November 12, 2018 - About 20 citizens met on Monday at 7pm in the square of Nikola Đurković in Herceg Novi, said Mirsad Kurgaš, initiator of the SOS for Montenegro Network. Kurgaš spent four days walking 145 kilometers from Ulcinj to Herceg Novi to point out to the Montenegrin public of the dangers threatening us from fossil fuel exploration, which would begin on November 14 in Ulcinj's Aquatics.
The SOS for Montenegro March Lasted for Four Days, But it is Just Part of the Campaign
The SOS for Montenegro Network has launched a public information campaign on non-transparent circumstances under which hydrocarbon exploration projects in the Montenegrin submarine are being implemented. SOS for Montenegro calls for a contract termination with the Eni-Novatek consortium, which is recognized by ecocids worldwide, and the introduction of a moratorium on exploration and exploitation of fossil fuels. The signing of the petition, both in Montenegrin and English, is being carried out with the same purpose. The four-day march started from Ulcinj on Friday, 9 November, and Kurgaš, the only participant along the entire 145km route, arrived at Herceg Novi tonight. A petition was also organized during the reception, and among the 50 citizens who joined, there were also representatives of the Herceg Novi Administration, NGOs Anima and the Initiative Bokobran. The petition was signed in Ulcinj, Bar, Petrovac, Budva, and Kotor in the previous days. The response of Tivat citizens was completely absent unless we removed the activists of the Bokobran Initiative, who welcomed Kurgaš in this town.
SOS for Montenegro March Supported by Green Home and Other NGOs, Also by Fishermen
"The non-governmental organization Green Home has given the maximum support. Their activists walked with me every day. We are also supported by NGO Porat Pizana from Budva. Many people I've encountered recognize the problem. Many, however, do not know what's waiting for us or what our decision makers are trying to do. They do not know that it is preceded by the final act, which will attach the last nail to the cover of the dead man's suitcase for Montenegro," says Kurgaš.
Kurgaš believes that we still have time to defend against the drilling of the Adriatic Sea, and the reason for optimism was first of all in Bar, where the March welcomed a large number of citizens. "The fishermen came in at once, both from professional associations and from sport fishermen associations. For 14 November, the exploration of the seismic vessel in the Bar Aquatics was announced. Together with the fishermen, we plan to meet them adequately," says Kurgaš.
Montenegrin Environmental Institutions and Tourism Industry Not Part of SOS for Montenegro Campaign
When asked about the Montenegrin institutions that are in charge of environmental issues, in the first place is the Agency for the Protection of the Environment, and then the Institute for Marine Biology, and the Seismology Institute, and their actions in informing citizens about the consequences from orientation towards the oil industry, Kurgaš points out:
"When we talked to representatives of the oil company, on all the issues they did not know to give us answers, they referred to our institutions. When we were trying to get information from the Seismology Institute, they sent us to the Directorate for Hydrocarbons. However, by searching the Internet, we have come to the Seismological Institute's map on their official site, which shows the epicenters of all earthquakes in 1979. Here you can see that there were over 400 earthquakes with epicenter records this year and one of these earthquake epicenters is on 15 April. This epicenter is in the so-called Block 26, for which the Greek company Energean has been granted a concession. If we take into account the fact that seismic research of hydrocarbons provokes seismic disturbances, or, by ten times, increases the likelihood of the earthquake, then we can assume what this means for Montenegro, or specifically for our coasts and underwater, which is recognized as a truncated area."
It is noteworthy that neither tourist associations are involved in a public dialogue on the expected impact of oil exploration nor exploitation on the Montenegrin tourist industry, notes Kurgaš. "None of the tourist organizations have spoken. Oil platforms and tourism do not coexist, there is no such example in the world. If we take into account how our tourism organization works, then their inertness in the concrete situation can be clear, but it is not clear to us that those who have invested huge sums of money to build, for example, Porto Montenegro or Luštica Bay or Splendid are not involved. I do not know if they are thinking about this topic at all."
Returning to the competent ecological institutions, Kurgaš reminded of a completely different approach to the Institute of Marine Biology, when in 2003 it was explicitly urged of seismic research, citing the specific reasons for such an attitude. "However, that same Institute of Biology must now give the green light for the same research. We simply do not know why it is so. Have people changed in the meantime in the institute? We assume that they have experts even now, so we are not clear why they have to take such an attitude, even if the unprofessional public is clearly aware of the catastrophic consequences of such activities on ecosystems. Just go online and find millions of examples of why we should not let this happen to us in Montenegro. During the exploration in the Ulcinj aquatics in 2003, there was a terrible seabed of fish. Some species have disappeared and almost only started to appear again, which was witnessed by Ulcinj’s fishermen. So, Ulcinjans already have experience with the consequences of seismic research, of course, ugly experience. During this and last year, the concessionaires have been testing the terrain in the Bar aquatics, the trajectory of these probes is available on the SOS for Montenegro FB page. Barge fishermen say it has already caused the consequences, and that the fish are gone. Also, fishermen in Bar already have problems when it comes to the representatives of the oil companies and the official state institutions that assist them in this regard. They already do not allow them to sail out of the marina. If it happens to be the case, they are urgently returning to the coast."
SOS for Montenegro to Force Government to Withdraw Contract with Eni-Novatek
The aim of the SOS for Montenegro initiative is to mobilize the Montenegrin public to press Montenegro's government to withdraw concession contracts for exploration and exploitation of oil and gas, and to introduce a moratorium on such activities in the future. Although the citizens are still not massively involved in the protest, the march organizers are happy with the effect of the action, says Kurgaš.
"As they are not familiar with oil and gas exploration, citizens are not well informed about our march. However, I am very happy that people joined me along the way. I got different expressions of support, people showed me regardless of age and any other difference. They are explicitly opposed to what they intend to do and are prepared to make their contribution to this fight. I believe we will succeed in choosing to. The fishermen began to appear, it seems that they started slowly to get the fear they had. And fear has a reason because it is very likely that they are being subjected to tremendous pressure. They are now starting to resist and resist."
EU and Other Adriatic Countries Should be a Part of SOS for Montenegro
Fishermen can be the last line of defense of the Montenegrin submarine in light of the fact that Montenegro is preparing to open one of the last negotiating chapters with the European Union - Chapter 27 on fisheries.
"By me, Chapter 27 is absolutely incompatible with what is being prepared here. I do not know whether the representatives of the European Union participating in these negotiations have the status of events in Montenegro. In any case, they will have to define their attitude in that regard. This is not, as we have repeatedly emphasized, the only problem of Montenegro, but of all the countries around the Adriatic. If Montenegrin rulers choose to bury us with their own decisions, it is not to be expected that Croatia, for example, will close their eyes, as the announced research will also reflect on them. And in Albania, Italy, Slovenia. The neighboring states and the European Union will have to react to all this, they will definitely not be able to stay alongside," concludes Mirsad Kurgaš.
SOS for Montenegro Supported by Civic Organizations Green Home, Our Action, Porat Pizana, Bokobran, Expeditio, Anima
The best march response was recorded in Ulcinj and Bar. It was also widely visited in Budva, where activists of the NGO Porat Pizana organized the promenade of boats to the island of St. Nicholas. In Tivat, Kurgaš was welcomed only by the activists of the informal civic initiative Bokobran. Activists of NGOs Our action, Green Home and Expeditio have been part of the road towards Kotor, and they supported the signing of a petition, which was attended by about 50 citizens.