Abusos Urbanisticos Almanzora No
Campaigning to legalize our homes
Statement to EU Petitions Committee 14th April 2011
The issue of urban planning abuse in Spain is well known and has been the subject of various reports and resolutions in the European Parliament between 2006 and 2009.
And yet the problem persists and increases. I could break your hearts with stories of the misery and financial hardship and stress that situation has inflicted on thousands of EU citizens.
To put the scale of the problem in context - According to a report from the Andalucian Ombudsman in the year 2000 there are an estimated 300,000 illegal properties in the autonomous community of Andalucia. But there are 17 autonomous communities in Spain. We could be speaking of 1 million people and a combined investment of billions of euros.
This committee has been sympathetic to petitioners in the past but continues to assert that it can only intervene if the matter concerns the implementation of EU Law.
But we believe that this issue IS an attack on the fundamental pillars of EU law relating to the free movement of capital and the free movement of people.
Citizens from other Members States have invested in many, many thousands of these properties. Their investment is at risk BUT they cannot disinvest or leave the country (by selling their properties) given that they have been told that their property is illegal.
The case of the Prior family is well known internationally, but there are many Mr & Mrs Priors in Spain: people who invested in good faith, but now risk the loss of their investment without hope of compensation; or who live without water and electricity; or who face demolition; or who face having to pay their developer´s debts; or who have no title to show for their investment; or indeed, a combination of these problems.
This is clearly as disincentive for people to invest in Spain, as the massive slump in such investments show.
The Treaty protects the economic interests of consumers. Citizens from other EU states have been sold illegal properties, often assisted by estate agents (who are mostly unregulated); or developers (who are not forced to comply with adequate safeguards); or lawyers (who were relied upon on the assumption that they provided the same level of service as in citizens home country).
Furthermore, EU law protects citizens from discrimination. This includes indirect discrimination. And here are these investors come from countries which are well regulated and where adequate safeguards exist; they expect these standards to apply in Spain, and are sadly shocked to find that this is not the case; they are therefore at a comparative disadvantage.
Sadly, we are also talking of possible direct discrimination; and here I refer to the remarks of the Minister with responsibility for Planning and Housing in Andalucia who, in discussing this problem, has recently referred to ’a group of people who have settled illegally in our territory’.
We also see a number of breaches of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. The Charter comes into play when applying rules of EU law, and is therefore clearly applicable when applying or interpreting the free movement of capital and persons. In this respect we see that the right to dignity, to one’s home and to no expropriation without compensation have been substantially breached.
Honourable Members, we have heard many sympathetic words on this issue but have seen little action. We do not want your sympathy. We want the laws of Europe to mean something more than words on a piece of paper.
We want the laws of Europe to resolve a problem that at the very least is disrupting the function of the internal market and at worst is destroying the hopes and dreams of many.
I finish with the request that the Committee listens to the statements of Helen Prior whose home was demolished in 2008 and who currently lives in her garage.
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