By PAULO SILVESTRE [email protected]
As the deadline to the introduction of the tolls draws closer, plans to implement the controversial measure onto the A22 on April 15 may have to be suspended following the dissolution of the Portuguese government.
A legal argument is now underway within the temporary government to decide if the measures to bring in tolls on four SCUT roads, including the A22, are allowed to go ahead before new elections are held on June 5, following the resignation of Prime Minister José Sócrates last month.
The Portuguese Minister of Presidency, Pedro Silva Pereira, said: “Enforcing the new tolls still depends on legislative action and we have had to gain a legal opinion on the matter to be able to find out whether or not this decision falls under the competence of the temporary government.”
At the time the Algarve Resident went to press on Wednesday, a decision had not been made regarding this matter.
The legality of a caretaker government overseeing the introduction of the tolls on April 15 has also been questioned by Faro Câmara President Macário Correia who told TSF radio station that the government no longer meets the juridical and political conditions to make the decision to introduce the tolls on the A22.
He said that the matter should be decided by the new incoming government and added: “Even with a new government, our position against the tolls will remain unchanged and we will continue to fight against tolls in the region.”
The high unemployment levels in the Algarve were cited by Macário Correia as being a primary reason not to bring tolls into the region, which he considers has already made enough sacrifices during this economic crisis.
Protesters are, however, continuing to fight against the plans with another ‘Go Slow’ planned to take place along the A22 tomorrow (Saturday), expected to count on the support of the Andalusian people.
The protest has been coordinated by members of the Portagens na A22 NÃO (No Tolls on the A22) group in conjunction with the Comissão de Utentes da A22 (A22 Users Commission) with organisers asking people against the tolls to join them in this protest which will begin at the Restaurante O Infante located near the roundabout on the EN125 near Altura from 4pm.
One of the founding members of the A22 users’ commission, João Vasconcelos, said that he hoped that many political figures including MPs and mayors would be participating in the protest.
He told the Algarve Resident: “If the government continues to choose not to listen to the people of the Algarve then we will be forced to conduct more radical and drastic actions. The Algarve will not tolerate the introduction of tolls and we will fight with all that we have against this measure.”
While the implementation of tolls are being questioned at a local and national level, the issue has spread across the border into Spain.
In October 2010, the Employers’ Confederation of Galicia made a complaint to the European Commission about the introduction of tolls in the north of Portugal as it was “causing major problems, interrupting the good working relation that the north of Portugal and Galicia has”.
The chairman of the association, Antonio Fontenla, told Lusa news agency that a response had been received from the European Commission about the case which admitted that “the introduction of tolls on SCUT roads in Portugal may violate equality rights that have to exist between citizens of both countries”.
António Fontenla said that if more tolls are introduced in Portugal then they will take their case to the European Court, adding that the measure is affecting both the tourism sector and the relations between Spain and Portugal.
Do you have a view on this story? Please email Editor Inês Lopes at [email protected]