By Ray Fleming
EU and the Right to Vote
Even the hardest Eurosceptics among British residents on Majorca may have softened their attitude slightly when seeing the Bulletin’s front page headline: “European Union says that WE should have the vote”. The report quoted from remarks by Viviane Reding, the EU Justice Commissioner, who said that citizens of the UK, Ireland, Denmark, Cyprus and Malta living elsewhere in the EU were effectively being punished and rendered second-class citizens by the withdrawal of their right to vote in their own country’s elections.
Reding’s words will have been welcomed by the senior British MP Sir Roger Gale who met with her to discuss the issue last year and has himself been campaigning for some time for the right of British citizens living elsewhere in the EU to be able to vote at general elections “in perpetuity” instead of losing that right after fifteen years abroad as at present. Sir Roger told the Bulletin that he hopes reforming legislation will be included in the Conservative Party’s manifesto at the general election next year.
EU Voting in May
Of more immediate importance are the elections in May for the EU parliament at which EU citizens have the right to vote from wherever they live in the Union. Several contributors to the Bulletin have been emphasizing the importance of registering with local town halls in order to qualify to vote (the deadline for doing so is now past). In a letter to the editor Geoff Williamson said that he had been persuaded by Angie Guerrero’s exhortation on the subject in her weekly Calvia column to register for the first time. And with the contribution that expats have made in various ways to the Majorcan economy in mind he also urged the Bulletin to interview all the candidates in the EU election to get their views on issues of particular interest to the expatriate community.
Tourism and Oil
Should the Balearics say No to oil prospecting in its waters? President Bauza thinks that it should and says he has already made that clear to Madrid after consulting with local councils. He takes the view that the region “needs neither gas nor oil because our biggest source of wealth is tourism”. According to the Bulletin’s report, two companies are interested in exploratory drilling; a map provided by one of them, Spectrum Geo, showed a huge area of 14,000 square kilometres almost surrounding the Balearic islands and reaching as far as 30km from Barcelona while at one point it would be only 20km off Felanitx.
Naturally, environmentalists are warning of a threat to marine life as well as to tourism if any oil spill took place. (Taken at its face value President Bauza’s comment does not make much sense. If there is a lot of oil down there it would far exceed Majorca’s tourism income but, of course, it would be Spain’s oil, not the Balearics’. Still, he is probably right to make clear from the start that the special interests of the Balearics must be taken into account in any national policies. R.F.)
Bad News Page
Thursday’s page 4 did not make pleasant reading. One headline was “Balearics had second highest crime rate in Spain last year” and another, “Recession fuelling the black market”, covered a report showing that almost one quarter of the Balearics’ GDP is created by the black market. The Spanish national average for crimes per one thousand people was 46.1 but in the Balearics it was 66.4, only three points below the highest rate of the North African enclave of Ceuta.
The Spanish minister who announced these figures allowed that the Balearics figure was affected by its large floating population of tourists, although that presumably is also a factor in parts of the mainland.
Every week in the Bulletin Gerry Mulligan’s Crimewatch column has the sub-title, “Guardia Successfully Combats Crime in the Balearics”. As these figures seem to show, the Guardia Civil has a big job on its hands.
The “black market” report told a rather different story in that although its business was booming at 24.8 per cent of national GDP the Balearics came an almost respectable tenth in the country marginally above Catalonia and La Rioja. These figures were released by the union of tax office employees and were attributed to the economic recession, corruption, unemployment and lack of adequate monitoring by authorities. One useful tip to be drawn from the report was that in the unlikely event of a 500 euro note coming into one’s possession it would be wise to get rid of it quickly since such notes are “the preferred bills for underground activity”.
Business in Spain
In the recent debate in the Bulletin about the state of the local economy there were several references to excessive red tape in setting up businesses and to some prejudice against foreign owners.
A letter to the Editor from Lisa Simpson made a corrective comment on the retreat of Richard Branson from Majorca which is often quoted as a case of an opportunity missed: “A mention was made recently of how Richard Branson was messed around when he tried to invest in a local property. The property he wanted to buy was on protected land, his plans weren’t accepted by the town hall because he wanted to construct five luxury villas on the land. His promise of employing local people to work this land sounded good but the locals were working the land anyway. It is now included in the Unesco world heritage. A company owned by Mr Branson also owned a house in Lluc Alcari which had been built illegally. These houses have since been pulled down.”
A letter from Colin Nash said that the Spanish government was showing
“unparalleled incompetence” and continued, “I remember a time when it was about 30 per cent cheaper to live and work in Majorca than in the UK. How did this statistic ever come to be reversed in just 10 years? Is there not a
representative body for small businesses that can contest the current
Another, briefer, letter about business in Spain came from Simon Tow: “In
regards to your front page article about the high cost of starting a business
in Spain, it’s nothing compared to the cost of closing a business if staff