Please allow me to share my own unfortunate experience of the Almargem initiative on ‘controversy over Dona Ana beach’.
I actually went to that ‘manifestation’ to check it out and to see if I could be of any help, even by just being present.
The group was so small that I wanted to turn around, but saw from afar a man carrying some signs and went closer to clarify the subject and the problem.
My spontaneous reaction was to ask: ‘How can you say it is EU money that destroys the natural resources of Portugal?’ I tried to conclude my reasoning by adding that it was what the money is used for that may be destroying the natural resources of Portugal or the Algarve. But that this was not the reason for the EU financial support of Portugal.
But I was not even able to finish my sentence. I was immediately verbally abused by the person carrying the sign and a bunch of young boys. They shouted so loud that it was not possible to continue any form of conversation.
They shouted that it was the fault of the EU, and in particular Germany, and that I was a ‘German’ and should go back to my country.
They do not know me and never asked my name or nationality, or the reason why I came. I was immediately made an ‘enemy’.
I wanted to ask why they were protesting against bringing more sand to the beach … but this question never got answered. Within a few minutes I was on my way out.
I tried to explain that I came in peace but was shouted down by a group of youngsters while others wildly took photos of me. The photos were taken without my permission. It will be up to the press to manipulate them into showing me as ‘enemy of the environment’.
I also tried to tell them that if EU money was a problem for the environment of the Algarve or Portugal, the best would be to give it back. Or even better, not to have asked for it. I tried to tell them that it was a situation that should be resolved between governments. But I was shouted down and told to go back to my country … which is actually France.
Strangely enough, German and French tourists are very welcome due to the money they spend.
On my way out, a lady approached me and tried to explain the reason of that ‘manifestation’. But, honestly, by then it was too late. I felt angry and embarrassed by the shouts of ‘Go back to your country’ and I heard myself shouting that I was not going to take any advice of where to live my life.
I left angry and frustrated.
On the way back, I met a Portuguese biologist who tried to explain that the people who shouted at me had no education and that the man with the sign had personal problems.
He tried to tell me that the EU money was no problem but that Germany’s influence on Portugal was a problem. I did not ask him why but I suppose that it was because of the European sardine fishing regulations.
He was of another association for the environment. Although in support of the protection of environment, I told him that I was greatly shocked and disappointed and that I would never again support any Portuguese association in their ‘fight’ for a better environment. Let them fight amongst themselves.