Cala Mondragó, where the beach bar is going. | M. Cladera

As of July 1 next year, the Balearic government will have responsibilities for the islands' coasts. This is a development, according to President Armengol, which "makes history". It was an anomaly that an island region could not manage its coasts.

The powers are being transferred from the Costas Authority, a state body but one which has always had a delegation in the Balearics. An argument in favour of the transfer is that local institutions know better than state ones. Often they do, but a characterisation of the Costas as a totally remote body is a fallacy. The regional delegation may have to follow the bidding of its Madrid masters, but regional the delegation has been, and the heads of this delegation have included a former Balearic tourism minister - Celestí Alomar, who is no longer a member of PSOE but most certainly was when he introduced the ecotax in 2002. (Maybe he's not the best example for that reason.)

The regional environment minister, Miquel Mir, was with the president on Friday for the formal signing of the transfer. The minister also had history on his mind. "An historic milestone," he said, perhaps not appreciating how appropriate the milestone was. On the coasts of Mallorca and the Balearics (and it will be the same everywhere else in Spain), if you were to look closely enough, you would find milestones. These are typically small stone cones; they are there to mark the limits of the public maritime domain.

Actually, I suspect Mir would have fully appreciated the reference. The demarcation of the coasts is a fundamental aspect of the Coasts Law, one that the Costas Authority has been zealous in applying. This governs some of the controversies that have arisen with regard to beach bars; controversies that affected parties in Mallorca now hope will be treated more favourably because local institutions know better. They may hope this, but celebrations which greeted news of Friday's ceremonial signing are, I fancy, somewhat premature.

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Mir said on Friday that the receipt of "some powers" will allow the Balearics to manage the coasts. "Some" have yet to be clarified. And do some imply reconsideration of decisions already taken by the Costas, e.g. ordering the demolition of El Bungalow in Ciudad Jardín? It might in any event be noted that the deadline for this order is before July 1, 2023.

In Ses Casetes des Capellans (Playa de Muro), there have been celebrations. Three restaurant terraces may now be permitted again, while 22 cottages may be spared the bulldozers. However, the owner of one of the restaurants, Jaume Perelló, suggested some weeks ago that political change in the Balearics would be needed in order that local institutions know better in a way that he hopes. He was alluding to the fact the regional environment ministry is run by Més. Miquel Mir is a Més minister, the successor to Vicenç Vidal, now a senator and who played a significant role in the transfer of powers. He told the Spanish government that it would only receive Més support for the budget in the Senate, if a timetable for the transfer was finally agreed. He got the agreement.

Vidal was the minister who, for example, introduced the Es Trenc nature park law, one assiduously applied by his successor. This law backed up a Costas' ruling regarding the now-demolished permanent beach bars. The regional environment ministry has otherwise been active in getting the Cala Torta beach bar demolished and in insisting that the Cala Mondragó bar should go. On a number of occasions, the ministry has therefore acted in harmony with the Costas. In September 2019, the ministry's director-general for natural spaces sent a letter to the Costas questioning the legality of ten beach bars.

The Balearics may be receiving "some" of the Costas' powers, but these will be located within an environment ministry whose recent history provides little evidence that it will be more amenable than a remote state body. This said, one can point to an example where Més have clashed with the Costas. This has been in Deya, where the mayor is Lluis Apesteguia, the Més coordinator in Mallorca and party candidate for the presidency of the Balearics in May 2023. Apesteguia can't understand why the Costas are insisting that the terrace of one of the two restaurants in Cala Deya should go, and so the town hall is heading the challenge to the decision.

We all know that there have been abuses, we are aware of the risks to the coasts, but we - or most of us anyway - would like some common sense. Perhaps this will now prevail.