Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign: Media Release

Monday 13th December 2010

PALESTINE CAMPAIGNERS CLAIM BOYCOTT SUCCESS AS COUNCIL REJECTS CONTROVERSIAL BIDDER

A pro-Palestinian pressure group claimed success last week after Edinburgh Council rejected an attempt by a controversial firm to take over a range of public services in the city.

The Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign (SPSC) had argued that Veolia should be excluded from Council contracts because of the company's involvement in Israel's Occupation of Palestine.

Veolia had been shortlisted to take over environmental services contracts, including refuse collection and street cleaning, but a Council report published Friday indicated that the firm is no longer being considered. This latest blow for Veolia comes on top of similar multi-billion pound losses around the world, and is likely to add to the pressure on the firm to cease providing waste and transport services to Israel's illegal settlements in Palestine, including the construction of a tramway that the United Nations Human Rights Council deems, "in clear violation of international law".  The line is set to link Israel with some of its illegal settlements.

Council leaders also heard from leading law firm, Hickman & Rose, who warned that employing the French multinational could expose the local authority to "legal action for failing to take on board their obligation to recognise and comply with their duties and responsibilities under the Geneva Conventions and international law."

Green Councilor Maggie Chapman, who had campaigned for Veolia's exclusion, was pleased the Council had moved in line with other local authorities such as Swansea and Dublin who had already chosen to distance themselves from the multinational. "It is not enough for us to use warm words in support of the Palestinian people; we have to act on our convictions. Veolia props up the illegal Occupation by Israel of the Palestinian Territories, and the Council should have no part in such despicable activities." 

The Labour group had also argued for a boycott of the company. Said Councilor Angela Blacklock, "Veolia provides services to illegal settlements in Occupied Palestinian land and is therefore complicit in grave breaches of international and human rights law committed by the state of Israel". 

Unison activist, Marlyn Tweedie, is campaigning against the Council's Alternative Business Model (ABM) plans to privatise public services generally, but said she was pleased about the rejection of Veolia's bid specifically. "It's bad enough that the Council intends to privatise essential public services, but it would have really rubbed salt in our wounds if Veolia had won the bid." 

SPSC Chair, Mick Napier, said the decision was "a victory for human rights". He continued, "We have a duty to stand with the Palestinians and against the Israeli Occupation. Any company that helps maintain that illegal Occupation should not be surprised when local authorities chose to avoid them." 

ENDS

Notes for editors: 

1. The Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign started in autumn 2000 in response to the Palestinian second uprising against Israeli occupation (Intifada). The SPSC has branches and groups of supporters in several Scottish towns, cities, and universities, as well as individual members across Scotland and elsewhere.

For further information, contact:
SPSC Chair, Mick Napier: 0131 620 0052; 07958002591

Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. (default reply to this email)
Website: www.scottishpsc.org.uk

 

 2. Edinburgh Council's December report on its Alternative Business Model (ABM) programme can be accessed here: http://cpol.edinburgh.gov.uk/getdoc_ext.asp?DocId=147959

Veolia had been considered a favourite contender to win environmental services contracts, but the report indicates that Veolia's bid has now been rejected.

The shortlist now includes only infrastructure specialist, Enterprise, and a joint bid by service firm Keir Group and waste management company Shanks.

 

3. Top law firm, Hickman & Rose, advised Council leaders that contacting Veolia would expose the local authority to "legal action for failing to take on board their obligation to recognise and comply with their duties and responsibilities under the Geneva Conventions and international law."

Their 9th Nov 2010 submission can be accessed here:

http://www.scottishpsc.org.uk/category/37-reports.html?download=137

A 16th Nov 2010 SPSC media release on this issue can be found here:

http://www.scottishpsc.org.uk/Press-Releases/2010-nov-16-top-law-firm-advises-council-to-dump-israel-occupation-firm.html

Hickman & Rose website:

http://www.hickmanandrose.co.uk/

 

4. Resolution adopted by the Human Rights Council: A/HRC/RES/13/7
14 April 2010

Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and in the occupied Syrian Golan

http://unispal.un.org/UNISPAL.NSF/0/37BF1829818D0B788525770D00536076

"The Human Rights Council... 5. Expresses its grave concern at: ... (g) The Israeli decision to establish and operate a tramway between West Jerusalem and the Israeli settlement of Pisgat Zeev, which is in clear violation of international law and relevant United Nations resolutions".

 

5. Then Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon (2005) on the tramway (Jerusalem Light Rail):

"I believe that this [Jerusalem Light Rail] should be done, and in any event, anything that can be done to strengthen Jerusalem, construct it, expand it, and sustain it for eternity as the capital of the Jewish people and the united capital of the state of Israel, should be done".

Quoted by Omar Barghouti, Derailing Injustice: Palestinian Civil Resistance to the "Jerusalem Light Rail"

http://www.jerusalemquarterly.org/images/ArticlesPdf/38_Derailing_Injustice.pdf

See same link for detailed background information.

 

6. Reports of Veolia being shortlisted to run Edinburgh Council services:

Edinburgh Evening News, 21 June 2010

Seafield and tram firms bid to take over city services

http://edinburghnews.scotsman.com/news/Seafield-and-tram-firms-bid.6374135.jp

 

7. Edinburgh Council discussed the Veolia issue on Thursday 19th Aug 2010.

The minutes, including relevant motions can be found under Item 3 here (Item 1b also relevant):

http://cpol.edinburgh.gov.uk/getdoc_ext.asp?DocID=143460

After Green and Labour group criticism, the ruling Lib Dem/SNP administration agreed to investigate the firm further, with a report expected by the Council's December meeting.

 

8. In September 2010, a joint Israeli-Palestinian human rights group, the Alternative Information Centre, urged Edinburgh Council to exclude Veolia. See SPSC media release:

http://www.scottishpsc.org.uk/Press-Releases/2010-sep-14-human-rights-group-urges-local-authority-to-boycott-palestine-occupation-firm.html

 

9a. Dublin City Council passed a resolution on human rights grounds calling on the City Manager not to sign or renew any contracts with French multinational Veolia on 12th June 2010:

http://www.peoplebeforeprofit.ie/node/382

9b. Swansea City Council did likewise on 17th June 2010. See Item 40 of these council minutes:

http://www.swansea.gov.uk/media/pdf/t/a/03_Minutes_-_17_June_2010.pdf

 

10. Israeli press indicates Veolia losing contracts due to involvement in the tram project, and being prosecuted in French courts for the same reason:

Haaretz, 08.06.09:

Jerusalem rail operator jumps ship, Tel Aviv group isn't even responding

http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/business/jerusalem-rail-operator-jumps-ship-tel-aviv-group-isn-t-even-responding-1.277545

"According to various reports abroad, the French firm had been losing major projects in Europe because of its involvement in the Jerusalem job."

"Two months ago a French court heard a lawsuit by a pro-Palestinian group, demanding that the light rail project be halted.

The organization based itself on an article in French law that allows the court to void business agreements, signed by French companies, that violate international law."

 

11. Edinburgh Councillors were each sent the following Veolia Briefing Document by SPSC before the Council's August meeting:

http://www.scottishpsc.org.uk/index.php?option=com_phocadownload&view=category&download=96:veoliabriefingdoc&id=37:reports&Itemid=200704

 

12. The Council was asked by SPSC to:

a) exclude Veolia Environnement or any of its subsidiaries - Veolia Transport, Veolia Environmental Services, Veolia Water, Onyx, Cleanaway, Connex , TMM - from all Edinburgh City Council contracts.
b) cancel contracts and/or ad-hoc arrangements that are in place to use services provided by Veolia Environnement or any of its subsidiaries.

 

13. More details of the SPSC campaign against Veolia, including factsheets and a councilor briefing document, can be found here:

http://www.scottishpsc.org.uk/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=3487:edinburgh-city-council-no-complicity-with-war-crimes&catid=601:edinburgh-city-council&Itemid=200265

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