Josep Melià, the parliamentary spokesman and leader of the El Pi party. | M. À. Cañellas

Alarms bells are ringing in the international Balearic real estate sector after Josep Melià, the parliamentary spokesman and leader of the El Pi party, recently managed to get the Balearic Parliament to accept proposed limitations on the purchase of homes for those who have not lived in the Balearics for five years, a measure designed for non-residents, be they foreign or from the mainland, who have a second home on the islands.

Hans Lenz, president of the Balearic Association of National and International Real Estate Agents (ABINI) and director of Engel & Völkers in Mallorca, reacted by stating that the proposal “has gone down like a nuclear bomb.”

But Melià told the Bulletin this week that there “is no need for people to get nervous”.
“We are a party that defends the Balearics and is committed to the interests of the people of Mallorca, Minorca, Ibiza and Formentera and we consider, we believe, that the proposal is a positive one for the region - but it is just a small part of a much larger debate which the region needs to be having.

“It is by no means racist. We welcome everyone who lives in Mallorca, wants to come here on holiday and settle here, be they Mallorcans, from the mainland, the UK, Germany or anywhere else in the world.

“But when the National Statistics Institute is forecasting that the population in the Balearics could grow by as much as 300,000 over the next 15 years and continue expanding, action needs to be taken to prevent this from happening. We all love Mallorca but we have to protect it from becoming saturated, overcrowded and collapsing under the weight of mounting human pressure.
“This is obviously by no means aimed at tourists and what we are proposing will not infringe people’s right to free movement in the European Union.

As a party we want people to come and visit Mallorca. We love the people who come but it’s high time we have a proper grown-up debate about the direction in which Mallorca is going. It’s a large problem and our proposal is just one of many which we would like to see put on the table for discussion.

“Perhaps the 300,000 over the next 15 years is a slight exaggeration, but if the population is allowed to continue growing at such a rapid rate, where will we be in 70 years? We don’t want Mallorca to become the next Hong Kong.

“As it is, we have long waiting lists in the public health service, water restrictions being introduced during the summer, gridlock on the roads and a struggling public transport service. We need to think why we all love Mallorca, why we have chosen to live here and how best to protect the quality of life we enjoy. Why do people from northern and central Europe want to live in Mallorca? Because it’s a beautiful location with plenty of open spaces and a wonderful environment and lifestyle and we want to protect that. We believe that a balance has to be found as we move forward.

“Granted, the Balearics does not have the power to introduce any such requisites, these currently lie with Madrid, but we should have more powers to not only control population growth but also the airports and ports, for example, and that is why we are recommending that the Balearics lobbies the European Union to introduce a special law for the EU insular regions, the islands which are extremely fragile and need special protection.

“We are not talking about prohibition, far from it. What we’re proposing is having sustainable controls so we can manage Mallorca and the Balearics in order to ensure that all of the people living here and those wanting to move here can continue to enjoy all the delights of Mallorca.
“We’ve already lost so many traditional and historic establishments and that lowers the quality of life - it’s time to put the brakes on certain things.

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“Plus, and I know it’s not the only reason, but it is certainly part of the problem, the foreign property market is pushing house prices up so high. Investors from northern and central Europe have much more spending power than Mallorcans, Spaniards even. They have better jobs and higher wages so they can afford more expensive property prices. But the locals, in particular young people, cannot, and this is having an impact, not only on the quality of life of younger generations but also the labour market - people coming to work in the Balearics cannot afford housing while those who have grown up on the island cannot afford to get onto the housing ladder. It’s a very difficult situation but one that needs to be addressed, like I said, and I can’t stress it enough - we need to find a balance and draw up a plan for sustainable future,” the El Pi parliamentary candidate at the forthcoming May elections said.

“European regulations must be changed. That is why in our motion, and this is the most important point, we urge the European Union to apply a specific regime for island territories.
“This is a medium-term proposal and requires changes in European legislation so that island territories have room to solve specific problems.

There is the precedent of Finland and Denmark. When these countries joined the European Union they included in their accession treaties that the island exception be taken into account. And those countries have islands with sales restrictions. And that happens in free market, civilised, capitalist Europe. We are a fairly liberal party and it is clear to us that the free-market system is the system that governs us. However, our system has mechanisms for when imperfections occur.

“There are mechanisms for when imperfections occur. That’s why there is a market and competition commission, to correct imperfections that occur in the market. If one of these imperfections is overpopulation in the case of the Balearics and this prevents the right to access housing, blurs the right to education, affects health and social cohesion, we must find systems to correct it. We must pay attention to the uniqueness of the islands and improve financing.

“This why we consider our proposal a positive one for Mallorca and the Balearics in general. We are looking out for the general well-being of everyone who lives here and is planning on moving here. People who want to live in a place like Hong Kong are not going to come to Mallorca, we offer a much more relaxed, healthy, comfortable way of life and we want to protect and preserve that for future generations and for the good of the island.

“There are other issues such as eradicating poor quality tourism establishments, they could be transformed into more accessible housing for young people, for example, and we need to address the matter of illegal immigration. People living in the Balearics should be legal residents and pay into the system; it’s only fair on everybody else.

“So, we need to address this global matter with a positive objective.
“As a party, we are not divisive. We are a central, modern and I like to think relaxed party which believes in looking after Mallorca and all of the people who live here, wherever they may be from. We believe in the common good for all and, unlike the traditional parties like the Partido Popular or the PSOE socialists, we don’t believe in forming pacts with extreme parties on either side of the political divide. We stand for common sense and clear thinking and that is what we are trying to encourage other parties to take on board,” he said.

Melià recently expressed his “enthusiasm” and “strength” to lead El Pi’s list for Parliament.
“It is time for change because Mallorca and the Balearic Islands need a party from here that defends that the maximum number of decisions that affect us are in fact taken here.
“Balearic politics cannot depend on extremists who either want to ban everything or want to put an end to our way of being and our ability to decide.
“We want common sense, tranquillity and to be able to defend the rights of Mallorcans and the Balearics.”

“In the face of increasing polarisation and extremism, we need a party like El Pi, a party in the centre, which is well positioned in the middle of the political chessboard and which moderates the policies of the two blocs.
“We are not part of any bloc. The PP and PSOE have become more and more extreme in their policies, and we need a moderate party that avoids the extremists.
“Now, with a complex situation of inflation and war in Europe, we need a party that governs with common sense, without stridency or magic solutions that do so much harm”, he added.

“(The Balearic President) Armengol has been in government for seven and a half years and she has not achieved any of the goals set by her government. There is tiredness and exhaustion with so many promises and so much empty propaganda and annoying prohibition. Time is running out. It is time for change, a change that El Pi-Propuesta por las Islas wants to lead from its commitment to these islands,” he said.