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A chat with Greek activists

A chat with Greek activists


In Greece many people search for alternative ways to organise their society. At an event in Athens on July 8 they discussed their ideas about the necessary changes of the political system. Among the visitors were Greek activists fighting against the privatisation of water supply. Ronald Pabst seized the opportunity and spoke to them about the European Citizens’ Initiative “Right4Water”, an envisaged plebiscite in Thessalonica and political work in Greece.


Ronald Pabst: What is the background of your initiative. Why are you opposing the policy of the government.

Efi Spiroupaulou: Access to water is vital for everyone. It should not be used to gain profits. Right now, the International Monetary Fund as well as other international organisation force Greek authorities to privatise water supply systems. Currently they are run by public authorities. Like in Germany they are often maintained by the municipality. The two most important ones are in Athens and Thessalonica. They are owned by the Greek state and should be privatised as well.


Could you please explain what is going on in Thessalonica. I have heard that there should be a referendum on this issue?

The local parliament decided to hold a vote about the issue. But it needed two attempts to get it. At first, the motion was rejected. A second attempt was needed. Many citizens and activists demanded form their representatives to vote in favour of the referendum. And a majority decided to hold such a plebiscite. But it has several major shortcomings as the regulation of the procedure is very vague. It is unbinding and many details are not determined.


What do you expect from the European Citizens Initiative “Right4Water”?

It was the first time that enough signatures were gathered for a valid ECI.

I do expect that the European Parliament will act and stop the actual proposal of the EU Commission, which currently is pushing forward a regulation which is in favour of privatisation.


As far as I know in Greece the number of signatures is still quite low – the threshold is not fulfilled…

… but we will reach it soon. I am sure that we will get enough signatures. The problem was that the mass media in Greece didn’t report about the initiative. In Germany the number of signatures grew after supportive reports by important TV stations.


In Germany there are several referenda initiated from below calling for more public control of basic services like water and electricity. Did you notice that in Greece?

Yes, we know about these initiatives. They partly inspire our work. And they prove that the majority of citizens often has another opinion on privatisation than governments have.


You do not have the possibility to initiate binding referendums in Greece. What are you doing instead?

We campaign to inform the public about what is going on. And we are calling for local plebiscites like the one in Thessalonica. But our main concern is that most citizens do not know what is going on. We want to inform everyone about the issue.

In my opinion we have a serious lack of democracy in Greece. Please write this also.


I will do that. Thank you for your time.

Ronald Pabst

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