Montenegro: Referendum on oil extraction to be considered after submarine exploration

Montenegro: Referendum on oil extraction to be considered after submarine exploration

The Ministry of Capital Investments of Montenegro is ready to leave the final decision on oil exploitation to the citizens via a referendum, but only after the exploratory drilling confirms whether there are quantities in the Montenegrin submarine area that would be economical for exploitation, and after an intensive public consultation is held.

The Ministry said they are not planning to postpone the exploratory drilling scheduled for Thursday, nor to terminate the contract that would cost Montenegro at least EUR 35 million.

“The ministry does not plan to postpone the exploratory drilling scheduled for Thursday, because that would yield negative consequences for the budget of Montenegro based on the obligations assumed by the concession agreement.” However, the Ministry insists and calls on all interested parties to participate in the public debate, in order to jointly exchange arguments for and against the exploitation of oil and gas from the Montenegrin submarine area and find the best solution for both the ecology and the economy of Montenegro,” the Ministry announced.

When asked how much it would cost Montenegro to terminate the contract with the Eni and Novatek consortium, the Ministry answered that it is difficult to estimate the exact amount of possible compensation.

“Given that in the first phase of the research in the previous four years the Italian-Russian consortium invested between 35 and 40 million, while a significant amount of funds was also invested in the second phase, Montenegro would have to compensate the consortium in the amount of their investments so far,” they say.

The beginning of the exploratory drilling was announced two weeks ago by line minister Mladen Bojanić and the state secretary in the Ministry, Marko Perunović.

After that, numerous environmental organizations opposed the drilling in the Adriatic and demanded that the state terminate the concession agreement and stop the procedure.

The Civic Movement URA said on Friday that the citizens should decide on that project via a referendum.

The State Audit Institution (SAI) conducted a preliminary audit which showed that the state lacks the adequate equipment to protect the environment in the event of a major maritime accident.

The preliminary report was submitted to the audited entities with a decision expected by April 1, while the SAI should publish the final report on environmental protection in the event of sudden incidents by April 15. /ibna