“There are no miracles; we feel cool about the decision”, said Uruguayan president Jose Mujica following the International Court of Justice ruling which means there will be no relocation of the Orion pulp mill which besides does not contaminate, as was claimed by Argentina when it presented its case back in 2006.
“When we meet with (Argentine president) Cristina Fernandez it will be with cards on the table. We have two problems to address: the new bi-national relations and the pickets blocking the (international) bridge”, added Mujica.
The two presidents had agreed before Tuesday’s ruling that both sides would abide strictly by the ruling and that a new framework for bi-national relations was to emerge. Mujica and Mrs Kirchner are scheduled to hold another meeting in the coming days to assess the ruling and establish the steps to follow.
Uruguay is particularly impatient about having pickets lift the several years blockade to the international bridge linking Gualeguaychú, the hub of environmentalist protests, and Fray Bentos next to the Orion pulp mill, originally built by Finland’s Botnia but now belonging to another Scandinavian corporation UPM.
The blockade has caused great trade, economic and tourism losses to Uruguay.
Uruguay’s Foreign Affairs minister Luis Almagro will be meeting with his Argentine counterpart Jorge Taiana Wednesday and “we will address all issues of our bi-national relation”.
A multi party delegation of Uruguayan members of Parliament that travelled to The Hague in support of their delegation said that following the ruling the task is improving relations with Argentina. “We have been waiting this for a long time” said Sergio Abreu from the main opposition party.
The Orion plant has been operational now for two years with an annual production of over a million tons of pulp, one of the largest in the world. It is considered a state-of-the-art complex since it compiles not only with Uruguayan legislation but also European Union regulations, considered the toughest and from the beginning has been monitored by the World Bank which helped with the financing.
The dispute surfaced when Uruguay allegedly did not inform Argentina of the construction and commissioning of the Orion plant. Argentina accused Uruguay of breaching the 1975 River Uruguay statute which rules the management of shared waters and further claimed that the plant was highly contaminating.
At the time pickets sponsored by the Kirchner administration blocked the international bridge linking Gualeguaychú with Fray Bentos. However with time and different political tempos the pickets became autonomous and the Kirchner administration has been, so far, fearful of removing them by force.
To make things worse Uruguay’s former president Tabare Vazquez all along said he was willing to discuss about pulp mills with Argentina but pickets had to be lifted before. This never materialized and relations deteriorated as the dispute became almost personal between Vazquez and the Kirchners.
However the new president Jose Mujica on taking office announced that one of his administration’s main objectives was to “normalize” relations with Argentina. He has a more fluid, almost friendly relation with the Kirchners.