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Spain files more petitions to European Parliament than any other member State
RESIDENTS in Spain present the most proposals to European Parliament's Petitions Committee, mostly about humanitarian and environmental issues.
According to the Committee, Spain is the largest output country for petitions, which come just as often from Spaniards as from foreigners, although in terms of nationalities, the Germans present the most – 264 in 2017 – followed by the Italians, at 236.
Petitions from Spain, from applicants of all nationalities, totalled 211 last year, European Parliament says.
These mainly relate to environmental issues – including a case currently being read by the Committee on a sewage leak from a residential complex into a protected marsh in the northern Alicante province – plus human rights, justice and the future of the European Union and its citizens.
Petitions from Spain by Brits and Spaniards alike about issues concerning Brexit have been some of the most frequent in the last two-and-a-half years, as British nationals living in Europe and Europeans living in the UK wait to find out whether their rights will be curtailed in any way after the end of March next year.
A petition presented pre-Brexit by British-born local councillor Jacqui Cotterill, from Parcent (Alicante province) called for EU citizens to be allowed to choose to vote in their country of residence rather than nationality – Jacqui's own children, now young adults, were born in Spain, but as British nationals, would join the one in 10 non-Spaniards who are unable to decide who spends their taxes, and how.
Petitions have also been raised by Brits in Spain about the ban on their being able to vote in the UK after having lived outside the country for 15 years or more – despite many receiving their pension or savings income from Britain, some still owning property there, and State pensioners relying on the UK funding their healthcare abroad.
This now-famous '15-year rule' meant several million Brits abroad were unable to vote in the Brexit referendum.
Second World War veteran Harry Schindler, 96, who lives in Italy has been fighting the 15-year ban through the courts, but it currently remains in place.
Any citizen of the European Union, or any resident in a member State – even nationals of third countries – is allowed, individually or as part of an association or organisation, to file a petition with the Committee on any subject with the EU's scope of activity and which affects them directly.
Petitions may be complaints, fights against injustices, or merely requests linked to public or private interest.
Last year, the Committee received 1,271 petitions from across the 28 member States – 19% fewer than in 2016.
Spain filed the most – 211 – followed by Italy, with 176; Germany, with 170; Romania, with 82, and the UK, with 73.
Nearly seven in 10 petitions were presented online via the EU's Petitions Portal, set up in 2014 and constantly under development.
The Petitions Committee comprises 34 MEPs, of whom nearly a third – 10 in total – are Spanish, and is presided over by Swedish MEP Cecilia Wikström from the European Liberal Democrats party, ALDE.
Wikström says the annual report on petitions is 'an important medium for understanding citizens' concerns in relation to EU legislation', and urges the European Commission to take its role of 'guardian of treaties' seriously in order to 'deliver on behalf of citizens' and guarantee that member States apply EU laws correctly.
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