(Many thanks to Ciudadanos Europeos for translating the following article)

‘Spain in focus of attention’ 

On November 23, the newspaper “El Pais” published an article by Inmaculada de la Vega, which we have translated for our and AUN’s members: 

“Complaints to the Parliament and European Commission on urban planning abuse by Spanish citizens, the cases of corruption where Marbella has become a synonym, as well as the crisis of Astroc on the stock exchange, attracts attention outside Spain. During this year the figures for economical growth and especially the indicators from the property sector, have brought attention from OECD, the IMF and others, to our country. 

At the beginning of March a third visit by Euro deputies, sent by the committee of petitions in the European Parliament, came to check in situ on the complaints that have been submitted since 2003 by the Association Abusos Urbanisticos NO, initially in connection with the Town Planning Department in Valencia and apparent abuses committed against individual owners as well as over exploitation of the land.  

The difference of this visit, compared with the two previous visits in 2004 and 2005, according to Enrique Climent, President of this Association with 30,000 members, is that “in addition to the Valencia Region, Almeria and the Community of Madrid received visits for the first time.”  The visits have resulted in negative reports and calls for the attention of the Spanish Government, because this time it is a question of the urban activity in the whole of Spain, not only the Valencia Region. 

There have also been complaints of breaches of legal requirements of European laws for public contracts. This complaint has ended up in the Court of Justice of the European Communities, who will impose a sentence, and if the pertinent legal modifications are not made, a legal penalty. This will create a legal prescience, applicable to other private individuals who will be able to present their claims and ask for compensation in relation to similar actions by the Planning Departments in other Regions.  

There are other associations of European citizens who have directly recommended people not to invest in Spain, due to the legal insecurity, corruption and the bad implementation of town planning regulations.  All promoters have fallen under a cloud of suspicion, politically encouraged from Brussels. 

But Spain is not only the focus of attention of the institutions of the European Union and citizens platforms. The weekly magazine The Economist has for several years paid attention to the Spanish boom.   Even in 2003 it considered Spain at the greatest risk of a ‘bursting property bubble’ that few Spanish recognised. 

Economic variables 

The economical analysts on the Financial Times also made a close scrutiny and painted a rather dark picture and spoke of a landing that may be anything but soft. In January of this year OECD warned of the over valuation in the price of dwellings and the risks involved, and the International Monetary Fund alerted Spain to its economic situation. Jose Maria Morillo in Espassion, consultants in marketing and international investments, explained the interest for Spain due to its growth above the average for EU: “If you land in Heathrow you meet Ferrovial, if you go to the centre you will do so on a Spanish train and the same in the metro. The Londoners buy their cloths at Zara and take out money in Abbey National, owned by Santander. We have gone from being net recipients of investments to exporters of capital.” 

On the other side, for the Brits and the Germans Spain has been the leading destination for a second residence. Certain events have appeared in the British press, sometimes in a sensationalist manner, and less frequently in the German media, according to Morillo. 

If the bubble and the indebtedness have called the attention of the press and the television, scandals such as Marbella have made us famous.  The BBC, The Times, Le Monde, Le Figaro, Liberation are only some of those that have associated corruption and abusive practices by the town halls, together with the high indebtedness, the over valuation in the price of a dwellings and over exploitation of the land, as symbols  of the Spanish identity. 

We will pay for the corruption 

What happens with Marbella? Will the illegal buildings be demolished? Is it illegal or not what “El Pocero” did, that was announced with such profusion? 

The promoters are lamenting the millions lost, due to both the visit of the Euro deputies, investigating the accusations of abuse and over exploitation of the land, and also the reduction in the demand from British and German buyers. When the lack of confidence, caused by the abuses, is added to the inflated Spanish prices, it is no wonder buyers are going to other markets: Italian, Greek, Cypriote or Croatian. A good example is that the price per square meter in the second richest city of Europe, Hamburg, is much cheaper than in Almeria. 

If the economic damage to the promotion sector, caused by the accusations of urban planning irregularities, is serious, it is no less serious in the social sense. The information Urbanism and democracy produced by the Fundacion Alternativas, talks about “An urban sector converted into a source of economic power that has made many rich, but which has also undermined the confidence of the citizen.” 

Professor in Political Science at the University King Juan Carlos, Manuel Villoria, says it is clear that corruption is a dead weight in the economy, hindering growth. “The image of Spain has deteriorated due to the corruption. In the three last studies by Transparencia Internacional we have lost points and image for this reason and will continue to do so this year.” In his judgment, the corruption “threatens democracy and the national economy. The information from the World Bank is clear: more corruption, less investments: The foreigners encounter greater difficulties and additional costs.” 

Another thing is public opinion.   Citizens have a very negative opinion of politicians and public employees, although only 3% includes corruption as one of the three most important problems: “They are not aware of the close connection between the economy and corruption”, concludes the professor.”  


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but merely conveys general information related to issues commonly encountered.