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Cyprus given wake up call by European Parliament

THE Cypriot authorities have been given a wake up call by the European Parliament’s campaigning Petitions Committee. Last Wednesday the Committee approved a damning new report slamming planning loopholes in Spain which leave homeowners defenceless against developers seizing part or all of their property.

The European Commission has told MEPs previously that the EU has no “general powers” in regard to property: indeed, it said that its involvement in property laws is specifically excluded from the current EU treaties. However, in light of the recent signing of the EU Reform Treaty in Lisbon, the Commission has now expressed its hope that a more solid and clear legal basis exists for further work in this field to be undertaken.

The EU Reform Treaty embraces the Charter of Fundamental Rights and whose Article 17 requires “fair compensation being paid in good time for loss” of property. It is hoped that once the Treaty has been introduced it will ensure that those who have suffered a loss of property will be duly compensated under Article 17.

Spain was at the top of the European Parliament’s property agenda and this latest decision gives the Cyprus government fair warning of its future intentions.

Euro-MPs attack Spanish laws affecting expat homeowners

Members of the European Parliament on Wednesday launched a new offensive against notorious Spanish land laws that continue to wreck the holiday-home dreams of Britons in the Valencia region.

Thousands of properties in Spain have been demolished without compensation for their owners – many of whom are British expatriates. In some cases, the authorities have even charged the property owners for the installation of local services, even after they have lost their property.

About 15,000 foreign residents, mainly British, Belgian, German and French property owners, lodged a formal petition with MEPs three years ago to protest against a 1994 Valencia land and town planning law which triggered 20,000 compulsory purchases of land or property for “urban” development.

The original aim of the law was to ensure community development plans were not blocked by individual land-owners – a loophole meant unscrupulous developers could reclassify rural land as urban without the owners’ permission – effectively giving developers compulsory purchase rights on foreign-owned homes at a fraction of the market value.

The European Court of Justice has already ruled that the so-called “land-grab” law is illegal, but the European Commission says a replacement law – the Ley Urbanistica Valenciana – still breaches EU public procurement regulations and therefore failed to protect citizens’ rights.

Now the Petitions Committee – which has no direct power – has made a new call on the Madrid government to force revision of the regional law.

A replacement law – the Ley Urbanistica Valenciana – still breached EU public procurement regulations and therefore failed to protect citizens’ rights.

Sir Robert Atkins, a Tory MEP, said: “The scandalous behaviour of some developers, builders and local authorities resulting in people losing their homes has to stop now. The emotional and financial trauma suffered by so many legitimate home owners has to be rectified.

“The European Parliament has expressed a forceful condemnation of Spanish Land Law and its implementation and it is imperative that all political parties in Spain understand the anger of residents and act to change the law as soon as possible.

His colleague Roger Helmer, also a Tory MEP, said: “The Petitions Committee has no power, but as it acts directly on citizens’ petitions for help, endorsement from the Committee adds hugely to the pressure on the European Commission to keep pursuing the issue“.

He said MEPs were now looking at ways of providing compensation for those who have already lost their homes or lost part of their land because of the law.

© Copyright of Telegraph Media Group Limited 2009


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