A BLAZING row over oil could see the Canary Islands ending its six-century relationship with Spain.
The Spanish archipelago’s president is threatening to cut all ties with the ‘motherland’ for giving the green light to oil drilling without prior consultation.
The actions of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy have been described as ‘disrespectful’ and lacking ‘even the slightest institutional courtesy’ by the islands’ President Paulino Rivero.
Rajoy has given Repsol permission to start drilling for oil just 50km off the shores of Lanzarote and Fuerteventura, without first discussing it with Rivero.
Rivero retaliated by threatening divorce from Spain if the drilling plans continue, drafting a non-binding referendum asking the population whether they wanted the drilling, due to begin in October.
An enraged Rajoy has responded by calling the referendum both ‘illegal’ and ‘anti-constitutional’.
The political conflagration follows a similar drilling controversy in the Balearic Islands, but Rivero argues that the sister archipelago is receiving different treatment.
“If we assume that for political reasons an environmental ruling will block oil drilling in the Balearics, as will probably be the case, it will leave the Canaries in the lurch,” said Rivero.
The two archipelagos make up over half of tourism revenues for Spain.
But Spain’s Industry Minister, Jose Manuel Soria, insists that the Canary Islands simply cannot afford to cancel drilling.
The island chain has an unemployment rate of 33% – 8% higher than Spain’s already alarming level – and the drilling will help provide jobs.
The Canaries have been Spanish since the Castilian conquest at the start of the 15th century.
According to 2010 figures from the Sociological Research Center, 43.5% of the Canary Islanders feel more Canarian than Spanish.