martes, 7 de junio de 2011

2011/06/14 SEMINAR EU property Rights and Wrongs

When Tuesday 14 May 2011

Where Brussels.

The European Parliament has encountered a growing number of problems from European citizens who have purchased property across member state borders.

The failure to protect property rights across the European Union has consequences for the internal market, legal affairs and the fundamental right to property.

Using the experiences of academics, practitioners and citizens affected by flaws in the protection of property rights, the seminar will address the current state of affairs, and look at some practical steps, which might form the basis for future European solutions.
Anouncement in ALDE.EU
European Property Rights and Wrongs; the role of the EU in protecting the right to property DRAFT

ALDE seminar hosted by Diana Wallis MEP Vice President of the European Parliament and Ramon Tremosa MEP


Introduction by Diana Wallis MEP ALDE:

Citizens of the EU have embraced the freedoms to move and settle and own property in other countries, enriching economies and cultures, has the EU supported this freedom with protection ? How can we work together to ensure citizens are informed and protected in purchasing property, embracing the opportunities of a true EU citizen and bringing closer ties between all EU nations ?

There are high profile cases which highlight some of the pitfalls that can be encountered when purchasing property cross-border, our intention is place these cases in the wider context of the aims of the EU market and economy and goals for legal and consumer regulation.

• We will hear from a citizens’ pressure group formed following issues with regional governments in Spain

• We will review the current mixture of codes and protections that already exist

• We will imagine what a true EU property law might look like

• We will consider the aspect of Human Rights legislation,

• We will hear from practitioners who have encountered conflicts of laws situations and reflected on cultural expectations of legal processes

• The European Land Registry project will give us hope for tangible gains in co-operation across jurisdictions presenting an update on their work and aims

Ramon Tremosa i Balcells MEP ALDE

Mr Tremosa will discuss his role as an MEP from a region which has been involved in some high profile property rights problems. He will outline some of the common problems, as well as his efforts to seek action in the European Parliament, on behalf of citizens and residents of his region.

Speaker from Action Group

Will outline the type of cases that can be listed according to type, permits and regional red-tape, retrospective legislation changes, inaccurate or negligent professional advice, misunderstanding of legal environment, lack of access to information etc – putting the problem in a human context and also looking at the interactions to date with EU institutions

Dr B Akkermans and Prof S Van Erp Maastricht University

Will review the landscape of EU law and how it impacts on a purchaser:

Consumer protection, timeshare, mortgages, estates and succession, Conflict of laws, relevant human rights angle, full review of current picture

Prof P Sparkes Southampton University

Will look towards a European Land Law, is it necessary, is it desirable, is it possible ? Where are we at now and how did we get here ?

Building on the best transactional models, how to lead this project to promote excellence in professional standards.

Andrew Walker QC Maitland Chambers

Will reflect on cases he has encountered where the cultural dimension has been as relevant as the purely legal. He will consider the need for procedural certainty and greater access to reliable information and how the EU may assist with this.

Alonso Landeta Secretary General ELRA

Will discuss the ELRA project, it’s ambition and impact and how this model could become a catalyst for change in transactions.

Practitioner tbc

Will speak from experience of cross-border issues and illustrate with examples some of the practical difficulties and how the EU could move to impact on these.

Diana Wallis MEP ALDE Vice President of the European Parliament

Closing remarks

martes, 29 de marzo de 2011

Conference in Valencia on the Abusive Aplication of the Spanish Coastal Law

    Ley de Costas   :-  Expropriation  without Compensation

Where:-    Valencia

When:-      Friday  15th  April 2011

Come to Valencia to support the  rejection of the retroactive and arbitary application of the Spanish Coastal Law. 
  We demand respect for our legal property rights held before the introduction of the 1988 Ley de Costas

More details shortly     

lunes, 28 de febrero de 2011

The beginning of the end of the Spanish Coastal Law

The law that protects the coastline is threatened by five bills - Nearly 23 years after its adoption, the groups affected are claiming victory.

El Pais  22 Feb 2011   Rafael   Mendes        ( translation   Google / Cliff Carter)
The Coastal Law ( Ley de Costas) is injured, perhaps mortally wounded. It may fall this year or the next. Perhaps the parliamentary term will run out before the legal changes, that aim to undermine it, are set up.. But that's not the most relevant point.
The wave of protest against the law, passed in July 1988, plus the pressure to maintain the occupation of the coast, is so great and comes from so many fronts, that it will fall sooner rather than later. That is at least the impression of environmentalists, the people adversely affected by the law, and most of the political parties.
The collection of legislation in place to amend the Coastal Act is broad. Some initiatives do not have much depth, others are very specific, but together they reveal the pressures that the Coastal Law is under.
In December 2008, the Ministry of the Environment used the Maritime Act (Navigacion Maritima) to try to allow any houses that were built legally on the beach, before the 1988 regulation, to be bought and sold. This reform is still “stuck” in the parliament.
The Ombudsman criticized the opacity of the process, but the technique was repeated. In August came the Law of Ports (Puertos) , which eased the conditions for turning lighthouses into hotels and restaurants.
There's more: the Socialist government ( PSOE) has used the Coastal Act as a bargaining chip with the Basque Nationalists (PNV) by using the Law of Sustainable Economy (Economia Sostenible) to support an amendment to reform the Hydrocarbons Law (Ley de Hidrocarburos) thereby elongating the concession to a refinery in the public domain. The goal is to allow the refinery Petronor, installed in the marshes of Muskiz (Vizcaya), whose concession expires in 2012, to remains in place after that date. Petronor´s president, the former leader of the PNV, Josu Jon Imaz, took months looking for ways to circumvent the Coastal Law
In the working groups to draft a Law on the Sustainability of Cities (Sostenibilidad de las Ciudades) , under the Secretariat of State for Housing, they considered the possibility of relaxing the law in order to make the stock of housing on the coast more attractive to foreign buyers , according to sources close to the negotiations. However the law will not include any step in this direction, according to a spokesperson for Housing.
Pedro Antonio Ríos the Director general of the Coast ,in the Ministry of the Environment, is not comfortable in justifying these changes: "Changing the Coastal Act through the Sustainable Economy Act does not seem rigorous , I think it would be better to say directly what you want to do with the law. " Rios, with lots of parliamentary experience, calls for a distinction between his work (in the coastal department) and the acceptance of reforms by the PSOE
"The costal department has not made any amendments, it will have been the parliament. If it is done to get the budget approved it seems good to me. "
Rios argues that we should not exaggerate the controversy: "94% of the implementation of the Coastal Act has been effectively done and now we must solve the remaining 6% as we will do according to the agreement. We do not alter the application of the law to such situations, we manage it strictly in terms of the territory. "
Environmentalists complain that " some of those who defend the Coastal Act are driving amendments through the back door in order to exempt factories", as summarized by Pilar Marcos, in charge of Coasts at Greenpeace.
The opposition goes further. PP (conservatives) and CiU (Catalan nationalist) talk openly of changing the standard. In the eight years of the PP government they applied the law without reforms. Both parties introduced bills in Congress in Autumn 2010 and lost by one vote in the Committee on the Environment.
The PSOE rustled up enough deputies to knock the bills down.
But the struggle did not end there. On 9 February 2011, the Senate approved two bills to consider amendments to the text.
CiU proposed the exclusion from the law of something they called "navigable cities," referring to the Marina of Empuriabrava, on the coast of Girona, a development with private moorings next to the villas, and also to maintain some urban areas outside the scope of the law.
The PP managed to get approval for another proposal to compensate the owners of factories built in the public domain before 1988. The PP, which for years has criticized the application of the law, has now moved on to challenge the law itself. According to the PP spokesman for the environment, Carlos Floriano, his proposal is "to open clear paths in order to solve problems that affect many Spanish citizens and thus to overcome the legal uncertainty."
The two proposals must now go to Congress to be discussed , but there the CiU and the PP will find it more difficult than in the Senate to get a majority. It is possible that the initiatives will fizzle out without prospering.
The spokesperson of the PP in the Senate, Leticia Diaz, said on the podium: "The wording of this law allows arbitrary application, it is fraught with indeterminate legal concepts." The law does not set a distance to define the public domain, but uses geographical concepts such as beaches, "the limit to where the waves reached in the worst known storm, the marshes, swamps and estuaries. "
Houses legally constructed in these areas before 1988 receive a concession for 30 years, extendable to 60, as a unique case of expropriation that the Constitutional Court upheld in 1991. The initial period of concession that was seen as non extendable, begins to expire in 2018. Owners already feel the imminent risk that their property will belong to the state and that they may be demolished.

Jose Ortega, a lawyer and spokesman for the National Platform of People Affected by the Spanish Coastal Law PNALC , is convinced that there is no going back: "When we started in 2007, it seemed that this was a battle of señoritos (middle class dandies ?), but we have shown that it is not . We'll have to see how the law will be reformed , but it is only a matter of time.
We do not want construction all along the coast, but that citizens individual rights are respected. "

Some of the autonomous Parliaments are waging their own war. Canaries and Galicia passed their laws against the state legislation. The ministry appealed to the Constitutional court on both occasions. The same announcement of appeal followed another Galician law, but finally the appeal was rejected after an agreement was reached with the regional government.

Why now? Why a law in force for more than 20 years suddenly gets such a direct attack? Ortega argues that until 2004 the law was applied with, what he defines as, “common sense”. He claims that it was the arrival of the PSOE government and of Cristina Narbona to the Ministry of the Environment, which changed everything, in applying the law with such force.
The numbers show an increase. Between 1988 and 2003, they defined 4,659 kilometres of coastal public domain -the procedure to separates the public and private area of the coast is called “deslindar”,. Between 2004 and 2010, they defined 3,880 more kilometres, according to figures from the PSOE. They have now defined 95% of the coastline and the forecast of the Ministry of the Environment is to reach 100% by the end of the legislature.
Rios criticizes the PP and the CiU " they are trying to cleverly alter the law." "The (CiU) want to create something amusing , “navigable cities”, so as to look good in Empuriabrava (Cataluña). And the PP wants to keep private areas in the public domain, a concept prohibited by the Constitution."
The law is undoubtedly controversial. It is hard not to sympathize with those who have purchased a beach house without the notary nor the bank nor anyone else warning them that it could be in the public domain. After the Coastal department’s involvement they discover that they can not sell the property. Many of those affected are foreigners, mainly British and German, and their complaints have led the European Parliament, United Kingdom and Germany to criticized the coastal law. Sufferers claim that Spanish beaches are dotted with hotels, eg the Algarrobico whose exploitation has been stopped over the last five years by an appeal from environmentalists, while their chalets are expropriated.
Rios admits that there are problems with the registration of houses on the beach that never should be able to get the papers: " Yes, there has been property registering on the coast, but not only the coast, also along the rivers. It is true that we have not had the instruments that we should have had. " The Government intends that the land registry should includes coastal public domain data, yet only four provinces have it, "something that a European can not understand.
Pilar Marcos, of Greenpeace, downplays the controversy: "There is a lot of noise. They say that there are 1,500 or 2,000 people affected in Spain. Assuming that is so, that is very few people against the population of the country. Something that does not justify devaluing the law. "
Rita Rodriguez, a lawyer for the NGO WWF, which has won significant litigations against the Coastal Department has a similar approach: "The law seeks to prevent acts of privatization of the sea shore by only allowing occupations that are temporary. Available free land is coveted But that does not mean that we should yield to pressure. People fight to defend their own property, but the vast majority do not comes to defend public property.
" WWF won, in the Supreme Court, a lawsuit against the dumping of residuals by Fertiberia (Huelva and also in 2007 the same court overruled the decision of the Government to build a macro industrial estate on public domain in “Las Alertas” (Royal Port, Cadiz). The sentence has not stopped the socialist executive, it is now preparing a new report to resume work.

Proponents of the law see another cloud: the transfer of powers to the autonomous regions. Catalonia was given the power in its Statute and so was Andalucia. The notice of transfer of competencies to the Junta of Andalusia immediately buried the dispute over the demarcation of the Doñana National Park, which the Coastal Department, under Elena Espinosa, ran in the most protectionist way possible.
Rios defends the transfer: "It is reasonable to expect that the co-decisions will function in all communities but in different ways." The general director defends a management approach based on reaching agreements with mayors and departmental directors and although it is contrary to a legal reform, at this point in time : "The law is not exhausted but has fulfilled a stage."
In the Coast Department of Granada professor Miguel Angel Losada disagrees: "They do not want to face the problem, they prefer to dilute it by giving powers locally, where it is always harder to bring order to the coast. This is a law that should be managed nationally from a distance. all Spanish people will lose by not dealing head on with this complex situation. "

miércoles, 16 de febrero de 2011

2011/02/16 Environment Ministry gives way to the Xunta over Coastal Law in Galicia

Typically Spanish - Spain News : Northern SpainBy h.b. - Feb 16, 2011 - 4:32 PMIt follows a challenge to a regional law passed last year

A long running dispute between the Ministry for the Environment and the Xunta de Galicia has reached an end with central government finally withdrawing an appeal it had launched against a regional law which they had claimed to be unconstitutional.

The regional law concerned was passed in the Galician Parliament in February last year, intended to legalise homes, of no more than two stories high, which had been built before the Ley de Costas in the town of Marín, Pontevedra, and elsewhere. However Elena Espinosa, previous Environment Minister considered that the law invaded what was central Government responsibility and made the challenge. The new Environment Minister, Rosa Aguilar, has however withdrawn the objection.

Greenpeace has criticised the new minister for being ‘even weaker than Espinosa’.

It follows a similar understanding between the Ministry and Andalucía, granting responsibility for the coast to the regional administration. That has been harshly criticised by Greenpeace who note that now the Junta has control over the country’s most important stretch of coastline, the Doñana nature park.

Director General of Costas, Pedro Antonio Rios, commented however that the granting of responsibilities to the regions cannot be universal but he has admitted that such matters were better managed locally. His words are a departure from previously centralised comments from his department.

Read more:

viernes, 11 de febrero de 2011

Spanish Senate votes to reform the Ley de Costas Coastal Law

The two proposed ammendments will now go back to Congress for debate and possible approval
The Partido Popular and the Catalan Party CiU have managed to approve a reform of the Ley de Costas Coastal Law in the Senate.

The law has hardly been changed since its launch in 1988, but now the Senate has approved two amendments which will have to be debated in Congress. A previous attempt at reform failed by just a single vote, when debated in the Environment Commission.

Those demanding reform say they want to protect small individual property owners on the coast, while the ecologist groups are insisting that is a step against the protection of the coastline.

CiU say that they want to exclude from the law all the areas described as ‘navigable cities’ and consolidated individual urban areas along the Catalan coast at La Marina d’Empuriabrava, Canales y Urbanización de Santa Margarida and the Playa de S’Abanell.

The Partido Popular contend there has been an ‘irregular application’ of the coastal law which has left thousands of citizens without compensation.

The Government answers the criticism by saying the Constitutional Court has already backed the expropriation process used by the law and served on homes built legally on the beach before 1988, giving them a 30 year concession of use, extendable to 60 years.

The PP proposal would see such owners being allowed to keep their properties on the beach, and would entitle them to compensation should the state want to demolish their homes.

Greenpeace and the WWF have meanwhile voiced concern that the PP and CiU want to extend the privatisation of the coastline, defined in the Spanish Constitution as being ‘public domain’.

The European Parliament and both the British and German ambassadors have criticised the law as abusive.

Read more:

viernes, 4 de febrero de 2011

2011/02/04 I have been asked by ITV in the UK to try and find some people affected by the LEY DE COSTAS.

In particular, ITV are keen to speak to someone who has moved over to Spain and bought a property that they then found to be illegal or liable for demolition because it transgressed the LEY DE COSTAS.

Could anyone who would be prepared to speak to ITV please forward their details to

viernes, 9 de julio de 2010

Spanish parliament to debate infamous Ley de Costas, or Coastal Law

The Ley de Costas has failed to protect the coast Posted on July 9, 2010 by Mark SPANISH PROPERTY INSIGHT Spanish parliamentarians will debate the infamous Ley de Costas, the bane of many holiday-home owners, for the first time since it was introduced in 1988. Finally, a political initiative from Spain’s regional political parties that makes some sense. The Coalición Canaria (CC) party from The Canaries has drummed up enough support from opposition parties such as CiU, a regional party from Catalonia, to debate new proposals to water down some aspects of the Ley de Costas. When introduced in 1988, the Ley de Costas, or Coastal Law, nationalised the entire Spanish coastline at a stroke, expropriating hundreds of thousands of properties without compensation. (Read briefing on the Ley de Costas – Spanish Coastal Law) The law was meant to protect the coast – Spain’s key tourism asset – from over-development, and make it accessible to all. But thanks to muddled thinking and terrible implementation, the law utterly failed to protect the environment whilst causing misery for tens of thousands of small property owners, many of them Britons like Heather and Jeremy Taylor. In response to the outcry from owners, Coalición Canaria propose reducing demolition threats hanging over many of the properties built on public land, even if built after the law was introduced in ’88. They also want to introduce subjective criteria such as architectural and historic values when evaluating property built on public land, whilst transferring more decision-making powers over demolitions to regional authorities. All of which would make demolitions far less likely. The moderate Catalan nationalists CiU want to revise the boundary criteria in built up areas like the Santa Margarida urbanisation (Roses, Girona), and the Empuriabrava Marina. They also point out that many of the victims of the law are foreigners who were unaware of the risks when they bought homes on the coast in good faith, resulting in international condemnation for Spain. The biggest opposition party, the PP, have not yet decided what they will do, but seem open to the debate. “People have come to regard as sacred this law that has failed to achieve its objectived, as in the 20 years since it was introduced the coast has suffered the greatest damage,” Carlos Floriano, the PP’s environmental spokesman, told the Spanish press. “It hasn’t managed to reconcile the environment and respect for private property. Many people’s rights are being violated by its procedures.” The Greens are against any reform of the Ley de Costas, despite its utter failure to protect the environment. On this question they seem more concerned with ideology than actually protecting the environment. For its part the Government, run by the PSOE socialists, opposes the proposals, though for the time being it has stopped implementing the law as rigorously as before. When will this debate take place? I’ll let you know. SPANISH PROPERTY INSIGHT