The anti-fracking movement unites in the Basque Country
21 July 2015
In recent weeks, the anti-fracking movement has sent shockwaves through the fracking industry by winning several important victories. On 29 June, Lancashire denied permission for the most important fracking test drills to date in the UK. The following day, the Basque Country passed their ban, which was originally drafted as a citizen's legislative initiative with the support of 103,000 signatures. Just days later, the government in the Netherlands declared that they will not renew drilling permits - effectively stopping all fracking activity for the next five years.
This movement has grown in strength through a combination of local organising and international connections made through social media. The Frackanpada, an international anti-fracking camp which took place in the Basque Country in July, has succeeded in tranforming these international links from Facebook friendships to personal connections which allow groups internationally to offer each other real support and solidarity.
The camp acted as a meeting place for anti-fracking groups from across Europe and beyond. Anti-fracking assemblies from the nearby struggles in the Spanish regions of Burgos and Cantabria were represented alongside groups from across Europe including Portugal, France, Germany, UK, Romania, and the Netherlands. Representatives even came from as far away as Mexico, Algeria, Turkey, Brazil, the USA, and Argentina.
The camp had a diverse programme, hearing from all of the anti-fracking movements that were represented, together with talks about other struggles internationally to defend the land. Discussions of capitalism and the structural roots of the energy and climate crises sat alongside proposals of real alternatives to the energy and economic systems, and ways in which we organise in social movements. To enable people to make real connections across language barriers, the camp used three languages, Basque, English and Spanish, and a simultanous translation system provided by the translation collective Bla and an army of volunteers.
The camp is organised by the Basque anti-fracking assembly Fracking Ez, along with an international organising group. Mikel Otero from Fracking Ez is clear about the need for links between struggles:
“We have made a major advance in the Basque Country with the new law and we could not have done that without people power. But the slogan of the camp is 'No fracking, here or anywhere' so now we are gearing up to support our neighbours in Burgos and Cantabria. Taking collective action is the only way we can confront the fossil fuel industry to protect our water, air, communities and climate from this destructive technology.”
Rachel Thompson from Frack Free Manchester is a local resident living near an exploratory drill site in Barton Moss, Salford:
“The camp has been amazing, I've met so many amazing organizers from all over the world. I've been invited to speak in villages in Burgos and Cantabria next week so the way in which the camp has provided concrete support to ongoing struggles is already really clear. We've had some success in the UK but the industry isn't going away. In fact they're going to use every tool at their disposal to get a foothold in Europe. They'll promise that fracking can be clean, and create jobs. They'll push for transnational trade agreements like TTIP to overturn local restrictions that protect our health and environment. We know the next stage of struggle will be even more challenging, but this camp has helped us strengthen our movement so we can keep taking on the industry and keep fracking out of our communities.”
Photo: Activists pull down a mock fracking rig in the Gasteiz, the capital city of the Basque region