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European Commission

Press release

Brussels, 3 August 2012

Commission welcomes plans to improve situation for citizens who purchased property on the Spanish coast

Today, European Commission Vice-President Viviane Reding, the EU's Justice Commissioner, welcomed an announcement by Spain that that it intends to improve legal certainty for property owners along the Spanish coast which have been affected by the Coastal Law. The Coastal Law (Ley de Costas) aims to protect local habitats by designating an area along the entire coastline as a public domain. However, homeowners within the zone claim the law – and the way it has been applied – breaches their rights. Many of those affected by the Coastal Law are European citizens who have exercised their right of free movement and invested their savings in Spanish property.

The European Commission raised this issue with the Spanish authorities on several occasions after receiving a large number of complaints from both Spanish and other EU citizens. The European Parliament's Petitions Committee organised a specific hearing on the matter and urged the Spanish authorities to revise the Ley de Costas.

Spain is now proposing to reform the law to ensure an effective protection of the coastal environment whilst bringing more legal certainty to homeowners and promoting economic and other activities such as leisure and tourism.

"The Spanish Government is right to protect Spain's beautiful coastline and I applaud the care it is now taking to do so in a way that improves legal certainty and due process for citizens who own property on the Spanish coast or who are thinking of doing so. The preliminary draft law will be available online over the coming weeks and I call on everyone with an interest in this issue – who owns or wants to buy property in Spain for example – to look at the draft law online to understand what these changes would mean and to make any necessary comments," said Vice-President Viviane Reding, the EU's Justice Commissioner. "The new Spanish law aims to improve legal certainty for European citizens and businesses and therefore also their confidence when investing in a foreign legal environment. This is good news for citizens, but also for the Spanish economy."


The draft law would extend the period of the existing concession to enjoy possession of properties built in the protected zone (public domain) from 30 years to 75 years. It would also introduce the possibility to sell this interest in the property – subject to prior authorisation –, and to renovate the buildings situated in this zone, as long as this would not imply a change in the volume, height or surface of the property. In addition, the public administration will be obliged to register the definitive and provisional demarcation line in the property register, so that purchasers will be better informed about whether the property is situated in a protected area and the exact location and extension of this area. The demarcation lines will also be published on the website of the Spanish Ministry for Environment.

Citizens affected by the Spanish Coastal Law include both Spanish nationals and other EU citizens who own properties on the Spanish coast.

Spain is home to around 2.3 million citizens from other EU countries, or 5% of the population. This includes around 367,000 British, 238,000 Germans, 225,000 French, 99,000 Italians, 52,000 Dutch and 17,000 Irish.

Since 2010, Vice-President Viviane Reding has raised the issue repeatedly in a series of letters and technical-level meetings with the Spanish authorities, in order to draw their attention to the situation of affected EU citizens.

On 13 July 2012, the Spanish government adopted a preliminary draft law to amend the Coastal Law of 1988. An English summary of the proposal is now available on the website of the Spanish Ministry for Environment:

Citizens can comment on the draft by emailing to

For more information

Justice Directorate General Newsroom:

Homepage of Vice-President Viviane Reding, EU Justice Commissioner:

Contacts :

Mina Andreeva (+32 2 299 13 82)

Natasha Bertaud (+32 2 297 24 59)

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