Italy’s Constitutional Court has declared the privatisation of local public services unlawful in a decision that has been hailed as a major victory by those campaigning against the sell off public services in the country.
The court decided that one aspect of a decree passed by the Silvio Berlusconi in August 2011 was not lawful.
Article 4 of Decree-Law of 13 August 2011 forced competition in local public services and has been considered controversial as it contradicted the results of a referendum in June 2011 in which a millions of Italian decided by a massive majority to reject water privatisation.
Nichi Vendola, the governor of southern Apulia Region that launched the legal challenge, said that ‘our perseverance in the battle that we conducted, day after day, against the attempt to privatize essential public services for citizens and communities, has been vindicated.’
The Italian Water Forum, which co-ordinated last year’s massively successful referendum campaign and has been opposing the attempt by the Berlusconi government and its successor administrate headed by Mario Monti, celebrated the decision.
It said the decision was ‘a warning to the Monti government and all powerful vested interests who speculate on common goods.’
‘Today it has been made clear, once and for all, that there must be respect for the decision of 27 million Italians: water and public services must be publicly owned.’
The ‘spending review’ currently being finalised by technocrat premier Monti contains new measures that aim to deepen the privatisation of public services.
The Italian court’s decision is more bad news for privateers seeking to make money out of water services in Europe, coming after the decision earlier this week by Berlin’s city government to take steps to bring back its water supply into public ownership. The move to regain control is to curb high costs for Berlin consumers.