Relentless industrial development and pollution on the Spanish side of the Bay of Gibraltar has turned this region into a social and environmental “powder keg”, a Green MEP from Spain has claimed in a question tabled in the European Parliament.
Florent Marcellesi, an MEP with Spanish party EQUO and member of the Greens/European Free Alliance, accused the Spanish authorities of “riding roughshod” over EU directives and conservation aims, singling out heavy industry within the area administered by the Algeciras port authority.
Mr Marcellesi – referring to the bay as “the Bay of Algeciras” – said the area administered by the Spanish port authority bordered four municipalities and Gibraltar, as well as several conservation sites protected under EU nature laws, but that there was little coordination between various administrations, including here.
“These were small fishing ports which have become sites for heavy industry out of all proportion, where the authorities disregard environmental studies and complaints and where judicial interventions are just closed down,” he said in the question.
“New industrial projects and new landfills remain an uncontrolled threat.”
“The topography bears witness to the disappearance of entire hills in order to provide material for landfills.”
“The expansion into the sea, the connections for terrestrial transport, the heliport and the recent waste water treatment plant which does not prevent all discharges have been financed with European funds.”
“No account has been taken of the synergy of polluting industries both in Spain and in the bordering country, so that the bay has become a ‘powder keg’ in all respects, both environmentally and socially.”
The EQUO MEP asked the European Commission what it intended to do to prevent EU directives “…from being ridden over roughshod and to require the Spanish authorities to preserve their habitats?”
He asked too whether the Commission considered that “limitless expansion” into the sea to develop heavy industry was in breach of conservation directives, even though it was often described as being in “the general interest”.
Finally, he asked whether the Commission would call a moratorium on all projects in order to clarify “this anomalous situation”.
EQUO is Spain’s Green party and is led by Juantxo López de Uralde, the former head of Greenpeace in Spain and a man very familiar with environmental issues in the bay.
Many of the issues in the MEP’s question have long been championed by Campo groups such as Verdemar Ecologistas en Acción and, in Gibraltar, by the Environmental Safety Group.
But Spanish authorities have persistently maintained that all development projects comply with European environmental directives, while the industry itself insists it complies full with anti-pollution legislation.
They point out too that the Campo industry generates thousands of jobs directly and indirectly, along with significant wealth and economic activity.
And while the Algeciras port authority is singled out in the question, responsibility for compliance with environmental legislation lies with regional and national bodies in Spain.
Algeciras is Spain’s busiest port and handles over 100m tonnes of different types of cargo annually.