Report on the meeting of the Petitions Committee on January 20, 2009

Some of the recipients may have seen the streamed version of the Petitions
Committee's meeting on Tuesday. January 20, and my impression is that on the surface it went
well from the petitioners' point of view. The sorry development is that 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

Following the introduction and summary of her draft report, during which Ms
Auken also recapitulated the consultation and other processes she had
followed in preparing it, the ensuing debate was lively. The report was
supported by a number of British MEPs -Conservatives ( Parish, Hannan,
Helmer, Atkins) and Socialist (Cashman) and other MEPs who expressed
outrage at the continuing violations of EU law, property rights and the
destruction of the environment. This approach was shared by some Spanish
MEPs, notably David Hammerstein (Greens), Willy Meyer(IU), and Socialists
Maruja Sornosa (with her own reservations), Vicent Garces, Carnero for
example. The attack on the report, taking their cue from the Valencian
government's representative, Autonomous (ie. political) Secretary, Maria
Angeles Ureña , came mainly from the Spanish PP members, Margallo, Galeote,
Iturgaiz, and Gutierrez. This was backed by Iñez Ayala from the Socialists.

The neuralgic points of the report were as expected. The proposal for a
moratorium on approval of new development plans when these were not in full
accordance with EU norms and the reminder that failure to comply with these
laws could result in the withholding of EU Cohesion Funds. These were
described by attackers as an affront to the Spanish,especially the Valencian
economy in a moment of weakness. Thus those who had warned of the emerging
problems associated with rampant and careless development were to blame
rather than those who had created and perpetrated a predatory and
environmentally destructive sytem.

The Valencian Ombudsman, Emilia Caballero, essentially supported the thesis
of the Auken Report, while members of the European Commission presented a
divided front, with the representative of Internal Markets - which has taken
Spain to the ECJ regarding violations of EU Public contacts directives-
supporting the comments in the report and the DG Environment's
representative, again disappointing many by refusing to take a firmer stand
on the application of envirornmental directives unless plans are
defrinitively approved. This response essentially was in response to
pressure from the town council of Parcent elected in 2007. (Both Commission
representatives are Spanish lawyers.)

The Valencian Government representative, not so erroneously introduced by
the Chairman as the representative of the constructors, repeated the usual
line about Valencia being respectful of property rights, the environment,
etc., she and others criticized the fact that the Madrid Government had
rejected the invitation to be present at the meeting since it was
responsible for guarantees as regards human and property rights. The pretext
given by the Madrid Goverment was that it had received notice far too late -
patently false since others were able to arrange attendance at a meeting
that had been signalled several weeks in advance. Just as it had cancelled
meetings with Auken at the last moment two weeks earlier, Madrid appears to
be letting Valencia stew in its own juice.

Enrique Climent's statement focussed on “juridical insecurity”, saying the
the oft repeated mantra “ España es un estado de derecho" is hollow.We will
be better when it can honestly be called an "Estado de Justicia”. He
described how the land grab system functions and the unholy alliance between
the authorities and the promoters all in the undefined "public interest"
which in truth is mainly mercantile. Even where the superior courts had gone
against the development schemes, developers, town halls and the Valencian
government either ignore or try to work around these rulings. My comment,
almost concluding the discussion, was to the effect that a member of the EU
had to obey its rules if it wished to get the benefits, financial ones
included, of belonging. As I said, the words of the Valencian representative
and her supporters were hypocricical and unprincipled. I also reminded the
audience that there are some 150 massive development schemes awaiting
approval in Valencia-all under the dread LRAU. To be sure there are promises
from the Generalitat to amend the complex of new land laws, but in which
direction- towards compliance with EU norms, or more probably simply to
facilitate more unruly development to the benefit of the promoters and
developers? We all have reason to be suspicious.

The Parcent Mayor recapped the problems his town faces under the threat of
three huge development schemes, approved by the previous town council just
before the LRAU was to cease being the applicable law. He challenged the
Valencian government either to reject the plans as not being in compliance
with EU environmental and water directives, or to return the plans to the
town so proper studies could be carried out. Jaime del Val representing a
Mojacar group made a spirited attack on the destruction of the coastal
areas, both past and possible. Jose Ortega, representing many of those under
threat of losing homes and property due to the national Coastal protection
law agreed that such a law was necessary, but complained that the laws were
unclear and being retroactively and arbitrarily applied to hundreds of
owners, either who had inherited their property or had bought it in good

Tuesday's proceedings are not the final word, next comes the submission of
amendments to the report by MEPs before January 27, with a vote in Committee
on February 10 or 11. We expect the PP amendments would essentially
eviscerate the report. One PP member identified the tone and almost all of
the operative part of the report as unacceptable, facts not being important.
How far the Valencian Socialists will follow the PP lead will only be seen
on the 27th when proposed amendments are revealed and later on in the
Committee and Parliamentary votes. Assuming the amended version succeeds in
some form, it will then to go to full Parliament for approval by the end of
March. Meanwhile we express our gratitude to Margrete Auken, those MEPs who
have supported her, the Valencian Ombudsman, the Chairman and Staff of the
Petitions Committee for keeping this issue alive at the EP and thus
influencing the Commission and eventually the Courts of Justice and Human

In my view, this strange and sudden marriage between the Valencian PP and at
least some of the region's socialist MEPs will serve only to disadvantage of
the PSOE in the Valencian region in the context of the upcoming EU
Parlimentary elections. This awkward symbiosis may not last. One of the
individuals now leading the region's Socialsts, Angel Luna (a former mayor
of Alicante, who has historic connections with the developers and their
financial backers) took the party in a 180 degree turn last week, just
before the Petitions Commmitte session, without even consulting the
Socialist MEPs. Even Ayala, who took his posture, told us she hadn't been
informed until she read the papers. But the PP "presidente" of Valencia
Camps may have gone one step too far. Gloating over the conversion of the
PSPV to the defence of Valencia's construction craze, he went on to demand
they also apologize for past behaviour. This has angered the other top
Socialist leader, General Secretary Jorge Alarte. How this will play out
when amendments to the Auken report are submitted, remains to be seen. As
for the EU elections, why would anyone affected by the land laws now wish to
choose the wobbly PSOE over the genuine article, the PP? Rather, they could
well stay home and not vote at all. That too would play into the PP's hands.

As an Association, now with our national Federation legally approved, AUN
has to decide what advice we will give to those of our members and others
looking forward to the June EU elections. We will continue our round of
discussions with political parties and groups who are taking an interest
both in the elections and our advice. We have had some interesting
approaches and this will be subject to further comment in the next few weeks
and months.

Charles Svoboda
Abusos Urbanisticos NO


Disclaimer: The information provided on is not intended to be legal advice,
but merely conveys general information related to issues commonly encountered.