In Spain, there is a movement that is working to stop people from leaving the country and to prevent the destruction of regional infrastructure. The success of these candidates puts pressure on the parties that have previously held power.

Espaa Vaciada : Empty Spain
Espaa Vaciada (Empty Spain)

The idyllic existence in the country is becoming more popular as a way of life. On the other hand, very few people have any interest in permanently settling there. The similar pattern can be seen developing in many different parts of Europe: whole areas are becoming more parched. The issues faced by politicians are quite similar: in reaction to falling population counts, governments are cutting down on infrastructure spending, which results in even more people leaving the country.

Especially in the Nordic nations like Finland and Sweden, but also in eastern Germany, there are places that are in danger and are battling with declining population numbers. These regions are at risk of becoming unsustainable. In general, the European Union is facing the challenge posed by the progression of demographics, namely the rapid increase in the average age of the population. However, distant and rural areas have a greater risk of falling into a "vicious spiral of decline," as the European Parliament described it in a briefing document.

The Spanish social movement known as Espaa Vaciada (roughly translatable as Emptied Spain) is opposed to accepting this new reality. Because of its achievements, for instance in the area of Castile and León, it has the potential to serve as a model for the rest of Europe. In February elections for the regional parliament were held in the area, which is nearly as big as the old German Democratic Republic (GDR). Nearly 2.5 million Spaniards were registered to vote. In addition to the horror of the right-wing extremist party Vox taking part in government for the first time, which the conservative Partido Popular brought into a coalition for the first time after its election success, the movement of Espaa Vaciada was primarily responsible for shaping the election campaign. This movement was brought into the coalition for the first time after the success of the Partido Popular in the election. She might make significant changes in the political landscape of Spain with her strategy.

The Espaa Vaciada party compiled candidate lists in five of the nine provinces that make up Castile and León. In the province of Soria, Espaa Vaciada emerged as the most successful political force. In response to the increased rivalry, parties on both the left and the right have attempted to personalise their causes and make them their own. Luis Tudanca, the Social Democratic Party's nominee, made reference to the "nation rendered invisible" in his speech.

What exactly does the movement want to accomplish, and where did it get its start? The book "Espaa Vacia," sometimes known as "Empty Spain," was written by local reporter Sergio del Molino and released in 2016. He wrote back then, "There is an urban and European Spain, which is no different from any other European metropolitan society in any of its qualities. There is also an inland and unpopulated Spain, which I term empty Spain." Sergio de Molina asserts that more than half of the Spanish area may be classified as belonging to this subcategory. There are around 7.3 million people living there, which accounts for 16 percent of the total population.

The phrase "Empty Spain" refers to regions in Spain that had high rates of rural population loss during the decades of the 1950s and 1960s, which were referred to as the "rural exodus." During the 1950s and 1960s, Spain was hit by an enormous wave of emigration. This was because Spain was a regressive country at the time, and it wasn't able to begin the journey towards democracy until 1976, following the death of the dictator Francisco Franco, who had been in power since 1939. Protesters at the time would often be heard saying things such, "We want to work, and we don't want to leave."

A vast number of civic organisations and associations have come together to establish the political platform and social movement known as Espaa Vaciada. Some of them have been around for the last two decades, and they compete in various provinces under names that are distinct from one another. The movement's goal is to advocate for the needs of Spain's rural areas, which have seen population declines in recent decades.

For the province of Teruel, a representative of Teruel Existe even entered the Spanish national parliament in 2019 and tipped the scales in the vote of no confidence in Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, which he won with a wafer-thin majority. This was significant for the province because it allowed Teruel Existe to enter the national legislature. A certain sense of gallows humour is conveyed by the name of the platform in Teruel, which, loosely translated, means "Teruel actually exists!" It brings to mind the opening statement in the introduction of Julio Llamazares's book "The Yellow Rain," which was published in 1988 and follows the tale of the sole surviving resident of a town in the Pyrenees. "There is Ainielle," the sentence reads.

The platform's programme highlights its goal to repair the defective, unequal, and unbalanced paradigm of territorial development. This objective is emphasised throughout the platform. The departure of people from rural areas, the deterioration of infrastructure, and the increased risk of desertification as a consequence of these trends are the focus of their efforts to get these issues into the political agenda. The name of the platform not only alludes to the process of depopulation, but it also alludes to a criticism of the migration of infrastructure as a consequence of the chronic neglect of rural areas by the central government in Madrid. This neglect has been going on for quite some time.

Soria is one of the provinces in Castile and León as well as the whole of Spain that has lost the greatest population. In an area that is four times the size of Saarland, there are a total of 183 villages that are home to 90,717 people. That's a decrease of more than eight percent, and that amounts to 8,116 less than in 1987. Because of this, the population density has decreased below the threshold of nine persons per square kilometre (also known as "demographic vulnerability"), which is the threshold that the EU considers to be problematic. As a point of reference, the population density in Saarland is 383 people per square kilometre, which is 42 times more than in Soria.

Soria is a good example of how depopulation may have negative effects on a region. There are 39,000 people living in the city that also serves as the capital of the province. It is linked to Valladolid, the next bigger city, by the national route 122, which has only been partly extended to four lanes and is infamous for being an accident black spot. Soria YA!, the local department of Espaa Vaciada, has expressed their displeasure with the fact that hospital patients are sometimes had to travel by ambulance for two and a half hours to go to the hospital in Valladolid or Salamanca (three and a half hours), respectively, for their treatment.

The platform garnered an astounding amount of support during the regional elections, rising to the position of most popular party with 42 percent of the vote and earning three seats in the regional legislature as a consequence. Its extensive history and local origins have contributed to its success throughout the years. Individuals established the organisation in 2011, naming it "Against being forgotten by institutions," which is admittedly a cumbersome moniker. According to comments made by Narciso Michavila, director of the demoscopic business GAD3, it has recently developed into the "most advanced platform" at Espaa Vaciada.

España Vaciada 's electoral agenda is headed "100/30/30". The number "100" denotes that the place in question must have an internet connection capable of providing at least 100 megabits per second. No more than half an hour or thirty kilometres should separate a person from the nearest essential public services and linkages to national transportation networks.

The fact that connection to the digital world is the top priority, even before the physical accessibility of services of general interest, demonstrates that even in regions that are still predominately dominated by agriculture, dependable access to the internet has become as fundamental as having access to electricity, water, and heat. One of the requirements of the platform is the establishment of public facilities, including medical clinics, educational institutions, and police stations, among other places. Her plan is to expand and update both urban and rural health care facilities. She is an advocate for the establishment of job, economic, and housing incentives in rural regions with the hope of luring teachers to relocate there. Additionally, Spain Vaciada backs a strategy that encourages energy self-sufficiency in the country's rural areas as well as the development of renewable energy sources. She is in favour of organic and vast farming as opposed to industrial farming since the former "helps maintain biodiversity and keeps the populace in rural regions."

This tendency makes Espaa Vaciada an attractive potential ally for the left, despite the fact that the movement, like many regionalist and nationalist parties in Spain, has a culturally quite conservative stance. Last but not least, left-leaning political parties include on their wish lists the development of more public infrastructure as well as an ecologically conscious energy policy and agricultural system.

Other challenges are present in Germany as a result of its relatively high population density. However, we are also going to be dealing with the reorganisation of rural regions. The concept of urban sprawl in Germany's commuter republic, in which the vehicle serves as the primary form of transportation and access to metropolitan areas, is not just approaching its ecological carrying capacity. For example, sociologist Andreas Knie recommends a digital-ecological traffic reversal together with the renovation of rural regions, which undoubtedly has similarities to the 100/30/30 programme that is being implemented in Spain.

The incorporation of empty Spain into Spanish politics has, until to this point, taken quite various forms throughout the country and has been greatly influenced by the specifics of each area. Their significance is likely to grow in the next years as a result of the complex multi-party constellations that have emerged in Spain in recent years, displacing the conventional paradigm of dominance held by two main parties. Local movements have a high possibility of obtaining one or two seats in parliament in the parliamentary elections that are scheduled to take place throughout Spain in 2023. These elections are scheduled to take place.

Their stances seem to be consistent with left-wing conceptions of the state as a guarantee of services of popular interest because of their calls for governmental expenditures in infrastructure and ecological agriculture. In any event, there is one thing that cannot be questioned: empty Spain has a voice, and that voice will not be mute in the years to come.

The author Timo Daum works as an author and university lecturer in the field of business informatics and digital transformation.
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