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Question parlementaire - E-004709/2012Question parlementaire
E-004709/2012
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    Oil extraction in Virunga National Park (Democratic Republic of Congo)

    Question for written answer E-004709/2012
    to the Commission
    Rule 117
    Bart Staes (Verts/ALE)

    The Government of the Democratic Republic of Congo officially reiterated in January 2011 its commitment to the ban on oil extraction in Virunga National Park. In March 2011, the Congolese Minister of Environment also announced that oil exploration would be suspended in Virunga pending the completion of a thorough environmental impact study. Despite these fine promises, the Congolese Government granted permission to the SOCO Oil Company to begin oil exploration in Virunga National Park back in September 2011.

    The oil companies, too, are ignoring the fact that oil extraction in the park is illegal, and are not even waiting for the conclusions of the environmental impact assessment. The stance of the European oil companies is extremely worrying.

    The United Kingdom (SOCO) and France (Total) have both approved the Unesco convention concerning the protection of the world cultural and natural heritage. This convention expressly prohibits activities such as mining and oil extraction in the areas designated by Unesco as world heritage sites.

    The Belgian Minister for Foreign Affairs, Didier Reynders, recently expressed Belgium’s stance with absolute clarity, stating that oil exploration in Virunga is contrary to Congolese legislation and the country’s international commitments. He further stated that, as Europe has already invested a great deal in the protection of the park, he finds the lack of official reaction very strange, to say the least. This, he said, needs to change as a matter of urgency.

    What action is the Commission taking on this issue in order to put a stop to these breaches of the law? Is the Commission considering suspending the funding for national parks in the Democratic Republic of Congo, including Virunga, pending a total ban on oil extraction?

    OJ C 248 E, 29/08/2013