German States Oppose Privatization of Municipal Water Supplies

Germany’s upper house of parliament, where the 16 states are represented, today opposed a European Commission proposal to allow the privatization of communal water supplies, saying it’s not a good like any other.

The upper house was “critical” of a European Union draft directive on the awarding of certain government contracts, published in December 2011, that would establish standards for awarding concession contracts for services including utilities, the chamber said on its Internet site.

“The Bundesrat attaches great importance to the preservation of the existing structures of municipal responsibility for the drinking water supply,” the chamber said in a statement adopted today. “The need to ensure a safe, high-quality and health-safe water supply precludes making water a free merchandise.”

The Bundesrat’s view that the commission’s proposal will lead to a “stealthy opening of the water supply for a purely competitive market” contrasts with the commission’s stance that it has a “neutral position on the public or private ownership of water resources.”

A citizens’ initiative that wants to prevent the privatization of water in the EU and keep water services in the public sector has collected more than 1.2 million signatures.

Petitioners must collect at least 1 million signatures from seven of the EU’s 27 member states in order to oblige the commission to propose relevant legislation. Most of the signatures in January came from Germany and Austria, the group said.

The commission’s draft directive is under discussion at the European Parliament and the EU Council, which represents the governments of EU member states. The European Parliament is scheduled to finalize its position on the directive in a vote in September and legislation may be finalized by the end of the year.

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