War Profiteer of the Month: Veolia Environment

Veolia Environnement S.A. is a multinational French company with activities in four main service and utility areas traditionally managed by public authorities - water supply and water management, waste management, energy and transport services. In 2011, Veolia employed 331,226 employees in 77 countries. Its revenue in that year was recorded at €29.647 billion.

History

In 2005, the name “Veolia” was established as an umbrella brand for all of the Group’s divisions (water, environmental services, energy services and transport) and a new logo was created. Veolia was formerly known as Vivendi Environnement and before that, as Compagnie Générale des Eaux, a water company created by an Imperial decree of Napoleon III in 1853.

Its Veolia Water division remains the largest private operator of water services in the world.

In March 2011 the company announce the birth of Veolia Transdev, the result of the combination of its transport subsidiary Veolia Transport with Transdev, a subsidiary of Caisse des Dépôts. Veolia Transdev is the world's private-sector leader in sustainable mobility with more than 110,000 employees in 28 countries.

In July 2011, amid disappointing financial results, the company announced the launch of new restructuring plans and redeployment of assets and businesses. In December 2011, Veolia announced a €5bn divestment program over 2012-2013. The company would comprise only three divisions (Water, Environmental Services and Energy Services). The transport businesses Veolia Transdev would be divested.

Veolia’s support for Israel’s illegal settlement

The Veolia parent company is Veolia Environnement, a French multinational. Veolia Transport, a subsidiary of Veolia Environnement, is a leading partner in the CityPass consortium that built the light-rail tramway linking west Jerusalem to illegal Jewish settlements in occupied east Jerusalem. The tramway cements Israel’s hold on occupied east Jerusalem and ties the settlements even more firmly into the State of Israel. And not only the settlements in east Jerusalem: the “Ammunition Hill” station of the network operates as the feeder station for settler traffic from Ma’aleh Adumim, a large Israeli settlement in the West Bank, and from Jewish settlements in the Jordan Valley.

The line opened in 2011, with Veolia responsible for the operation. With its involvement in this project, the company is directly implicated in maintaining illegal settlements in occupied Palestinian territory and is playing a key role in Israel’s attempt to make its annexation of the Palestinian territory of east Jerusalem irreversible. Further, as a willing agent of these policies, Veolia is undermining the chances of a just peace for the Palestinian people.

Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and the annexation of East Jerusalem are illegal under international law. Numerous UN resolutions and the 2004 advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice on the wall have confirmed this. The settlements violate Article 49 of the 4th Geneva Convention: “…The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies” as well as Article 53 forbidding destruction of property. In some cases in East Jerusalem these violations amount to war crimes, i.e. “grave breaches” of the Convention (see Articles 146 and 147), as they involve extensive appropriation of Palestinian property not justified by military necessity. These grave breaches are being facilitated by Veolia’s part in the construction and future operation of the tramway serving the settlements. The tramway also constitutes a significant alteration of the infrastructure of the occupied Palestinian territories contrary to the Hague Regulations of 1907, Section 3, also part of international law.

Veolia also runs at least four bus services serving the same function as the tramway: supporting and consolidating illegal settlements and tying them more closely into Israel. Services 109 and 110, operated by its local company Connex, link the settlements of Mevo Horon, Giv’at Ze’ev and Har Shmuel to Israel. Even though they pass Palestinian villages along the route, Palestinians living in the West Bank cannot use these services (with the possible but unlikely exception of a 5 km stretch). Services 7 and 19 link the Israeli town of Modin to the settlements of Mevo Horon, Hashmonaim and Kfar Ha’oranim. The latter two illegal settlements are built on the land of the Palestinian villages of Bilin and Nilin which hold regular demonstrations against the theft of their land. (More on Veolia’s bus services)

Veolia’s support for settlements does not stop there. Through its subsidiary TMM, Veolia Transport Israel has been operating the Tovlan landfill site in the occupied Jordan Valley for many years. During this time Tovlan has been supporting Israel’s illegal settlements in the West Bank by taking their refuse. Tovlan also receives refuse from Israel itself and the Israeli army, the occupier dumping its rubbish on the occupied. Subsidiary companies of Veolia Environmental Services are amongst those transporting the refuse to Tovlan. UN General Assembly Resolution 63/201 of 28 January 2009 called on Israel to stop dumping waste in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Despite this Veolia continues with this activity.

Veolia says that it is selling Tovlan to a local buyer and may have already done so, but far from ending Veolia’s complicity, the deal will compound it, for the intended sale is to Massu’a, the nearby illegal Israeli settlement. Moreover Veolia will continue its involvement by providing the settlement with advice concerning Tovlan. Veolia’s involvement with Tovlan is not affected by the Veolia Transport/Transdev merger, for the subsidiary concerned is part of Veolia Environnement’s Environmental Services Division.

Important Campaign Successes

  • Sandwell Metropolitan, Edinburgh, Richmond, Portsmouth, Winchester & East Hants, South London Waste Partnership, Ealing, West London Waste Authority and East Sussex: Since late 2010 Veolia has lost waste management contracts with all these authorities after vigorous local campaigns for exclusion.
  • Swansea: In June 2010 the council passed a motion to exclude Veolia from all future contracts: “This Council therefore calls on the Leader & Chief Executive not to sign or allow to be signed any new contracts or renewal of any existing contracts with Veolia or any other company in breach of international law, so long as to do so would not be in breach of any relevant
    legislation.”
  • Caerphilly: In November 2010 Caerphilly Council passed a similar motion to Swansea’s.
  • Tower Hamlets (London) Borough: The council passed a motion in February 2011asking the Mayor to review all contracts with Veolia, not to place any more contracts with the company and to terminate any relationship with Veolia.
  • Stockholm Metro (Sweden): Veolia Transport had been running the Stockholm metro for many years. In 2009 it lost the replacement contract after a high profile public campaign. This was a big blow to Veolia as the contract was worth several billion Euro. Veolia’s finance manager for Sweden was sacked. Stockholm City Council did not admit that the campaign was responsible, but it was widely acknowledged that this was the case.
  • Melbourne Metro (Australia): After an effective campaign, Veolia Transport failed to win the contract for the Melbourne light rail transit. For Veolia, another big contract lost. Again a widely acknowledged victory for the campaign, despite the City Council’s denial. Local authorities prefer to avoid controversy and as an easy way out can claim normal commercial considerations for their decision.
  • Bordeaux (France): In 2009, Veolia transport lost a 750 million Euro contract for the biggest urban network in France.
  • Dublin City (Ireland): Earlier in 2010 Dublin City Council instructed its City Manager not to grant or renew any contracts with Veolia.

For more information:

http://www.bigcampaign.org/veolia/#contents
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Veolia_Environnement
http://www.veoliaes.com/