26 Jun, 2007 @ 09:01
3 mins read

European Parliament slams “urban abuse” in Spain


Michael CashmanMEPs want change in Spain’s Constitution to protect individual property rights

LOCAL authorities in Spain adopt a “Wild West” attitude towards construction while giving excess powers to property developers.

That is the position of Brussels after the EU reiterated its stance against construction abuse in the country.

In a sitting of European Parliament in Strasbourg, 327 MEPs voted for a resolution condemning huge scale, unsustainable urban projects in Spain, that “bear little or no relation to the real needs of local populations.”

There were 222 votes against and 35 abstentions.
MEPs voiced their concern over individual property rights that, in some cases, sees legally bought homes declared illegal and sometimes demolished.

This is the case in the Almería town of Albox, whereby homes bought by mainly British expatriates are facing demolition after it was discovered they were illegally built (Nightmare in the sun as home dreams fall apart).

The region of Valencia was also singled out for its controversial land grab laws, which can see up to 10 per cent of a person’s property expropriated to make way for new infrastructure.

Brussels has received more than 15,000 petitions from victims of the Valencia land grab.

The resolution concluded that changes in article 33 of Spain’s Constitution should be made to offer individuals greater property rights.

The resolution came after a fact finding mission to Spain by MEPs Michael Cashman and Marci Lipicki from Poland.

Their report, which is summarised below, painted a bleak picture of the rampant construction seen today around Spain.

“I remember a meeting I attended in Alicante for the victims of the land grab. Not only were there North Europeans in attendance but Spaniards also.

“One local man approached me in tears, and asked me how developers could take land away from him that had been in his family for generations.

“I had no answer,” Cashman told the Olive Press at the time the report was published in March.

Besides the two authors of the report, the resolution was backed by Spanish EU representatives: the two PSOE members Joan Calabuig and Carlos Carnero, Willy Meyer (Izquierda Union) and David Hammerstein (Los Verdes).

The resolution, however, was criticised by some Spanish MEPs, claiming it “undermines national competences.”

“This is an invasion of national competences without precedence in European Parliament. It seeks to substitute Spanish parliamentary decisions and even our Constitution,” said MEP Carlos Iturgaiz, who represents the PP for Valencia in Europe.

Valencia was one of the three regions singled out in the original report, the others being Andalucía and Madrid.

Cashman hit back at the Valencia politicians for their criticism of the resolution and report: “The think it is a leftist plot, even though the co-author of the report is a member of Poland’s right-wing government.

“Quite shamefully, they claimed the thousands of petitions the EU has received about the land grab laws are imagined.”

After their fact-finding mission to Andalucía, Madrid and Valencia, MEPs Michael Cashman and Marcin Libicki wrote a scathing report on corruption and rampant construction in Spain, part of which is reproduced below

MANY European citizens in Spain have become victim of rampant urbanisation programmes that provide privilege and wealth for the developer and deny individuals their rights.

In a large number of documented cases, town councils have concocted urban development plans less because of their real requirements related to population growth and tourism, but because of what often appears as their greed and avarice.

Hillsides are invaded by a cancer of identikit dwellings, not because they are needed but because they provide a profit for the builder, for the architect and the lawyer.

There has been much migration to the Mediterranean during the last 20 years, either to begin a new life or retire.
There has been an unprecedented economic bonanza in the building industry as rural areas have become urbanised.

Numerous Spanish building companies are now found on the lists of the world’s wealthiest people.

At the same time, many buyers of perfectly legal and legitimate homes have become vulnerable to the sort of housing developments generated by Spain’s housing laws. These have created situations in which a family home may be no more solid than a castle made of sand.

Many have become the victims of the land grab laws – particularly in Valencia, which oblige them to give up to 10 per cent of their land without compensation. Ostensibly for ill-defined purposes, they must then pay tens of thousands of euros for the new infrastructure to go onto their land.

Many homeowners may not even be aware their homes are in jeopardy until the earth movers arrive.

Village residents suddenly find the population of their rural community is multiplied out of all proportion as a result of the ambitions of small-time mayors, attracted to the siren call of property developers.

More and more European citizens are buying property in good faith only to learn that, having paid their lawyers, estate agents and builders, their homes are branded illegal.

They have become the victims of the ruthless town halls, which knowingly approve new construction on land not officially certified for that purpose.

The citizen becomes the culprit; the municipal authority a passive go-between, the regional government has no responsibility and the national authorities claim they cannot interfere in spite of EU law.

This is the Europe of freedom of movement, freedom of goods and services, freedom to exploit with impunity.


  1. The irony is in the article’s statement:

    “The resolution, however, was criticised by some Spanish MEPs, claiming it

    “undermines national competences.” ”

    The truth is that local Spanish politics

    ‘underscores national incompentences.’

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