V day, or B day is looming – that’s Vote day or Brexit/Bremain day, however you care to view it. The referendum vote to decide whether the United Kingdom remains a member of the European Union, is on Thursday June 23rd, and if you are a resident here and you haven’t sent your postal vote by now, unfortunately your deadline has passed.
Here in Adeje the FOCUS group recently hosted an information event about the vote and the potential fallout. Both our financial expert, Paul Montague and our legal expert José Escobedo did point out one thing that every non Spanish resident should make sure of, and that is that they are legally resident here.
If you are a fiscal resident in Spain, you are a registered resident in an EU country, so you will continue to have certain rights as such if the vote is to leave the EU. A fiscal resident means that you are registered as a resident and pay your taxes in Spain, and signing up on the ‘Padrón’ (resident register) is also and always important to making sure your daily lives here run as smoothly as possible.
Registering on the Padrón ensures that you have access to all the local council services, subventions and assistance that, as a resident, you are as entitled to as anyone else. It’s easy to do, and the staff at the Adeje Town Hall front office will be delighted to help you.
“Registering on the padrón is shorthand for planning for the future”
As part of a whistle-stop tour of the Canary Islands, the British Consular Regional Director William Middleton met with a group of mostly British residents who are very active in social media and information dissemination among the ex-pat population in Tenerife. The event was held in the Adeje Cultural Centre and was followed by a meeting between the Adeje councillor for institutional relations and communications, Zebenzui Chinea Lineras, and Mr Middleton, accompanied by the British Vice Consul Helen Keating and Mary Suarez from the consulate in Santa Cruz.
During the one hour session with local journalists, bloggers, media representatives, and those who work directly with the ex-pat community, Mr Middleton dealt with a number of important issues, as well as talking about the importance of voter registration in advance of the June referendum on EU membership. He asked all of those present to use their information platforms to encourage everyone eligible to register to vote before May 16th (via https://www.gov.uk/register-to-vote).
He pointed out that his main concern and role was to make sure people voted rather than encourage people to vote either for or against membership of the EU. He also pointed out that regardless of the vote on June 23rd, “nothing is going to happen the next day, on June 24th”, indicating that any change, if the vote is to leave, would take place over a longer period.
On the issue of registering on the ‘Padrón’ the local resident register in each borough, Mr Middleton reminded everyone of the importance the Embassy and the consulates place on residents being on the register. It was, he said, “a shorthand for planning for the future, planning for all eventualities. We see a lot of cases of people who make the transition to living in Spain but who still think they are actually living in the UK”. He added that as well as the obvious benefits to being on the register (such as 50% discount on air and boat travel within Spain for Canary Island residents for example, as well as education and health benefits), there were also downsides to not being registered, often realised when it was too late. He reminded people that in Spain national funding of councils is based directly on the number of people officially listed as being resident in each borough, so there was a direct relation between registration and funding received for local services such as health, education, social welfare, etc.
Following the lively meeting with the British community representatives and bloggers, Mr Middleton and the consular team met with Zebenzui Chinea Linares, the councillor for institutional relations. The councillor said his and the council’s doors were always open to all consular representatives, and he was delighted to welcome the team to Adeje again. “We are always very interested in working to help our British residents, and residents of all the different countries represented in our borough. Our doors are always open to the various consulates and we see that we are very much on same road to harmonious coexistence”.
The British Consul for South Spain and the Canary Islands, Charmaine Arbouin was in Tenerife for a few days meeting with officials and various volunteer groups, but also took time, with the Vice Consul Helen Keating, to pay a courtesy call to the mayor of Adeje, Jose Miguel Rodriguez Fraga.
The visit served a number of important purposes, and was also an opportunity for the Consul to congratulate the mayor on his recent local election success. Both Charmaine and Helen were also anxious to find out more about the ongoing projects in Adeje to improve integration, and look at how the two bodies can work together to advance ex-pat participation in Adeje and in parallel help the British residents here get the most out of their chosen home. It was pointed out that too often ex-pats only look for help when they have a problem – health, social welfare, etc. Therefore one strand of the work of the council that would greatly help the British consular office is getting people into the system before the problems begin.
Mayor Fraga spoke about the Adeje Convivencia/Harmonious Co-existence programme that is an borough-wide programme to strengthen links between the various communities in Adeje – its a cross-cultural, international cross-generational campaign that has been working to reflect many many different peoples who live here. He also confirmed that the council were preparing a campaign to help more people register on the ‘padrón’ and working in many different ways to break down the walls of fear that many non-Spanish residents, including, agreed the Consul, British people, have about approaching their local town halls and registering.
The mayor also detailed the many different services available to the town’s senior citizens – useful information given the fact that many ex-pats are older residents. There is, for instance, a geriatric care centre, and an Alzheimers centre in Adeje which is for all residents. There are also a host of leisure based activities organised all year around for retired individuals – from folk dancing to model making, trips to other islands, theatre, and so much more.
The visit ended with a promise of future co-operation which can only be good news for ex-pats in Adeje.
Don’t lose your voice: make sure you’re on the electoral register!
Adeje council has received information from the national census office regarding closing dates for registering on the census for the 2015 Spanish local elections. All EU residents registered on their local padrón (citizen register) in Spain have the right to vote in the local elections – a fact many people may not be aware of. But to exercise that right they must be over 18, be on the padrón and have actively indicated their wish to vote.
If you have never voted in the past in Spain but are on the padrón, you are likely to have received a formal letter (in Spanish) from the ‘Oficina del Censo Electoral’. This letter is informing you of your right to vote and facilitating your inclusion on the register. It gives you three ways to register on the census: fill in and sign the form enclosed in the letter and post it in the pre-paid envelope (no stamp needed), register online, or call into the council offices in your borough and register on the census. In the case of Adeje that office is the main citizen’s advice centre in the Town Hall on the Calle Grande, and you should bring your passport and your residency certificate with you. European citizens have until December 30th to register if they want to ensure they are included on the census for the local elections.
If you are a citizen of a non-EU country with a reciprocal voting agreement you can also register to vote, and the dates for you to do so are between January 1- 15th 2015. Those countries with the relevant agreement are Bolivia, Cape Verde, Chile, Colombia, Korea, Ecuador, Iceland, New Zealand, Paraguay, Peru and Trinidad & Tobago. You will need to have lived here and registered as a resident for at least five years (three in the case of Norway) and proof of that can be obtained by certificate from the National Police.
The offices in Adeje are open to the public from Monday to Friday, 8am-2pm. Currently Britons represent the largest number of registered EU nationals on the Adeje padrón with over 6,200 followed by Italy, Germany and France.
EU Countries whose citizens are entitled to vote:
Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, The Czech republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italia, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden and the UK
Countries with voting agreements:
Bolivia, Cape Verde, Chile, Colombia, Korea, Ecuador, Iceland, New Zealand, Paraguay, Peru and Trinidad & Tobago
All of us non-Spanish EU members registered on the ‘padron’ or residential register in Adeje have received a letter during the summer regarding confirmation of data, and a few people have expressed concern. There is no need to worry.
According to the people in the Adeje council the letter has been sent to everyone in an attempt to bring the register up-to-date and also remove people who may have signed on years ago but are no longer living here. In fact continuing on the register here might prove a hindrance if you have or are moving back to your home country if you are applying for assistance or a pension for instance, as you will need to state that you no longer are resident in Adeje.
What the letter is asking you to do is to go along to the Citizen’s Advice Bureau in the town hall and bring original residency papers and passports with you to confirm the information in the original registration. If you have changed your address this is the best time to update the information too, and you can also take the opportunity to confirm your intention to vote as an EU citizen in the forthcoming local elections.
If you or your children are Spanish citizens there is no need to confirm details – this only applies to non-Spanish EU citizens.