Thessaloniki residents to vote on water privatization

Opponents of plans to privatize EYATH, the state-run company that provides the northern port city of Thessaloniki with water and sewage services, hope to reverse the process by putting it to a referendum on Sunday.

Citizens are expected to vote on the matter while casting their ballots for the municipal and regional elections at polling centers around the city, but the outcome of the referendum, organized by the Regional Association of Central Macedonia Municipalities, is nonbinding.

Organizers hope that a resounding no vote could still halt plans to denationalize the company, which is being eyed by Suez Environnement SA and Israel’s national water company Mekorot.

“It is the first time that such a referendum is being organized on a regional level,” said the head of the association, Simos Daniilidis.

However, Yiannis Emiris, chief executive of Greece’s privatization agency TAIPED, has signaled that the plebiscite’s outcome will not impact on the sale, which is mandated by Greece’s bailout agreements.

“Unofficial initiatives cannot affect the future of the tender,” Emiris told the city’s Makedonia newspaper, adding that opposition to the privatization plans is down to poorly informed consumers.

Emiris said that public concerns had been taken into consideration while preparing the tender.

In the same interview, Emiris fended off criticism about plans to privatize the Thessaloniki Port Authority (OLTH). Asked why TAIPED preferred to sell the company’s majority stake rather than award a long-term concession agreement – as favored by the city’s various bodies – Emiris said interest from private investors in the idea was poor.