Councillor Colin Barrow
Council Leader Westminster City Council
Westminster City Hall
64 Victoria Street
London SW1E 6QP
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Dear Councillor Barrow,
Excluding Veolia from Public Contracts
I understand that Westminster City Council has a street cleaning and waste management contract with Veolia Environmental Services expiring 14 September 2010. This letter urges you to exclude Veolia from future contracts on grounds of grave misconduct.
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, contracted to build a light-rail tramway linking west Jerusalem to illegal Jewish settlements in occupied east Jerusalem . Once built, the rail system will cement Israel’s hold on occupied east Jerusalem and tie 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 will operate 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 is due to open in 2010, with Veolia responsible for the tramway’s 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.
Thus, through its involvement in the building and future operation of this tramway linking Israel’s illegal settlements with West Jerusalem, Veolia is facilitating Israel’s ‘grave breaches’ of the Fourth Geneva Convention, and is complicit in its perpetuation of those breaches. In other words, Veolia is involved in aiding and abetting on-going war crimes. It is also facilitating, exacerbating, aiding and abetting Israel’s breach of the Hague Regulations.
Veolia also runs two bus services serving the same function as the tramway: supporting and consolidating illegal settlements and tying them more closely into Israel. These are services 109 and 110, operated by its local company Connex. These services link the settlements they serve to Israel by an Apartheid Israeli only road on which Palestinians are forbidden to travel.
Veolia’s support for settlements does not stop there. Through its subsidiary TMM it owns and operates the Tovlan landfill site in the occupied Jordan Valley which takes refuse from illegal settlements. Tovlan is available to Palestinian towns too – if they can afford it after their trucks have made their way through the intervening checkpoints.
Veolia’s participation in the tramway project also breaches its obligations with respect to codes of conduct and conventions such as the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises (2000) and the UN Global Compact (2000). The latter’s first two principles state that businesses should support and respect the protection of international human rights within their spheres of influence and make sure that they are not complicit in human rights abuses. Yet by supporting Israel’s illegal settlements Veolia flagrantly violates both of these provisions.
Veolia Environnement has four divisions – water, waste management, energy and transport services. In 2005 the company’s four divisions adopted a single name, Veolia, and a new logo. As the Veolia website states, this move ‘signalled the desire of the entire company to link Veolia divisions in a coherent way and increase its visibility’. (Please note the use of the word divisions). By 2007 Veolia reported that it had revenues of $47bn and employed around 320,000 people. Veolia’s revenues and profits are calculated as ‘a whole’, and the
corporation is quoted on Euronext Paris and the New York Stock Exchange. Indeed, even when reporting results, Veolia regards its subsidiaries as ‘divisions’ of itself and, significantly, Veolia regards its subsidiaries’ contracts, including those with British local authorities, as its own. This is clearly illustrated in their statement that “The company [Veolia Environnement] won and renewed multiple contracts in its priority development zones, including: … Shropshire in the UK in the Environmental Services (Waste Management) division.” See http://www.veoliaenvironnement.com/en/information/press-releases/press-release-details.aspx?PR=660
It is evident that Veolia treats itself as a single entity and profits and prospers as such. This is also clear in the company’s own marketing and public corporate structure where it treats itself as a coherent whole. As this is the case, the conduct of one division is the conduct of Veolia as a whole and affects each division accordingly. In short, if one division of Veolia is involved in activities of grave misconduct and profits from such conduct, then the parent company must necessarily be implicated in such misconduct and most certainly profits from such misconduct. That, in turn, means that Veolia as a whole – all of its divisions and subsidiaries – are implicated in such misconduct.
Under the Public Contract Regulations 2006 a contracting authority may exclude an economic operator from bidding for a contract or may reject any such bid where it is found that the individual or organisation in question has “committed an act of grave misconduct in the course of his business or profession” (section 23(4)(e)). We are sure you will agree that this is a highly important provision which must be applied rigorously.
Veolia’s activities clearly constitute misconduct sufficiently grave to warrant the exclusion of its subsidiaries from public contracts. Indeed, it is difficult to imagine what ‘misconduct’ could be more ‘grave’ than the aiding, abetting, facilitation or exacerbation of war crimes and human rights violations.
Accordingly, in light of the foregoing, please confirm as soon as possible that you will now exercise your discretion to exclude Veolia from bidding or renewing all public contracts with immediate effect and in any event in relation to any contract now coming up for public procurement, including the replacement for your current contract with Veolia Environmental Services expiring in September 2010.
The replacement contract will cover the period of the Olympic Games. Awarding it to Veolia would expose Westminster, the heart of the capital, to public criticism and international condemnation. Condemnation for employing a company aiding and abetting war crimes could be so severe that it casts a shadow over the games themselves.
I am aware that you have already received similar letters to this and made some points in reply. My response to the points you have made follows:
- You say that Veolia Environmental Services (VES) has no involvement at all in the Jerusalem Light Rail Project. This contention is difficult to understand in the light of the clear evidence set out above that Veolia is one commercial entity, VES is part of Veolia and all parts are implicated in Veolia’s misconduct. As Veolia is one entity, the fact that VES is part of a different division is not significant.
You quote Veolia’s statement of adherence to several commitments. My comments on them follow. (Veolia’s statements in italics).
“Veolia abides to the law and therefore if the project or Veolia’s contract were declared illegal by a recognised international or French court it would comply with any definitive decision.”
Grave misconduct does not have to be illegal. The tramway project or its contract may well be illegal, but this is not the ground for holding Veolia guilty of grave misconduct. Rather it is that Veolia supports, aids and abets Israel’s violation of international law, including war crimes. Such complicity may or may not be illegal, but it is certainly grave misconduct.
“Veolia is committed to operate the JLRT on a clear non-discrimination policy based on a free access for all parts of the population. If it were to prove impossible to apply and enforce this policy it would reconsider its involvement.”
Two points. Firstly, the tramway runs partly in west Jerusalem and partly in the occupied Palestinian territories. It is manifestly impossible for the vast majority of the population of the occupied territories to access the tramway as Israel does not allow them to enter Jerusalem.
Secondly, the grave misconduct is not only committed through Veolia’s involvement in the tramway. It is also the Veolia bus services that connect the illegal settlements to Israel. Far from being operated on a clear non-discriminatory policy they run on an Israeli-only road on which Palestinians cannot travel. With no access by Palestinians to this service, Veolia is in flagrant breach of its own principles. The operation of this Apartheid policy is a clear case of grave misconduct on its own.
“Veolia will check on a regular basis the ongoing support of the community for the Project and particularly of the concerned Palestinian population through independent and professional surveys”.
The PLO, through whose occupied territory the tramway runs, has already expressed its strong condemnation of the project by applying to be a party to the French court case to declare the tramway contract invalid under French law.