Euro MP exposes authorities’ “total lack of willingness” to engage in Algarve oil debate

A Portuguese Euro MP travelling to the Algarve on Friday to promote debates on the rights and wrongs of oil exploration and the ins and outs of Brexit has spoken out over the “total lack of willingness of authorities to engage” – particularly over the issue of on- and offshore oil exploration.

Despite the fact that every Algarve mayor is said to be against oil drilling in the Algarve, only two have committed to showing up for the morning event on May 13 at the Auditório do Museu, on the Portimão riverside.

The energy minister, president of national fuel entity ENMC, former environment minister Jorge Moreira da Silva (the man responsible for awarding controversial onshore licences to a company that did not comply with ‘minimum requirements’), even environmental association Quercus have apparently expressed their lack of availability to take part, without offering any kind of substitute representation.

“I am going to take advantage of this,” José Faria has vowed.

“I am going to go back to Brussels after the meetings – after the things we find, and the issues people raise – and I am going to push for changes.

“This isn’t simply an issue of the Algarve,” he added. “The whole of Portugal has been cordoned off for exploration without any consideration for the environment, the consequences and the populations involved.

“Almost every area of sea within Portuguese territory has been awarded to different companies, and if it wasn’t for foreign residents making a fuss, it would have all gone ahead without a murmur.

“This is wrong, and I really want to do something about it.”

Ensuring that the debate on Friday morning will not be lost on non-Portuguese speakers, Faria – the only Portuguese MEP on the European committee on the environment – will be providing interpreters “from English to Portuguese and Portuguese to English”.

As opposed to Moreira da Silva – who complained in parliament recently that opposition to oil exploration was being “led by retired foreigners who want to live in the land of the Indians” – Faria welcomes expatriate involvement, saying it is pivotal.

“The foreigners know what this is about,” he told us.

“That is why we are coming down here to listen to them.”

Debates – the venues

As we explained last week, there will be two debates: the first in Portimão’s Auditório de Museu from 11am, entitled Tourism vs Oil.

Speakers confirmed include the mayors of Faro and Aljezur and, at time of writing, the only other entity showing willingness and availability is ASMAA – the association that has been involved in the development of a citizens movement fighting oil exploration for the last four years.

Still to confirm (but Faria says showing no hurry to do so) are all the other ‘authorities’ involved in licensing concessions, as well as Portuguese environmental NGOs involved in anti-oil platform PALP.

Even Portimão mayoress Isilda Gomes has said she too is too busy to attend, Faria told us.

Following the oil debate – due to wind up around lunchtime – business will move east to Faro where mayor Rogério Bacalhau has opened the doors of his council building for a debate in English on Brexit, from 5pm.

Also taking part in the day is Euro MP Catherine Bearder, of the Liberal Democrats.

Both Faria – representing Portugal’s MPT Earth Party – and Bearder are hoping for as many people at both debates as possible.

“This is an opportunity to hear people and take their views back to the European Parliament,” said Faria. “The fact that authorities here are showing so little interest is very telling. This is an opportunity for them to come forward and if they don’t, they will have to explain why they were not interested. We have to push them.”