Saturday, August 11, 2007

Taking the Waters

We know this morning, thanks to Le Monde, some of the people with whom Sarkozy is sharing his New Hampshire lake house. The presence of executives from Prada and Tiffany won't raise too many eyebrows; they're friends of Mme Sarkozy and probably aren't doing much business with the state. And Cécilia has said that she considers Rachida Dati "a sister" and "de la race des seigneurs," so her presence isn't surprising either.

But then there is Henri Proglio, the head of Veolia. Proglio was a longtime supporter of Jacques Chirac and a financier of the UMP, but in 2006 he went over to Sarkozy. His company, Veolia, is a world leader in water supply, waste treatment, and environmental management. It does substantial business with the state and localities. It is one of the successor firms of what was once the Compagnie Générale des Eaux and later Vivendi, a subsidiary of which was involved in the Paris HLM scandal, in which Chirac may have to testify. The same firm was involved in the MNEF scandal that forced Dominique Strauss-Kahn to resign from the Jospin government.

Is Proglio Sarkozy's host in Wolfeboro? Is he the person who rented the house? He is known to have an interest in expanding his business in the United States and in seeing more of its water infrastructure privatized:

Proglio admonished the United States for what he perceived to be its poor environmental record. He noted that in 2002, 3 percent of the U.S. water market was in the private sector and that the rest, as he told Le Figaro, "was in a sorry state" (September 4, 2002). He believed the U.S. weaknesses in terms of poor environmental management were obvious and that water services and wastewater management would eventually undergo a drastic change in the United States.

A relationship to be watched.