Something's up with the water

New advertising campaign taps into public support to keep water as a public good

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New TV and radio campaign follows presentation of first European Citizens' Initiative that obliges the European Commission to consider a pan-EU campaign calling on EU legislation to recognise water as a public good, not a commodity

€26 for a few glasses of water? €26 for a few glasses of water? A voluntary citizens' initiative against the privatisation of Greece's water companies has stepped up its campaign to hammer home the message that water is a public good, not a commodity, by launching its first in a series of TV and radio advertising spots. 

Produced by Save Greek Water, the first advert shows four young people sitting at a seaside cafe. Calling the waitress over the bill, they nearly fall out of their chairs when they're told that the "four normal glasses of water and two specials" comes to €26.

The clip then refers to the situation in the United Kingdom, where people are paying £2bn more a year – or around £80 per household – than they would be if the water and sewerage supply was publicly owned.

Over 250 volunteers were involved in making the adverts, which were produced by a team of young film directors. 

The launch of the advertising campaign comes just over a week after a petition containing 1,884,790 signatures from every EU state was presented to the European Commission, calling on it to recognise and implement the right to water and sanitation for all in EU legislation. The Right2Water petition was the first pan-European Union campaign to achieve European Citizens’ Initiative status, meaning the commission must consider the demands of the petitioners.

Greece was one of the 13 EU countries to exceed the required minimum of signatures necessary to make the petition valid. A citizens' initiative has to be backed by at least one million EU citizens, coming from at least seven out of the 28 member states. A minimum number of signatories is required in each of those seven member states.

Handing over the signatures on February 17, Jan Willem Goudriaan, deputy head of the ECI Right2Water campaign, said: "The message of our European Citizens' Initiative  is simple. Implement the human right to water, do not liberalise water services in the EU and do more to ensure people across the world have access to clean and safe water."

Accepting the signatures, the commission's vice-president, Maroš Šefčovič, said: "Today is a good day for grassroots democracy. This initiative will receive very close attention  ... I and my colleagues will be in listening mode, to get a deeper understanding of what exactly the organisers want. Then we will look at possible ways forward."

Under the government's austerity agreements with the troika, the country's main water companies in Athens and Thessaloniki must be privatised, which would result in publicly owned monopolies becoming privately owned monopolies.

Founded in July 2012, the Save Greek Water initiative aims to inform the public opinion about the need to keep water in public ownership and to link different organisations and people who are reluctant to see this resource, essential for survival of people, plants and animals, sold off to private corporations.

The initiative has no funding and is comprised of volunteers with different expertise and political backgrounds that agree on the democratic and rational management of this precious good.

The adverts

The second advert, launched 6 March 2014

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Thessaloniki Water Company (EYATH)
Save Greek Water
Athens Water Company (Eydap)