Wednesday, May 27, 2009
EU Parliamentary Elections , June 7, 2009. Who and what to vote for?

Charles Svoboda, VP,
AUN

The following sets out some of my personal views about the impending EU election, since we (AUN) are increasingly being asked to express ourselves on this. I have no objections to being quoted on any of this as long as it is clear the views expressed are essentially mine, and not cleared by AUN's members at large. That would be a massive undertaking for which the election schedule permits little time.

While AUN will stay "objective" in the June 7 election, that does not mean we should be inert or completely impartial. Indeed we have made it clear as far back as the last EU elections five years ago we would endorse the party or parties that best reflect our interests and concerns especially as regards the rights of small property owners and protection of the environment, and would be likely to do so in Brussels. AUN maintained this posture as well in successive local and regional elections. Indeed for local reasons, some of our "mangement" level team ran for different parties in different places, PP, PSOE, Independent, CIBE, BLOC, etc. in elections since we formed up in 2002. This time around, because the EU elections are without doubt the most important ever, we did a lot of soul searching and have had contacts with all the significant parties over the past year, and in some cases repeated meetings.

Because of their predatory attitude towards small property owners and the neglect of the environment in this region, to say nothing about their economic mismanagement, some well founded corruption scandals and overt hostility towards AUN, the PP has always been a non starter for us. The PSOE whose own economic mismanagement is as palpable as its ethics are questionable, has moved towards the PP positions in many key respects. This is true especially in this region and the party has dropped from their June 7 list every single one of their MEPs who have been sympathetic to us, Duhrkop, Carnero, Sornosa, Garces, etc. and promoted hardliners like Ayala who opposed us and the Auken report at Strasbourg. Michael Cashman (UK Labour) was largely responsible for getting most of the PSOE to abstain rather than vote against Auken as Ayala and the PSPV ( Valencian PSOE) members of the PSE were demanding.

In the end, the one party which has come to agree with us almost totally is a new one, the
CDL or Centro Democratico Liberal. British Citizen Jacqui Cotterill, Deputy Mayor of Parcent, is in the #4 spot and apart from the #1 on that list is the only non Spanish candidate in an electible position on any party list for June 7 as far as I know. UpyD (see below) has one Finnish candidate in a "testimonial" position, ie. # 29 when UpyD may get one or two seats). There are one or two east Europeans on the lists of other parties, but well down.

CDL is not completely unknown in Spain- since it was able to get the 50 elected officials necessary to sign onto their campaign to make it official. In the broader EU context it counts on the support of senior Liberals in the UK, the Netherlands, Germany ,etc. ALDE is the third strongest group in the EU Parliament after the PPE (centre right)and PSE (centre left). But the problems they face are exactly what we would have had to confront too had we chosen, as many had urged, to put up our own list. I had serious reservations about trying to turn AUN into an active political organisation anyway. That is not our role and it might have cost us more than we could have gained in terms of our influence with the authorities and the political parties we must deal with here and in the EU Parliament. We might have got the signatures , but the logistics and demands of a campaign are daunting. In this country the big parties call the shots, mainly at each other- and having a national list in a country as fragmented as this one all but makes it impossible to get started. In the end it should be better to get behind a new party and help it shape a common path alongside us, even if it could take more time. The possibility for a new political option makes this worthwhile despite the time it will no doubt take.

All that said, there is a chance for CDL to get noticed in this vote, perhaps gain one or more seats , and then start moving towards the next EU elections, starting at the bottom and with town hall councils. Well before 2014 the Parliament should be more than an expensive talk shop and will have substantial legislative authority provided the Lisbon accord gets past the Irish later this year and the Czechs ratify the deal.

Once we determined that it would be unworkable and perhaps unwise to put up our own list, not just for questions of philosophy but in practical terms for lack of committed resources and money to manage a campaign, we spent a lot of time working with UpyD (Union Progresista y Democratica, led by a dissident former PSOE member , Rosa Diez), but finally gave up - they have a collection of interesting people on their list, but originally wouldn't allow any non Spaniard on it in anything but a "testimonial "- ie., totally unelectable -

position - # 48 at best! They have modified this stance to allow the Finnish wife of one of the higher level candidates onto their list. However UpyD , like IU, the Greens and the Bloc did agree with us on a lot of issues, so they would be preferable to PP or PSOE .

While the IU generally supports us and in particular agrees with the Auken report, its platform also calls for the end of capitalism- not a "winner" for now and an approach we do not share. The Bloc has aligned with some very strident regional nationalists with whom we cannot agree in other parts of Spain, and the Greens are badly split amongst themselves- and inter alia attacking the IU .

So we come down, quite positively , for the new CDL in this election , realising that it will need to build from the ground up over the next five years to have any real impact in Brussels. They do have some town councillors already, and may get at least one MEP, Sean O'Curneen Cañas, and we hope more elected. He's a very bright young fellow, who has an Irish father and Spanish mother- born in Madrid at that. He works at the EU in Brussels and is multilingual. We have provided the CDL with media and other contacts to ensure they have the best chance to succeed, even though our expectations are modest. Currently , on the basis of informal polls, the PP would obtain between 21 and 24 of the 50 Parliamentary seats assigned to Spain ( this increases to 54 if the Lisbon accord comes into force) , while PSOE would get 19-21.That leaves up to about 10 for the other parties. UpyD would probably get one or two as would IU and the Greens on the basis of polls taken before CDL entered the race. Obviously CDL will have a lot of work to do to attract votes over the next two weeks.

According to recent reports, there are some 75, 000 non Spanish residents- British having some 32,000- in the Valencian region alone who are eligible and have registered to vote here. There are about 300,000 registered in all of Spain. While that is a disappointingly small proportion of those who could vote here , it is not insignificant. Bear in mind however that upwards of 250,000 votes are needed to gain a single seat- twice that many would possibly get 3 seats. Across Spain, the concentrations of eligible non Spanish voters are in Madrid, Barcelona and along the Mediterranean coastal areas from Castellon all the way to the Portugese border. We hope they will all turn out on June 7 if they haven't already made arrangements for a postal vote - the last day to so register was May 14, by the way. As for those who vote on their own "home country" national lists, our advice is to look at how the parties and where the vote is for individual candidates (as in the UK) they voted on the Auken report. If they supported it, by all means vote for them. Have second thoughts where they abstained or voted against. The Auken report constitutes a very good summation of the problems faced by small property owners- and the environment- in this country. On our website there is a very useful report which shows how each MEP voted on March 26- or click on http://www.votewatch.eu/cx_detalii_act.php?id_act=5701&lang=en.

The recent debate on and approval of the Auken report on land law and related abuses demonstrates how relevant the Parliament and in particular its Petitions Committee are in relation to the concerns and interests of both the non Spanish and Spanish residents of this country (see
www.abusos-no.org and the EU website for the report) . While thus far, EU Parliamentary reports are not binding, its authority will grow under the Lisbon accord as will its influence over the Commission and indirectly the European Courts. Our best hope is that this work will continue in the new Parliament and in that context we believe CDL would be our most loyal and effective supporters at the EU. With regard to Spain, it will be evident from the "debates" between the PP and PSOE leaders, particularly the ones chosen to head the respective lists, in the lead up to the election that new political and economic paradigms are needed if Spain is to recover and thrive in the world circumstances we all witness now.

It is a sorry comment on the state of democracy here, three decades after Franco, that only the two principal political antagonists, the PP and PSOE so far have been given free national TV time to present their respective monologues with no open debate including the parties that could present realistic options in terms of public policy, good governance and relations with the world at large. The event on May 25 between Lopez Aguillar and Mayor Oreja was very unenlightening and barely related at all to Europe or the European Parliament in the main comprising mutual recriminations about the parlous state of the economy with no serious prescription from either leader. The Socialist side barely mentioned that economic recovery could not rely on construction. One element missing was any mention of corruption, both parties evidently not wishing to open that Pandora's box any wider. Not was there any reference to the Auken report and all it implies for this country.

Charles Svoboda VP,
AUN Alicante