The Cretu Villa on a hill near Santa Agnes in Ibiza should have already been relegated to the dust heap of history. The deadline for demolition of the estate issued by the administrative court in Palma was November 1st. The call for bids from demolition companies have been made. However, nothing has actually yet happened as far as demolition work is concerned. At the moment the legal and political tug of war continues, accompanied by each side blaming the other in turns, threats and occasional utterances of good will. The end appears to be nowhere in sight.
How long does it take to remove an imposing estate with a total 3,115 square metres of living area? Is the state allowed to rob a family of its residence so quickly? Does it make sense to tear down such a large home at a cost of almost 1 million euros in taxpayer funds? Would it be preferable to try and find another use for the building instead of destroying it?
These are the central questions in the Cretu case and the heated discussions continue. The administrative court in Palma declared the building illegal stating it must be demolished by November 1st, 2008. After a great deal of hesitation the municipality finally started preparing for this and set aside 900.000 euros in its budget – the estimated costs of the demolition. They also put out a call for bids for the work and a total of eight companies submitted offers.
As we went to press it remained unclear as to who will receive the contract or if it will be awarded at all. Even before the call for bids, Mayor Jose Sala (People’s Party) made it clear that they would not be able to meet the court’s deadline and applied for a three month extension. In his reasoning he wrote of the “enormous technical and economic difficulties”, as well as the “considerable breadth” of the demolition work necessary.
At the same time, Sala also brought an emotional component into the affair, saying, “Ultimately there is a family living there. Should we send in the police and simply cast them out onto the street?” The court in Mallorca has remained unmoved by this line of argument and was unimpressed by the technical problems alleged by the municipality. A spokesperson for the court steadfastly rejected Sant Antoni’s application for extension, stating, “There will be no further delays to the demolition and re-naturalisation of the property.” The judiciary is increasing the pressure on those responsible on Ibiza and is also seriously considering imposing sanctions against the mayor for failure to meet the deadline.
The environmental protection group GEN, who have been fighting the Cretu building for years now, generally blamed Mayor Sala for the delays. They accuse him of wasting time. The administrative court gave them a deadline of 18 months back in May 2007 with the final deadline of November 1, 2008. The environmentalists feel that this was more than enough time to complete the demolition. Instead, the municipality did its utmost to ignore the problem and delay the final verdict. The Social Democrat opposition on Sant Antoni’s municipal council went on the offensive against the mayor, saying, “Sala is lying when he states that the demolition delays are not his fault. He has been aware of the court order since it was issued, and it is his duty to act in the interests of the community and not represent the interests of a single individual.”
However, in an interview with the Diario de Ibiza daily newspaper Mayor Jose Sala vehemently rejected these accusations. He claimed that the accusations that he was delaying the demolition were untrue. He said there had simply been too many open questions and problems and implied that the municipality was frankly overwhelmed by the matter. As a reason for the previous inactivity he mentioned the fact that Sant Antoni does not have a civil engineer for this work. Additionally, for some time it was unclear what state the house would be found in – whether people were still residing there or if it was furnished, and whether the plant facilities were still onsite.
He further noted that the work was a huge financial burden on the municipality, although they have set money aside in the budget for the project over the past few years. Finally there is the issue of how to dispose of the debris. That is why he remains unperturbed about the threat of sanctions by the court. Up until now none have been imposed. He says, “I don’t believe that it will come to that.”
Meanwhile Michael Cretu’s tone has changed on the issue. Until recently the music producer seemed confident and unimpressed, even combative, on the issue. Instead of demanding damages running into millions of euros, he is now issuing statements like, “I was glad to have escaped the communist Ceausescu regime, and now here they want to take this away from me.” A reason for this more resigned tone could be the fact that preparations for the demolition have found that Cretu has apparently built up much more square footage than allowed by the building permits, which have since been declared illegal anyway.
The permits officially allowed almost 900 square metres of living space, however according to official statements the actual amount totals 3,115 square metres – more than three times what was allowed. This finding gives the municipality the right to impose a fine on the owner of upwards of several million euros. Cretu’s lawyer Jaime Roig is also no longer protesting against the demolition in general. However, he is arguing that the various additions do have legal permits and are independent of those declared illegal.
If it should go that far, only the sections declared illegal should be demolished. He is also asking for a six month stay for his client in a letter that the Sant Antoni authorities received in early November. Cretu argued that two families are currently living in the building, including some young children. He must also hire a specialised foreign company to complete the dismantling of his recording studio on the premises.
There were also unpleasant repercussions to the events on Ibiza in the media. Der Spiegel titled an article about the planned demolition of the Cretu villa “Expelled from Paradise”. The main thrust of the story was that perhaps success went to the Cretu’s head and that he was aiming far too high with the construction of his estate, ignoring all of the legal and political fundamentals surrounding the issue. “He created his own earthly paradise there, a Shangri-La on a sun bathed Mediterranean island.” Spiegel author and Ibiza connoisseur Olaf Ihlau further wrote that Cretu had clever lawyers and good friends when he started construction in 1997, which he believes is what allowed Cretu to obtain the building permit in the first place.
Concerning the demolition, Ihlau wrote, “As was the case with Boris Becker on Mallorca, apparently Ibiza also wants to make an example of a prominent foreigner. There is plenty of envy and resentment at play, as well as no small amount of xenophobia on the part of Ibicencos, who feel that their island is being occupied by hordes of sun seeking hedonists.” The magazine also quotes Cretu’s lawyer Roig as saying that this would probably never have happened to a rich native resident.
These statements caused outrage on Ibiza. GEN was especially incensed, wondering if Cretu seems to believe that Ibiza is a banana republic. However, they did state that Cretu was probably correct in as much as this would not have happened to an Ibicenco, stating, “No administration would ever have gone to the extreme lengths they did to help a local.”
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