News from Andalucia & Costa del Sol
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Sewage plant brings more bad news to Nerja
Court tells town hall to pay 900,000 euros due to underpriced expropriations
By Dave Jamieson
AN UPPER Andalucía court has ordered Nerja town hall to pay hundreds of thousands of euros in indemnifications for land compulsorily purchased to build the future sewage treatment plant. The finding states that the land was wrongly classified and therefore underpriced.
Part of the land for the plant in the Fuente del Baden area was purchased from Maravillas del Mar SA in November 2002. The price was fixed on the basis that the land was officially classed as rustic, whereas Nerja's local development plan lists it as suitable for urbanisation and therefore of greater value.
The 7,600 square metres in question form part of the 30,000-square-metre site earmarked for the plant. Eight years ago, Nerja town hall paid 12.02 euros per square metre for it, whereas land apt for urbanisation should have attracted 83 euros per square metre. As a result, Nerja has been ordered to pay the difference of 630,304.06 euros which, with interest, is likely to top 900,000 euros.
However, the court reduced the amount claimed by Maravillas del Mar S.A. from almost 1.2 million euros, plus a further half million to take account of the fall in value in the remainder of the land they still own in the area.
The saga of Nerja's long-awaited sewage treatment plant is lengthy and complex. Last year licensing - which is necessary before the work can be put to tender ahead of construction starting - was expected in the first half the year, then delayed by the Junta until the end of the year. In November, the regional government announced that the target date for completion had been put back from 2012 to 2015, while in January the Ministry of the Environment said it was "complicated" to fix a date for licensing, adding that it "could take place during this year."
Andalucía fury over Euro Parliament debate
Region's officials were not consulted ahead of meeting on Campo de Gibraltar cancer study
By David Eade
LAST Tuesday the European Parliament's Commission of Petitions debated the need for an epidemiological study into high cancer rates in the Campo de Gibraltar. It decided to send a request to the Spanish and British governments to carry out such a detailed survey. However the Andalucía Health Department was furious that the session was held without it being consulted.
The subject was first tabled for Monday but was held over due to a lack of time. The petition being debated was lodged in 2007 by the Plataforma Por el Estudio Epidemiológico. It was backed by over 13,000 signatures from both the Campo de Gibraltar and Gibraltar itself - Spaniards, Britons and Gibraltarians. The spokesperson for the environmental group Verdemar and the study action group, Raquel Ñeco, said around 4,000 Gibraltarians signed the document.
The call for the study is due to the elevated cancer death levels in the bay area and to see if they are linked to the concentrated heavy industry in the zone.
The Andalucía Health Department says it only heard of the debate through the media and there was no communication with the European Parliament itself.
Furthermore, the department says that six studies of this type have been carried out in recent years. None of these epidemiology studies pointed to any link between the heavy industry and the high death rate.
Officials say they are puzzled as to why the European Parliament is considering ordering another study, which they say would only go over well trodden ground and would also cost a great deal of money, which is not available.
Alhaurín survives 24-hour 'emergency'
Army helicopters, dozens of vehicles and 25 emergency-response teams took part in last week's drill
By Oliver McIntyre
RESIDENTS of Alhaurin de la Torre may have thought they were in the midst of a catastrophic event on Friday as some 25 emergency-response teams swarmed into town with dozens of vehicles including three Army helicopters. But no one was hurt and there was no real emergency.
It was all part of a 24-hour emergency-response drill carried out in collaboration with the University of Málaga's master's degree programme in counselling and intervention in emergencies and catastrophes.
Participants included Guardia Civil, police, firefighters, ambulance squads, Protección Civil, a military emergency response team, the Red Cross and many others, some coming from outside the province.
The Los Manantiales football pitch was quickly converted into an operations coordination centre and field hospital as response teams were dispatched to a series of simulated emergencies.
ROCK TO COME CLEAN
Historic treaty intends to stop money laundering
By Dave Jamieson
AN HISTORIC treaty between Spain and Gibraltar is reported to be almost ready to be signed. The move is intended to prevent the British territory being used for money laundering but has been criticised in Spain for recognising the colony.
Gibraltar's banking sector provides both onshore and offshore services with a high level of bank secrecy which means that ownership of offshore accounts is confidential and only disclosed in response to a local court order. Around 2,000 of the 25,000 businesses registered in Gibraltar are presently exempt from tax, internet gaming companies employ several hundred local people, and almost a tenth of all UK car insurance is covered from the territory.
Since 1969 when the border was closed by Madrid, Spain has been increasingly suspicious that Gibraltar is used by money launderers. Two years ago, the Spanish government asked the Organization for Cooperation and Economic Development to revise the territory's status as a tax haven and to place it on a black list for its lack of cooperation with the Spanish authorities. The tax authorities in Spain described it at the time as "opaque, inaccessible and impenetrable," adding that any information received from the Gibraltarian authorities had been "insufficient and of very little use." Last year, the pressure group Tax Justice Network alleged that 92 per cent of Gibraltar's banking business was secret, leading to tax evasion, corruption and organised crime.
The new treaty on fiscal matters was first agreed in principle last July in a series of three-way meetings between Madrid, Gibraltar and London. However, despite the apparent willingness of Sr Zapatero's socialist government to thaw the icy relationship with the UK over Gibraltar, Spain will not acknowledge that Britain has sovereignty over the colony. A deal between Spain and Gibraltar without the involvement of London would be seen in many quarters as a diplomatic deal too far, despite the fact that Gibraltar has signed similar deals on fiscal transparency with the US, France and Germany without the need for London to rubber-stamp them.
Controversy over Torremolinos water sell-off
Opposition party Izquierda Unida has filed a legal complaint against the decision
By Oliver McIntyre
TORREMOLINOS town hall last week defended its decision to sell off 95 per cent of its ownership stake in municipal water company Astosam in order to raise money for the flagging municipal coffers, but opposition councillors have launched a legal battle against the move.
At a council session called by opposition parties last week specifically to address the water sell-off, the mayor, Pedro Fernández Montes, said the sell-off was fully justified given the "serious decline in revenues that the town hall, like those in the rest of the Spain, is suffering."
He said that selling off municipal ownership of water suppliers is a common move among town halls and that in most cases town halls sell 100 per cent of their stake, while Torremolinos will retain five per cent, meaning it will "remain in the company and be able to follow day-to-day operations."
IU has accused council of irregularities
But the opposition Izquierda Unida party has filed a legal complaint with the prosecutor's office accusing the town hall of irregularities in the selling of the shares to the concession company Aquagest for 17 million euros little more than a year after extending its concession contract by 25 years.
The IU says the process was strategically carried out to deny any other companies a chance to participate.
Briton gets nine years for Puerto Banús shooting
Victim, also British, lost an eye and spent weeks in hospital
By David Eade
THE Málaga court has sentenced a Briton to nine years in jail for shooting a compatriot in Puerto Banús in 2008. The sentence includes eight years for attempted murder with an additional year for illegally carrying a weapon. He is also forbidden to approach within 500 metres of his victim for an eight-year period. The shooting took place at 7.30pm on September 24 when the accused and his victim, who was known to use a gym in the same commercial centre as Solly's Bar, left the building in Calle Ramón Areces. The prosecutor told the court that the two Britons had a major argument which resulted in the victim having a semi-automatic pistol drawn on him. He was then shot four times - in a leg, an arm, the genital area and his head. The injuries inflicted were described as very serious. The victim spent several weeks at Marbella's Costa del Sol Hospital, first in the intensive care unit then in recuperation. As a result of the shooting he lost his right eye. The court heard that had he not received immediate medical attention he would have died.
Junta approves regulations on holiday rentals
Law will classify rental apartment complexes by type, quality and location
By Oliver McIntyre
THE REGIONAL government's cabinet last week approved a new law to regulate holiday apartment complexes, which officials say make up a total of 45,000 beds in the region, representing 12 per cent of all tourism accommodations.
The new law will have a "positive impact" on the sector by "clarifying" the situation of owners and "guaranteeing quality" for consumers, said regional government spokesperson Mar Morena.
It establishes that all rental complexes must have a single individual considered responsible for the operation. Further, it lays out legal definitions of holiday rentals, based on type and location.
The classification ‘tourism apartments' will apply to establishments consisting of a complex of individual units - whether apartments, bungalows or villas - that each include their own kitchen facilities.
Move to tighten EU ‘health tourism' controls
Proposal would require prior authorisation for treatment in another country
By Dave Jamieson
A PROPOSAL to tighten the rules on health tourism has been debated by four EU health ministers in Madrid. The informal meeting last Friday agreed to suggest that residents of one EU country who want medical treatment in a different EU country should first receive authorisation from their own doctors.
This would be a change to the existing European legislation which permits any EU resident to seek health care in any member state. Ministers say the change will encourage patients to stay in their home country, or country of residence, for treatment. Spain's health minister, Trinidad Jiménez, said all possible circumstances of requests for health care had to be considered.
Fifteen countries are now reported to be in agreement with the proposed new arrangements, which could be approved in June. A number of conditions would apply including the exclusion of overnight admissions and experimental treatments, as well as a requirement that the hospital chosen should carry a quality guarantee from its own government. The country of origin of the patient would then pay for the treatment in the second country.
A proposal by the UK and other countries to make the country of treatment financially responsible has been vigorously rejected by Spain, which has a very high number of foreign residents.
The proposed change would make no difference to legal foreign residents here who are entitled to care from the Spanish health service.
Thousands march in support of Garzón
Tempers flare over case brought against judge for investigating Franco crimes
By David Eade
SPAIN'S campaigning judge, Baltasar Garzón, has provoked fury amongst those on the right of the nation's politics as well as the remaining supporters of the Franco regime. His decision to investigate the crimes committed during the dictator's era has opened up not just one but several cans of worms as those opposing the judge have sought to have him brought before the courts.
On Saturday it was the turn of his supporters to take to the streets. In Madrid thousands marched from Puerta de Alcalá to Puerta del Sol. Another four thousand were reported to have gathered in Plaza de Sant Jaume in Barcelona.
In Sevilla the demonstration was attended by the mother and sisters of the judge - the family come from Jaén in Andalucía. Others gathered in various towns and cities including Málaga, Córdoba, Zaragoza, Murcia, Cáceres, Valladolid, León, Palma de Mallorca, Las Palmas, Santander, Valencia and Gijón.
It was also an international protest. Leading newspapers around the world such as the Financial Times and New York Times have questioned how a judge can face trial for essentially doing his job. So it is no surprise that the Spanish Embassy in Lisbon was the scene of a protest as were the French cities of Paris, Pau, Montpellier and Burdeos, with people in Brussels, Buenos Aires and Dublin scheduled to show their support.