The town hall of Tangier on the verge of losing the property of the Alava-Esquivel palace in Spain?

The condition of the Alava-Esquivel Palace, property of the municipality of Tangier located in Vitoria, capital of the Spanish Basque Country, continues to deteriorate and the municipality is once again sounding the alarm.

The Alava-Esquivel palace threatens ruin. This is the sad observation of the Town Hall of Vitoria, medieval city and capital of the Basque Country in northern Spain, where the imposing building, dating from the 15th century, is located.e century.

For the city, this palace is not devoid of importance and represents an important slice of history of the country. It is here, in this building flanked by two towers that belonged to the Alava family, which was part of the nobility of the country, that resided prestigious visitors such as King François Ier or the Duke of Wellington, who won alongside General Alava the battle of Vitoria, marking the beginning of the fall of the Emperor Napoleon.

Now converted into civilian residences, the Alava-Esquivel Palace became, by a combination of circumstances, the property of the city of Tangier in the late 1960s.

The Incredible Story of an Unlikely Legacy

Property of the Duke of Tovar, Igracio de Figueroa y Bermejillo (1892-1953), the Alava-Esquivel Palace is part of the important heritage that the Duke possessed in Spain. On his death, the Duke of Tovar bequeathed his estate to his sister, but as she died in 1969, the Duke’s movable and immovable property was to revert, in order of succession, to the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and , in case of refusal, to the city of Tangier.

And if Tangier was among the Duke’s heirs, it was because he, wounded during the Rif war, was so well cared for in Tangier – where a hospital bears his name – that he decided to set up his main residence there in the 1920s.

The American NCI not having accepted the inheritance of the Duke of Tovar, it is therefore to Tangier that the property returned, in the same way as a building in Madrid, resold later to the municipality of the city by Tangier for the sum of 2.6 million euros.

Fines piling up

But since then, the state of disrepair of the building has continued to worsen, due to lack of maintenance. The town hall of Vitoria has therefore cracked down over the years by inflicting fines on the Moroccan municipality, which today number seven… all of which have remained unpaid.

Thus, as revealed by the Spanish media El Correo, Tangier’s debt now stands at 283,690 euros in unpaid fines. Fines imposed on the Moroccan city for not having taken care of the maintenance and renovation of the building, but also for not having paid taxes such as the IBI (tax on real estate) as well as the Basura tax (for garbage collection).

And if the city council of Vitoria is alarmed, it is because of the presence in the building of a dozen residents. The safety of these would not be compromised, according to Ana Oregi, the adviser for the territory and the action for the climate within the same council, but the fact remains that this situation is considered “unsustainable” by Oscar Fernandez, spokesperson for the Elkarrekin Podemos party.

The question of the safety of local residents has become all the more pressing since the building has been singled out by Hispania-Nostra, a non-profit association, declared to be of public utility, which has worked since 1976 for the defence, promotion and enhancement of cultural and natural heritage.

Thus, last April, the association, which carries out surveillance programs for endangered heritage, classified the Alava-Esquival palace on its red list due to its “general deterioration” and “risk of landslides”.

Objective of the city council, to recover the enjoyment of the Alava-Esquival palace. And to do this, the town hall of Vitoria is betting on a very specific strategy, reaching the maximum number of fines that can be imposed, a total of ten, in order to be able to launch an expropriation procedure.

A legacy that is (too) expensive in Morocco

However, this dossier has not remained a dead letter in Morocco. In 2016, Mohamed Bachir Abdellaoui, then mayor of Tangier, went to Vitoria to put an end to this dispute between the two cities, and to express his commitment to the restoration of the building, the cost of which amounted to that time to two million euros, in addition to the costs of unpaid fines and taxes.

But if part of the costs were paid, 17,000 euros for maintenance costs advanced by the town hall of Vitoria, the restoration did not follow, and the future of the Alava-Esquivel palace was invited again during ordinary sessions of the municipal council of Tangier.

Faced with the size of the budgetary envelope to be devoted to this heritage which over time takes the form of a poisoned gift for the municipality of Tangier, it was then a question in 2018 that the city of the strait yields the Spanish palace to the Moroccan State for a symbolic dirham, for lack of being able to finance the restoration of the premises. According to Spanish media, it was reported that the Moroccan state would in turn hand over the palace to Spain or to the village of Vitoria.

But since then, the dossier on the future of the Alava-Esquival Palace has been at a standstill and relations between the cities of Vitoria and Tangier are suffering.

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