OPINION

It’s not water under the bridge

The announcement regarding the privatizations of the country’s two biggest water and sewerage companies, EYDAP of Attica and EYATH of Thessaloniki, by the end of this year’s third quarter, ought to be re-evaluated in the wake of recent statements made by Internal Market and Services Commissioner Michel Barnier and former Eurogroup head Jean-Claude Juncker.

A few days ago, in response to European citizens group Right2Water, Commissioner Barnier said the following: “For months now, there have been reports that the European Commission is trying to privatize water by the back door, through its proposal on concessions. This has never been the intention, never been the reality.” Meanwhile, the group has organized a petition that has so far attracted signatures from 1.5 million citizens, all calling on the EU not to privatize water and sewerage plants.

Barnier pledged to recommend the exclusion of drinking water from privatizations and noted that he fully understood people’s anger at hearing the news of water services being sold to the highest bidder. He made his point very clearly.

Also a few days ago, speaking in Athens during an official visit, in the presence of Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and the country’s political leadership, Juncker was equally emphatic when he urged Greece not to sell its islands. While in favor of privatizations in general, the former chief of the Eurogroup and Luxembourg prime minister encouraged the country’s top officials to sell Greece’s public companies at the right price.

What is all this fuss regarding the sale of the water supplies? It’s a commitment attached to the new Memorandum. Here’s the paradox: the country’s partners and creditors, known as the troika, are forcing Greece to go against the EU’s will and desired common strategy.

Could it be that the price will reach so high so as to lighten the country’s debt? Not really, as it is estimated that this will reach only a few hundred million euros, when at the same time the company is owed some 800 million euros in unpaid bills by the Greek public sector.

Or is it because the company is not making a profit? Not true either, given that turnover reached 360 million euros in 2012, while there was an increase of 43.6 percent in pre-tax profits which stood at 51 million euros. Labor costs, meanwhile, have been reduced by 50 percent.

Given the EU’s emerging water strategy, the privatization of EYDAP-EYATH is placing Greece out of European orbit.