Wednesday, May 30, 2007

My no vote

No, I did not vote in the municipal elections in Spain last Sunday.
Why, had I not been resident the 3 years required for a Norwegian to be able to vote?
I have been in Spain for more than 40 years.

Maybe I had not registered in the padron municipal of my municipality?
I have been there for many years, renewed the last time on 5th of June 2006.

Maybe I am not interested in politics?
I have been interested in politics since I learned to read.

Maybe I am not interested in the foreigners vote?
I have been working for the right of the foreigners to take part in Spanish local elections since 1985, proposing to the Norwegian government to start bilateral negotiations to permit the vote of Norwegian residents in Spain.

Then why did I not vote in the municipal elections of Spain last Sunday?

I will tell you:

When the Spanish government in 2003, after instructions from the EU and long time of pressure from the association Ciudadanos Europeos to comply with the Maastricht Agreements to create the European citizenship by lifting the requirement for Europeans to carry a residence permit, took a small step in the right direction by suppressing the need for Europeans who had been working and contributing to the social security system, to take out or renew their residence permits.

It was a small footnote in the law obliging the foreigner not having to carry a residence permit, to prove to any part of the administration requiring so to provide a certificate that they were in the category of the ones liberated. To get such a certificate you had to go through almost the same process as for renewing a residence permit: queuing up in front of the foreigners offices or the stations of the national police with a foreigners department with your passport, NIE-card and passport photos.

I have since 2003 on several occasions when I tried to identify myself with my Norwegian passport and NIE-card, met a refusal to accept the law from 2003, and a demand for a certificate. I know that most of other foreigners in the same situation have given up the struggle with the bureaucratic windmills, and asked for a renewal of the residence permit. I refused to go that way, throwing away the small advantage we won in 2003.

Giving up the vote

When in June 2006 I renewed the inscription in the padron municipal of my town hall, I was again requested to provide a certificate from the national police. I complied with the request, but decided this was the last police certificate I would apply for in Spain.

But when I in the beginning of this year signed a document that I wanted to use my vote in the municipal elections in Spain and not in my home country, I again met the request for a certificate. I referred to the one I had provided in June 2006 when renewing on the padron municipal.

Shortly afterwards I got a letter from the provincial delegation of the Oficina del Censo Electoral, informing me that they had decided not to include me in the election lists since I had not given a certificate.

That was the reason I did not vote in the municipal elections last Sunday.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

A split vote

If anyone who has voting rights both in the municipal and regional elections read this blog, and if that anybody is living in the Valencia region, I would like to remind about the possibility of a split vote. In the regional elections the main thing is to vote against the government of Francisco Camps, leader of PP in the region. He is the politically responsible for the "Abusos Urbanisticos", for the non-compliance with the recommendations from the European Parliament, and for the thousands of victims of LRAU and LUV.

He is also the politically responsible for the torpedoing of FIPE, the intent launched by his predecessor as president of the Valencia government, to set up an organisation to inform and assist the foreign property buyers and owners.

The alternative vote is for the socialists in PSOE or the joint ticket of Izquerda Unida and Bloc.

A recommendation of PSOE?

Does this mean that I give a general recommendation to vote PSOE, Izquerda Unida or Bloc? By all means NO. In the municipal elections all depend on the local situation. I would have voted against the socialist mayor of Catral, responsible for the illegal construction of more than 100o dwellings; in Marbella I would have voted for PP, the only party not involved in the urbanistic sump of the town; in Cullera (Valencia) I would have voted against the Bloc-party, that took part in the intent to create a skyscraper city; in Torrevieja and Alicante I would have voted against the PP-mayors that have been indicted on several accounts....And of course: In Javea I would vote for the list of Nueva Javea, where you will find Tony Cabban, and that is presenting a foreigner as their candidate for mayor!
In Mojacar (Almeria) I would, of course, vote for Ciudadanos Europeos de Mojacar, with Lenox Napier on second spot. In Alfaz del Pi I would have voted for Eric Svanberg. In Benissa I would have searched for the list with Lisa Svoboda as a prominent candidate.....

And what about Altea?

Since you know that I live in Altea, you may want to ask me: And what is your vote in your home town? The answer is I will not be voting, and I will tell the reason after the elections. But let me say: I have great respect for the mayor Miguel Ortiz, from PP. The opposition say: He is responsible for all the construction that has taken place! I disagree, the responsible for the extensive building activity in our town are the two parties that held power before Miguel and approved the current General Plan: PSOE and Bloc.

Miguel has always been open to the foreigners and their situation, both as mayor of Altea and in other institutions.

If you, as a matter of principle, do not want to vote PP, there is another possibility in Altea: The leftist federation Izquerda Unida has an excellent program and has taken the revolutionary step to nominate the softspoken German medic Ernst Schmitz as their candidate for mayor!

My wish for Altea: Miguel Ortiz as mayor, and Ernst Schmitz as council member!

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

The killing of the hen

Each time foreign tourism to Spain, to a certain region or town, is in danger, there will be warning cries not to kill the hen laying the golden eggs. The tourist hen of Spain has laid many golden eggs in the private nest of property speculators, but also in the nest of Hacienda, the regional governments and especially the nests of the local governments on the coasts and the islands.

The foreigners settled preferably in smaller towns and villages, without big industries, with modest traffic and building activity, and low local taxes and charges. But over the years, the little village changed. On the outskirts of the village grew up urbanisations, terraced houses and apartment blocks, filled by foreign property buyers wanting their part of the sun in Spain.

Almost for every house or apartment sold, came another car, creating traffic chaos in the narrow streets of the centre, where the public offices were situated, the banks, the small shops, restaurants and bars. The ruling party in the municipality, often closely connected to the property promoters, made the town hall the biggest employer in town, filling the ever growing public offices with party members, friends and relatives. This reduced unemployment and created a firm group of supporters for the next elections….

The tax egg

A town hall has reduced income possibilities, mainly a modest subvention from the government in relation to citizens registered on the “padron municipal” (municipal census) and taxes, fees and charges on construction and ownership of property. The town hall saw in the tax egg the possibility of financing their XL size administration. The “catastro” (land registry) collaborates by lifting the tax values of properties. Today we have the following situation:

- 70% of all tax income to the 8.000 municipalities in Spain comes from property construction and ownership (This information comes from a study made by Morgan Stanley).

- 27,5% of total income of the municipalities stems directly from the transformation of agricultural land (finca rustica) to building land (finca urbana), in the form of building plots ceded, and taxes, charges and fees paid.

Consider: the percentages given are the average for all municipalities in Spain, for the rural ones in the two Castillas, as well as the tourist towns along the coasts and on the islands. Your local town hall may have a much greater part of their income from the property sector.

A vicious circle

It is difficult to imagine a mayor in a tourist town voluntarily reducing the tax income from property ownership. The law gives the town halls very limited manoeuvring possibilities on this field, and the mayor has to pay all his employees every month.

Even less imaginable is that the mayor will be saying: We have now reached the limits of our sustainable growth, we have neither the streets nor the parking capacity for more inhabitants, we have no guarantees for a constant water supply, telling his friends, the builders: “Señores promotores, we cannot approve your proposal for an urbanisation of 3.000 dwellings and two golf courses, even if it gives the town an increase of 30% in total income, and even if you offer me personally 1 million Euro in black money!” And then turn around and inform 20% of the employees in the town hall that they would be fired and would have to go on the dole….

If such a mayor exists, he should be awarded a medal for civil courage.

The vicious circle will not be broken, unless the present crisis in the property sector develops into a full-blown economical crisis for Spain. The question is also: How many golden eggs are the tourists willing to lay in the Spanish nests?

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Elections of integrations

For many years, the government of Felipe Gonzalez kept the European citizens in Spain away from the ballot boxes in local elections. The excuses were of technical character, but the real reason was that the socialists thought that the vote of the foreigners would be conservative.
A grave error.

It was only when PP came to power that we were permitted to vote. But the real push for a democratic change did not come from Madrid. It came from the European Union in Brussels and from the areas of Spain where our association Ciudadanos Europeos was active. PP thought also that the foreigners vote would be conservative.
Another grave error.

On the 27th of May we will again have the right of voting in the local elections taking place, not in the regional elections performed simultaneously in most of the regions. There are more European citizens registered as voters than any time before. On many of the lists you will find non-Spanish candidates. In several places the European citizens are presenting independent list of Spanish and foreigners.

Felipe Gonzalez: You was the conservative!

And how to vote?
The association Ciudadanos Europeos have never recommended the vote for one particular party on the national level, and we never shall. First of all, we recommend all European citizens in Spain to vote. Secondly we say: Do not vote in accordance with the political ideology you have brought with your from your home country. Such ideologies do not serve in local elections in Spain. Read the programs and listen to the candidates: Will they stop the urbanistic abuse? Will they use the taxpayers money in a responsible manner? Will they promote the integration of the foreigners?

I am very content that several members of the board of the Ciudadanos Europeos are candidates in their municipalities. Tony Cabban will be on one of the first places on the candidate list for the party Nueva Javea, Lenox Napier is on the second spot on the list Ciudadanos Europeos for Mojacar, Eric Svanberg on the third place on the list of PP in Alfax, and Lisa Svoboda is one of the top candidates on the CIBE/BLOC platform in Benissa.

The municipal elections on the 27th will be the elections of integration!

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

200 organisations....

200 organisations……. in the Valencia region called at the end of April to protest marches in the 3 provincial capitals, against the urbanistic policy of the regional government, against massification, abuse and corruption. Tens of thousand citizens rallied to the call.

200 organisations…..mostly local protest initiatives, going against a monster plan that some promoter has paid to get the approval for. The civic uproar against the perverse urbanistic policy in the Valencia region has become a social factor of great importance, not only among smaller groups of foreign property owners, but among the Spanish themselves.

200 organisations….so many and so active that the politicians have to take note. Not the regional government of the arrogant Francisco Camps, that with his tasteless defence of the property promoters and even more tasteless attacks on the representatives from the European Parliament, investigation the abuse has manoeuvred himself into a corner, without escape possibilities.

200 organisations…..instead joined by the leaders of the opposition parties in the regional parliament, greens, nationalists and socialists. The latest Gallup indicates that PP will loose their absolute majority. And the socialist leaders in the region have promised that they will change the urbanistic policy.

Is there a light at the end of the tunnel?

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

"A mountain of debris..."

Most of us can visualize the extremely low-lying land bridge separating the Mediterranean from Mar Menor in the province of Murcia, called La Manga. It is 24 kilometres long and from 200 to 1.500 metres wide, and thousands of houses, apartments and hotel rooms have been built in its sands over the last 40 years.

José Fernandez Pérez, general director for the “Costas”, the body in the Spanish administration controlling and administrating the coastal areas, declared last month, at a conference organised by the foundation Bioversidad about the effects of the climate changes in the coastal areas of Spain:

“In 30 years La Manga will be a mountain of debrise”

The experts estimate that the sea will intrude up to 70 metres inland in certain coastal areas, especially in Galicia and the northern part of the Canary islands, but specially on beaches with fine sands, as the Atlantic coast and the Balearic islands. It is expected that the coast line will change on Costa Brava, the Balearics and the southern part of the Canaries.

Many constructions made along the coast will become obsolete due to the increase in the sea level. The experts point especially to the sea shore from Malaga to Algeciras.

The general director for the Costa concluded:

“If one constructed from one day to another all that is planned to be urbanized on the coast, we shall despair…” He proposed a kind of moratorium to avoid a new permanent development along the Spanish coasts.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Using the periscope

Using the periscope

Probably, not so many have been into a real submarine, pushing up the periscope to get a close view of anything new on the horizon. But most of us
have seen on film the exercise being made.

I use the periscope from time to time (I admit, for the last 3 months I have been mostly in the deep ocean, depending on my radar), to see if there is anything new for the Europeans going to warmer and greener shores and mountains.

And yes, something new has been registered:

- A new tax law, a new state budget and even the rules for application of the new law, that gives the non-resident owners a fairer deal when it comes to the feared capital gains taxes when selling the house in Spain. As a result of a reprimand from the European Commission, the government has reduced the tax rate from the confiscatory 35% to a milder 18. For details, look at the web page of Ciudadanos Europeos.

- After much pressure from the association Ciudadanos Europeos and the European Commission, the government has finally and grudgingly decided to introduce EU directive number 34 of 2004 into Spanish law, suppressing the obligation for the EU citizens to carry a residence card. Instead will be issued a certificate by the Foreigners Office or the police station with a foreigners department (meaning we are still in the hands of the Ministry of the Interior).
We are not completely happy with the solution, and give our comments on the web page of Ciudadanos Europeos.

- I have also observed through my periscope that many Europeans from the north are leaving Spain, for their home country or for new and greener shores in other parts of the world. At the same time, the number of new Europeans buying a home for retirement in Spain has dramatically diminished. This is a trend that may indicate the end of a period.

Periscope down.