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Berliner Wassertisch

The most important steps


In 1999, the Federal State of Berlin was facing the same problems as many other underfinanced cities and regions in Europe. It had debts of around !." billion. #he administration in Berlin had only one solution to this problem$ it had to sa%e money and pri%ati&e public ser%ices. #he 'aastricht #reaty was cited in (ustification of this political course of action, as it re)uired E* 'ember States to +consolidate, their budgets. #his policy of pri%ati&ation, generally -nown as ... /.ublic0.ri%ate .artnership1, was pushed through against the wishes of the population. Between 199! and 2334, public property worth 1 .4 billion was sold off in Berlin. #oday, Berlin5s debt le%el amounts to 62 billion. .olicy then was based on the principle of +.ri%ate can do e%erything better,. #here was thus no political power left that could gi%e e7pression to the citi&ens5 wishes. Then direct democracy stepped into the gap. 233! Inspired by the success of the Boli%ian people in their fight against water pri%ati&ation in 8ochabamba /Boli%ia1 in 2333, a group of 9ttac Berlin started to critically follow up the arguments put forward during the part0pri%ati&ation of the Berliner :asserbetriebe /B:B1. #he reason$ Berlin5s Senate had concluded a secret contract with the ;:E and <eolia that could not be terminated for at least 3 years. In =ctober 1999, the Berlin 8onstitutional 8ourt declared that the credit spread of 2> contained in the law was unconstitutional. ?e%ertheless, the state guaranteed e7actly this high profit for the pri%ate companies in their secret contract. #he part0pri%ati&ation of B:B too- the form of a complicated holding structure in which <eolia and ;:E together too- o%er !9.9>, each ha%ing e)ual shares. #his was the largest municipal ... pro(ect e%er underta-en at that date. First sharp rise in Berlin5s water price /1@.!>1, fierce debates in the city and within the population about the administration5s pri%ati&ation policy. #he +Berliner :assertisch, Berlin :ater #able1 was initiated at an information e%ent run by 9ttac Berlin. #he Berliners were inspired by the <ene&uelan water table groups. #he Berliner :assertisch resol%ed to campaign for a popular referendum on disclosure of the secret contracts /it was not yet possible at that time to ha%e a referendum on the remunicipali&ation of B:B 0 the legal position has since changed1.

1999

233! 2336

23340233" 1st stage$ .etition for a popular initiati%e$ +?o more secret contractsA Berliners want their water bac-,. In the 6 months up to Banuary 233", 9,649 Berliners submitted %alid signatures. Bust 23,333 were actually needed. #he Berlin Senate /S.CDEeft .arty /Die Linke11 attempted to obstruct the process on the grounds of alleged unconstitutionality. @ representati%es of the Berliner :assertisch lodged an appeal against this decision with the Berlin 8onstitutional 8ourt on 1".!.233". 2339 #he (udgment of the 8onstitutional 8ourt of the Federal State of Berlin on 6.13.2339 in fa%our of the :assertisch cleared the way to progress the popular initiati%e to the 2nd stage. #he (udgment is remar-able. It states that for the public sector, public law continues to ta-e priority, e%en in the e%ent of partial sale to pri%ate bodies, and that ci%il law, which

berliner-wassertisch.net

is generally used to (ustify the confidentiality of contracts /operational and commercial secrets1, is intended primarily for the protection of pri%ate indi%iduals. Elsewhere the (udges stress se%eral times the special nature of public ser%ices as assets that need to be protected. 9s the supply of drin-ing water and remo%al of sewerage are at the %ery heart of public ser%ices, the State may not weasel its way out of the public law by means of contracts framed under ci%il law. 2313 #he 2nd step of the popular initiati%e started on 1!.6.2313. =f the 23,433 signatures that were submitted, a total of 2"3,333 were recogni&ed as %alid on 24.13. 143,333 %otes were needed. #his result is rightly recogni&ed as a huge success for direct democracy. #he crucial hurdle of the rd step was successfully cleared$ =n 1 .2.2311, 666,2 @ Berliners %oted in fa%our of the proposition +Berliners want their water bac-, and its aim, namely the legal disclosure of all secret contracts. 9 popular referendum was thus won for the first time e%er in Berlin. 9 parliamentary +Special 8ommittee on :ater 8ontracts, was set up on the basis of F of the +popular law,. Gowe%er, after it had been sitting for one year, the go%erning coalition /S.*D8C*1, contrary to reality and seconded by the supposedly ob(ecti%e .arliamentary Scientific Ser%ice, confirmed that e%erything had ta-en place properly and correctly when the contract was concluded in 1999. #he scandalous contract was thus not sub(ected to (udicial scrutiny by the Senate. ;ather than re%ersal of the contract as re)uested by the :assertisch, which would ha%e been cheaper, the only option then was an e7pensi%e buy0bac-. #he .arliament appro%ed a security of 1.! billion for this purpose. #he Herman Federal 8artel =ffice issued an order against Berliner :asserbetriebe for improperly e7cessi%e drin-ing water prices. #his was confirmed by the ;egional 9ppeal 8ourt on 2!.2.1!. #he Federal 8artel =ffice thus won o%er the Berlin Senate, which now has a 133> sta-e in the running of the water company. Crin-ing water prices will ha%e to be reduced by around 14> annually. #he in%estigation into sewerage prices has yet to report. 2312 231 Buy0bac- of ;:E5s shares for 61" million. Buy0bac- of <eolia5s shares for @93 million. #he buy0bac-s are financed by a 30year loan obtained at the water customers5 e7pense. Berliner :asserbetriebe is thus 133> bac- in municipal ownership. Gowe%er, the Berlin Senate intends to continue running B:B as a profit0oriented holding. Berliner :assertisch is opposed to this. +First remunicipali&ation 0 then democrati&ationA, Craft of a +Berlin water charter, by Berliner :assertisch as the basis for a transparent, socially fair and en%ironmentally sustainable Berliner :asserbetriebe with the acti%e participation of Berlin5s population.

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29.11.1 . #he +Berliner :asserrat, /Berlin :ater 9ssambly1 is established as an open forum for e%eryone who wishes to become in%ol%ed in the planning and implementation of this new Berliner :asserbetriebe under the citi&ens5 control.

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