THE three main political parties welcomed the announcement yesterday that the voting process had been made more simple for expatriates from the European Union living in the Balearics. Under present government legislation as long as the EU expat is registered with the council where they reside they can ask to go on the electoral roll and vote. This means effectively that thousands of part-time residents will be able to vote even though they may only visit the island a few times a year. Also, you don't even have to own a house, a rental agreement is enough. The new voting process and the demise of residencias means that EU expats have never had it so good when it comes to paperwork. At the moment about 15'000 non Spanish European Union residents have stated their desire to vote in the May local elections out of the more than 50'000 which are eligible. Yesterday the right wing Partido Popular, the Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE) and the Majorcan Nationalist Socialist Party said that it was great news that EU expatriates would be about to vote but the PSOE had some reservations. Joan Huguet, of the Partido Popular said “this is all part of the European Union process of integration. Naturally, all people connected with the island and providing that they come from a European Union country should be able to exercise their democrat right.” His words where echoed by his PSOE counterpart, Francina Amengol, who said it was good news but added that the voting procedure should be as transparent as possible in a clear reference to the Partido Popular who have been accused of vote rigging involving South Americans on the island of Formentera. The issue is still being investigated. She also went on to say that she did not think that it was right that people who only spend a few weeks of the year on the island should be able to vote. Pere Sampol, the President of the Majorcan Nationialist Socialist Party, said that it was all part of the European process. He said that he doubted that people who visit the island infrequently would vote. “Our relations with the rest of Europe have been pushed back by the antics of our Prime Minister and his pro-Bush stance. Spain must be at the heart of Europe and allowing EU expatriates to vote is part of this process,” he said. In areas such as Calvia the EU expat vote accounts for more than 20 percent of the total electoral roll. It could make a major difference. Others areas where the expat vote could be vital are Fornalutx, Llucmajor, and Andratx. Many of the parties are fielding a number of non-Spanish candidates.

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THE demise of the residencia has naturally stirred up plenty of interest within the expatriate community. Details, we are afraid are still rather sketchy. Yesterday, the Bulletin made an attempt to try and clarify the situation, below are some answers to some of your questions which we believe are correct but as stated the details still have to be ratified.

What do we know?

That residencias have been scrapped for all non-Spanish European Union citizens. In other words your passport or your identity card from your country of origin (if you have one) will be enough as proof of identity although there are still some question marks over pensioners, see below.

Who benefits?

Almost everyone who is coming to live in the Balearics from another European Union country and those who live here at the moment.

Why have the Spanish government taken this action?

Because it was argued that non-Spanish European Union residents were being discriminated against and that it was against the free movement of labour within the EU.

My residence permit needs renewing. What should I do?

The advice form the experts is that you should go ahead and renew it.

When will the new law come into force?

Once it is published in the official state bulletin. From then on it will be law.

Will any section of the expatriate community need a residence permit as a result of his or her special needs?

It is unclear but in the official communique published in the Bulletin yesterday it stated that the move only affected pensioners who had paid social security in Spain. We are still investigating this issue and so far we have been unable to get official comment or clarification. Most European Union expatriates receive a pension from another EU state and therefore have not paid social security in Spain. It would appear rather strange if they were excluded from the residencia scrapping as a large number of non-Spanish EU residents are pensioners. You will have full details when we get them.

Will the scrapping of residencia affect any of my privilages in Spain that I presently enjoy as a resident?

No, none at all. You still will be entitled to all benefits such as discounted air travel, etc.