Europe “powerless” to intervene even though Portugal’s oil contracts “violate EC directives”

A groundbreaking meeting that brought Euro MPs to Portimão to discuss the impact oil prospection will have on Algarve tourism heard that no matter how many EC directives the controversial contracts in force on land and sea violate, Europe is actually powerless to intervene.

Euro MPs Catherine Bearder and José Faria came to the Algarve on Friday to listen to locals on key issues – Brexit and Oil – and their first meeting brought together politicians of all political colours, united in the common aim to fight the oil lobby to the very end.

What was ‘extraordinary’ was the message: “to the very end”.

Last week São Brás de Alportel mayor Vítor Guerreiro proclaimed that if the government does not bow to public pressure he will “lay down in front of the machines” himself before allowing drilling to go ahead.

Today campaigners reiterated that the situation could well get to that.

“The cloak of secrecy” surrounding onshore and offshore contracts is such that “no one knows anything”.

José Caçorino, representing Portimão council in the absence of mayor Isilda Gomes, stressed that “there are lots of questions” but almost no answers.

Mayors, NGOs and members of the public have no information on how much money oil exploration would bring the country, how many jobs it could create or how it could possibly work alongside the multi-billion and ever-developing industry of tourism.

Catherine Bearder admitted: “This pattern of secrecy is happening everywhere. Even in the Virunga World Heritage Site (the home of endangered mountain gorillas in the Congo), they are prospecting for oil.

“They will say that they are ‘just looking for it’, but once they have found it you are sitting on a time-bomb.

“The EU says that anyone who prospects for any mineral has to be financially able to cope with any disaster that results. They have to produce a major hazard report. It is EU law – but is it being complied with here? No one can tell”.

The worst of the secrecy is that the contracts may be hiding another activity, she explained.

The dredging of the seabed for minerals – “a very cheap way of getting cobalt, diamonds and gold”.

Could that be part of the prospection plans, she asked.

But the crux of the issue, explained Faria, is that “although there are EU directives that should have blocked” the concessions signed off by the last government, the only way Euro MPs can really fight them is with local people’s help.

“We are here to serve the European people. That is why we have come here today. But without you, we cannot do any of this”, he said.


Rogil homeowner John Hinsley told the meeting that “corruption was the elephant in the room” that he felt might explain the awarding of licences that allow for everything from prospection to full-blown production.

The trouble with getting answers, explained Faria, is that those responsible for awarding the licences had all refused invitations.

Portugal’s energy minister, environment minister, the head of ENMC fuel entity, even former environment minister Jorge Moreira da Silva – who signed onshore licenses and complained bitterly about their opposition (click here) – were otherwise engaged, and could not make the meeting.

As Hinsley suggested, “many would suspect the motive” for da Silva signing onshore contracts with Sousa Cintra’s company Portfuel days before the end of the government.

“He should open his bank accounts”, he said – while Faria stressed Euro MPs had tried to invite a representative of Portfuel to the meeting in light of the controversy that had played out on land near Hinsley’s home but “couldn’t find any contact number” for the business.


The meeting served to hear “the word of honour” from feisty Aljezur mayor José Amarelinho who stressed that the region’s mayors were committed to fighting every contract in force across the Algarve – whether on land or at sea – and would be advancing with a proper legal bid as soon as it had been formulated.

This is an issue that requires “political courage”, he told the audience.

Tourism and oil “don’t rhyme or combine” and political decision makers are trying to pull the wool over Algarvians’ eyes.

“They say ‘let us drill a few little holes, but we won’t find anything’. It is so ridiculous! They use ambush and hypocrisy. We have to watch them very carefully”.

Praising the work of “all the entities that pushed this issue into the open” – from former Algarve Euro MP Mendes Bota, to citizens’ group ASMAA and NGO platform PALP – Amarelinho stressed the government was duty bound to rescind contracts after the pledges emerging from Paris COP21 summit.

As the meeting broke up to allow MEPs to travel to Faro for a debate on the implications of “Brexit” (click here), José Faria announced a new anti-oil protest scheduled for 3pm today (Saturday) in Loulé to coincide with a visit to the Algarve of prime minister António Costa.

[email protected]