation in the water sector. The privatization wave of the 1990s has long run out of steam, reversing the trend of private water companies expanding. Negative experiences with privatisation have made many municipalities in Europe decide to bring back their water systems into public management. Could you please indicate what evidence you have to support your position that water privatisation “has the potential of increasing the efficiency of companies and, by extension, the competitiveness of the economy as a whole, while attracting foreign direct investment” ? Has the Commission explored the remunicipalisation trend and taken the lessons from these cases into account ?

Strikingly, you fail to respond to our statement that imposing privatisation of water utilities “appears to be in violation of the EU’s supposed neutrality on the question of public or private ownership and management of collective water services (article 345 TFEU and Art. 17 1 of the Directive 2006/123/EC on services in the internal market).” This is hardly a trivial matter and we would therefore expect the Commission to reply. Can you please explain to us what the legal basis is for the Commission’s policy of imposing water privatisation on EU member states ?

Finally, you claim that : “the Commission will check that the privatisation process of water companies guarantees full access to water for all citizens.” This is far from convincing. The European Commission has so far refused to initiate legislation to implement the human right to water and sanitation, ignoring the July 2010 UN resolution on this right. You also have not created a framework to implement the Public Services Protocol of the Treaty. It is on this basis that we have recently launched an European Citizens Initiative to force the European Commission to take action to secure the right to water.

Confronted with these worrying signs that the Commission has lost touch with reality, we can only re-state the conclusion of our previous letter : we ask you to guarantee that the European Commission withdraws its demands and refrains from any further pressure to impose water privatisation conditionalities on Greece, Portugal and any other EU member state. This pressure is flawed, undemocratic, at odds with the EU treaties and should be terminated immediately.

In concern,

(signatories to be confirmed)

Água é de todos (Portugal)


ATTAC Hungary


Berliner Wassertisch (Germany)

Blue Planet Project

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 and Water Europe

France Libertés

Gemeingut in BürgerInnenhand (Germany)

Ingenieres Sin Fronteras (Spain)

Italian Forum of Water Movements

Movement 136 (Greece)

Transnational Institute (TNI)

Wasser in Bürgerhand (Germany)

Za Zemiata (Bulgaria)"

Word - 31 ko
Le communiqué de presse des ONG’s, 17 octobre 2012.

Marc Laimé -