domingo, 26 de abril de 2009

Tenerife News: Canary Islands face a new dilemma

Is an oil war about to erupt in the middle of the Atlantic, with the Canary Islands embroiled right in the middle of the conflict? Tenerife News, 16 April 2009.

That's certainly the scenario being suggested in the national Spanish press and the revelations make for interesting reading.

For years, the Canary Islands have been pressing for a clear and precise definition of the waters which lie equidistant between the archipelago and Morocco. Now, according to various sources, this demarcation is even more imperative.

Whilst you soak up the sunshine and holiday atmosphere of Tenerife, you might not realise that out there in the ocean, between Morocco, the Canary Islands and Western Sahara, multi-nationals have arrived in search for much-needed natural resources. It's being reported that a gas field has already been found off the coast of Morocco by Repsol and Natural Gas and a Norwegian firm is sinking wells in front of Bojador of the coast of Western Sahara. A private American oil company, Kosmos is also on the scene and is carrying out its own searches off Morocco, searches which, if the information being received is accurate, are already paying dividends.

Furthermore, Kosmos is eyeing up the beach and valley of Agando in Tuineje, Fuerteventura as a base, believing it to be ideal for convenience, safety and tax reasons, and an official approach has apparently been made to the authorities of the Canary Islands and to Madrid.

That's great news, you may be thinking, not just for the future prosperity of the Canary Islands in terms of investment and job creation but in the search for new sources of oil to cut dependency on the traditional markets.

So, what's the problem? According to the sources who have been speaking to the Spanish press, it comes down to one word. Ethics.

The oil, you see, may or may not belong legally to Morocco. It could well be, and probably is, the property of Western Sahara. And that, say the experts, will place the Canary Islands in a very difficult position, economically, environmentally and ethically.

At the moment, the archipelago has good relations with both its neighbours but does it want to be compliant with Morocco stealing resources from Western Sahara? If the Government of the Canary Islands says nothing, is it helping to violate the rights of the Saharan people?

"It can't be the bride of all," says Sergio Ramírez Galindo of the organisation, Western Sahara Resource Watch in an interview with La Opinión de Tenerife.

Taking their oil, he alleges, would be blatant theft and it would be virtually impossible for the Saharan people to win it back. Yet, in the meantime, Kosmos eyes up one of the Canary Islands as a base and the Americans spend their free time enjoying the social delights and charms of Tenerife and company whilst they conduct their explorations off Morocco. These searches, it is claimed, are illegal. Yet who is going to turn down requests to base ships or rigs or workers in the Canary Islands when today's economic situation is so dire?

Politicians of all parties seem to agree that something must be done to regulate the situation and defining the waters is imperative and urgent as the Canary Islands would have the power to say yes or no to explorations.

Green campaigners are already worried about a host of spin-off effects, such as harm to the environment, forests and fisheries and even see corruption and conflict ahead as resources are pillaged. WSRW also says that allowing Kosmos to set up base on Fuerteventura will be 'a disaster' on all fronts.

Oil has always been the source of controversy and intrigue and when the sun sets on oil rigs not so far away from the Canary Islands, it would appear there's going to be turmoil behind the imposing façade too.

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