Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Letter from Catherine Bearder MEP (Liberal Democrat)

Dear Sir

Thank you for contacting me about abuses of property rights in Spain.

Liberal Democrat MEPs have a long and proud record of fighting the “Spanish land grab”, which is a very serious human rights abuse causing homelessness, loss of savings and anguish for many of my constituents and others. I share the deep anger at the way in which legitimate property rights have been undermined or even abolished. Although I am newly elected to the European parliament, my Liberal Democrat colleagues in the European parliament have taken a strong and active interest in the issue for 6 years, supporting from the beginning the campaign of “Abusos Urbanisticos-No”.

Over the last 5 years, the European Parliament has held a series of debates and adopted resolutions that make clear the view of MEPs that the phenomenon of the Spanish land grab is unacceptable and must be addressed by the Spanish government. Parliament's actions include:

· December 2005: Fourtou report on Valencian land law, debated and supported by the Parliament in response to 15,000 petitions from citizens. Parliament's resolution identified maladministration by Valencia's local authorities, urged action to remedy this and more assistance for those affected
· June 2007: Parliament adopts a resolution following a fact-finding visit to Spain, calling for Spanish authorities to set up committees to investigate and arbitrate where disputes arise, and for adequate compensation to be awarded where necessary
· March 2009: Auken report on the impact of extensive urbanisation in Spain adopted by the Parliament, calling for the introduction of effective redress

Liberal Democrat MEPs of course supported both the Fourtou and Auken reports. Despite all this European Parliament activity, the Spanish authorities have repeatedly argued that this is a “local” issue and that cases will be dealt with by the Spanish Constitutional Court.

In March this year the Petitions Committee deemed many of the issues related to the petitions on property rights to be unresolved. After discussions with the Spanish government and several petitioners, they called on the government of Spain and of the regions concerned to carry out a thorough review and to revise all legislation affecting the rights of individual property owners as a result of massive urbanisation. The aim of this was to bring an end to the abuse of rights and obligations enshrined in the EU treaties and Charter of Fundamental Rights, the European Convention of Human Rights and relevant EU Directives, as well as in other conventions to which the EU is a party. At the same time, the Committee called on the Commission to ensure strict respect for the application of Community law so that compliance with Parliament's resolutions on this matter can be assured.

This means that the case is by no means closed. Liberal Democrat MEPs are playing a very active role in pushing forward the Petition Committee's follow-up actions. Last year we sought to amend the EU budget to withhold European funding to the Valencia region until such a time that the government solves the land grab problem, but on procedural grounds, we were denied the opportunity to vote on this. We are currently pressing the Spanish Presidency of the EU to bring a new dynamic to addressing this unacceptable practice: in January, at the beginning of the Spanish Presidency, my colleague and member of the Petitions Committee Diana Wallis MEP personally asked the Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero to put an end to it. Together with the new momentum that is building up within the Petitions Committee, pressure on those with the power to change things can only increase.
You can be assured that I and my fellow the Liberal Democrat MEPs will continue the fight to protect the rights of EU citizens who own property in Spain and address this injustice for affected land owners which we believe offends against all European rights and values.

Thank you once again for contacting me. I hope this response has been of use to you.

Yours sincerely,

Catherine Bearder MEP

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