Campaign group AUN aims to put itself on a professional footing to continue its battle against abuses of human and property rights and violations of the environment in Spain. With an estimated 30,000 members, and now part of a national federation, Abusos Urbanisticos No! is looking to attract official funding.
Formed to fight against Valencia’s highly controversial ‘land grab’ laws – which allowed developers to seize people’s property and insist they help pay for the cost of installing infrastructure on massive building projects – the group is now planning for the future.
President Enrique Climent told the AUN’s annual general meeting in Benissa: “Remembering time and our ages are moving in the same direction more quickly than we would like, the deadline for changing our organisational structure is approaching.
“But before achieving professional status we must resolve our budgeting problem.”
He said while members would continue to pay subscription fees, it was not appropriate to make that an obligation before giving help and advice.
“And so official funding is the only way open to us. The European Union has budgeted funds for this purpose,” he said.
Enrique added that one of the conditions was the candidates must be “supranational in nature” and the AUN should qualify as members were drawn from a multitude of nationalities.
“Thus we can carry out our mission to cover the whole of the territory of the Autonomous Region of Valencia.”
The reorganisation of AUN to become more professional includes forming working committees in key areas to share the burden and keep the organisation’s frontline status. These include a committee to concentrate on raising awareness, handling the press and media, an environmental committee, people responsible for the website, and a group preparing for local election campaigns.
And a new project was announced at the packed meeting – a self-help manual offering “practical specific advice” for those affected by a planning proposal or PAI.
Enrique said it was being written from the perspective of the AUN’s own experience over six years. “Advice will be set out in clear and simple terms so it can be easily understood. It will be written in Spanish, English and German.
“We will create it ourselves with the help of trusted lawyers who have collaborated with us at sometime.”
Vice-president Charles Svoboda said the long awaited court case regarding breaches of EU law over the award of public contracts over large scale urbanisation projects – allegedly rife in Valencia and other parts of Spain – was due before the European Court of Justice.
“That case will come to the fore in February next year and could involve very hefty fines,” he said. “Whether Spain would actually pay those fines is another matter.”
Charles, who set out the activities of the AUN over a busy past 12 months, said it appeared judges in Valencia were now “looking over their shoulders” at the situation in Brussels as national law was created by European law.
“It appears they have decided to start applying the law. It is a major step forward, whether it sets a solid precedent remains to be seen but it is a very positive point.”He said current legislation required plans to have a positive water and environmental impact report before they were given permission to proceed.
“In this area there is a national water board that has repeatedly said there is not enough water for a development to take place,” said Charles, who added it was one of the arguments that saw development around Parcent binned.
“However, even though there is not enough water, planners have continued to pass projects and they ignore recommendations.
“But the courts are now saying developers must not just get a report, they must have a positive report. Again, that is a very significant development.”