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Stop Repsol’s oil prospecting in the Canaries!


"They're playing a lottery with this ecosystem and the livelihood of the people just to line their pockets with the profits of a form of dirty, dangerous and non-renewable energy" - Pablo Echenique-Robba

Stop Repsol’s oil prospecting in the Canaries!


Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The GUE/NGL group has joined calls on the Spanish government to immediately stop energy multinational Repsol's oil prospecting in the Canary Islands.


The MEPs signed a manifesto which explains that the Spanish government's granting of permission to the company in August to begin up to three exploratory drilling measures in deep ocean waters 50 kilometres off the coast of the islands of Lanzarote and Fuerteventura, runs counter to numerous scientific studies (some even written by Spanish government experts). The text says the opaque, authoritarian procedure and decision to sanction the drilling ignored mass citizen opposition, as unprecedentedly demonstrated on the streets of the Canary Islands.


GUE/NGL MEP Pablo Echenique-Robba, who will travel to the Canaries this weekend to examine the situation on the ground and join demonstrations, had this to say: "The Canaries receive millions of tourists each year and are a unique natural paradise in the world."


"They're playing a lottery with this ecosystem and the livelihood of the people just to line their pockets with the profits of a form of dirty, dangerous and non-renewable energy, when both the Canaries and Europe could spearhead the transformation to a sustainable and clean energy model, based on innovation and the creation of quality jobs. It's a sign that the ruling elite in collusion with economic powers care not a jot about anything but themselves."


"The people of the islands have affirmed, beyond partisan political divisions, that such exploration is contrary to their interests and is a threat to their environment. They are claiming their right to decide on the issue themselves," added MEP Teresa Rodriguez.


"Their actions are indistinguishable from those of someone who has lost their mind," concluded Echenique-Robba. "Thus, with the decisive and invaluable support of the GUE/NGL, we will seek support for this cause from other groups in the European Parliament. We hope to gather broad support to help stop this madness as soon as possible."


GUE/NGL Press: David Lundy +32 470 85 05 09 - Gay Kavanagh +32 473 84 23 20




On August 13th of this year the Spanish minister of industry granted permission to the multinational oil company, Repsol to perform three exploratory deepwater ocean perforations at a distance of 50 kilometers from the coast of Lanzarote and Fuerteventura, two the eight islands which make up the Canarian archipelago.


The Canary Islands is one of the largest marine areas in all of Europe and one of the most spectacular areas on the planet for its extraordinary marine biodiversity. These eight inhabited islands host four National parks and six world Biosphere Reserves declared so by The United Nations through UNESCO. Over 40% of the 7,493 square meters of its territory is protected under Spanish law as well as international conventions and legislation by the United Nations and the European Union.  It forms an important part of the Natura 2000 Network of Sites of Community Importance (SCI), and Special Protection Areas for birds (SPAs). The Canarian archipelago has been recognized since 2005 by the International Maritime Organization of the United Nations as a Particularly Sensitive Sea Area.  The islands also host three Marine reserves of interest to the fishing industry among them is La Graciosa, the largest area of its kind in Europe. La Graciosa is situated in the vicinity of a marine upwelling which acts as an authentic planetary “ocean lung”.  The natural resources of these islands include 19,550 species and 693 subspecies of fauna as well as marine and land flora covering more then 150 Protected Nature Areas with the presence of endemic species, some, in danger of extinction.


The archipelago is one of the most important tourist destinations in the world with more than 12 million visitors a year. Tourism generates direct and indirect employment for more than 500,00 people, representing 26.1% of jobs and accounts for over 30% of the GDP (gross domestic product), the highest in Spain for this category.  In the case of Lanzarote and Fuerteventura, the two islands closest to Repsol’s perforations, tourism represents more the 54% of the GDP. With respect to the fishing industry, The Canary Islands employs, at the moment, more than 2,000 people, or 4.4% sector employment with respect to the country. According to figures from the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization) the number of people professionally connected to the fishing industry could be as high as 10,000.


The drilling that the multinational company, Repsol intends to carry out with the backing of the Spanish government is situated at only 50 kilometers from Lanzarote and Fuerteventura, in ultra deep waters and is in a seabed which has frequent seismic activity. All of the studies done, including those done by the Spanish government and the oil company, Repsol, admit the possibility of leaks and oil spills that would have a direct impact on all the islands as well as the African coastline as well as the repercussions a spill would entail. The Spanish Ministry of Environmental Affairs established in 2011 that “ any activity that would include the use of low or medium frequency active sonar and high intensity, especially those used in military maneuvers, prospection or oil or gas drilling or seismic or oceanographic studies that included said emissions, should be prohibited”.   An oil spill that reached the coast of the islands could turn an environmental disaster into a humanitarian disaster given that all drinking water for the more than 300,00 residents comes directly from water treatment plants,  (desalinated sea water).


Lastly, the decision of the Spanish government threatens to violate multiple international conventions and European directives that establish special regulatory frameworks and binding for the protection of the archipelago, such as the Habitat Directive 92/43/CEE: the Environmental evaluation directive 2011/92/: and the Directive 2003/4/CE, relative to public access to environmental information: the authorizations could also violate other environmental legislation such as the Bonn and Berna conventions, among others.


The decision on the part of the Spanish government has raised firm and generalized opposition from both on and off the islands: the Canarian Parliament and government, six of the seven governors of the islands, dozens of town halls, the some of the most prestigious, scientific institutions responsible for the conservation and investigation of sea mammals, universities from numerous countries, European tourist sector businesses working with the Canary Islands, European organizations dedicated to culture and sport, and citizens who have been part of the most massive and spectacular demonstrations in the history of the islands.


It is for these reasons that the subscribers of this manifesto wish to express through this declaration their most outright rejection to the decision to authorize oil drilling in the Canary Islands and urge the European and Spanish authorities to:


+ Adopt the appropriate measures to immediately and definitively put a halt to Repsol’s perforations or any other entity interested in finding and exploiting hydrocarbon deposits in the waters around the Canary Islands;


+ Apply and rigorously enforce the environmental regulation of the European Union, including the precautionary principle, as well as those ratified by international conventions;


+ Consult the citizens of the Canaries before formulating any future project so that the social relevance and viability of the project can be evaluated ex ante taking foremost into consideration the wishes and interests of the citizens before economic-commercial interests;


+ Make every effort possible to expand and strengthen the protection of the Canary archipelago, as well as the Balearic Islands, the Valencian Country and other marine and costal systems of fundamental ecological importance in Spain and the European Union;


+ Encourage more decisively effective progress towards the objectives set for renewable energy by the European Union and its member states by providing adequate financial and administrative resources and effective monitoring of the progress made by each country in order to gradually reduce the exploitation and consumption of fossil fuels and move as quickly as possible towards sustainable production models that safeguard fundamental ecological balance, to reduce our energy dependence on other countries, alleviate the trade balance of the EU and its Member States, and promote the creation and maintenance of employment policies to promote economic growth, research, innovation and generate added value. 

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