Saturday, June 22, 2013

Sign Here: Petitions

In 2010, 180,000 signatures were gathered in Catalonia for a petition against bullfighting. This wasn't any old petition. It was a collecting of signatures that was an attempt to trigger an "iniciativa legislativa popular". Depending on the size of the population in any given legislative unit - so it can be national, regional, provincial or lower - if a minimum number of signatures are collected, the petition is then presented to the relevant authority and it has to take this petition as the basis for potential reform or action. Getting sufficient numbers to sign a petition doesn't mean that the authority has to act, but if it decides to consider the demand of the petition, this has to be debated in whatever is the legislative body (a parliament, for example). In Catalonia, the petition was debated in its parliament, with the result that the petition's demand was agreed to. Bullfighting was banned.

A further example of the popular legislative initiative was a nationwide petition to try and force the Spanish Government to reconsider its smoking ban (some half a million signatories were required, if memory serves). Even if the number had been collected, the government wasn't obliged to initiate reform; as I say, it is still the relevant body's decision as to whether it takes the petition forward. In Catalonia, it had suited the government there to accept the bullfighting-ban demand.

The right to petition is, as with other expressions of protest, enshrined in the Spanish Constitution. It might strike some strange that one should have to invoke the Constitution, but then you have to consider what came before the Constitution. And that's why this legal entitlement is taken seriously and also why petitions, of all sorts, are so widely raised.

At a very different level to the Catalonian petition, there was one in Pollensa some time ago. It raised the required number of signatures (not that many) to force the town hall to get its finger out and do what it had said it would do in opening up access to a particular walk in the town. The petition didn't change anything at local legislative level, just simply gave the town hall the nudge to shake it out of its inertia.

And now, there are other petitions doing the rounds; one in Alcúdia, one in Pollensa. The Alcúdia petition has been raised by taxi-drivers. They are hacked off with the tourist train that has returned this summer. And it would appear that it is not only the taxi-drivers who are upset. There are also the likes of the operators who hire out those tourist trike things. They reckon they're losing out to the tourist train, as well.

It hasn't happened yet, but there might be a counter-petition, one in favour of the train. And who was it suggested might like to organise it? I doubt that my assistance will be needed, as I doubt that the town hall will, even with a whole load of signatures, feel obliged to do anything with the taxi-drivers petition. Why, the town hall has asked, did no one raise any objections when the process for re-introducing the train was initiated?

Then there is the petition in Pollensa, and this one is hoping to shake the town hall out of further inertia, this time to do with the state of the beach in Formentor. Winter storms caused damage to the beach and reduced it to a right old state. Some of the beach, by the hotel, is back in sandy good order. It's the part which isn't by the hotel that remains a mess.

Something should be done. Formentor beach was a key image that was used in old poster advertising for Mallorca in the fifties and sixties. It is, to use an overworked word, "iconic". It is also a beach in an extremely attractive part of the island. Moreover, it is a beach that has just got its Blue Flag status back, and much though I am critical of the Blue Flag system, if you get the damn flag back, then you should make sure you don't then lose it again.

The trouble is that I'm not sure the petition is going to the right people. The town hall itself had its own problems with getting the Costas Authority to sort out other storm damage in Pollensa, so is Formentor not similarly an issue for the Costas? Maybe there should be a petition against too many levels of government and confusion as to which body has responsibility for what. It wouldn't work, though. The petition would go to the wrong authority.

Any comments to please.


Debz1 said...

Andrew do you have contact details for Costas please?

andrew said...

Not absolutely sure, but the Costas in the Balearics are a national government delegation, and the office of the delegation is C.Constitución 4, 07001 Palma de Mallorca. The director-general for the Balearics is Sr. Juan Carlos Plaza. Petitions can be sent to more than one authority.

Debz1 said...

Brilliant, thanks Andrew will pass this info onto Victoria.