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Recortes de Prensa

“Changes can be made if foreign residents get stuck in”

Sur in English, 22 | 08 | 2008 - Entrevista

Daniel Hannan, on a visit to Spain and to local branches of Conservatives Abroad, is at pains to point out that he is a Hispanophile and speaks fluent Spanish. He has lived and worked in various parts of Europe, and is currently Conservative MEP for South East England. He is concerned, however, about the increasing apathy among the electorate, which he admits is largely caused by a feeling that decisions are made in Brussels and there is not much that voters can do about it.

His own experience, he says, shows that people can make a difference. When foreign residents in the Valencia area found that local planning regulations meant that roads were being built on their property and, to add insult to injury, they were being made to pay for the work, his post bags - and those of many other MEPs - were full of distress stories from former constituents. Eventually, pressure from Brussels, and at local level from those affected, who got together and stood for election themselves, secured considerable improvements. “About 85 per cent of what they wanted”, says Daniel. “Not everything, and too late for some of the victims, but it shows that when foreign residents get stuck in, they can make a difference.”

Several Spanish towns with a large proportion of foreign residents now have other EU nationals on the council, but what happens at European level?

Foreign residents could actually make a big difference in Europe. All EU citizens can vote in the European elections in Spain, if they register, and with the elections due in June 2009, this is a good time to do it - next time they go to the Town Hall for whatever reason, they can do that too. And the way it works in Spain, with the votes counted at national level, means that anyone who stands and gets about 300,000 votes gets a seat. There are far more than 300,000 residents in Spain from other parts of the EU, and if there was a candidate who represented their interests and they all voted for that candidate….

Is there such a candidate?

Well, part of what I am doing this week is talking to the Conservatives Abroad in Spain, which is the biggest group of any outside the UK, to gauge how much interest there is. If someone comes forward, obviously we can offer a lot of advice and logistical support.

Has anyone come forward?

(Cagily) I’ve just been to Valencia and there was, yes, a lot of interest - this afternoon I am going to Mijas. But the important thing is that people get registered to vote. You know what they say - “The decisions are made by the people who turn up”.

What sort of issues might foreign residents need to bring up, apart from the planning problems?

Recently there was the whole discussion about health care entitlement, but anything from satellite BBC reception to things in the future which might come up, where expats might need a champion in Europe they can communicate with.

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