en español

Land Grab
Rafael Argullol
El Pais/International Herald Tribune
May 15, 2009

I am not in the habit of reading the reports of the European parliament or of any other parliament, but, on the insistence of a friend, I have just read a document which I can recommend to fans of horror literature. This is the report prepared by the Danish euro-deputy Margrete Auken on “the impact of extensive development in Spain on the individual rights of European citizens, the environment and the application of European law,” often referred to as the Land Grab report - 30 pages of text that can be read as a horror story or as a short treatise on the worst sort of moral and political conduct.

I would make the report required reading in schools, and for any candidate to public office. Why so much enthusiasm, you ask,, over this document which contains the usual leaden prose of EU texts? And the answer is that it constitutes a sort of mirror that reflects the abjectness so sordidly embedded in our public life.

What first catches one’s eye is the conspiracy of silence on the matter, and the shameful alliance between Spanish euro-deputies of both the Socialist and Popular parties in rejecting the Auken report - which was, however, approved by the European Parliament last month by 349 votes to 110, with 114 abstentions. This clear majority was opposed to the end by the Spanish deputies.

After reading the report I feel no surprise at this conspiracy of silence, because so many people are exposed in it that you can hardly understand how so huge a scandal could have been swept under the rug for decades.
Spain having thus been severely condemned for the impunity of corruption, the national and regional parliaments in Spain have had nothing to say about the matter, and have continued to look the other way.

Personally, the most repugnant feeling the report gives me is that the pillaging, the
systematic devastation of the Spanish coast and other natural areas - a devastation that will affect generations - has occurred under democracy and not the Franco regime. The conclusion is that our democracy is so weak as to allow the existence of an anti-democracy that calls into question much of the progress we have supposedly made.

This disturbing idea emerges from stories whose common denominator is greed, a mafia-like conception of politics and a sense of impunity which is all the more irritating the more shamelessly it is asserted. The regional government of Valencia, run by the Popular Party, and that of Andalusia, run by the Socialists, are apportioned equal blame. There are even a few comic passages, such as the traps laid by municipal authorities to impede the work of the investigators from Brussels and the angry protests by yokel mayors complaining about these Commission people sticking their Nordic noses into local business.

As we face the wall of cement along our coast, the worst thing is that we already knew all this. It has happened before our very eyes. It was enough to look at the absurdly soaring housing prices, often portrayed as a sign of our collective progress, to perceive that something sick was cooking.

True, at the head of the procession were politicos, speculators and crooks of various ilks, but who went behind them? What did the judges do? Little, says Auken, and so slowly that it was like doing nothing at all. Nor did the public put up any resistance.

Thus ends the horror story vividly narrated with Nordic ingenuousness by Auken - a story of pillage and depredation of what belonged to the future. There is little to add to the picture which, in large part, explains why the economic crash is now hitting Spain more heavily than other countries. Though it might be added that this pillage would never have been possible without a parallel pillage - what we often prefer to call “lack of values,” the “nouveau riche syndrome” and the like. Many thanks, Ms Auken, for the pretty picture of ourselves.