StoryAbout The Goose
Do you remember the story about the goose which delighted her owner by laying one golden egg each morning? But that because of his greed and impatience, the owner decided not to wait for the solitary egg, concluding that if he killed the goose and took that magical source of gold from her belly, he would have as many golden eggs as he wanted?
Then you already know the end to that enlightening tale.
The agreement which the Croatian government initialed at the beginning of this year regarding formation of the multinational oil cartel DruzbAdria, and expansion of the terminal in Omisalj (on Krk Island) for loading oil, is vividly reminiscent of this story. Leaving greed aside, there is not one sensible reason for such a decision, while reasons against it are plentiful.
Let us begin with the economic benefits, of marked importance in this era of Croatia’s post-war economic development. As I read in the Croatian press, servicing Russian exporters would garner revenues of around $30.000.000 in the first year, $50.000.000 in the second, and $80.000.000 in the third.
According to some sources, Croatia made 4.5 billion dollars last year from tourism. According to other sources, that number was 7.5 billion. Economic projections for the future are even better. And one day, when roads are modernized and some bright soul plans how to develop tourism by relying on local suppliers of healthy, good-tasting and organically-produced food and local drink, as well as adequate cultural, entertainment and sports offerings – Croatia’s tourism will be golden.
Given the relatively humble revenue that the dirty industry of oil would generate, why, then, would the sensible champions of the Croatian nation play with fire?
A claim such as: “because Croatia has international responsibilities that it must respect, above all the responsibility that it provide everyone free access to its capacities without discrimination,” made by Vesna Trnokop-Tanta (Janaf Administration’s president), is misplaced. According to which international statute does any country have this responsibility?
“Novi List” from Rijeka reports that Croatian experts in the Scientific Council for Oil and in the Organization of Oil Engineers and Geologists at their recent meeting concluded that: “in the 80s, and again at the beginning of the 90s, all ecological issues relating to this project were resolved.” It also states that some scientists advised that the “furor about ballast water which tankers would dump in the Adriatic Sea, is unnecessary.” Namely, they are convinced that the danger of pollution from oil is minimal if “great care” is taken in security measures and strict ecological protection is carried out. The claim is that even though the Janaf terminal on Krk Island has functioned for several years already, serving to load oil intended for Croatian refineries for domestic use and to export oil derivatives to neighboring countries, it has not caused any “great problems”. (The fact that Omisalj and its environs is a dead tourist zone appears to be the problem of the local population.) Aside from this, Janaf will undertake “all necessary measures” so that every accidental leak of oil is immediately attended to. Someone even stated with pride, “We already have $12.000.000 in the clean-up fund!” Is that a bad joke, or are Croatian geologists and engineers really so inexperienced? How many of them carefully studied the “Exxon Valdez” accident and the billions upon billions of dollars of damage that it caused (and continues to cause today!) to Alaska’s tourism and fishing industries? Great economic damage was caused in Europe by accidents of the “Erika” and the “Prestige” tankers in the Atlantic. Do those Croatian experts really believe that America, France, Spain, and other countries are so reckless in their unquenchable thirst for oil, that they have not paid attention to navigational security and their own national ecologies? Or, perhaps they think that they know more than foreign geologists and engineers? (If the clean-ups of microscopic leaks of mazut and oil in Solin’s Jadra River, by Dobro-Lesce, Brodski Stupnik, Gracin, and elsewhere, and the pollution of the Kastel Bay and Croatian rivers are anything to go by, the opposite could be readily concluded. Just one accident by a slightly larger tanker in the closed Adriatic Sea would pose an ecological catastrophe with unforeseeable consequences, endangering the flora, fauna, fishing industry and tourism of Istria, Croatian Primorje and Dalmatia for a long (if not for all) time.
What are the chances that such accidents will occur with the massive increase in the number and size of tankers and, the more decisive variable, with the loading of oil in Omisalj? Simply put, the likelihood is far grater than the aforementioned Croatian geologists and engineers foresee (at least in the press).
However, even if such accidents do not occur in the near future, the danger posed by waste water, poisonous gases, oil and other waste, ballast water, and smaller leaks which accompany almost every loading (and unloading) of oil would soon rob the unique beauty from a small, closed sea such as the Adriatic, which is finally beginning to attract tourists on a global sale and of which Croatia has every right to be proud. Despite Janaf Administration president Vesna Trnokop-Tanta’s claims, that “oil and tourism can go together” it is sufficient to take one look at the once beautiful Kastel Bay in order to understand how industrial development and natural beauty can not coexist. It is only a matter of time before tourists will become convinced that Adriatic beaches are not any cleaner than Spanish, Italian, Greek or Turkish ones.
Have those responsible studied the experiences of other countries with “zebra” mussels? They live in ballast water or attach themselves to the exterior shell of ships and are able to devastate local shellfish in a relatively short time or with types of algae which use up oxygen necessary for the survival of fish and underwater flora.
And what about disposal of the enormous amount of sea water which (for buoyancy) tankers must pump in wherever they unload oil, and pump out wherever they load it? Some solutions have been mentioned, including the possibility of disposing those waters at a depth “greater than 500 meters” or purifying them on shore. Anyone can see the fallacy of the first solution. And when we talk about “purification on shore,) where are facilities to dispose of the huge amount of polluted, oily sea water?
On the basis of previous experience with loading oil in Omisalj, Janaf’s experts suggest (or wish to convince themselves and the public) that the loading of oil is similar, more or less, to the unloading. This is far from the truth. First of all, the tankers which transport oil to Omisalj in order to unload, pump sea water from the Adriatic into their empty reservoirs. The tankers which will come to Omisalj will be filled with sea water from distant oceans, and will have to release ballast into the Adriatic before loading. These are clearly two very different things.
Recently, someone threw another argument into the mix: that Trieste was just waiting for Zagreb to reconsider, so that the Italians and the Slovenians could move in on the profitable deal. The claim is that then our beautiful coastline will be polluted, while all the revenue will go to Rome and Ljubljana. After recent talks about the plan for exporting Romanian oil through the terminal on Krk Island, Romanian Premier Nastase stated: ”We wish to operationalize the Constanza-Omisalj oil pipeline project.” He pointed out the importance of the Omisalj terminal, which can take tankers with carrying capacities of up to 500 tons, unlike Trieste, which can only take tankers with capacities of up to 80 tons.” And Vesna Trnokop-Tanta adds: “Competitive oil pipelines in other countries such as Macedonia threaten Croatia, so we must not decide against DruzbAdrija.” Let us contemplate the more salient points in these statements. The truth is that Italy’s sandy Adriatic beaches are no match for the beauty of Croatia’s coast. But tourism on Italy’s Adriatic coast generates enough revenue that Rome would think seriously before making a decision that would endanger its territorial waters. We hardly have to mention the livelihoods of thousands of people who live from tourist services and who, in Italy, have a say, or to speak about “bella Venezia”. Italy would never endanger Venice’s lagoon and the gargantuan revenue which millions of tourists generate there. Trieste is practically across from it. As far as Slovenia is concerned – their politicians are sufficiently intelligent, and their coastline is short.
Let us now consider the Constanza-Omisalj pipeline project, which is, according to Premiere Racan (as reported in the Croatian press) “no competition to the DruzbAdria project, but complimentary to it.” One glance at a map shows that Constanza is a large port on the Black Sea. Why, then, does Bucharest wish to build a pipeline hundreds of kilometers long across its territory (practically from the country’s east to west), through Vojvodina (or Serbia) to Croatia’s eastern border, and then through all of Slavonia to Sisak and to the island of Krk? If the answer is that the “Black Sea is closed” and free movement through the Bosporus and the Dardanelles questionable, why would they not build the three-times shorter pipeline Constanza-Thessaloniki, the Greek port on the Aegean Sea??
The Croatian government’s rash decision to initial DruzbAdria’s international agreement and to accept the Constanza-Omisalj project may have such disastrous consequences that both decisions ought, at the very least, to be put to a general referendum by the Croatian people. Dr. Branko Bosnjakovic, an environmental protection advisor with many years of experience in EU institutions, recently stated, according to a report in Vjesnik: “without public consensus and analysis to examine the economic, ecological, and social implications, we should not embark on a project such as DruzbAdrija”! He is right.
Barry Brkic is a journalist who lives in Washington, DC.