Der Berliner Wassertisch
Who is Goliath?
- Private water corporations. Veolia and Suez the biggest global water companies own nearly 70 percent of all privatised water worldwide (excluding China)
- Politicians who are prepared to sell our commons
The sale of 49.9% of the Berlin Water Works to RWE and Veolia in 1999 was the largest municipal PPP project in Europe.
PPP = Public Private Partnership
= a trick to make people think that the majority remains in public hands and so is still under democratic control.
But that‘s wrong!
And we can demonstrate this from the history of the Berlin Water Works from privatisation as a PPP through to remunicipalisation (1999 -2015).
A few details about the contract in Berlin
1.The treaty was secret.
Only Members of Parliament had the right to read it. But they had to do so in a darkroom, without the option of copying it or making notes. Before they entered the closed room, they had to sign that they would not make public what they had read.
But two very brave members of the SPD made use of this right and published what they had read .
We need moles or whistle-blowers to break their silence!
2. The treaty was for 30 years (longer than the Berlin Wall existed!)
No previous PPP project had ever lasted so long until now. They are too young to reach these years. But many of them either failed or were cancelled.
3. The private corporations were to receive a guaranteed profit for the entire period (1999 – 2028), regardless of how the company they had bought performed.
This meant that if the Berlin Water Works failed to make enough money to produce the profit for the private companies, the companies would be paid out of Berlin’s budget.
4. 100% of the management of the Berlin Water Works was handed over to the private corporations in an even more secret contract. Although they only owned 49.9% they had total control of the water company’s management. So they were able to apply their own profit-driven logic, as this is their only objective.
What could David do against this coalition of private interests and failed politics?
1. The first challenge was to force the secret contract to be published as only then it would be possible to fight this contract in the courts.
We called a referendum to have the contract published – even though no previous referendum had ever been won in Berlin. It took 5 years’ hard work on our part (2006-2011), but in the end we won!
How were we able to win?
1. Water is a common. Not a commodity. So it cannot be a source of private profit. This is self-evident to every normal human being .
Water is a fundamental human right. We didn‘t have to explain this to the people on the street.
2. The Berlin Water Table is and always has been an open forum for engaged citizens, but it wasn’t a formal coalition of the many social groups involved (ecologists, political parties, trade unions, etc.). Many of us are members of one organisation or another, but when we work together it is not as delegates, but purely for our own interest in water as a human right.
So we are strong because everybody is able to contribute to our fight. We have no office, no paid secretary, rely on donations and are all volunteers.
1. We learned from other countries:
- From Bolivia where the indigenous people threw the American corporation Bechtel
our of their country
- From Argentine where they threw out Suez
- From Paris where they ended the contracts with Suez and Veolia and
remunicipalised Eau de Paris.
- We had good logos that we used wherever we were
After the referendum, the Berlin Government finally decided to buy back the shares held by RWE (2012) and Veolia (2013).But the price was far too high. They paid them the profit for the 14 or 15 years remaining until the end of the contract.
Once they have received back (in just 11 years) what they had paid to buy into the Berlin Water Works and before they might be forced to spend more money on the investigations they had neglected to carry out for many years … then they go and take the profit for the remaining years for doing absolutely nothing.
We, the water customers, have paid for all this and now we have pay out again for major investigations and the credit with which Veolia and Suez were paid out.
This is why our work has not yet ended. We now are fighting for democratic, transparent, socially and environmentally sustainable water management in Berlin.
We intend to push our politicans and the Berlin Water Works towards a new democratic water management structure in Berlin. To this end, we are publishing :
9 years fighting for our water. Many of us have, little by little, become experts.
Sonntag, 22. März, 14 - 15:30 Uhr
Brandenburger Tor/Pariser Platz