Stop Competition Bill – No privatization of water services


Open letter of the European Water Movement to the Italian and European parliamentarians

As European Water Movement we confirm our firm commitment against privatization and the water grabbing of water resources.

In this regard we express great concern for the European policy in favour of private players, as defined in the Next Generation EU and in the related national Recovery Plans. In particular, sharing the assessments and the initiatives of the Italian Forum of Water Movements (Forum Italiano dei Movimenti per l’Acqua), we express concern for Italy that, through the National Recovery and Resilience Plan (PNRR) and the connected Competition Bill (DDL Concorrenza), is preparing a context unbalanced in favour of the privatization of local public services.

Regarding water sector, the PNRR aims to achieve a restructuration based on enlargement towards the South, but not only, of the territory of competence of some big multiservice companies listed on the Stock Exchange identified as “efficient” operators, but actually resulted such only by assuring maximization of profits through financial processes.

Connected to the PNRR, the Competition Bill aims explicitly to remove regulatory and administrative barriers to market opening. In particular, article 6 aims to definitively rely essential services on the market, making their public government residual, so that local governments who would opt for such an option will have to literally “justify” their missed recourse to the market.

In addition, if we consider the provision of incentives to favour aggregations, all this will clearly result in a context of big companies listed on the Stock Exchange who will become monopolistic subjects practically of unlimited duration. In this regard contradiction between the vaunted competition and the de facto monopoly situation is glaring.

We denounce that such measures greatly restrict the role of Local Governments, by expropriating them of their basic function of ensuring essential services and related rights and by reducing them in this way from garrisons of grassroots democracy to mere executors of dispossession of social wealth. Lastly we denounce that, through the combined effect of the PNRR, the Competition Bill and the simplification decree (substitute powers of the State), an attempt is made to put a tombstone on the 2011 referendum outcome, erasing the popular will and debasing the instruments of direct democracy guaranteed by the Italian Constitution.

For this, in support of and in sharing with the Italian Forum of Water Movements, we demand:

  • removal of article 6 from the Competition Bill;
  • republicization of water services through the approval of the law proposal A. C. n. 52 (dispositions on public and participative government of the integrated water cycle) under discussion in the Commission of the Chamber of Deputies for Environment, Territory and Public Works;
  • investments for a drastic reduction of water losses in the water networks;
  • preservation of the territory through investments against hydrogeological instability

In conclusion let’s remind that only a strong role of the public can assure protection of the fundamental rights, starting with essential public services, which certainly include water services and sanitation. However this protection is threatened by the growing influence of financial actors in the development of water and sanitation service infrastructures, where a speculative logic that predominates in the financial world is being imposed. Water cannot be a financial asset whose value is established in financial markets. That’s why we demand to national and European institutions to declare themselves against the quotation of water in the Stock Exchange, as already denounced by the UN Special Rapporteur for the Water Right and by several subjects of the civil society.

March 22, 2022

European Water Movement