Photo: The Plenary Court of the Hellenic Council of State (the Supreme Administrative Court of Greece)
Reuters reports, "A top Greek court has blocked the planned privatization of the country’s biggest water utility, the Athens Water Supply and Sewerage Company (EYDAP), the Athens-Macedonian News Agency (AMNA) has reported, on the grounds the sale could put public health at risk."
The article continues, "The government had been planning to sell a substantial stake in Athens Water (EYDAP) to private investors under the terms of Greece’s bailout by its foreign lenders – the European Union and the International Monetary Fund – but the Council of State, Greece’s highest administrative court, ruled the sale would be unconstitutional because it might put public health at risk, AMNA reported, with concerns water quality could deteriorate under private control."
Greek Reporter adds, "According to the provisions of Articles 5 and 21 of Greece’s Constitution, the state is responsible for its citizens’ health, and also guarantees the right to the protection of public health."
EYDAP is 61 per cent publicly owned with 27 per cent of the utility listed on the Athens Stock Exchange. Prior to the court ruling, the Greek government had transferred 34 per cent of the utility's share capital to the privatization agency TAIPED, the Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund.
Another Greek Reporter article adds, "In 2011, the Greek government announced plans to privatize EYATH, the state-run company that provides [Thessaloniki's] 1.5 million residents with water and sanitation services. The denationalization process is underway and two multinational companies have made it to the second phase of the tender for the utility. ...[But] an overwhelming majority in Thessaloniki rejects the planned privatization of the local water and sewage company, EYATH, according to an unofficial referendum on the subject held alongside Sunday’s municipal and regional elections in Greece. Ninety eight percent of Thessaloniki residents are against the Greek government’s water privatization plans, while just two percent approve."
For more on that, please see our campaign blog Thessaloniki votes no to water privatization.
A Blue Planet Project report concluded, "There is no separate justification for the privatisation of the two water companies. Government uses the general rationale of needing to sell public assets to pay off the debt burden, because otherwise we won’t have 'money for salaries and pensions'. This line is repeated as an excuse for every measure that the government, the Central European Bank and the IMF want to impose. We believe that privatisation will have the same results and impacts experienced elsewhere – namely, it will result in decreased access, higher rates and lower quality of service."
Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow has commented, "The European Commission and the European Central Bank are using the financial crisis to promote an 'austerity' program that includes privatization of water services in a number of countries, including Greece."
The Council of Canadians and the Blue Planet Project stands in solidarity with the water justice movement in Greece and first expressed solidarity in the struggle against water privatization in Greece in March 2012.