Greenpeace tackles EU on Amazon fires with banner stunt
Greenpeace activists roll down a banner and hold a smoke bomb outside the European Union headquarters during a Greenpeace activists' action to protest against the ongoing damage to the Amazon rain forest, in Brussels. AFP
Environmental activists abseiled down the European Commission's headquarters on Friday unfurling a huge banner to denounce alleged EU complicity in burning the Amazon rainforest.
Greenpeace argues that Europe's planned trade deal with the Mercosur group of Latin American economies will only fuel Brazil's exploitation of the basin, and that EU imports of beef, palm oil and soya account for 10 percent of deforestation.
With many of the Berlaymont building's offices empty or understaffed early in the morning during the coronavirus pandemic, the protesters were able to sail down the 17-storey facade and cover a huge panel usually used to publicise EU policy.
"Amazon fires, Europe guilty," it read, along with an image appearing to show flames emerging from the building and revealing a charred jungle behind.
"The fires in the Amazon are far away, but Europe is adding fuel to the flames: by buying soya and other products from deforested areas, Europe is complicit in the ongoing destruction in the Amazon and other ecosystems," said Sini Erajaaa, Greenpeace agriculture and forestry campaigner.
"Europeans must be able to go shopping knowing that nothing in their supermarkets has contributed to forest fires or human rights violations, we need strong European law."
According to Greenpeace, the world cannot rely on Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro's government to protect the world's largest tropical forest, where fires increased by 28 percent in July 2020 compared to July 2019.
The EU's as yet unratified trade agreement with Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay will lead to the further opening of European markets to South American meat, even though livestock farming is responsible for most of the deforestation in the Amazon.
A growing number of member states have expressed reluctance to approve the agreement in the face of the ecological threat in Brazil -- while European farmers are worried about competition -- and the European Commission has launched a public consultation to refine its strategy against deforestation.
EU officials, contacted by AFP, had no immediate comment on the protest.