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Up to the Last Drop: The Secret Water War in Europe

Up to the Last Drop: The Secret Water War in Europe
From Al Jazeera - April 16, 2018

Filmmaker: Yorgos Avgeropoulos

In 2010, water was officially recognised as a universal human right by the United Nations. However, the European Union has yet to do the same.

The management of water has long been in the hands of private companies, but resistance to this profit-driven model has increased in Europe since 2000. Activists against water privatisation in Greece, Portugal and Ireland say that the EU applies pressure to privatise water services using the economic crisis as a pretext for the creation of a water market in Europe.

In many cases, the decision to close the book on water privatisation is the response to the failure of private operators to put the needs of communities before profit.

There have been 235 recorded cases of water remunicipalisation in 37 countries from 2000 to 2015, affecting over 100 million people.

"Ninety-four cases of these come from France. And I think that this is quite important as a trend, especially since France is the country that has invented water privatisation as we know it today. The country that knows water privatisation best,"explains Emanuele Lobina, Principal Lecturer in Public Services International Research Unit (PSIRU) at the University of Greenwich.

In 2010, the city of Paris decided not to renew its contract with French companies Suez and Veolia, two of the world's largest private water corporations. This was mainly due to the high level of fraud and scandals. Water lobbies funded election campaigns and maintenance work was minimal. The case was similar in the German city of Berlin.

"For 25 years, Paris' water supply service had been under private management. Having this 25-year-long experience with the private sector we realised that we had lost the technical control over the service. That there was no financial transparency. So we wished to regain control of this service," says Anne Le Strat, deputy mayor of Paris from 2008 to 2014. "A natural resource as essential as water must be managed by a prudent public authority and not by a profit-driven company."

While Paris and Berlin have taken back public control over their water services, the elite of the countries to which they belong enforce the privatisation of water in Greece, Portugal and Ireland.

"A big issue is being raised regarding the European Commission's role which is imposing privatisation on countries of the south as part of the Troika," points out Maria Kanellopoulou, a spokesperson for the citizen-led initiative Save Greek Water.

The Troika is a decision group that represents the European Union and is formed by the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

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