The controversial Botnia-Orion pulp mill under construction in Uruguay and challenged by Argentina, is keeping to the timetable and forecasted to be officially inaugurated sometime in the third quarter of this year (July-September), according to reliable sources from the Finnish corporation.
The statement seems to be targeted to counter information from Buenos Aires saying that the opening ceremony would take place after the Argentine presidential elections scheduled for late October, "with the purpose of not interfering" in Argentine politics. Finland's ambassador in Buenos Aires and concurrent in Uruguay Ritva Jolkkonen who on Monday visited Montevideo said that her country "continues to support negotiations and dialogue" between the neighboring countries. Argentina and Uruguay are at loggerheads over the construction of the pulp mill on the Uruguayan shores of a river that acts as a natural frontier and since 1975 is regulated by a bilateral accord and a joint administration committee. Argentina is disputing the construction of the pulp mill at official and grass root level. President Nestor Kirchner's administration claims Uruguay has ignored the 1975 River Uruguay joint management accord and is demanding more accumulated environment impact assessments, while at grass root, in Gualeguaychu, across from the where the plant is under construction residents and environmentalists have been blocking and interrupting for months access to Uruguay to protest "a future of irreparable pollution". Ambassador Jolkkonen was interviewed by Montevideo's press after meeting with the president of the Uruguayan ruling coalition and currently Minister of Culture Jorge Brovetto. Although Jolkkonen told the Montevideo press that the pulp mill dispute was not in the agenda of the meeting, she did admit that Finland "has always supported and continues to support a negotiated solution (to the dispute) and dialogue". Finland's official position has been that Botnia's investment in Uruguay is a private undertaking and since the company abides by all Uruguayan law, regulations and contract terms, "it's not possible for the Finnish government to act". When asked about the recurrent protest marches of environmentalists before Finland's embassy in Buenos Aires, Ambassador Jolkkonen simply said "no comments". Meantime in related news two of the three crossings to Uruguay, Gualeguaychu and Colon "officially" remained Monday and Tuesday blocked by protestors, with only Salto-Concordia operating. However Argentine football fans who traveled to Montevideo on Tuesday to support an Argentine team playing with the Uruguayan 2006 season champion for the South American clubs' Cup publicly "admitted they were allowed to cross to Uruguay". A privilege normally denied by pickets both to Argentine and Uruguayan residents on both sides of the blocked bridge. Furthermore the Gualeguaychu "popular assembly" that has been at the heart of the protest against Botnia decided not to promote a referendum to "approve or disapprove the construction of pulp mills in Uruguay". The vote would have taken place next March 18 when the province of Entre Rios is holding governor's election and the incumbent, who originally encouraged the pickets, is again running