Comments made by Charles Svoboda at the Petitions Committee, European Parliament
in Brussels on January 20, 2009
We thank Margrete Auken, the rapporteur for the report before us, and we commend it to this Committee of Parliament and especially to the authorities of Spain, at all levels. It may well be too late to prevent the economic and environmental damage caused by the perverse systems as we see them in Spain under their strange land laws. However, like the suggestions we often made in past, this report should be received as part of the solution, not part of the problem.
The system, by the way, was not designed by the ‘anglo-sajones’ and in no easily identifiable way is it similar to those “compulsory purchase” ones existing in the UK or most civilized western countries, as was suggested in the Committee in previous sessions. ‘Compulsory purchase’ in the UK, as an example, has explicit legal guarantees and a solid legal and court system to protect the rights of property owners. Certainly the legal framework we see in Spain was not designed elsewhere. But, like many others, Spaniards in the main, and those of us who have chosen to live in Spain have persistently suffered the abuses well described in the report.
We also welcome the Valencian Ombudsman’s direct support in this debate today for much of the thrust of the report, based on her years of experience in confronting the problems we and others have brought before you in recent years. The debate in this forum today is another experience for her to take into account.
I always understood that if one belongs to a club, the member derives the benefits, but that member must also play by the rules. The European Union, to which Spain consistently pledges its loyalty and support and from which association it has received very generous financial benefit by way of “cohesion funding” surely is no different. In that context, someone less charitable than I might describe the words of the official Valencian representative here today (in which she claims Valencia always acts in compliance with EU norms – stating clearly that the Madrid government is responsible for human and property rights, as well as the country’s adherence to EU treaties and other international laws) and her supporters as unprincipled, hypocritical or worse. The cautionary note contained in Article 13 of the draft Report is therefore very pertinent.
Finally, the rapporteur heard promises in her discussions with the Valencian authorities that the land laws in that region will be changed. Very well. But we have heard this before. Many times. The last report, in 2005, saw the LUV and three other equally complex laws replace the infamous LRAU. But they are based on the same nefarious principles, as the single law they replaced and I remind you there are some 150 massive projects awaiting approval by the Valencian Government, all of which would fall under the old LRAU. What of them? Will they comply with EU contract law or the relevant environmental directives? The same conseller (Garcia Anton) effectively the minister for development and environment) has promised on one hand to bring the land laws in compliance with EU norms. However, to different audiences, notably the promoters and constructors, he has also promised to reform the laws to make it easier for them to conduct their old business, schemes as usual, essentially relaxing those few controls the current laws put in place to replace the old ones. A mystery. What are we to believe?
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