Hello from snowy Vienna. We have had a wonderful day. Over 300 people and a lot of media attended this important conference today. People in Europe have been fighting water privatizations for over a decade and have started a process of reversal, leading to the remunicipalization of many water services, including some major cities, such as Paris.
But in a classic example of what Naomi Klein calls the shock doctrine, 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. Already, water prices have been dramatically raised in some cities, leading to water service cut offs and even evictions.
The Citizen’s Initiative is a most exciting counter-force to this provocation and growing every day. Not satisfied with the one million signatures they have succeeded in getting, the group is now aiming at over two million.
I told them how important their work is and that they have support all over the world. Austrians value both their water sources, which they take very good care of, and the public nature of its delivery. But I told them how fast that can change, and pointed to our federal government and how they are using funding as a tool to force P3s on municipalities and that they must be vigilant.
Two things to note: although it was a labour-backed conference, no one seemed to know about the Canada-European Union CETA. And there is a big debate on whether the EU can be reformed, or whether it has just become a tool of neo-liberalism.
Big good day!