December 5, 2013
Gov’t warns Uruguay on pulp mill production
President meets with Mujica over proposed increase, may take case to The Hague
The foreign ministry threatened yesterday it could once again take the fight with Uruguay over the UPM-Botnia paper mill plant to the International Court in The Hague if the neighbouring country permits the controversial plant to increase production.
The warning came a day before President José Mujica is scheduled to meet with President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner today in Buenos Aires City to discuss the company’s proposed production increase.
Activists from the Entre Ríos city of Gualeguaychú are planning to protest against the proposed production increase during the meeting that will be held in the neighbourhood of Puerto Madero.
The Argentine and Uruguayan presidents will discuss this issue on the sidelines of a ceremony to christen a new ship for the Buquebús ferry company that will be named “Francisco,” after the pope.
Fernández de Kirchner’s government had repeatedly requested reports about the proposed production increase from Uruguay, but has not received any replies, according to the Foreign Ministry.
Mujica confirmed last week he had “already come to a decision” over the Finnish company’s production increase request, hinting he was getting ready to allow the plant to hike production in exchange for improving environmental safeguards.
Still, the Uruguayan president insisted he would not make his decision final until he had a chance to speak over the issue with Fernández de Kirchner.
This could possibly increase edginess between the two countries, bringing about tensions that had died down in recent years.
Over the past few weeks, the pulp mill conflict once again rose to the spotlight after the UPM plant had requested permission from the Uruguayan government to boost its production from 1.1 million to 1.3 million tons per year. The company had warned that failing to approve the increase would force it to fire workers.
Although, the government had not officially approved the request, Mujica made numerous statements over the past few weeks that hinted he was leaning toward approving the increase.
History of the conflict
The factory is located on the Uruguayan side of the Uruguay river. The plant first began operating in 2007, leading to a rise in bilateral tensions and a 3-year-long blockade of a bridge that connects Gualeguaychú and city of Fray Bentos in Uruguay that lasted until 2010.
Mujica had said in declarations last week in New York, that he could authorize an increase in production of UPM, in exchange for better environmental regulations. Using his characteristic folksy language, Mujica said: “I will give so you can give to me, but if you don’t give then I won’t give. The decision is not so simple.”
The Uruguayan leader explained that one of the ways they could improve the environmental safety procedures is by perfecting the refrigeration of water that runs off the Uruguay river by lowering its temperature and minimizing the phosphorous that is contained in the waste water.
International Court threats
The Foreign Ministry warned yesterday it is ready to go to seek redress at the International Court in order to enforce the one-million-ton production limits established by The Hague court when the plant was first installed. This warning sets the Foreign Ministry’s position before today’s meeting.
The Foreign Ministry said that any decision that does not take into account all the procedural steps agreed to with Uruguay is a “violation of the River Uruguay statute and subsequent agreements between both countries.”
The written statement underlined that Uruguay had in 2005 fixed the production capacity at one million tons per year and that UPM should not be allowed to violate an international ruling. Gualeguaychú residents gathered yesterday to protest the decision that was anticipated by Uruguay, warning more were to come.
On Saturday, Gualeguaychú Mayor Juan José Bahillo had said that “Mujica had given in to pressures from the foreign company that only cares about profit at the cost of the environment and the relationship between communities with a common history.”
Bahillo still expressed hope that Mujica would tell President Fernández de Kirchner he decided not to authorize the UPM production increase. next weekend.
—Herald with DyN, Ambito.com, Telam