Update 2 July: The Canarian government said yesterday that the Constitutional Court has backed its tourism law and lifted the suspension imposed when Madrid appealed Article 4.2, a) and c) of the Canarian tourist law as unconstitutional. The clauses being appealed were specifically concerned with the requirement in the law for hotel and tourist apartments to be of 5* quality or greater.
The court said that contrary to Madrid’s claim that the Canarian government’s law was restrictive by limiting new developments, the law in fact gave full scope for them, provided they were of the permitted luxury quality, and that the alleged economic damage from the prohibition of 4* or lower quality accomodation could not, of itself, arise from the clauses requiring tourist accommodation to be of 5* or higher quality.
Fernando Rios, regional commissioner for the Development of Self-Government and Institutional Reforms, welcomed the Court’s decision and the reinstatement of the whole of last year’s new tourism law. Commissioner Rios said that the court’s decision confirmed the Canarian government’s view that the appeal had been politically motivated, and its right to legislate regionally in accordance with its own tourism policy. He regretted the delay that the appeal had caused, and the investments that had been jeopardised for the construction of new luxury developments.
Sr Rios also confirmed that the promised assessment and evaluation of the new legislation is being undertaken at this present moment, and reiterated the Government’s willingness to talk to all involved in tourism in the Canary Islands to ensure that the reviewed law is the best possible vehicle to carry out the government’s policy of renovation and modernization.
Update 21 February: And Madrid will, after all, issue an appeal against the Canarian tourism law. The Consejo de Ministros has approved the presentation of an appeal againstArticle 4.2, a) and c) of the Canarian tourist law as unconstitutional. The clauses being appealed are specifically concerned with the requirement in the law for hotel and tourist apartments in Lanzarote, Fuerteventura, Gran Canaria and Tenerife to be of 5* quality or greater.
Madrid, however, considers that such restriction is not an “environmental” or “territorial” issue, as stated in the Canarian law, but an economic one and thus violates legislation providing free access to and provision of services within the EU internal market. The national government argues that in this respect, the requirement for legal tourist accommodation to be exclusively of such a standard limits access to tourism, a restriction banned under Article 10.e ) of free access legislation.
Given the arguments that have raged in the past about “Bolkestein”, I would draw particular attention to the fact that there is absolutely no issue here, nor mention of or reference to, accommodation currently considered illegal. Indeed Madrid recognizes utterly the Canaries’ absolute right to ban holiday letting in residential properties, and to require privately owned tourist accommodation to be let through a sole agent.
Original post 17 February: Spain’s minister for Industria, Energía y Turismo, Canarian José Manuel Soria, has said that after talks failed to get the Canarian government to modify last year’s Canarian tourism law, the national Government might present an appeal against it on the grounds of unconstitutionality. Sr Soria, speaking at the Confederación Canaria de Empresarios (CCE), said that the law in its current form contravenes the Spanish constitution, let alone European law.
The focal point of tension is the situation of hotels in Gran Canaria especially, where the authorities do not want to be limited to luxury 4 or 5 star. Sr Soría said he wholly approved of some measures in the Canarian law, notably those concerning renovation, but that the restriction on mid-range hotels goes against basic Canarian, Spanish and European principles of economic liberty. He stressed that although Madrid recognized absolutely the Canaries’ right to legislate on its own tourism matters, it had to abide within rights bestowed by national and international freedoms to provide services.
Let us remember three things. First, that this is a minister of the very government that is imposing similar tightened tourism measures nationally! Secondly, that he is himself a Canarian who is at daggers drawn with the beleaguered president of this region, Paulino Rivero, who is struggling to maintain support for his reelection bid among his own party, let alone the electorate! Thirdly, there is no suggestion here that the “freedoms” being demanded refer to anything other than the rights of lower-star hotels; indeed there has been nothing but controversy for months now over the new legislation’s bans on (particularly) the construction of 3* hotels in Gran Canaria.
The eastern province considers Tenerife, with its preponderance of 4 and 5* luxury hotels to be unfairly advantaged by the legislation and upmarket drive, and thinks that the regional government should not be imposing a one size fits all policy on the islands as a whole. Within these contexts, it is hard to see the remarks of Sr Soría – himself from the eastern province – other than in the light of a PP national politician having a dig at an opposition party president, a former regional political sparring partner of his with whom there is very little love lost, and all in order to highlight what is widely seen in the east as a grossly unfair territorial advantage for Tenerife in the Canarian law. Let us also remember that the Canarian government gave itself a year for its legislation to “settle”. We will know later this year what its own view is of the success of the legislation, and what movement will follow, and who will benefit.