News Articles

12/02/2009 - Spain told to put house in order

Land grab and development abuses must stop, say MEPs
By Dave Jones –Costa Blanca news

SPAIN'S land laws and construction industry came in for a hammering at the eagerly anticipated meeting of the EU's petitions committee on Tuesday.


Victims of development abuses, MEPs and members of the Valencia regional government were in Brussels to debate the report drawn up by Margrete Auken, which is due to be presented to the European parliament in March. The meeting was opened by Ms Auken who outlined the findings of her investigation into ‘the impact of extensive urbanisation in Spain on individual rights of European citizens, on the environment and on the application of EU law'.  The Danish MEP began by stating that the huge interest shown in the meeting illustrated the importance and sensitiveness of the issues.


She stated that the EU was obliged to intervene and support ‘environmental protection' as the Spanish authorities had failed to take action themselves. The MEP, who was in Spain earlier this month to meet residents, said: "I could see how unscrupulous some of the local authorities are. "There are thousands of petitioners who have been affected." She also stated that residents' human rights must be respected. "One right is the right to live peacefully in one's own home," she added. Spain's land laws must be better defined, she continued, and clauses allowing expropriations ‘in the general good' must be made clearer. "If people are forced to leave their own homes then we in the EU must ring the alarm bells," she added.


She also said the EU was trying to find the best possible solution. "We want all the interested parties to be involved to resolve the situation," she said. Other speakers at the meeting were less restrained in their criticism. East Midlands MEP Roger Helmer said: "There is no democratic legitimacy in property confiscation. "It is just plain theft. "I am shocked at the outrageous contribution from the representative of the Valencia regional government. "She speaks of the land use laws, and ‘sharing the benefits of land ownership'. "Mr Chairman, this is the Robert Mugabe school of land re-distribution."


West Country MEP Neil Parish said: "Spain will not get out of recession by stealing people's properties or by passing the buck between local, national and regional governments. "Property ownership is a fundamental right and it is high time that the authorities recognised this." One Spanish petitioner stated that ‘developers are undermining our countryside and our economic potential for tourism'. Another said that ‘property speculation is a major social ill' and that ‘it is the major source of destruction of our cultural heritage'.


Representing the Partido Popular-run Valencia regional government, María Ángeles Ureña stated that Valencia's land laws contained sustainable development guarantees and that, in their opinion, they respected EU directives. Following the meeting, Valencia's Socialist party (PSOE) stated they will back the PP's stance - and will join them to appeal sections of Ms Auken's report. Both parties will propose changes to the text - in particular the clause which states that EU funds to Spain will be suspended if report recommendations are not acted on.


They will also appeal the clause which states that all building plans which do not respect the environment should be stopped. Vice president of pressure group Abusos Urbanísticos No, Charles Svoboda criticised the PSOE's stance saying ‘the Valencian PP appear to have persuaded their Socialist colleagues to turn this into an issue of patriotism, that being the last refuge of the scoundrel'.