Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Comments on the Protest

There's been quite a volume of comment so far from the European Residents on the upcoming protest (see following entry). The important thing, of course, is that it is successful. Friday 9th, January: 12 noon in Puerto de Perchena, Almería City. Free buses from Los Gallardos, Vera, Albox and so on. See

Here is a link to video footage of the Priors demolition. Please watch it and at this time of goodwill to all men, see if you can find it in your hearts to support them. You Tube Here is their story, the facts not the fiction, direct from Len and Helen Prior. If none of the above rocks your boat, then ask yourselves, ´what is the value of your home now? Whether your home is legal or not, the housing market is pretty much dead in the water until this situation is resolved. This affects everyone, legal or not, so get out on the streets of Almería on the 9th Jan.

Transportation: Those who wish to travel in chartered buses should immediately contact: or phone 950 069 558


Forums en español



This protest is about much more than the Priors and their disgraceful treatment. Imagine we obtain some compensation for them or that the Junta caves in and apologises... would that be the end of the protest? Total victory?
This is about generalised (and institutionalised) property fraud in a 21st century European state. It's about notaries and mayors and town hall architects and the people from 'costas' and the man from the 'delegación provincial' (Seville's gauleiter in Almería). It's about 'land grab', 'inherited mortgages', unfair re-zoning, sleight-of-hand, trickery and fraud. Thousands of homes are under some blackmail, whether to pay to be regularized or to be knocked down. The Europeans who settle in Spain do so because it's safe. They bring money with them which helps support the small towns where they wish to live. Everybody should win.
When the Junta de Andalucia knocks down a 22 storey hotel in a national park/on the beach, then we can re-consider their policy regarding building.

Here's what the protestors will be handing in to the Junta de Andalucía representative:

Demonstration Almeria City 9 January 2009:

We, the demonstrators, are asking for:

1. Study Commission: That a Study Commission be established, with representatives from the government and citizens’ groups (including those for the protection of homeowners’ rights and ecologists):

- To investigate the serious planning and environmental problems, to draw up a report on the causes of said problems and their possible solutions, as well as recommendations for the future.

- To follow up any measures adopted to resolve said problems, as a consulting body, ensuring maximum publicity of and transparency in all procedures.

- In both the investigation and follow-up, particular care will be taken to respect the following principles: 1) The necessity of full adherence of EU community law and fundamental rights, including those covered by the European Agreement for the Protection of Human Rights and Basic Freedoms as well as the jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights; 2) The true needs of the cities and towns affected; 3) The sustainability of the environment and the need to preserve the historical and cultural identity of the affected areas; 4) That developers, officials and other third parties responsible for these problems should rectify the damages caused in a real and effective manner; 5) The threat of demolition of property acquired in good faith should only occur in exceptional cases and only when previous and real compensation has been guaranteed; 6) The legitimate right of purchasers of property acquired legally must be recognised and criteria established according to Art. 33 of the Spanish Constitution with respect to public and social interest in order to prevent and prohibit that decisions made by local and regional authorities can infringe on personal rights of ownership; 7) When it becomes necessary to compensate the loss of real estate property under any circumstances, such compensation must be made prior to the loss of the property and according to adequate valuations and the laws of the European Court of Justice and the European Court of Human Rights; 8) Any process of regularisation should, as much as possible, be in the form of binding agreements (including adequate guarantees) between those who have caused the irregularities and the various administrations. The above is almost entirely in accordance with recommendations made by the European Parliament in its Resolution dated 21 June 2007 based on results collected during their fact-finding visit to the Autonomous Communities of Andalucia, Valencia and Madrid carried out on behalf of the Committee of Petitions.

2. ARBITRATION: A special administrative commission composed in a similar fashion as the Study Commission and guided by the same principles to be created. This commission should include a provincial public defender, advised by independent investigation services including representatives from the appropriate administrations and from citizens’ groups (including those for the defence of property owners and ecology groups), and with arbitration powers over conflicts related to these problems. The commission should be available to affected parties free of charge (point 12 of above Resolution).

3. MORATORIUM: A moratorium on any pending procedures which could result in the demolition of houses should be put into effect while the Study Commission carries out its work.

4. ELECTRICITY AND WATER: Any house which has been occupied in the past three years should be temporarily permitted electricity and water services until the regularisation process has been concluded.

5. TRANPARENCY AND PARTICIPATION: Notice of any planning or environmental procedure should be communicated individually to all those affected, directly or indirectly, as well as publicised widely, not only limited to publication in the relevant Bulletins (point 10 of above Resolution).

6. PROTOCOL: A protocol should be established related to the precise steps and standardised procedures with regards to the purchase and sales of real estate to individual homeowners, such as those in other EU member states such as the UK which will include:

- The following related certificates which must be issued by the relevant administrative body: 1) Planning; 2) Environmental; 3) Catastral and Land Registry.
- Standardised sales contracts and deeds
- Set deadlines to complete each stage related to property purchases or construction to be required by law

7. CATASTRAL & LAND REGISTRY: Information in these two registries must be identical with topographical documentation in the Land Registry.

8. REAL ESTATE AGENTS: Should be 1) licensed or able to prove that they have passed an examination related to their knowledge and abilities; 2) have adequate insurance to cover all civil liabilities; 3) clearly regulated in their activities.

9. PROMOTERS & CONSTRUCTORS: These must be subject to bonds, guarantees or other insurance to cover any third-party liabilities including from buyers, administrations, for environmental issues, etc. Proof that such guarantees are valid should be required before any property transaction whatsoever.

10. PRIOR FAMILY: The Junta de Andalucia should immediately compensate the Prior family, carrying out any action against third parties which it deems necessary, without the Priors having to undertake any further legal action in order to attain such compensation.

Friday, December 26, 2008

The Protest in Almería City

A year has passed since the Priors’ home in Vera was demolished. Since then, nothing has been done (and less accomplished). Thousands of other ‘illegal’ houses in eastern Almería are under threat from a callous administration in Seville and its offices in Almería. In the past few years, the international community resident in Spain has fallen victim to improper demolitions, arbitrary rules and implementation, property mortgage scams, ‘land grab’, property fraud, corruption and thievery. We have been repeatedly tricked by some of the region's town halls, lawyers, realtors, promoters and notaries.
Spain’s reputation is in tatters internationally because the authorities have failed to act coherently.
It’s time to make the call: the Priors will have been living in a garage without water and electricity for a year on January 9th 2009. They have been offered no compensation and no apology.
It’s time to show support and outrage.

Protest March in Almería City: January 9th 2009

The march is being organised by AULAN (Abusos Urbanísticos del Levante Almeriense - ¡No!)

The organizers, residents in the province of Almería, are holding a peaceful protest: (1) against real estate and planning corruption and insecurity and to ask for justice; (2) to ask for solutions and the protection of purchasers in good faith, some of which, are subject to the threat of demolition, and many of which do not have proper water and electricity; (3) to seek transparency and citizen participation in the regularisation process; (4) against proposed charges the Junta seeks to levy within the regularisation process, and which should be met by those responsible, and to ensure this is guaranteed in writing; (5) to ask for justice for the Prior family, victims of so-called ‘planning irregularities’, whose house was demolished a year ago, and who have not yet seen any sign of redress.

The route will take us to the offices of the Junta de Andalucía’s representatives in Almería City. The march begins at the Puerta de Puchena, will go past the Edificio de la Diputación (Almería County Council) to continue to the Oficina del Subdelegado Provincial de la Junta de Andalucía where speeches (in both Spanish and English) will be made and a note handed to the provincial representative of the Junta de Andalucía, Luís Caparros.

The march has all necessary permissions from the Almería police and town hall.

Thank you for the support of the following citizens movements: AVEP, AULAN, AUAN, AUN, LSOS, Ciudadanos Europeos.

Contact: AULAN secretary ASAP at or phone 950 069 558.

I have been in a few protests in Mojacar, Vera and so on... and it seems that they can have an impact, but it should be clear that a proper 'do' in Almería City should cause some reaction from the authorities, including perhaps a spotlight on the Junta de Andalucia's disgraceful behaviour and lack of concern towards the most basic rights (in the Spanish Constitution) for a decent dwelling.
This has to be a chance to turn things around - important for our community and also for the Spanish, who rely in the small towns of the various coastal provinces on the Northern Europeans to bring in money every month from abroad, to help keep local businesses working and to provide jobs.
It really is worth coming along for this march. Things could just get a bit better with all of our help.
Please drop the 'we're all guests in this country' stuff for one day and try and do something useful and positive!

Friday, December 19, 2008

The Christmas Lottery

It's that time of the year when newspapers offer excrutiating articles about 'The Fat One' or 'El Gordo'... so here's mine (even if it won't go further than a lowly blog).
'The Fat One' sounds to me like the name of one of those bombs the American airforce tossed onto the Japanese sixty odd years ago, and in point of fact, 'El Gordo' is not the name of the Spanish lottery but is merely the slang name for the main prize, a massive nuclear bomb of a thing that has always gone (rather irritatingly) to some well-deserving people from another city or town than one's own. You'll see them on the telly on Monday squirting champagne, well cava anyway, at each other outside some scruffy little lottery shop, screeching with glee and generally looking very cheerful indeed. Fair do's.
When you buy (or are given) a ticket, it's usually a tenth - a decimo - which evidently gives you a tenth of whatever prize that number is due. The lowest prizes are those which end in the same number as the top prize or two, as sung out by the piping voices of the children at San Ildefonso on December 22nd (next Monday) for a couple of hours before lunch. There's not much escaping the veinte cinco meeel doscientos ochenta eee nuevey... dos meellonessss de Euros and so on which booms from every tv set, bar and tranny across the country. There's lots of prizes to be had from the endless five-figure lottery series and participations as they are tunefully bellowed out by the young students or re-printed in every Spanish daily the following morning.
The lotería nacional has been around since 1812 and government lotteries stretch back even further, to 1771, which is no doubt a fine way of making the govt a few extra spondooliks (they pay out some seventy percent of the collection) while keeping José Public in a good frame of mind. It certainly beats giving them cake. Every tenth ticket or better at least gets its money back (which comes in handy to buy the next and second main lottery of the year which is drawn just before Twelfth Night, the Niño Jesús) and some of the prizes are pretty damn good. Lemme see (I'm playing two decimos): the top number wins three million, or 300,000 euros a decimo - and even more if you have the right series and section!
There's a strange and rather dubious lottery running around with the English in one of our newspapers at the moment which claims that, since every tenth lottery wins a prize (i.e. - its money back) you can join a special consortium which buys ten tickets and therefore guarantees you a prize! Do people fall for these things? Do the Nigerians know about this? Never give a dummy an even break!
So, I hope you've bought a ticket and I hope you win a prize. Spend it wisely. I actually hope a bit more that I win a prize, but you already guessed that.

Friday, December 12, 2008

The 'Last Chance to See' Exhibition

There's an exhibition of 24 paintings from the late Fritz Mooney on show at the Mojacar municipal gallery, up below the Castillo in the pueblo, which runs through to the 27th of January (Tuesdays to Fridays 12.00 to 7.00pm, Saturday mornings).
Fritz was born in Scarsdale, New York in 1935, lived in Mojácar and Bédar from around 1968 and died in Almería in 1989. You can see some of Fritz' work at .
But wait, there's more. Three top local artists - Juan Guirado, a painter from Jaen, via Australia, who now lives in Vera is also exhibiting, as are Elena Tiniskaya (The Ukraine) and Isabel Raths (Belgium). Here they are - all looking a bit gloomy - together with Angel Medina the councillor for culture and tourism.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Making up the Spare Bed

Dear Ethel, this may come as a surprise, but Maude and I have decided to return to England and we shall have to rely on you, as our favourite sister, to put us up in your house until we can find out feet again.
I remember telling you seventeen years ago that we were moving to Spain to start a new life and that you would soon be ready to move over and join us. In fact, if it hadn’t have been for the various things which got in the way, I’m sure that you would have been one of the 200,000 Brits that annually leaves the country for better things – or at least did so until this past summer.
Here, things started to go wrong in January 2008 when the Spanish authorities blithely decided to demolish a perfectly legal home, built in a quiet area away from the motorway, the sea and anything else just to prove some vile political point against the local town, which had made the mistake of voting for an independent party. The home, knocked flat by bulldozers, belonged to a perfectly innocent retired British couple which has been obliged to live since then in the adjoining garage which, due to the vagaries of Spanish property law, survived the demolition. No water or electric, of course, and this elderly couple have been ignored ever since. They will have spent a year in their garage soon and while this injustice has been all over the foreign media, with television programs and news articles appearing in England (practically on a daily basis), America, Australia, Germany, Norway and… oddly… even in Zimbabwe, not a word about this unfair situation has appeared in the Spanish media.
Encouraged by this opportunity to lose face internationally, the Andalucian government promoted the fellow who gave the demolition order and we are now told by this same ‘expert’ that there are currently six thousand illegal homes just in Almería alone. How can all these homes – some of them even built in dry riverbeds - have escaped the attention of the local small-town mayors? Guess how many of these ‘six thousand homes’ belong to foreigners (mainly Brits)?
That’s right.
All of them.
The authorities are keen to help. In many cases, these ‘illegal homes’ (often located on ‘illegal urbanisations’ and built by companies with a legal responsibility of 3,000 euros) can be ‘saved’, with the owners putting in the appropriate costs of urbanising the estate – sewage, streetlights, pavements and so on. Others, unfortunately, won’t have the same luck and they will be demolished without, apparently, any compensation. They are talking about 250 of them in the Alta Almanzora (Almería) alone. Meanwhile, a twenty storey hotel illegally built in national parkland and on the beach in Carboneras, condemned personally by the Minister of the Environment several years ago… still stands, mocking the Junta de Andalucía’s building rules.
In fact, it’s a struggle between various different authorities – local, regional, national… the ‘costas’ and the environmentalists – all running on different and arbitrary rules and casual implementation. No one, you might say, is safe.
With the building crisis in full and calamitous free-fall - two million empty homes for sale and no takers – together with hard-to-find mortgages and revaluations, building companies going bust, ‘off-plan’ companies disappearing to South America, the infamous ‘land-grab’ (now in Andalucía as well as Valencia), rampant fraud, double-dealing and corruption, things are getting harder for everyone. For the British, however, the pound is falling, jobs are scarcer than ever and pensions no longer go as far as they once did, with the drop in one’s buying power probably hovering around 50% over the last two years. Despite over three quarters of a million Brits living in Spain, bringing in to the country something like a billion euros a month, providing jobs and keeping the local trades-people alive, the fact is there is no interest, support, help or defence of this group from either the Spanish authorities or, in fact, the British Foreign Office. There’s no ombudsman in Mojácar, Madrid, London or in Brussels. If the Romanians have four MPs and two senators to look after their ‘emigrants’, the same is palpably not true of the British, who really don’t seem to want to have anything more to do with us. We have tried to organise some groups here to defend our interests and support our community (the AUN, AUAN, Ciudadanos Europeos, RBL and others) but it’s an uphill battle. Despite some towns having more ‘Europeans’ than local Spaniards on the town hall registry – it’s a rare town hall that employs a European and a rarer one still that has a foreign councillor.
So the experiment appears to have failed. We have good sun tans, know more about the world than we ever did before, have finally learnt how to cook and can walk through a crowd without saying ‘sorry’, but it is now time to return back to England…
…or maybe move on to somewhere else.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

A Soup in my Fly

I don’t want to sound pathetic here, but – has anybody written a guide to good Spanish hospital cafeterias? Probably not, since there aren’t any. Good ones, I mean.
Well, I suppose they’re not so bad really, if you don’t mind the slight feeling of not wanting to touch anything in case you catch some foul lurgy Unknown to Science. Some of one’s fellow customers leave a bit to be desired as well, with various holes, crevices, bandages, missing bits and strange bubbling sounds all in disturbing evidence at the next table.
I’m an old hand at hospitals, having been – as a ‘compañero’ – in most of the clinics, wards, waiting rooms, operating theatres and cafeterias of the Nation’s crop of hospitals, excluding, of course, the ones in Catalonia and the islands.
I used to take my step-mother (a person straight out of a Grimm’s fairy tale) to the hospitals on regular occasions, often as she needed her stomach pumping after a good suicide attempt; or, at least, if I’d somehow slept through the drama, I used to have to go and pick her up. One time, after a long night of reading War and Peace on the hospital sofa, at a time when the cafeterias still had ashtrays and sold brandy, she appeared in the doorway attached to a drip and after a quick transaction at the counter, came and sat with me at the table and drank her brandy at the same time as the serum gurgled through the tube into her arm. I believe I had the cheese sandwich…
In the old days, before some busybody changed the rules, hospital cafeterias sold booze. In fact, the old hospital in Huercal Overa had the cheapest gin and tonic in the province and all the nearby Brits would do their drinking there. You could, of course, still smoke there until 2002.
I was in the new Huercal Overa hospital the other day (the old one fell down) and a Spanish friend called to say he would be passing through and to meet in the caff. When he got there he said that we should try the ‘other side’ – where the doctors go, as it would be more comfortable. We went in and ordered two brandies. ‘Sorry’ said the waitress, ‘we are only allowed to sell beer and wine now… and anyway… are you two doctors?’
‘Yes’, we said together… ‘Bring a bottle of red’.
Hospital canteens are always – at least in my experience – ‘self-service’ and you can pick up your sopa, tomato flavoured goo and soggy pudding all in one go, together with a Mahou: paying at the checkout. There may not be a TV or any horrible muzac but the assembled diners will certainly put enough noise out to keep even the most jaded person agreeably deafened.
In one canteen in Madrid I know quite well, they do a good pork n’ cheese bun at the bar and another in Murcia offers a nice line in morcilla.
If you can, find a hospital near a good bar/restaurant rather than with one. The exercise does you good and the food’ll probably be better.