Tourism agents from Ibiza aren’t the only ones complaining about Mallorca being the centre of attention at Balearic Islands travel fair stands in Berlin, London and other cities. There appears to be more marginalisation of the Pitiusas in other political areas too. Regular citizens, successful business people and politicians on the Island Council and elsewhere all broadly agree that Ibiza and Formentera are playing second fiddle at best in the regional parliament in Palma.
In these financially trying times rumours are flying with a vengeance on both islands and across all party lines. Island Council President Xico Tarres (Social Democrats, PSOE) was recently quoted as saying, “We are effectively being abused by Mallorca.” It doesn’t often occur that he and his predecessor, conservative People’s Party leader Pere Palau share an opinion. But in this case the two sides, who are usually at odds, are communicating in more conciliatory tones.
Palau recently stated, “We need a pact that includes all political movements on the Pitiusas. Party politics should not play a role when we’re trying to ensure the welfare of the islands.” President Tarres accepted the suggestion with some reservations, as it is mostly his party’s colleagues in Palma that decide about the wellbeing of Ibiza and Formentera and even with the same goals in mind, the opposition and party colleagues naturally have differing perspectives about how best to accomplish this.
At the same time, Tarres does not go out of his way to avoid a conflict. Just a few weeks ago he stirred up a bit of a hornet’s nest himself when he announced that the Island Council has been covering the costs of running the Cas Serres retirement home for almost twenty years, which is great for the Ministry of Health, as it takes pressure off its budget in Palma. He made this surprising announcement at the end of October, saying, “In just this case alone the regional government is depriving us of 6 million euros each year.”
All in all Tarres let it be known that the Island Council pays almost 11 million euros in costs that Palma ought to be paying from the state budget. Local politicians have a long list of complaints. When the Coalition for Progress won the regional elections in 2007 Ibiza expected Pitiusas still play second fiddle that millions in investment for the Dalt Vila World Heritage Site were assured. After all, Dalt Vila is the only World Heritage Site on the Balearic Islands.
However this proved not to be the case. The government headed by Francesc Antich (Social Democrats, PSOE) let it be known in a curt message that there were no funds available for such beautification projects. He put them off saying they would revisit the issue in 2009. President Tarres was reservedly optimistic in his comments in mid-November about the coming budget, stating, “While I haven’t yet been able to see the regional government’s budget draft for next year I am certain that it will contain a line item for the World Heritage Site.”
The second phase of construction for the Santa Eularia conference centre has also been postponed indefinitely. Antich was there in September during the international presentation of the centre and did speak of its importance in attracting offseason visitors. However, he made no definitive statements about further financing. It must be noted that money for this project would not come from Palma but from the Ministry of Trade and Industry in Madrid.
Pedro Solbes (PSOE), Minister of Finance, did promise the Balearic Islands a special transfer of 2.8 billion euros in funds, however decisions about how it will be distributed around the archipelago in the end will be made by Antich’s government in Palma.
Adding insult to injury, Ibiza was to participate only as an observer in a pilot project with the Spanish Ministry of Tourism to attract older visitors to the Balearic Islands this winter. The former Minister for Labour, Margarita Najera (PSOE) promised that not only Mallorcan hotels would profit from European pensioners, but also Ibicencan. But as soon as her replacement Joan Barcelo (PSOE) took over, he quickly and very clearly stated, “At least in the first year the project will be focusing on Platja de Palma.” Island Councillor for Tourism Pepa Marí (PSOE) energetically complained about the discrimination against Ibiza. Her protest brought results. Balearic Islands Minister for Tourism Miquel Nadal (Unio Mallorquina, UM) backed down and said that Ibiza would also be allotted a contingent of EU pensioners in spring. At least this was a small step in the right direction.