The European Commission closely follows everything that affects the Doñana National Park, one of the most valuable biodiversity jewels in the south of the continent.
And the plans of the PP and Vox in Andalusia to legalize more than 1,500 hectares of illegal crops that right now are depleting the aquifer from which this unique reserve lives have once again triggered alerts in Brussels.
The Director General of the Environment, Florika Fink Hooijer, sent a letter to the Government of Spain on Friday in which she warned that if the bill that would regularize these illegal crops goes ahead, the Commission will not hesitate to adopt "all necessary measures , including the filing of a new appeal before the Court of Justice in which he would request that pecuniary sanctions be imposed”.
It is not the first time that Fink has intervened in the face of the threat to regularize irrigation around Doñana by the right wing, which governs this community.
In January 2022, also with elections in sight in this autonomy, the Director General of the Environment already warned that this complaint was prepared if another proposal that sought the same thing as the one that is now being processed in the Andalusian Parliament prospered.
"In my previous letter of January 31, 2022, I already conveyed the Commission's concern and astonishment at the risk that a similar proposal, presented on January 11, 2022, posed for the execution of the judgment of the Court of Justice of the European Union of June 24, 2021″, Fink now points out in this new letter addressed to the permanent ambassador of Spain to the EU, Marcos Alonso.
That ruling to which the general director refers condemned Spain for not controlling the illegal extraction of water from the Doñana environment that nourishes a part of the red fruit sector.
That 2021 sentence did not entail a fine, but if Brussels denounced it again this time it would request an economic sanction, as Fink openly says.
Doñana and the law of the strongest
This senior European official insists in her letter that it is "necessary to immediately guarantee the strict protection of the exceptional natural values of Doñana, especially taking into account the current context in which rainfall is increasingly irregular due to climate change ”.
But Fink considers that the proposal that the PP and Vox have revived to regularize irrigated crops goes in the opposite direction.
“The approval of a proposal similar to the one presented on the 3rd of this month would significantly aggravate the situation of the bodies of water and the protected areas of Doñana,” she says.
And she adds: "The continued overexploitation of the aquifer over time seriously threatens the very viability of the economic activity of the region around Doñana, particularly irrigated crops."
The Doñana case is gaining weight day by day in the concerns of the PSOE government and Unidas Podemos and, according to government sources, President Pedro Sánchez is expected to refer to it during the debate on the motion of no confidence that is being held this Tuesday in the Congress of Deputies.
The bill presented in the Andalusian Parliament at the beginning of the month has already provoked criticism from environmentalists and the central government.
The third vice president and minister for the Ecological Transition, Teresa Ribera, warned that she did not rule out taking the case before the Constitutional Court if the proposal prospered, with which she would achieve a precautionary stoppage practically automatically.
In addition, the ministry informed the Commission of the steps taken by the PP and Vox, which now responds with this threat of sanctions.
Spain already knows what it is to be sentenced for environmental issues.
In fact, it has already had to pay almost 75 million euros for not properly purifying the urban water of various municipalities.
This fine continues to grow every six months as long as the breach persists.
Although the sentences and sanctions are imposed on the State, the Government can then transfer the part that corresponds to each autonomous community according to their degree of responsibility.
As it happens now with the case of the lack of purification and as it could happen in the hypothetical case of a sanction for the irrigation of Doñana.
The Andalusian right decided to reactivate its bill to increase irrigation with Doñana three weeks ago, less than three months before the next municipal elections.
Since then, both the Board and the leaders of the PP —with an absolute majority in the autonomous Parliament— have repeated that their initiative does not affect Doñana because the greenhouses would only be irrigated with surface water from the reserves in western Huelva, far from the nature reserve, and would respect its declared "overexploited" aquifer.
An explanation that does not convince either environmentalists or the Government, which considers that its powers to grant water are being invaded.
Environmentalists also criticize that the law leaves Doñana unprotected and that the Board already has a plan that dates back to 2014, whose environmental objectives it fails to meet nine years later, and consider it "cowardly" to legalize uses of water that are now illegal with the current scarcity.
Both WWF and the Doñana Biological Station (CSIC) have highlighted that farmers are being promised a resource for which they lack competence and that currently does not exist and there are no real forecasts that it will be available. .
The Board has eluded this Tuesday to assess the criticism of the European Commission and has blamed the Government of influencing the hostile attitude of Brussels towards the expansion of irrigation.
“The Ministry does not stop pouring inaccuracies regarding the bill.
I invite the minister [Teresa Ribera] to tell me how the Doñana aquifer is harmed, because she will not find it, since it safeguards it.
Everything else, I'm afraid, is excited politics regarding the next electoral call”, has opined the Andalusian spokesman, Ramón Fernández-Pacheco.
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