Sunday, September 15, 2019

The strange case of Veolia

By Henrique Dores - February 07, 2013
Section: [Main News] [BDS]

Veolia is a French-based multinational company that operates in the fields of waste management, water, environment, and energy and transportation, just to name a few. It was part of the company Vivendi Environment until 2003, when it became Veolia Environment with its own set of subsidiaries focused on Transport, Water, Environmental and Energy Services.

In 2005 the group adopted the umbrella brand name of Veolia for all of its divisions. Veolia Transport (formerly Connex) was the international transport services division of the conglomerate until the 2011 merger with Transdev, giving rise to Veolia Transdev.

In 2003, Veolia won a 500 million dollars contract to build and maintain the Jerusalem Light Rail system, which would comprise eight lines running across both the western and the eastern parts of the city. In 2008, Veolia, within a specially formed consortium, CityPass, won a 30 year bid to build and operate Line 1 (the "Red Line").

However, from the very beginning, the illegal nature of the project was crystal clear. The light rail sought to strengthen Jewish only settlements and to reinforce the illegal annexation of Palestinian lands. Furthermore, the creation of permanent structures in the occupied territories not for the benefit of the local Palestinian population has proved that the Jerusalem Light Rail project has been a manual on how to break International Humanitarian Law (IHL).

Beyond the light rail, Veolia ran two other equally illegal projects that support the Israeli occupation, including its operation of settler-only buses on segregated roads and its operation of the Tovlan landfill on land confiscated from Palestinians. As a result, Veolia very quickly became a target of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign.

Due to unparalleled international pressure from the BDS movement, in September 2009 the company considered selling its share of the Dan Bus Company for an amount between 15 and 20 million dollars, but in a last minute spin, Veolia would exit this agreement and instead agree to sell its share to the Israeli transportation company Egged in October 2010.

At around the same time, Veolia's interest in the Jerusalem Light Rail remained untouched and even grew in 2011 through the new subsidiary Veolia Transdev, which was backed by the French financial institution Caisse des Dépôts et Consignations.

In response, the BDS campaign doubled its efforts and the setbacks of Veolia started piling up. The loss of a 750 million Euro contract for the biggest urban network in Bordeaux and the several billion Euro contract for the Stockholm or Melbourne Metros are just a few of the BDS campaign’s achievements. Even though most public and private institutions seek the easy way out and fail to admit it, the local campaigns had a crucial role in the decisions taken.

Alongside the BDS movement, other initiatives, such as those by the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and the French advocacy group Association France-Palestine Solidarité, against both Veolia and Alstom, another company in the CityPass consortium, helped to raise awareness about the company’s IHL violations.

Consequently, and after these last poor financial results, Veolia announced in December 2011 that it intended to exit the transport sector althogether and sell its stake in Veolia Transdev.

When comparing Veolia’s current financial results with previous years, one can easily see that the company is far from sailing on calm waters. Take for instance the years immediately before and after Veolia’s involvement in the Jerusalem Light Rail became public. According to its own Annual Reports, in 2007 Veolia had a net income of 928 million euro, a very impressive number. On the following years, and although it was difficult to equal such a record, net incomes were also very positive, with 405 million euro in 2008 and 559 million euro in 2009. The results of 2010 would still be great with a net income of 558 million dollars, but the following year was disastrous: a net income of -489 million euro and a fall of 60% in France’s CAC 40 index. 2011 was the year of most intensive work of the BDS movement against Veolia.

Consequently, and after these last poor financial results, Veolia announced in December 2011 that it intended to exit the transport sector altogether and sell its stake in Veolia Transdev. It is currently undergoing a worldwide scale back, having already ceased operations in 40 of the 77 countries where it once worked. It also announced a divestment plan of 5 billion Euros throughout 2012 and 2013 in order to cut down its debt.

The reasons for the downfall of Veolia are of diverse nature, but it is quite obvious that the actions of the BDS movement was a key factor. Nevertheless, and despite all the successes of the BDS campaign, there is still plenty to be done. A company like Veolia, an international shark, does not go down that easily. What we have seen so far is only a body blow; Veolia is still swinging.

In fact, Veolia is already striking back using familiar tactics. They have already publicly claimed to sell its stake to Dan Bus Company and then quietly renewed their interest in the project after merging with Transdev – a classic strategy of misdirection. They have also played the same old game as the notorious Blackwater Company and simply changed names as a means of shifting blame, and tried to whitewash the whole process by surveying Palestinians about the project. Now they are selling subsidiaries at a profit; allowing them to simultaneously avoid bad publicity and make even more money at the expense of international law. After all of this, what remains of the Veolia Group still stand proudly and firmly behind its relations with Israel. 

 "We've undergone strategic changes in the group. I wanted to affirm the group's commitment to Israel and to say that even with these changes, we will continue to develop activity here," said Denis Gasquet, Veolia’s Vice-President.

The story of Veolia is one of success and one that the BDS should be very proud of. It is also a lesson on how the struggle can be against the private sector contributors to the occupation. In short, the fight continues.

Post new comment
Comments Policy
Your Name: *
Home Page:
Comment: *
Security Code: *

Back to Top

Related Articles

Barghouti: No Justice for Palestine without Justice for Palestinian Women
September 13, 2019

A new wave of violence hits Gaza
September 10, 2019

Israeli Authorities confiscate more land across the West Bank
September 10, 2019

Most Popular Articles

Israelís puppet war unmasks apartheid regime
The El-Hakawati theatre was colorfully adorned to host its annual International

Rushdi Tamimi becomes second victim of Israeli army in Nabi Saleh
On Tuesday November 21st, the body of 31 year old Rushdi Tamimi was

Israel Avoids Hard-Right Shift: No Benefit for Palestinians
With many commentators predicting big wins for the settler movement in

Designed & Developed by: Pixel Co