Friday, October 9, 2009

Translating notes: Rekommunalisierung

In the 1990s, Germany privatized a lot of its public services and assets. Now, disappointment has set in, and communities are trying to get their municipal utilities back.

The process is called "Rekommunalisierung." But when I look up "recommunalize," I get a lot of references to criminology -- which Germans would call "Resozialisierung," though that Wikipedia entry leads us to the English "rehabilitation."

The problem, of course, is that the same thing is not taking place in the US, where such privatization did not take place on such a wide scale (enjoy the irony of that: while Americans think they are free marketeers and that Germans are socialists, the Germans are the ones who have privatized their energy markets more).

What's a translator to do? Just about anything I thought of sounded a lot like government takeovers of banks.

In the end, I simply used a few descriptive words to explain what was going on, but in the title I had to think of something spiffy, so I reversed the idea of "going public" (when the company first sells shares publicly, aka IPO) and put "going municipal." Of course, the play on words is a bit contradictory because "going public" is something private/privatized companies do, so when they go back to being public utilities, they are municipal, not public -- or something like that.

Since the European Court of Justice had actually ruled on a case cited in the German Wikipedia entry, I thought looking up that case would help, but it didn't. It turns out that the ECJ had a problem with public-private partnerships (PPPs) getting no-bid contracts. There is no mention of "recommunalizing" utilities in the ECJ literature I found; rather, German communities responded to the case by deciding that if PPPs cannot do what they want, then we will have to throw out the private part and make the utility municipal again.

Fascinating stuff...

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