14-02-2014JOAN TORRES

The movement against oil and gas prospecting in the Balearics is watching the Canary Islands closely where a vote is going to be held on the issue.

Palma.—The anti oil and gas prospecting movement in the Balearics received an important boost this week when the Swiss and Austrian tourism foundations, representing over 1,000 travel agents and tour  operators, threw their weight behind the campaign and now all eyes are on the Canary Islands.
The authorities there have  called a popular vote on a controversial plan to drill for oil and gas off the major tourist destination.
Spain’s government outraged the local government, residents and environmental groups in August by giving oil group Repsol the all-clear to explore near the islands’ coasts.
Partido Popular regional president Paulino Rivero told reporters yesterday  he would let residents over 16 vote on 23 November on the plan, which he fiercely opposes.
“Do you think the Canaries should change its environmental and tourism model for the sake of oil and gas exploration? That is the question that will be put to the vote,” he said.
Residents of the archipelago off the northwest coast of Africa fear Repsol’s explorations will harm the environment and disrupt the tourism industry on which their economy relies.
The company has been authorised to spend three years probing below the sea bed about 50 kilometres (30 miles) from the islands of Lanzarote and Fuerteventura.
Under the terms of the license, Repsol must provide a deposit of €20 million “to cover its environmental responsibilities”.
It must stop its explorations if an earthquake stronger than magnitude 4.5 strikes the region.
Those safeguards have not convinced Rivero and local protesters, however.    
A local civil campaign group has called for demonstrations across the seven islands of the archipelago on 18 October  under the slogan “We live here, we decide here”.
Concern over plants to permit oil and gas prospecting to go ahead in Balearic waters is growing.
Permits were granted to a British company by the previous Socialist government and it would appear that the Balearic PP government is determined to defy bosses in Madrid by also opposing any such moves.
And, while opposition to prospecting is rife in the Balearics, it is mounting overseas. Before the Swiss and the Austrians joined the campaigns, nearly 200,000 German speakers have signed a petition against highly controversial  plans to carry out oil drilling off the coast of the Balearics.

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