A German parliamentary delegation canceled plans Monday for a visit to fruit farms in a drought-hit region of southern Spain, after a campaign in Germany to discourage consumers from buying "drought berries" sparked political controversy.
The cross-party visit by nine German lawmakers this week was meant to include a stop in the Doñana national park in Andalusia, home to some of Europe’s most important wetlands.
The conservative regional government of Andalusia, which is experiencing its worst drought in nearly three decades, wants to expand water extraction rights in the wetlands.
Spain’s Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez has made the matter an issue in the campaign ahead of elections next month.
The German parliament's environmental committee said that "in view of the high political importance that the topics of the trip have gained in recent days in the upcoming Spanish national elections, (the committee) has decided to refrain from its long-planned trip to Andalusia at the present time."
The purpose of the trip was to gather information and exchange views on climate change and its consequences, it said in a statement, adding: "We are confident that we can continue this exchange in the future."
Sánchez’s party is seeking re-election in a snap general election in July after suffering heavy losses in local elections to the opposition Popular Party last month. A Popular Party spokesperson, Borja Sémper, on Monday accused accusing the prime minister of "indirectly" supporting a German boycott of locally grown fruit.
"The least that the prime minister can do is to defend our farmers and the Spanish strawberry," Sémper said.
In recent days, Sánchez has called on voters via Twitter to choose between "a Spain that cares about Doñana and a Spain that destroys Doñana."
Spanish conservationists have warned that half of the nature reserve’s lakes have already disappeared, threatening the survival of freshwater turtles native to the Iberian peninsula, along with dragonflies and eels. The site is also an important transit point for many migratory bird species.