Interview with the Mayor of Tarifa

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JAVIER Moher is a councillor and deputy mayor of the city of Tarifa. He belongs to the United Left (a coalition of left-wing parties with environmentalist and pacifist tinges) and is responsible for the delegations of Tourism, Education and Culture. He is from Córdoba, but has lived for some time in Tarifa, where he came as a teacher of Spanish Language and Literature. Two students from the HISPALENSE school, DESIREE MEILI (Switzerland) and NITTNER MANFRED (Germany) will interview him:

Desirée: Why are you interested in politics?

Javier: I don't know, since I was in Secondary School I realised that there are many things that do not work well, but nobody wants to try to fix them. One day I decided I could try to fix what seems wrong, so I ended up an affiliate of IU in 1997, alternating work and politics, and then here in Tarifa I had to choose politics to commit exclusively to the social environment.

Desirée: How is it possible to reconcile tourism with nature parks?

Javier: I believe in common sense. In Spain, unfortunately, during the last 20 years there has been a tourism based on sun and beaches, very predatory, exploiting the beachfront and real estate speculation. But that tourism has an expiration date because in many areas there is no space for more urbanisation. Tarifa, however, thanks to the wind, has been preserved from this building frenzy. Tourists in Tarifa just want to appreciate the stunning natural environment, historical heritage, and a place to practice sports (kite surfing, horse riding, hiking ...).

Manfred: Yes, but there is not enough accommodation for tourists, no?

Javier: Yes, the truth is that Tarifa needs more hotel rooms, because hotels consume very little space and create stable jobs, while second homes only create jobs during construction and occupy a lot of space but are only inhabited during certain times of the year. In Tarifa there are only about 1,900 hotel rooms, compared to around 9,000 illegal apartments. And the recent statement of the coastal area of the Tarifa natural park prevents these hotels from occupying the whole coast as happens, for example, in Torremolinos.

Desirée: Is there a limit for the installation of windmills?

Javier: Right now, yes. Rate pioneered the installation of these turbines, so in that time there was no planning or prior experience and they were developed in a very disorderly fashion. Now there is solid planning and we are trying to create energy production that will translate into cost savings for the city, because so far this has not been achieved.

Manfred: But the turbines may be a problem for migratory birds, right?

Javier: I do not know if any group has done any research on this problem, but I don't think there is any data showing that migratory birds are affected by the windmills.

Desirée: Are there any limits for the passage of oil tankers in the Strait?

Javier: That's not a subject for the City Council, I guess it is a national regulation. Although with the Prestige disaster, we know that the regulation was too flexible and had little control.

Desirée: What tourism model is preferred in Tarifa?

Javier: A sustainable model, because mass tourism is concentrated in a very short time and generates many benefits, but creates a number of problems for infrastructure and services (garbage, security, parking ...) for which Tarifa is not ready. It is inevitable that many people come in summer, but the important thing is that people know Tarifa at other times of year when the weather is mild and with a prolonged high season from March to October.

Desirée: How do you detect the Moroccans who want to reach Europe illegally?

Javier: Well, the Moroccans who have no visa try to get into Tarifa by boat (small boats) or in freights. A system of radars, the SIVE, which detects the boats at sea, is an option we have, but personally I don't think it is a solution to prevent the smuggling of immigrants, it is only one way of detecting them and what we are seeing is that immigrants are entering from remote areas of the African coast, thereby increasing the risk of shipwrecks and deaths.

Manfred: How do the people of Tarifa react when there is a shipwreck?

Javier: Years ago the people of Tarifa mixed a lot with the immigrants, who were given refuge in the sports hall and people came there to bring them clothes or food. Over time people have become accustomed to this phenomenon and, moreover, the government has done everything possible so that there is no direct contact between the people of Tarifa and the immigrants who are now detained at La Ilsa de Paloma and assisted directly by the Red Cross.

Desirée: What cultural plans does Tarifa have?

Javier: An important part is the preservation of historical heritage. Tarifa is the archaeological site of Baelo Claudia, from the Roman times, the Castillo de Guzmán el Bueno, an Arab building, the old town, considered a historic-artistic place, rock art shelters ... But having so many signs of other cultures is also a problem as many economic resources are needed to maintain and promote this heritage. Unfortunately in previous years there has been little concern for protecting this heritage and we're not receiving enough support from some governments and the momentum of our own to cover it. It's a challenge because the castle is awaiting rehabilitation, and we will approve a project to rehabilitate the houses that are in bad shape, burying electrical cables, protecting the walls, etc ... but this comes at great expense and the government usually does not bother too much about it so little progress is being made. As for the cultural program of the city, it is trying to find a program as attractive as possible during the summer. It is organising the Second African Film Festival, which is a way to seal agreements and partnerships with Africa. Then there is the annual program related to film screenings, theatre, literary readings, concerts, etc ... We are hoping that this conventional cultural programming is as regular as possible so that in this way we can reach all citizens.

Desirée: What do foreigners have to do to live here?

Javier: If they are members of the EU, simply register with the council, allowing them to vote in European and local elections without having to have Spanish nationality. The non-EU citizen has to face a Foreigners Act which seems to have been reformed, but it is now very strict and requires having a job to settle in Spain. There is a quota system, for example Morocco and Ecuador, by which Spain calls on these countries a number of immigrants it needs, but that system almost does not solve the problem of illegal immigration.

Manfred: Regarding education: does Tarifa have schools of different levels or do you have to go to another city?

Javier: Rates are guaranteed in childhood and primary education (from 3 to 11 years) and Secondary Education (from 12 to 16). They can then opt for a technical study or the high school, but the problem is that Tarifa has a very limited offer and does not cover all options.

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