29 Sep, 2010 @ 11:00
1 min read

Land grab law may not breach EU legislation

By Wendy Williams

VALENCIA’S land grab law might be legal, according to lawyers in Brussels.

A ruling by the Advocate General in the European court of justice insists that a complaint by hundreds should be ignored.

The matter has come to a head following a complaint by the high profile campaign group Abusos Urbanisticos No, which formed in protest against the abuses of the LRAU and LUV.

The group began legal proceedings more than five years ago, and has convinced the European Commission to take up the case against the Kingdom of Spain over the controversial laws that saw hundreds of expatriate Britons lose their homes.

In their case, the EC stated, that in particular the Valencia region, had failed to fulfil council directives and that the notorious land grab laws had “infringed the Community public procurement directives in various aspects”.

But now, the Advocate General Niilo Jääskinen has argued that key European directives cannot be applied to regional legislation as in the case of the Valencia land laws.

He also added that from his understanding of Spanish, Valencia and EU law, one of the most controversial aspects of the land grab laws – where home or landowners were forced to have their land expropriated or received huge bills for ‘urbanising’ their land – is actually legal.

And while his recommendations are not binding, they have sparked mixed reactions.

According to a statement issued by Charles Svoboda AUN vice-president, the report is “full of errors, omissions and faulty conclusions.”

He said: “We’re surprised and disappointed with the narrow approach taken by the AG and the conclusions he has reached but it’s not the end of the story.

“There is one more kick at the can, in the sense we understand that the Commission now will respond to the AG’s report and recommendations.”

However politicians in Valencia, who have long denied the property abuses, have welcomed the findings.

Juan Cotino, third regional vice president, responsible for town planning said: “It is time for those who collaborated in the campaigns of defamation against Valencia town planning to pay the price.

“They should repair the damage they have done and say sorry.”

Svoboda responded, insisting it’s too early for the Valencia types to declare ‘victory’.

He added: “It is silly for them to do so, given what this process has cost them. They are the ones who should repent.

“It was the application, often quite perverse, of the land laws that did the damage, not those who brought the matters to the EU institutions.”

And in spite of the latest report, the law abuse campaigners have vowed to fight on.

Jon Clarke (Publisher & Editor)

Jon Clarke is a Londoner who worked at the Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday as an investigative journalist before moving permanently to Spain in 2003 where he helped set up the Olive Press. He is the author of three books; Costa Killer, Dining Secrets of Andalucia and My Search for Madeleine.

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  1. A very strange conclusion by the Advocate General of the European court of Justice – that key European directives cannot be applied to regional legislation, such as the Valencian land-grab laws.
    Does this mean that if the Valencian junta legislated to destroy all pensioners retirement homes in the area, the European court would not intervene?
    Or worse still, pass a law to exterminate everyone over 60?
    What’s the point of having an expensive bureaucracy such as the Europen Court if it is powerless to intervene?
    Or is it simply the the A.G. has been ‘nobbled’ by that bunch of crooks in Valencia?
    I’ve only lived in Spain for 5 years but each year reinforces my belief that Spain is not a good country to live in if you are not Spanish.

  2. Good point Tony, the EU seems to have totally got this one wrong, indeed what more could be a breach of basic human rights if you have to demolish or pay for ‘urbanising’ retrospectively?! My bet is that the officials have been nobbled, as you say.

    Where else in the world (apart from Zimbabwe etc) could you be sitting in your totally legal house one minute, and then the next be told you have to knock down half, or all of it to make way for a new road, and that you have to pay for the demolition? Answer: Spain. Unbelievable, but true.

  3. Sorry to disagree with you Tony, that is I don’t find this conclusion or ANY other coming out of the “so-called” European Court of Justice strange? This is par for the course, just what you expect from them and if ever anything was ever wrongly named then this was it because Court of Justice it isn’t ! The whole of this and the rest of the EU is as corrupt as the Spanish Government and Justice System otherwise WE wouldn’t have to write and argue and protest the way we do to TRY to get something done and improved while they continue to line their own pockets!

  4. Torre Vigia faces uncertain future.

    The Torre Vigia has stood sentinel over the town of Campello for over 400 years. But now, having withstood attacks from Berber Pirates, floods and fire, it may soon hear The Last Post.

    Spain´s massively controversial Land Grab Law usually concerns shady deals made between local councils (ayuntamientos) and unscrupulous Property Developers. Instances have included Construction companies building vast tracts of houses on land which, in return for financial inducement, an Ayuntamiento has reclassified as Urban, (the land previously being unusable for building as it had the Rural classification.)

    In other cases, the law has been imposed over property owners who have built without the correct building licences, or in some cases, with no permission whatsoever to construct. The law is aimed at preserving at least some of the remaining coastal land which has not yet been covered in concrete and tarmac.

    The investigative team from http://www.aboutcampello.com has learned that the Ayuntamiento of Campello has been in a secret war with both Regional and National Government, who have been attempting to impose the controversial Land Grab Law over one of Campello´s best known landmarks.

    It is not believed that the Ayuntamiento has commited any deliberate offence, nor accepted any inducement to allow developers to bespoil the area, but simply that the town council has been lax in its preparation and production of required paperwork and certification with regard to repair works carried out on the tower.

    Consequently, for the past 20 years, the Regional Government in Valencia has held, and attempted to impose a court-sanctioned Demolition Order over Campello´s Torre Vigia.

    The tower, (originally constructed to provide an early-warning defence system for Campelleros in the days of attack by marauding bands of Berber pirates in the 16th Century) was rebuilt in 1989, but it seems, without the requisite paperwork for doing so.

    According to the Generalitat Valenciana, such reforms are illegal, with the demolition of the entire building being deemed as both adequate punishment for the transgressor, and to serve as a warning to those who might wish to flout the law in the future.

    Naturally, the Ayuntamiento have pointed out that the tower dates back to the 1580´s, and is of great historical importance in the area, but this appears to have been met with silence as stony as the tower itself. The Ayuntamiento have also stressed that, after 400 years, the tower was in danger of collapse, and repairs carried out were to avoid that eventuality, but that too has been rejected.

    Valencian Regional Government spokesperson Ubetta Maria Doctor-Oravet said today; “It is clear to the Generalitat that the Ayuntamiento have not followed correct procedure with regard to the reformation of the Torre Vigia, and as such, we have been left with no alternative but to order its demolition. We cannot idly sit by and watch local councils bespoil the beautiful coastline of The Valencian Community with these uncertificated development projects, initiated purely for profit.

    The move has been met with worldwide condemnation, with the Ayuntamiento soliciting assistance and support from the various Heritage Organisations within Europe and further afield. The only concrete offer came from McDonalds Restaurants, who offered to turn the tower into one of their hamburger eateries, but this potential stay of execution fell through when it became clear that there would be no space for the Drive-Thru.

    Demolition will be carried out by controlled explosion on December 28th, Dia de los Inocentes in Spain.

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