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Water movement lodges complaint with the European Commisson - Maladministration

(1st March 2013) A group of organisations including EPSU has asked the Commission to stop the privatisation of Greek and Portuguese water campanies as part of the Troika imposed austerity. The Commission sent us a now famous response (see www.epsu.org/a/9019) that in two short paragraphs sets out the philosophy of the Commission towards public enterprise making clear it is not neutral as regards ownership. Despite repeated reminders, the Commissioner responsible Oli Rehn refuses to answer. That is why we supported the complaint that is now being lodged.

The question has gained importance as the Dutch government is following the position of the Commission and also the German minister for the Economy has supported the private provision of water services.

Complaint about maladministration

Part 1 - Contact information

First name: GABRIELLA Surname: ZANZANAINI

On behalf of (if applicable): Signatories of Letter on water privatization

Address line 1: Rue d’Edimbourg 26 Town/City: Brussels County/State/Province: Postcode: 1050 Country: Belgium

Part 2 - Against which European Union (EU) institution or body do you wish to complain? European Commission

Part 3 - What is the decision or matter about which you complain? When did you become aware of it? Add annexes if necessary. On behalf of the European Water Movement and organisations concerned about the right to water in Europe, we would like to submit a complaint concerning the lack of response from Commissioner Rehn’s office to a letter we sent on October 17th 2012. As demonstrated by a press release from Commissioners Potocnik and Barnier on 22 February 2013), issues of water privatization are of great public concern at the moment especially in the context of austerity measures.

According to Article 14 of the Code of Good Administrative practice, "Every letter or complaint to the Institution shall receive an acknowledgement of receipt within a period of two weeks, except if a substantive reply can be sent within that period." and Article 17 states, " The official shall ensure that a decision on every request or complaint to the Institution is taken within a reasonable time-limit, without delay, and in any case no later than two months from the date of receipt. The same rule shall apply for answering letters from members of the public and for answers to administrative notes which the official has sent to his superiors requesting instructions regarding the decisions to be taken."

A group of organisations originally sent a letter to Commissioner Rehn requesting clarification on water privatisation conditionalities on 15 May 2012 and after repeated requests finally received a short response on 26 September 2012. As most question from the first letter were never answered, we sent a second letter on October 17th 2012. Despite repeated requests and reminders, we have still not received a response to our second letter.

As it has now been 5 months since we have not received an answer, we are submitting this official complaint to the Ombudsman.

Part 4 - What do you consider that the EU institution or body has done wrong?

The office of Commissioner Rehn has not followed Articles 14 and 17 of the European Code of Good Administrative Behaviour by not responding to our letter despite repeated reminders about a subject of great public concern at the moment.

Part 5 - What, in your view, should the institution or body do to put things right?

They should immediately reply to our letter and answer our questions concerning the legality of the conditionalities imposed by EU officials through austerity measures in EU Member States, in particular Greece and Portugal. They should also guarantee that the European Commission withdraws its demands and refrains from any further pressure to impose water privatisation conditionalities on Greece, Portugal and any other EU member state.

Part 6 - Have you already contacted the EU institution or body concerned in order to obtain redress?

Yes (please specify)

Yes, we have emailed several reminders and called the office as well concerning a lack of response to our letter.

Part 7 - If the complaint concerns work relationships with the EU institutions and bodies: have you used all the possibilities for internal administrative requests and complaints provided for in the Staff Regulations? If so, have the time limits for replies by the institutions already expired? Not applicable

Part 8 - Has the object of your complaint already been settled by a court or is it pending before a court? No Part 9 - Please select one of the following two options after having read the information in the box below:

Please treat my complaint publicly

Part 10 - Do you agree that your complaint may be passed on to another institution or body (European or national), if the European Ombudsman decides that he is not entitled to deal with it?

Yes