Expatica news

Brussels backs critical ‘land-grab’ report

28 July 2004

BRUSSELS – A European Parliament committee has backed a highly-critical report by MEPS which condemned the so-called “surreal” land-grab law, it was reported Wednesday.

The Petitions Committee of the EU Parliament found: “The application of the law has brought a grave violation of the basic rights of many thousands of European Union citizens in numerous well-documented cases.”

The report found the land-grab law, introduced in the province of Valencia and copied in other parts of Spain, has allowed developers to rob thousands of house-holders across Spain – both expats and Spaniards alike – of their properties.

The law not only allows developers to expropriate part of an owner’s land or house, but also means that they can, in effect, charge them for doing so.

The “land grab”, as the practice has come to be known, is permitted under the Urban Planning Regulation Law, or LRAU, to use its Spanish acronym.

The law allows land to be confiscated in order to “urbanise” rural areas by adding infrastructure like roads, lighting, water pipes and sewerage.

Threats have, on occasions, accompanied orders to hand over land, whose status is changed by town halls which lift building restrictions by reclassifying rural land as urban.

A campaign group, Abusos-Urbanisticos-No (No to Urban Abuses) is fighting the regional government in Valencia in eastern Spain, which introduced the law ten years ago.

The campaign has spread as other regional authorities have introduced versions of the same legislation.

The highly-critical report by a group of MEPs to the European Parliament committee attacked “serious abuses” committed under the terms of what it called this “surreal” law.

It also condemned the way developers bribe town hall officials and siphon money into offshore banking havens.

Campaigners have also launched a lawsuit in Valencia to recover lost money and may take their cases to the European Court of Justice.

The committee backed the report by 14 votes to three.

European Commission spokesman David Lowe said the backing of the committee meant the claims against the land-grab law were “true and that this institution (EU) will work with those affected” to correct those supposed abuses.

MEPs visited Valencia to see for themselves how the law Works.

The committee’s decision means the issue could be debated in the European Parliament, but before this happens it will have to go back before the committee on 1 or 2 September.

[Copyright EFE with Expatica]

Subject: Spanish news