What is Initiative 136?

Initiative 136 is a citizens’ initiative that opposes the privatization of the Water and Sanitation Company in Thessaloniki and proposes its social management through local-level cooperatives. 

In Greece we are living in an exeptional situation where public debt is used as an excuse for the privatization of many public goods and services. In February 9th the Greek Parliament ratified the second "rescue" memorandum and turned it into State Law. With this law, all the privatization procedures that had been voted in 8 months ago (June 2011) are speeded up causing a severe deterioration in the standard of living of the Greek people and the selling off of our national wealth. Under the auspices of the International Monetary Fund and the European Commission, the Greek government puts on public tender, among many others assets, the Water and Sanitation Company of Thessaloniki (EYATH), even though it is an efficient and profitable company that offers quality water services in low prices, without ever reporting any financial loss. The Greek government, after breaking up the company into two parts - the first one responsible for the management and invoicing and the second for  infrastructures and maintenance – has the intention to sell the first one, the most profitable, in a public tender, while the second one will remain in hands of the state.   

According to the new law 40% of the shares and the management of EYATH is for sale. The company’s profits during the last 5 years were €75 million, while the price of the takeover (after the collapse of its stock market value) is not more than €55 million. In 2010, EYATH’s profits were €12,4 million, while in 2011 €20,1 million. This is another case of implementation of the model “privatization of the profits, socialization of the loss”. Water is the ultimate commodity that nature offers us and the United Nations have recognized that the access to clean water and sanitation is a human right. According to recent polls, the citizens oppose the privatization of water. The myth of ‘efficiency’ of private management has collapsed, since dozens of scientific researches prove that all over the world, wherever privatization of water services has been applied, it proved to undermine water quality, increase water loss, undermine the infrastructure and increase water prices.

Apart from defending the water of Thessaloniki, Initiative 136 aims to highlight the alternative prospects that are offered to the citizens and the Greek people who can, under the current crisis condition , take the matters that affect them into their own hands. We believe that this potential can be fulfilled through a cooperative movement which combines community solidarity and environmental respect; a movement of Social Economy that offers an alternative to the capitalist course of action; a productive and economic model that combines collective ownership and individual incentive. The sustainable water management lies in the core of such an initiative that respects the environment and protects the natural resources through a public, nonprofit, democratic, socially controlled and rational usage.   

If one divides the estimated value of EYATH by the number of the water meters (namely the number of the users), the result is the symbolic number of 136 euros. The idea behind Initiative 136 was born in the summer of 2011.

It was the result of the discussions that took place in Thessaloniki, in the White Tower assemblies of the squares movement (”Indignados”). On the 10th of August, the workers of EYATH, social movements, organizations and citizens of Thessaloniki, decided that we are not willing to let anyone play with the water our families drink; we will not allow any financial interests – foreign or national – to speculate with our water and jeopardize the public health and environment of our area. The ownership of EYATH is now a matter for the citizens of Thessaloniki. 

We decided to join our forces in a common endeavour under the name ‘Initiative 136’, whose purposes are:

-         The acquisition of 40% and the management of EYATH by the citizens.

-         Social control of the city’s water

-         Democratic operation of the company

-         The non-profit character of the company, in line with social policies and environmental protection.

In this effort, we invited all citizens to actively participate. We are also in contact with all the Mayors and Municipal Councils of Thessaloniki´s metropolitan area, as well as many of social and professional organizations. The overwhelming majority supports our initiative, which made its first public presentation on the 28th of November, 2011. Many cooperatives have already been created in the region of Thessaloniki, with thousands of pre-signed members. It is now becoming clear that the only way to defend the common goods is through social management and solidarity.  

Get in touch with Initiative 136 on info@136.gr

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