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News 10 Mar 15

Montenegro Greens Rally Against Adriatic Oil Drilling

Environmental activists staged a protest in the Montenegrin coastal town of Budva against the government's plan to start drilling for oil and gas in the Adriatic Sea.

Dusica Tomovic
BIRN
Podgorica

 

Several dozen green activists protested on Tuesday in Budva against the government's decision to allow the exploration and exploitation of oil and gas in the Adriatic Sea.

Carrying banners with slogans like "No drilling in the Adriatic" and "We’re not giving the Adriatic away for private exploitation", the protesters urged the government to annul the tender on oil exploration and to hold a referendum on the issue.

Ahead of the protest, they said that the Montenegrin government had not produced a convincing argument that drilling is either necessary or desirable.

They accused the government of offering up the country's most valuable natural resources for exploitation without first seeking a popular consensus.

The also argued that the government was undermining a decades-long effort to develop responsible tourism on the coast and promote Montenegro as an "ecological state".

The protest was held on the eve of the first regional oil and gas summit hosted by the Economy Ministry, which officials from Montenegro, Albania and Croatia and international and local investors are due to attend.

The authorities launched a tender for oil and gas exploration and exploitation on the Adriatic seabed last May.

After closing the tender in November, a committee in January chose six companies with whom to start negotiations on exploration and potential exploitation. A contract with the companies is due to be signed by the end of this year.

Opponents of the scheme are concerned about the fragility of the marine environment and about potential damage to the all-important tourism industry.

One of the protest organizers, Green Home, an NGO, said the Montenegrin people had not been provided with even elementary information on the possible consequences of what it calls an "intolerable and high-risk project.

"No one from the government is even thinking of organizing a summit and seeking the opinion of fishermen, restauranteurs, hoteliers and food producers," the organization said.

The rally in Budva is part of a wider regional campaign against oil drilling in the Adriatic, started in February by Zelena akcija [Green Action], an NGO in Croatia.

The aim of the campaign, called "SOS for the Adriatic", is to keep the sea free from exploitation, by stopping planned activities in Croatia and Montenegro and ending existing oil production on the Italian side of the Adriatic.

 

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