Saturday, January 31, 2009

 

The Expat Association

I have received an email from the British Expats Association to the effect that, after a lot of hard work and little support from the Expats (as we seem to like to call ourselves), they have decided to close down. You can find their erstwhile objectives on their site at http://www.ukgovabusesexpats.co.uk. Their first point says it all - To remove the discriminatory culture towards Expats that exists in both UK and Spanish Government Departments.
Neither the British nor the Spanish authorities take much - or perhaps any - notice of the British citizens who live in Spain. The Spanish don't employ us or grant us any rights they can avoid, and the days of the British government sending a gunboat to sort out Johnny Foreigner have long gone.
You are on your own.
In Europe!
And that's the strangest thing of all. We are all Europeans, merely living in a different bit of it from where we were born. And yet, we can't vote (outside of local elections) and we have no champions.
Oh - and judging by the news from the expat association above, we don't even care.
I'll leave out the bit about the endemic fraud - as often as not committed by one Brit against another - and the lack of the offer of any white-collar employment by the Spaniards towards the foreign community, which is now standing at over ten per cent of the entire population (with the honorable exception of a massive number of Argentinian dentists). Here in Spain, we are in cowboy country.
One of the things that the expat association decided to belabour the European Union - acting as God-given Brits abroad - was to make the point that Britons don't have identity cards and it was unlawful for them to have to carry them in Europe! So, while the rest of the European countries carried on as normal - Italy with its police card and France with its Carte de Séjour (police card again), Spain decided to tear up our residence cards - a card which looks like the Spanish ID card, fulfilling the same function and carrying our tax/ID number and used to identify oneself or to guarantee a credit card - in short, a pretty useful document - switching this to the current system which is designed, apparently, to discriminate still further against fellow-Europeans in the 21st century.
Now, we are expected to carry both our passport (our British ID as it were) together with a letter from the immigration authority to say that - we need to carry our passport and that our Spanish ID/tax number is such and such and that this letter is not in itself an identity document, don't you see? Whoops, better not fold it inside your wallet because it'll fall to bits.
In Almería, the gestorias (street lawyers - the citizen's first line of defense against the swollen bureaucracy of the state) reduce the letter to a managable if hard to read size and plastificate it. No news on how legal that is. In Madrid, they give you back your old out-of-date residence card, with the corner cut off, and tell you you can leave your suitcase full of passports and sundry police-documents at home.
Not sure about how legal that is, too.
The Spanish know perfectly well how idiotic this whole performance is, but they explain that, with the huge numbers of new civil-servants which are entering the system (to try and lower Spain's dreadful un-employment figures, despite the evident risk of bankrupting the country) they all need something to do.
You could of course become Spanish, taking out Spanish nationality. Highly visible sports figures manage to do just this in a matter of days (do you remember the Spanish olympic skier who cheated in the winter games a few years back? - Ullrik Von Schtipfelgrüber or some other equally Castillian name - or then there are all those goal-scoring Spanish footballers which strange African looks and a bare smattering of the language), however it takes the normal joe several years to get the same deal. Then again, if we are Europeans, why should we need to become Spaniards anyway? And furthermore in my case, a bit like old Ullrik, no one would believe me if I said I was Spanish - too tall and blond for a start.
So we come to the thrust of the expats and their association - essentially to get the British government to look after those millions of us Brits who have decided to go and live in foreign parts. The government, naturally - unless we send money home or support the British Labour party with generous and regular donations - couldn't give a rat's arse for us. But, we made our choice. This doesn't make us 'expats' or 'exiles' on the one hand, or really 'immigrants' on the other. Somewhere in the middle lies 'émigrés' - those that live happily enough outside their own countries, with little desire to ever return but similarly without much intention of tearfully kissing the local flag.
If only Europe was a proper state (rather than simply a commercial opportunity) then the subject wouldn't arise.

Monday, January 26, 2009

 

El Colectivo Olvidado

I argue here in castellano that the 'Foreign Residents' are undervalued by the Spanish authorities.

Según el Instituto Nacional de Estadísticas, somos 352.289 los británicos que vivimos en España. Deberían de tener razón, ya que el INE nunca está mal informado. ¿Has visto las cifras que publican de vez en cuando sobre los turistas? Son exactos. Cincuenta y dos millones novecientos mil trescientos ochenta y dos o lo que sea (siento escribir que no me he molestado en buscar la cifra)... Da gusto una vez más festejar a los contables y economistas su empeño en sacar números tan exquisitos.
Espero que obtengan su recompensa.
Verás, ya que no hay controles en las fronteras con Portugal o Francia, gracias al Tratado de Schengen (de libre circulación), y como no se pueda controlar a los turistas que vienen a España, por ejemplo, en un coche/caravana, o que pasen sus cinco días (¡de media!) con unos amigos, o los que son de múltiples visitas por negocios, o los pobres negros que llegan por patera de camino a Francia, o los musulmanes con sus coches llenos a tope que pretenden cruzar la península lo más rápido posible en camino a Algeciras, o los que bajan del amarre un par de horas en el puerto de no sé que, resulta que el sistema de control (para sacar estos resultados tan sublimas) está efectuados por los hoteleros.

Los Residentes Europeos

Pero, viviendo en España, somos, insisto, 352.289 británicos de pura cepa. No 352.290 ni siquiera 360.000. Aquí, vamos exactos. Claro, esta cifra viene de los registros de empadronamientos que hay en los municipios nacionales. No incluyen los británicos que han vuelto a su país o que han abandonado España para, por ejemplo, irse a Portugal, ya que, ningún ayuntamiento en el extranjero va a comunicar a su homólogo español sobre un asunto así. Pero, de vez en cuando, algunos ayuntamientos donde “hay demasiados guiris” hacen una pequeña “limpieza étnica” para bajar un poco la amenaza del voto mal-informado. Al menos, esto es la sospecha. Pero, más importante, hay muchos europeos que sencillemente no se molestan en registrarse. ¿Para qué hacerlo? Según el ministerio de exteriores británico, la Foreign Office, hay entre 750.000 y un millón de británicos viviendo en España. Mas del doble de las mejores estimaciones españolas. ¡Figúrese, hay más ingleses aquí en este país que almerienses! ¡Y los españoles sin darse siquiera cuenta del fenómeno!
Como los británicos, también sucede lo mismo con los alemanes, los suecos, los irlandeses y los holandeses. Se lo digo en serio: las autoridades y los del INE no tienen ni idea.
Cada residente inglés, sin ir más lejos, gasta una media de mil euros en este país al mes. ¡Haz la suma! Un millón de ingleses son… mil millones de euros. Todos los meses.
Derrochan todo este dinero, aparte del gasto inicial de comprar una casa, un coche, electrodomésticos y todo el tinglado, además de crear puestos de trabajo, en los pequeños pueblos olvidados, moribundos y maltratados del interior de las provincias andaluzas (y la costa Valenciana, y las islas…) y los autoridades sin tener ni idea.

Turismo Residencial

Que los pequeños pueblos de la provincia, los que no tienen ni turismo, ni industria ni agricultura, se benefician de recibir muchas parejas mas o menos solventes que pretenden jubilarse allí en busca de la tranquilidad almeriense no es de sorprender, ya que se trata de un buen y necesario ingreso en los bolsillos locales, pero que los autoridades no lo sepan, o que ponen trabas - tirando casas y declarando “ilegal” hasta a varias urbanizaciones, o apoyando la compra forzosa de terrenos por razones comerciales (conocido en todo Europa por “the Spanish land-grab”), que hay corrupción institucionalizada, arbitrariedad, pufos, estafas; poblado por abogados, alcaldes y promotores “picaros”, que impere la codicia y el engaño – es sencillamente trágico para los pueblerinos de la provincia.
Lo anterior ha sido noticia en el resto de Europa desde hace un año cuando decidieron derrumbar la casa de una pareja de jubilados ingleses que vivían a gusto en la pequeña ciudad de Vera (que tiene la desgracia, como Marbella y cuantos más, de ser gobernado por un partido “pequeño e independiente”). Esta familia lleva desde entonces un año malviviendo en un garaje, sin agua ni luz. Una pareja de 65 años de edad. Sin compensación ni explicación. El politiquillo progre responsable por haber demolido la casa dice “mis manos están atadas, sólo cumplo con la ley”. ¿Y El Algarrobico?

Perdidas Garrafales

Haber tirado esta casa, y no pagar ni un duro en compensación, está costando a los almerienses cientos de millones de euros en ventas perdidas. Los europeos antes pensaban que en España reinaban las leyes de Europa. Ya no están tan seguros…
En Andalucía, región que gasta (y gracias al INE por contármelo) unos doscientos mil euros diarios en publicidad institucional, es fácil entender por qué los medios andaluces no quieren criticar al Presidente vitalicio Chaves y sus amigüetes por la pésima gestión de los últimos décadas. ¿Quién pagaría los costes de impresión? Los medios europeos sí hablan de aquí, pero los de aquí…
Se trata de la reputación española en el exterior. Empiezo a pensar en gallinas de oro y huevos rotos…
La otra semana, se organizó una protesta en la Ciudad de Almería. Un grupo de ingleses de avanzada edad, interrumpiendo el tráfico, gritando y caminando en sus zapatillas hasta… pero, ¡para ahora mismo! Sin hablar de sus reivindicaciones, tenemos una noticia de sucesos de primera. ¿Una cuadrilla de quinientos jubilados ingleses protestando en una gran ciudad?
Nada. Dos centímetros en La Voz de Almería. Luís Caparros, delegado provincial bla bla… legalizando las viviendas… bendito sea la Junta de Andalucía… etc etc. Unas líneas en El País según lo cual los europeos sueñan con comprar casas “ilegales” ¡porque les van a salir más barato! ¿Quién iba a pensar que los jubilados extranjeros, en busca de la tranquilidad, van a ir a vivir a otro país con tantas ganas de burlar sus leyes y poner en riesgo sus ahorros y últimos años de descanso?
Yo creo que se nos debe un respeto. Los Norte Europeos han traído vida a los pueblos. Mojácar, como ejemplo, estaba muriendo de miseria y pobreza en los años cincuenta. La riqueza que ahora gozan sus súbditos viene todo del exterior. Más de la mitad de este municipio son forasteros – muchos más si estuvieran todos inscritos en el padrón – pero no hay el más mínimo reconocimiento de ellos. No hay ni una calle para honrarles, ni un edificio ni siquiera un banco de madera. Ni Walt Disney – que dicen ha nacido en aquél pueblo almeriense hace un siglo – es recordado con una glorieta o una avenida supongo que por el pecado de tener un nombre extranjero.
Los europeos, ignorados por los políticos y las instituciones, empezamos a sentirnos marginados y molestos. ¡No tiréis nuestras casas!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

 

Not Much Racism in Spain

It always seems to me rather a waste of time being a racist when you live in somebody else's country than your own. If you don't like foreigners (for reasons which you no doubt hold dear but which I find repugnant) then the first thing to do is not go and live somewhere abroad. You may find that your own country is overrun by people with bones through their noses and you should feel free to write letters to your favourite newspaper or join your local equivalent of the KKK and make a fool of yourself every other Friday. But you should re-consider moving to another country. It'll be full of foreigners.
Here's a letter in one of our 'freebies' written by someone who may not have noticed the irony of being a Brit living in Spain:
'I am incensed by the ‘do gooders’ and ‘race-card players’ who are making capital out of Prince Harry’s casual remark that one of his fellow officers was a Paki - which I believe is an abbreviation of “he is a Pakistani”'.
Is that what it means, by Gum.
We all know the paper I've quoted - it's a 'free-sheet' distrubuted among and read by the more home-sick members of the English-speaking community living along the costas. It offers some anodyne pieces of news, plus stuff about Britain, has seven pages of British television (really!) and a weekly article by Leepy Lee which rarely veers from race-hatred in Britain, even though the writer has lived in Mallorca for twenty years or more.
I once asked a British friend over a beer if there were many foreigners living in his street on the playa - 'Oh no', he answered, 'they're all English'. He's lived here about twenty five years and doesn't speak a word of Spanish. He nevertheless has quite a high opinion of them, as long as they leave him alone. 'It's their country', he concedes. Just not their street.
There's no reason to be a second-class citizen here, which many Britons tend towards, with their 'I'm just a guest here' and so on, but it is equally absurd to get ah, uppity, about being somehow superior. Waste of time when you're living in Spain. Innit?
Yesterday, there was a small (and rather embarassing) protest in Madrid by some skinheads and assorted riffraff against the new American president, Barack Obama. I'm sorry... you what?
That's right. Pathetic. So anyway, a girl who is staying with my daughter goes out for a coffee and comes across some idiot who has a swastika tattooed on his neck and 'orgullo blanco' - white pride - thumped in on his bald head. Oh dear, a lunatic. Now, the girl is Spanish, but black. So this idiot starts in on her with insults. she is soon surrounded by a passing gang of South Americans who take her side. Some more Nazis drift into the bar...
Followed by the police.
My mum's cousin was a leading member of the British National Front - our version of the Frente Nacional at one time - and he told my dad (in one of the rare times they met) that the extreme right prefers its members to come from the poor and the uneducated. While there must no doubt be intelligent racists here and there, it appears that they are not welcome in the party. Le Pen, the leader of the French version, says the same thing: 'bring me les petits Français', he says, 'the ones whose jobs are under threat from the immigrants'.
Spain has its Nazis like anywhere else, plus those who remember the good old days with the Generalísimo - Francisco Franco, who, as dictators go, was a reasonably aimiable one. Dentro de lo que cabe - that is, as far as power-mad dictators and their minions can ever be thought to be 'reasonable'. Spain today, where there are over four million 'inmigrantes', plus a large number of foreign residents (me and my pals there on the costa) is surprisingly affable towards its foreigners. There may be a lively institutional racism (you should see our new residence cards) regarding foreigners, who are rarely employed in any white-collar capacity, but we manage, we manage. Just don't try and homologar your papers here, the Spanish will move mountains to fuck you. It's the breaks.
The Spanish reserve their dislike for Jews (for some odd reason) and for Gypsies. While Gypsies have been in Spain since the sixteenth century, they are still thought badly of, and beside producing Flamenco and working with horses, their universaly recognised main occupation is thievery.
It's odd though, since you shouldn't really be a racist, it seems to me, if you live in another country; and if you only got to know your new neighbours then you would perhaps be pleasantly surprised, but we Britons haven't quite caught the message yet. I sometimes ask people who have just returned from a visit to England as to how it was. The first or second criticism (believe me, no one here likes England) will always be something to do with the asylum seekers, the Muslims, the Poles, the foreigners...
But they'll justify it. I return to the letter featured above:
'(The writer is quoting John Howard, a conservative Australian prime minister)"...We opened our doors to you and made you welcome. We have our laws and our customs to which we expect you to conform. If you don’t like our laws and our customs and our way of life, then go home. We are not stopping you.”
If only we in England had some politicians with the GUTS to stand up and say that
.' In England, a letter like this would never be printed, nor probably would it be in Spain in a Spanish paper at least, but unfortunately, there is no one to check the foreign-language free press which is distributed along the costas.
So, if you are thinking of living here, do come. The Spanish will treat you well, although they will probably never come to your bar or your shop, or hire you to work for them. That's the breaks.

Monday, January 12, 2009

 

Peaceful Retirement in Spain

The New Year’s Revolution

Let’s just take a step back for a moment for a better look. The Mediterranean coast of Spain is Europe’s answer to Florida. We don’t have much industry and, until relatively recently, the land wasn’t worth much either. A few people lived here, usually dreaming of a better life. Preferably somewhere else.
In Andalucía, they moved to the industrial areas of Catalonia in the north. They went abroad to Germany or France. Some went further and settled in Argentina or Mexico. Those that remained lived badly and without comfort. Our town of Mojácar in the province of Almería, now an expensive resort with apartments squeezed into every crevice that the planners (and their cousins) can find, used to be a forgotten ruin.
In 1900, there were some six thousand people living in our municipality. By 1960, this had fallen to 600. There was no money, no income. The agriculture was gone with the fall of the water table. Beach-land went for a handful of cents. There were no takers.
Nowadays, we are a wealthy town, built exclusively on foreign income. The local people have become rich. Those that went to Barcelona, or perhaps their sons, have returned. The money has come from tourism (a fickle mistress, where the report of better or cheaper resorts elsewhere can sucker-punch the hotels) and ‘residential tourism’, as the Spanish like to term the relocation of the Northern Europeans to Southern Spain. Most of these settlers are retired and are here for the sun, the (relatively cheap) prices, the security and, above all, the consideration that their new home and their other investments locally are safe.
Which, it appears, they aren’t.
One must remember that Spain was run by the Moors for eight hundred years and was only finally ‘liberated’ (if that’s the right word) the very same year that Columbus discovered America. The last caliphate, Granada, fell in 1492.
So, there is still a very real difference between the Spanish system of doing things and the one more familiar to those Anglos who have moved here to live. Not a problem, we say, and indeed the Levantine Spanish system of laissez faire is superior to our own (the much maligned 'rule of law' or perhaps the strict ‘zero tolerance’ of modern day Britain or America!). Spanish bohemianism versus Northern bourgeoisie.

Until things go wrong.

There are around 380,000 Britons living full-time in Spain, if you believe the Spanish statistics agency (INE), which number is based, unfortunately, on the Britons themselves who have registered themselves as being resident. Many, inspired no doubt by the laissez faire system championed above, simply don’t bother. The British Foreign Office estimates the number of Britons who have left the UK for a new life in Spain, at somewhere between 750,000 and a million. That’s quite a difference.
Then, you can add the Dutch, the Germans, the French, Norwegians and Irish, together with a healthy number of Americans, Canadians and Australians and so on – all living quietly in Spain, mostly congregated in the Mediterranean provinces and the islands. Very nice too.
The Spaniards, as we have seen, have little idea of the numbers involved. They can state with some authority how many tourists come to Spain each year (with numbers supplied by the hotels), but the foreign residents don’t particularly stay in hotels. There are no more border controls with France or other members of the Schengen Accord of Free Circulation, so visiting Spain for most Europeans is about as well-documented as might be a Californian visiting Oregon, or somebody from London going to Manchester. Since there is no direct link between 'residential tourism' and the creation of wealth, there's no ministry or department or spokesperson for this large yet powerless group. There's no one to advise them, help them or defend them. If you don't like it Señor... then there's always Portugal!

Cheap Tourism

Forget the five-day tourism in poorly maintained hotels which clogs up the beaches during the summer months. Most of those tourists pay their holidays in their own countries, where much of the money stays. The hotels, obliged to be ever cheaper to keep their agreements with the ‘tour-operators’, must keep their visitors as close as possible. They won’t encourage their guests to go out and spend their money in the nearby bars, shops and restaurants. It’s a tawdry business where the cost of the staff, as often as not underpaid immigrants from the Third World, works out as the main expense.
The Northern European retirees, if they stay in a hotel, will do so as part of a tour around Spain. They’ll more likely be in the five-star Parador – converted from a castle or a monastery – and located in some historic town of the interior. But more than this, a resident will be here all year long, spending money for 365 days rather than just five (apparently the average stay of a tourist). They’ll not only spend more, they’ll be doing it for seventy times longer in any twelvemonth period! This makes them far more useful (per capita) to the Spanish exchequer.
But, they are more useful still, as they must import funds to buy a house. A car, furniture, clothes and a thousand other things a tourist doesn’t buy. They will generate jobs – builders, painters, gardeners. They’ll keep the local stores and restaurants running. Will the Spanish authorities see this?
It appears not.

Urban Corruption

While there are now many towns along the southern coast where there are more Northern Europeans than Spaniards, the former group has made no effort to acquire power through their money or their influence. Through good old politics. Unlike Miami where over the decades the out-of-towners have eventually wrested control of the city, the foreign residents have made no effort: perhaps because, when you are retired, all you want is some peace and quiet.
Which is where things start to get tricky.
The ‘laissez faire’ thing, together with the lack of political strength of this group, means that sooner or later something will go wrong. It’s not a social problem as the Spanish are easy-going and welcoming; it’s a political problem.
A year ago, a foreign-owned house in Vera, Almería was bulldozed down by the regional authority – the Junta de Andalucía based in far off Seville. It was as if the Texans knocked down a house – just one – in California belonging to a New Yorker. The reason was patently absurd: the house was ‘illegal’ according to the authorities, built with the town halls permission, but without the Junta de Andalucía’s blessings. Oddly, the surrounding houses, with the same conditions, seem to be OK. The family was a retired couple from England, tossed into the street without explanation or compensation. A year later, they are (still) living in a nearby shed, with no water or electric connection.
While this news hit the international media (friends of mine in Miami and Boston separately heard me talking about this on the BBC World Radio), nothing appeared in the Spanish press which – remembering the old Moorish way of doing things – wouldn’t want to upset the financial applecart of truly staggering ‘institutional advertising’ which keeps them both alive and mute.
While it is incomprehensible why the Junta de Andalucía would do such a thing – risking massive investment from abroad for those small communities along the coast which have no industry or agriculture to speak of – they decided to compound the error by declaring an extra 5,000 homes in the interior of the province of Almería to also be ‘illegal’. Homes which, in every case, belong to Northern Europeans. Homes, even urbanisations, which are apparently without the proper paperwork. All of them built by local builders, with the town hall permits in place, the notary public’s signatures, the bank, the lawyers and everyone else’s best wishes and permissions. All these local politicians and professionals, we are now told, corrupt and without honour. These events usually occuring only in those communities run by people from a different political party to the Junta de Andalucía, the PSOE Socialist Workers' Party. Demolition orders, confiscations and brinkmanship are now happening all over the Andalucian autonomous region (the south of Spain). Foreign owned homes in Marbella, in Granada, in Ronda, Jeréz and in Almería are under threat. In the Valencian Region, it’s even worse. There they have a thing called ‘land-grab’ where local businessmen can legally take half your land – for commercial interests – and charge you a massive fee into the bargain.
The Andalucians are said to be intrigued by the idea.
In Spain in this time of crisis, of property surplus and high unemployment, it appears that we suffer from institutional and arbitrary demolition orders, corrupt town halls, bent lawyers and crooked public servants.
So, last week we held a protest in the local city of Almería. Upsetting the traffic and blowing whistles and waving banners, the ex-pat Brits (plus friends) put on their carpet-slippers and their sun-tan oil (the weather is very good here) and hit the streets. We gave speeches outside the Junta’s building and we talked to the press: after all, several hundred elderly foreigners, some even in wheelchairs, clogging up a modern Spanish city, doesn’t happen every day of the week. On the same day, by coincidence, a group of Euro-deputies from Brussels visited Valencia to see for themselves how ‘displaced Europeans’ are treated in Spain. They weren't impressed.
Did the protest make a difference? Once again, the foreign media covered it: once again, the Spanish media barely touched it. Perhaps the Junta de Andalucía took some notice, as their short-sighted policy of disturbing the reasonably wealthy foreign investors here must be costing them (and their voters) hundreds of millions of euros a year in lost sales.
For many of us, living under the threat of losing our house, or having to pay massive extra fees to ‘legalise’ it, or being forced to wait for years in some form of limbo, when one is elderly and retired from an active career, is unnecessary, stressful and unfair.
As for the unfortunate couple who had both their dream and their house taken from them in that callous attack a year ago, they were able to briefly interview the local representative of the Seville government following the protest. Let’s introduce them. They are called Len and Helen Prior. They are both 64 years old and they live in a garage. The creature from the regional government, in charge of ‘public works and housing’, said that he personally felt for them but that ‘the law must take its course’.
Have you ever heard a Spaniard say that before?

Friday, January 09, 2009

 

Press Reactions to Friday's Protest March

Photo: John Bowling


Photo: Helen Baker

It seemed to go well. We were lucky that the weather was warm and sunny (!). We met up at the top of the main street, the 'Paseo de Almería' and I gave some speech in Spanglish to the assembled protestors (and passers by). The 'carpet-slippers and cocoa' protestors (as one of them said), escorted by the police, then took off down the Obispo Orberá and on down to the offices of the Junta de Andalucía's gauleiter in Almería where speeches from various people with land-grab and other problems were made. I read Helen Prior's speech for her ('...sometimes I think that I would rather have been put against a wall and shot than to have gone through with this') as she was in the office of Luís Caparros (he who ordered the demolition a year ago) together with the leaders of the AULAN and AUAN protest groups and their lawyer.
We were told afterwards that 'progress had been made' (which means little) and that we should have a clearer picture by next week. I'll continue to write this up as I get information.
Meanwhile, here's some press clippings. For forum comments, follow 'the usual links' (as below).

Picture: Luís Caparros. Photo by Chris Marshall

In English:
http://almerimarlife.com/almeria-protest-march This is a full article from Chris with photos and video.

Sunday Telegraph Note the last paragraph!!

In Spanish:
http://www.ideal.es/almeria/20090109/local/almeria/cientos-britanicos-almeria-exigen-200901091742.html

http://www.elalmeria.es/article/provincia/320262/medio/millar/britanicos/exigen/una/politica/honesta/proceso/regularizacion/sus/viviendas.html (I like this one - where I apparently say that there are 750,000 Brits living in Almería)


http://www.ideal.es/almeria/20090110/almeria/ingleses-enganados-manifiestan-capital-20090110.html


http://www.teleprensa.es/almeria-noticia-154336-La-poblaci26oacute3Bn-brit26aacute3Bnica-de-Almer26iacute3Ba-se-manifiesta-para-solicitar-justicia-y-transparencia-con-las-viviendas-del-no-urbanizable.html



http://www.europapress.es/andalucia/noticia-almeria-junta-inventariado-60-5000-viviendas-irregulares-almanzora-pide-calma-vecinos-britanicos-20090109180621.html



http://www.elpais.com/articulo/andalucia/calle/casas/ilegales/elpepiespand/20090110elpand_11/Tes

La Voz de Almería (a terrible daily for Almería that doesn't have a proper webpage) reveals today (on Page 26) that there are six thousand 'illegal homes' in Almería province and only Luís Caparros and the peace-loving forces of the Junta de Andalucía can sort out this terrible problem. Oh, and by the way, some English came along to the city and protested. 'There will be more demolitions' said a beaming Sr Caparros, 'but just the necessary ones'. The paper ends by quoting me: '...we don't care who pays for these demolitions, the promotor, the town hall or the Junta, but there must be compensation for the owners'.

... ...

Estimates vary for the numbers - from 200 to 2000 (thanks Chris). As I said at one point, there were many people who were yesterday with us in spirit, or who had sent emails or forum messages of support. I think that in fact there were tens of thousands of Northern Europeans, together with many almerienses, standing shoulder to shoulder with us on the protest. I also believe that there will now be some positive movement from the authorities within a short period of time.
Meanwhile, Almería is losing its repution and its income. Luís Caparros needs to lose his job.

YouTube

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PfrVvgJ0cI4

35 minute video of events at http://www.eyeonspain.com


Joint AUAN and AULAN press release: 11 January 2009

AULAN (Abusos Urbanisticos del Levante Almeriense, No!) and AUAN (Abusos Urbanisticos Almanzora, No!) would like to thank the demonstrators for their commitment and support during the 9 January 2009 march in Almeria.

During the protest, Sr Caparros, the regional delegate for housing and planning, held a private meeting with Len and Helen Prior and representatives of the AUAN and AULAN. Sr Caparrós said that he understood and sympathised with the human aspect of the Priors’ situation, but reiterated that “the Junta (regional government) acted correctly within the law and compensation must be sought from the mayor who issued the license”.

He said that it was the courts that had ordered the demolition of the house, not his department, and that he was “forced to work within the framework of the law”.

During the meeting, the representatives of the marchers said that they considered what had happened to Mr & Mrs Prior and their current situation to be a breach of their human rights. Mrs Prior said they were living in their garage and did not even have a bathroom. She said that they had done everything legally and were forced out of their house with no compensation in sight. Mr Prior asked Sr Caparrós how he would have felt if, after he retired and had spent all his money on a house and done everything correctly, that he found himself thrown out of it. Mr Prior also asked why in the area there were other houses recently built and yet his house was the only one knocked down.

Sr Caparrós did agree that after the AULAN and AUAN jointly broker a meeting between the mayor of Vera and Mr & Mrs Prior, he would speak directly to the mayor of Vera to see if a solution could be found.

He also said that although it was the democratic right of people to protest, he was disappointed that the AUAN had not followed up on his offer of a meeting to discuss the issues. Maura Hillen, representing AUAN, said that after the initial meeting back in September, AUAN had indeed attempted to set up a meeting but had received no response. Sr Caparros replied that there had been no point in holding such a meeting at that time given that there was as yet nothing to report.

The representatives of the marchers stated that they reserved the right to stage further marches.

They will also be making the arrangements shortly for the meeting with Felix López, the mayor of Vera, and the Priors.

With respect to the issues of the Almanzora Valley, Sr Caparrós also agreed with Mrs. Hillen to a technical meeting between representatives of the demonstrators and the Junta in Almeria to discuss progress and steps currently being taken and to be taken in the future to resolve the problems created by planning irregularities. Arrangements are to be made next week.

AUAN and AULAN committee members consider these results to be positive given that the demonstrators rate ongoing dialogue, transparency and consultation with affected parties to be of highest priority. They also believe that if the victims of planning and real estate abuse were kept involved, matters would proceed more smoothly.

Mrs Hillen advised Sr Caparros that the AUAN has submitted an allegation to the Human Rights Council (OHCHR-UNOG) based in Geneva highlighting the failure of the Junta de Andalucia to act in a timely manner with respect to the provision of interim services (electricity and water) to homes caught in the illegality trap. This topic is also tabled for discussion at the technical meeting with Junta representatives.

The issue of “land grab” was discussed, when someone who has bought a property in good faith is later required to give up roughly 50% of their land, is not compensated for the land but forced to pay for infrastructure costs. Sr Caparrós stated that this was the law in Spain. It was pointed out to Sr Caparrós, however, that the protesters considered this practice to be against the human rights of homeowners and that the European Parliament had passed a resolution last year stating the same. Sr Caparrós argued that the law was the law, but conceded that an application could be made to his department on an individual case basis for further discussion.

The Decalogue of the protesters’ demands has been forwarded to the Junta.

Friday, January 02, 2009

 

Street Names

One thing about Madrid - there are plenty of street names to celebrate the memory of the Great and the Good. Those whose efforts during their lives served to make the world a better place, a wealthier place (at least for the family that bears the name in question) or a place in keeping with the politics of the times. Which is why there are so many generals you've never heard of but who, you just know, did Great Things on the Republican side during the Civil War. And why there are practically none of those 'Plaza del Generalísimo' left. Or, for that matter, any statues of the old sod.
I did see one 'Franco Square' in the small granite pueblo of Pelahustán (Madrid province) the other day if any 'progres' are reading this. There may even have been a 'José Antonio' street round the corner...
In keeping with the rest of Spain, in Mojácar, Almería, the town where I have lived for most of my life, there are no street names to honour 'the other lot'. In Mojácar, however, the 'other lot' are the better than sixty per cent Northern Europeans (well, Brits) who live there. Registered on the padrón or not.
There are no streets, avenidas, glorietas, public buildings or anything else to mark the passing of the Brits in Mojácar, whose lolly, sorry to say, must be responsible for 99% of the wealth of the whole community. There's no 'Calle Paul Becket' or 'Museo Fritz Mooney' or 'Avenida Bill Napier' (yep, my Dad). There's not even a 'Glorieta Walt Disney' because you see, although they claim him as a mojaquero de buena fé, he has a 'furrin' sounding name.
There once was a foreign street. When the Mojácar mayor of the day decided to open the pueblo to trash tourism, we were greeted with the 'Avenida Horizon' which stretched - briefly under that name - from the fuente to the Plaza Nueva.
There is another: An alley in the town is called 'Calle Pedro Barato'. It was put there by 'Cheap Pete' himself and no one, so far, has bothered to take it down or re-name it 'Calle de Gibraltar Español' or something equally stupid.
There are lots of place-name streets on the coast. There's a Calle España and a Calle Francia. A Calle Romania and a Calle Ecuador. But not a Calle Reino Unido, Inglaterra or even Europa.
So how about it RosMari? How about pulling the place together with a bit of positive integration?

Thursday, January 01, 2009

 

Strange Pink Buttons

...and a happy new year. ¡Feliz año nuevo!
I'm still in Madrid and have been working here with a small portable PC which a friend has kindly lent me for the duration. The 'portatil' is painted an attractive shade of pink and is decorated with flowers. It has a few - uh - quirks which occasionally send me mad, but we more or less get along. Because, for some reason, it has what 'techies' (frikis in Spanish) refer to as 'open software' - which means it doesn't use Bill Gates' products - I am sometimes presented with odd little things which weren't quite what I expected. I know, a bad workman blames his tools...
Of course if I was clever, I could write my own software and add it to the program (Ubuntu, for those in the know).
In other words, I'll sort out the links in the entry below when I get home...

Later: Now home. Villanous virus on my home PC (thanks to junior family member). However... office computer still works... Links fixed below!

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