The Adriatic Sea is in danger. Oil company interests on either sides of it are seeking to power up their drills. As the costs to the Adriatic rise, mobilizations to safeguard the environment and combat the oil industry are growing. Everything will be decided on a European and transnational level, making it is necessary to shift the debate and to strengthen relationships between groups and citizens that are struggling in the different countries.
As Naomi Klein argues in her book, This Changes Everything, the neoliberal economic model creates a system in which the climate is particularly vulnerable, as the environment is subjected to market forces. Neoliberal doctrine is inherently profit-seeking. In the case of the environment, this is at the expense of human life and the natural environment.
Within this economic and political system, the main elements that form the basis of human life, and that as such should be protected as commons -air, water, land, food- are used as sources of profit. And the rules of profit and markets govern them.
The Adriatic Sea is one of the most threatened areas. From both coasts. Governments of states bordering it –from Italy to Montenegro, from Croatia to Greece– do not hide the belief that oil extraction is an area of strategic investment for the coming years. In these countries, they have already adopted legislative measures in order to remove potential obstacles to the extraction. In many cases, concrete actions to assess the actual presence of black gold have already started. In short, the drills are gearing up.
As for Italy, the legal framework of the search for oil is the “Sblocca Italia” (“Unlock Italy”) decree, immediately renamed by environmental actors as “Dirty Italy” or “Unlock Drill “. Approved by Prime Minister Matteo Renzi’s government, the decree simplifies the authorization procedures for the start of works of exploration, drilling and storage, which can bypass all the rules that defend landscapes and the environment. This act establishes the “public utility and the urgency of the oil”, paving the way for a specific development model, which places black wells before tourism, quality food production and fishing.
Campania, Abruzzo and Puglia are the Italian regions that at this early stage run the greatest risks of destruction and looting of their territories. The plans of exploration and drilling have terrifying numbers. In Abruzzo, 396,763 hectares of land (over 36% of the total area) and more than 469,731 hectares in the sea (an area larger than Molise). In Puglia, the entire coast is in danger, from the natural park of Gargano to the south of the Salento peninsula, for a total of 1.6 million hectares of sea: an area comparable to that of the entire region.
Things are no better on the other side of the Adriatic. Croatia and Montenegro have launched international tenders for exploration and exploitation of gas and oil in their waters. Croatia has put out to tender an area of 12 thousand square kilometers, just in front of the coast of Puglia and Abruzzo, for oil exploration and development of mining equipment. ENI also has captured a slice of the pie. For its part, the Montenegrin government completed the tender, and announced the allotment of their waters.
Although the future looks bleak, it is actually yet to be written. Wherever drilling has been planned, a committee of citizens determined to block it grows. In all the regions of Southern Italy,grass-roots organisations grew, willing to defend the land and the sea against the risk of extractions. This mobilization has produced dozens of initiatives of denunciation, which culminated in the national demonstration on May 23 in Lanciano. Here, more than 60,000 people, despite the silence of the mainstream media, marched against exploration and mining in the Adriatic.
In Croatia and Montenegro the best tool used by the movements to stop the exploration and extraction of oil has been tourism. In these countries, tourism represents a significant percentage of gross domestic product and oil activities would seriously affect the economy of coastal areas. In Croatia S.O.S. Adriatic, a coalition of NGOs, committees and civil society initiatives aims to stop the drills in the Adriatic. Coalition participants include: Green Forum (Zeleni forum), Zelena akcija/FoE Croatia (Zagreb), Sunce (Split), Zelena Istra (Pula), Žmergo (Opatija), BIOM (Zagreb), in collaboration with Greenpeace Croatia e WWF Adria.
The transnational nature of environmental destruction and the exploitation of the Adriatic call for urgency in seeking common strategies of resistance and action. The chance to snatch victories depends on the ability to carry out organizational processes and mobilization that exceed the boundaries of nation states and define a trans-European struggle for the commons.
In the next few months it will, therefore, be necessary to create opportunities to exchange ideas on the issue of the opposition to drilling, also leading up to the COP21 summit taking place in Paris. As European Alternatives, we propose to make available the TRANSEUROPA Festival, which takes place in Belgrade from 1-5 October, to achieve a European meeting in which many local groups that are fighting against the drilling of the Adriatic sea can meet, discuss and imagine common strategies.