Article Index

The French Paradigm

The foundation of Veolia’s worldwide expansion is the so-called “French model of water management”. According to it, eight out of ten French citizens purchase their water from a private owner; in metropolitan areas, the ratio goes up to 9 out of 10. Three entrepreneurs share this market: at the top we find Veolia, side by side (and often in partnership) with Suez, and lastly the considerably smaller firm Saur. Together, the three have built a structural and opaque monopoly. As of the eighties, they have widened their scope to the media, particularly to the French TV landscape: Saur has a share in TF1, Veolia in Canal + and Suez in M6. The manifold possibilities of misuse of these dominant positions have thereby been strengthened, to the extent that in many cities Veolia masters not only water, but practically all the sectors of public primary services. Electricity, gas, waste management, district heating, city cleaning, local traffic, canteens, healthcare – Veolia has them all in its programme of available public services, cut for all sizes of human habitat. Many cities, not only in France but also in the United Kingdom, in Germany, in fact all over the world, gladly fall back on these offers, all the more because of the companies special know-how, better described today as financial technology. In times of scarce public resources, financial technology competence is at least as important as technological expertise in the water business. Indeed many communes run the risk of being taken to the cleaner’s by a predominant multinational company.