LAST Friday, Spain's Central Government reached agreement with Argentina that immigrants from the Latin American country have the right to vote in local elections if they are of age and have lived here legally for the past consecutive five years.

The move added Argentinians to the list of Peruvians and Columbians who, as non EU residents, were given the right last month to vote in regional elections scheduled for 2011.

What issues most concern non EU residents and what will they be asking of politicians who represent them? “For some time now, we've been asking the government to let those of us with work permits have the same air and sea travel discounts between the Islands and the mainland that are already open to EU member state residents,” said Norbey Andrade president of the Colombian Association in the Balearics. “We also feel we should have the right to take up posts in public institutions and form part of the civil service. “What's stopping it? Lack of knowledge of Catalan and learning a language takes time.” Meanwhile, the Argentinians are the third most numerous non Spanish national community in the Balearics with 12'328 registered as being resident. Hector Marano, president of the regional Argentinian Association said yesterday that 12'000 would be eligible to vote in 2011. When asked about what his members would be asking politicians to do for them, he also responded that the knowledge of Catalan should not be the first pre-requisite to qualify for a post in public institutions such as schools, or the civil service. He suggested that a compromise might be for whoever takes such a post, to be obliged to learn Catalan within a given period of time if he or she did not already speak it.

According to a census taken at the beginning of January last year, there are nearly 2'000 Peruvians registered as resident in the Balearic Islands. The president of the regional Peruvian Association, Armando Rodriguez added to comments already made by his counterparts from Argentina and Colombia. “We would really like to address this issue of Catalan. We live on an island where a large number of people earn their living from tourism and we feel it would be more valuable for us to spend time learning English, French or German to be able to take up positions in this industry,” said Rodriguez. “It's all very well demanding certain academic levels of Catalan, but as immigrants, we have urgent priorities.” As the law currently stands, people working in public institutions and the civil service in the Balearics are obliged to pass examinations in Catalan to ensure a certain level of spoken and written ability - this applies even to local people, and to those who had previously been working professionally in this sector without the use of Catalan.


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