Today the Stockholm community council in Sweden announced that the French company Veolia, which has been the current operator of the subway’s in Stockholm County for the past ten years lost the contract to the MTR-cooperation.
The contracts for the coming eight years are worth 3,5 Billion Euro and has been the biggest ongoing public contract procurement process in Europe.
Although the board for the Stockholm county’s public transportation (SL) ensured that the decision was based solely on commercial factors, the debate about Veolia’s involvement in a controversial tramway project in Jerusalem (Jerusalem light railway) has been intense in Swedish media.
The tramway connecting the Israeli west Jerusalem with illegal Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian territory has triggered discussions about Veolia’s ethical policy. Public protests in Sweden against Veolia have brought the attention to the dilemma of operating public services when you at the same time are involved in politically controversial activities.
As late as the day before the decision the Stockholm community council received lists with thousands of signatories from people demanding the council to choose an operator who was associated with violations against international humanitarian law.
– This is clearly another sign of the importance for commercial actors not to have their brand associated to unethical behaviour, in the case of illegal settlements on occupied Palestinian territory we can already see a trend of international companies who are moving out their operations from settlements, says Joakim Wohlfeil at the Swedish development organization Diakonia.