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Germany

by Jens Loewe, Germany - Porto Alegre January 2003

I am ashamed to give a contribution as a German, sincein Europe, in France and Germany, we have the strongest and most brutal water corporations. The strongest in France is Suez, and Ondeo and Vivendi.

More or less two years ago, German corporations recognized that water is the business of the future and the first step was that RWE bought the British water corporation Thames Water. The second step was, two years ago, that we created another big player [in Europe], which is called Aquamundo.

[At] this moment, Aquamundo is building a dam in China and when [you go to] their homepage, [you can read how] they are using sweet words [on how] to overcome poverty, access to water, and all the other things. I believe it is a very brutal game.

In Stuttgart, we are trying to fight against different [kind of water privatization project; the] cross border leasing projects. On one hand we are talking about GATS [General Agreement on Trade in Services] agreements, and we heard the main problem is that when we sign the GATS [the rules] are irreversible.

In Europe, our politicians are selling the common property so quickly that we have no chance to recognize it. The special problem is cross border leasing because it is in a way irreversible [too]. Special agencies or banks make proposals to our towns [for cross border leasing], not only in Germany, [but] in all of Europe.

In the last few months, our towns in Europe have had a financial crisis. The French banks are coming to offer their help. The quickest way to solve the problem is when you sell your property [whole water utilities], not only the water. Cross border leasing is used to sell transportation hospitals schools and so on the whole range of public services. We must share the knowledge in order to stop it.

First, most cross border leasing negotiations are behind closed doors and, mostly in Germany, they are [subject to] secret negotiations. The argument is the investors do not want you to know the name of the investors, so the people do not know what kind of business they are in. Some politicians are having very difficult times refusing it.

Second, special agencies are preparing contracts and the amount of the contract is between 500-1000 pages long and it is only in English. Our politicians only get the 3 page conclusion, and with those 3 pages, they vote [for or against the project]. The main interest is in the banks that want to strengthen this kind of business. In case of cross border leasing, [the banks] do not do some work do not pay for the work, it is an illusion [of business transactions].

I am convinced [the real investors are based] in the United States. I am convinced of the possibility to use black money in order to distribute that black money in that illusionary type of business. One example is a German journalist [who] did research [and found that] our contract [in Stuttgart] was written by Fidelity Bank of New York. He found 15 Fidelity Banks, and none gave an answer, so I guess it is only a letter box.

It is a brief description and I think the cross border leasing is similarly dangerous like the GATS agreement . [With such contracts] we lose our influence for 99 years and when [the banks] do not fulfill the contract, the American investor can sue against our towns. Second aspect is we lose our democracy.  I think it is necessary to start self education so that everyone knows more about this type of business that we are able to fight against it. The day after tomorrow, I will offer a workshop about cross border leasing and I will end with original Suez homepage, so you can see [how they co-opt our discourse]. Two examples of what Suez is saying [is that they are] a global service group delivering the essentials of life, and the boss of Suez is saying we are a socially responsible company committed to the principles of sustainable development. On the last page [of a Suez report they state that they] are safeguarding the planet’s water.

Suez is steadily expanding its global footprints in 130 countries, and I think it is important for us to build up our network to make that footprint smaller.

Water for All initiated a new collaborative website to help coordinate our global campaign focusing on the water transnational, Suez. The website is tri-lingal and collects information regarding the abuses, problematic projects, community protests, and exploitative policies of Suez, Go to:
English - www.stopsuez.org
Spanish - www.fuerasuez.org
French - www.arretonssuez.org

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