Damning report brings pressure for Spanish property law change
April 25th, 2007
Spain is coming under renewed pressure to change its ‘land grab’ laws following adoption of an EU report branding the current position a violation of human rights.
The report comes from the Petitions Committee, of which UK MEP Michael Cashman is vice chairman. Co-author of the report, which has now been adopted by the committee, Cashman and other committee members had visited Andalucia, Valencia, and Madrid in February to hear at first hand of problems caused to property owners by the law.
‘The Petitions Committee remains concerned and deeply troubled as a result of the persistent and long standing denial of the legitimate rights of many European citizens in Spain, most notably in the Valencian Region, to their land and their homes’, said the report. ‘They have become the collateral victims of many rampant urbanisation programmes founded upon legislation which provides privilege and wealth for the urbaniser and which denies individuals their very integrity’.
In a large number of documented cases town councils have concocted urban development plans less because of their real requirements related to population growth and tourism, more because of what often appears as their greed and avarice, charged the report.
The local residents, whether Spanish or not, are the most affected by development programmes and have the most to lose – in too many cases they actually risk losing everything they have worked for, said the report.
‘This is more common in the Valencian region than anywhere else. For it is in this region that the delegation from the Petitions Committee came up against the most arrogance and the least explanation for the urbanisation projects which have led to the destruction of many beautiful and fragile coastal areas’.
However, serious problems also exist in many other areas of Spain.
The report calls for the European Commission ‘to fully take into account and assess the issues raised in this report, particularly as regards the possible infringement of EU law and basic rights and principles contained in the EU Treaty as they affect the citizens who have become the victims of extensive urbanisation’. It also ‘calls upon the Spanish authorities and regional governments, in particular the Valencian Government, who are under obligation to respect and apply the provisions of the EU Treaty and EU laws, to recognise the individual’s legitimate right to his legally acquired property and to establish, in law, more precisely defined criteria regarding the application of Article 33 of the Spanish Constitution concerning the public interest, in order to prevent and forbid the abuse of peoples’ property rights by decisions of local and regional authorities’.
The report is due to reach the European Parliament in June. Action ultimately lies in the hands of the European Commission which has power, ultimately, to refer the issue to the European Court of Justice.
In parallel developments the Commission has already written to the Spanish Government asking it to justify its property laws and to explain how it believes these comply with EU law. The Commission is expected to continue to push for change and with the added support of the Petitions Committee findings could be in a position as early as the summer to call on the European Court of Justice to rule on the legality of current Spanish property laws.