Greenpeace drops plan for boycott of French goods

Mururoa fall-out: Embattled protest group rethinks strategy, but Paris must prepare for further international hostility
Click to follow
The Independent Online

Environment Correspondent

Greenpeace has shelved plans to call for an international boycott of all French goods and services because of fears that it could do the campaign against the Mururoa atoll tests more harm than good.

The environmental group is also conducting an inquest into whether crew and campaigners aboard the MV Greenpeace made a serious error in provoking the French into capturing the ship.

The group's high-profile campaign is now in danger of becoming becalmed after the seizure of both of its ships in the South Pacific. It had been prepared to lose the Rainbow Warrior II early on during the nine months of nuclear tests, but not the Greenpeace. French forces have also seized a helicopter, advanced satellite communications equipment and supplies. The total value of the confiscated property is about pounds 10m.

Early next week, several of the organisation's most senior campaign directors from Germany, the Netherlands, Britain and other nations will meet at Greenpeace International's Amsterdam headquarters to consider how to relaunch the campaign. Plans to call on all Greenpeace supporters and opponents of testing to boycott French exports had been drawn up. Any French firm that condemned the tests would be exempted.

But Greenpeace International's new chief executive, Thilo Bode, has decided not to proceed with the boycott, fearing it would be difficult to keep the public up to date on which French companies had joined the protest. Any economic pain it caused might swing French public opinion in favour of President Jacques Chirac.

Meanwhile, the organisation's chiefs are mourning the capture of the Greenpeace most of all. The plan had been to keep her sailing around Mururoa, but some distance outside the 12-mile exclusion zone, as a base for protest actions in and around the atoll. But two weeks ago, before the first test, she was seized. Three inflatable dinghies and a helicopter had penetrated the zone. The French authorities said this gave them the right to take the Greenpeace.

Richard Titchen, Greenpeace International's director of communications, said: ``We give our skippers and campaigners the right to make on-the- spot decisions.'' But there did appear to have been a departure from the agreed strategy. The ship's captain, Peter Schwarz, and the senior campaigner on board, Xavier Pastor, director of Greenpeace Spain will be asked to explain their actions.

Greenpeace now hopes that the European Commission will take the world lead in delaying and scrutinising the programe of tests by invoking the Euratom treaty's provisions on health and safety in nuclear experiments. France has agreed to allow an expert delegation to visit the atoll to assess the threat to the environment and people from the underground explosions.