Madrid’s famous Retiro Park and Paseo del Prado boulevard have been added to UNESCO’s World Heritage List. The decision, made on Sunday, brings the total number of World Heritage Sites in Spain to 49 – the third-highest in the world after Italy and China.
Up until Sunday, none of these sites were located in the Spanish capital. The Madrid region, however, was home to three: El Escorial Monastery in Alcalá de Henares, the historical center of Aranjuez and the Montejo beech forest in Montejo de la Sierra.
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez celebrated the news on Twitter, saying it was a “deserved recognition of a space in the capital that enriches our historical, artistic and cultural legacy.”
Retiro Park is a green refuge of 118 hectares in the center of the city of Madrid. Paseo del Prado boulevard is another icon of the capital, featuring six museums, major fountains such as the Fuente de Cibeles as well as the famous Plaza de Cibeles square.
For the sites to be granted World Heritage status, Spain needed the support of two-thirds of the UNESCO committee – 15 votes from 21 countries. The proposal was backed by Brazil, Ethiopia, Russia, Uganda, Nigeria, Mali, Thailand, Kyrgyzstan, Oman and Saudi Arabia, among others.
Prior to the vote, the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), the organization that advises UNESCO, had argued against considering the Paseo del Prado and Retiro Park as one site, and recommended that the latter be left out on the grounds that there were no “historic justifications” for the two to be paired.
This idea was strongly opposed by Spain’s ambassador to UNESCO, Andrés Perelló, who said: “What they are asking us to do is rip out a lung from Madrid. El Prado and El Retiro are a happy union, whose marriage is certified with a cartography more than three centuries old.” The origins of Paseo del Prado date back to 1565, while Retiro Park was first opened to the public during the Enlightenment.
The ICOMOS report also denounced the air pollution surrounding the site. To address these concerns, Madrid City Hall indicated it plans to reduce car traffic under its Madrid 360 initiative, which among other things is set to turn 10 kilometers of 48 streets into pedestrian areas, but is considered less ambitious than its predecessor Madrid Central.
The 44th session of the World Heritage Committee took place in the Chinese city of Fuzhou and was broadcast live at Madrid’s El Prado Museum. Perelló summed up the reasons to include Retiro Park and El Paseo de Prado in less than three minutes.
“When people say ‘from Madrid to heaven’ [the slogan of the Spanish capital] I ask myself why would you want to go to heaven when heaven is already in Madrid,” he told delegates at the event, which was scheduled to take place in 2020, but was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Every year, UNESCO evaluates 25 proposals for additions to the World Heritage List. In the case of the Paseo del Prado and Retiro Park, the site was judged on whether it evidenced an exchange of considerable architectural influences, was a representative example of a form of construction or complex and if it was associated with traditions that are still alive today. The famous park and boulevard sought to be inscribed on the UNESCO list in 1992, but its candidacy did not reach the final stage of the process.
The effort to win recognition for the sites’ outstanding universal value began again in 2014 under former Madrid mayor Ana Botella, of the conservative Popular Party (PP), and was strengthed by her successor Manuela Carmena, of the leftist Ahora Madrid party, which was later renamed Más Madrid. An advisor from UNESCO visited the site in October 2019.
English version by Melissa Kitson.
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Q&A: Can foreigners become civil servants in Spain?
For many Spaniards, landing a stable, paper-pushing civil servant position is the dream.
They know it’s not going to be exciting or to make them rich but they see funcionario work as ‘a job for life’ in a country where the unemployment level is notoriously high and much of the job market is based on temporary summer positions in tourism.
They also like the fact that civil servant jobs pay a decent salary compared with the national average and often work fewer hours too.
Funcionario positions in Public Administration, Social Security and Defense were paid an average of €29,580 gross per year in 2020.
This is higher than the national average gross salary of €24,395 per year, according to stats released by Spain’s National Statistics Institute (INE), although that’s not to say some civil servants get paid considerably less than the above mentioned salary.
So, if jobs in the civil service are so popular then how can you get one as a foreigner?
Can foreigners in Spain get civil service jobs?
The main answer is yes, you can get a job in the civil service in Spain as a foreigner, however, there are a few requirements.
Those eligible for civil servant jobs in Spain include EU nationals and those who are married to Spanish or EU nationals. You must currently be married and not divorced.
Children of EU nationals who are eligible to work in Spain (over 16 years old) and who are under 21 can also apply, as can those who are over 21 but who are financially dependent on their parents.
Third-country nationals with work and residence permits in Spain may also apply for civil service jobs.
Does this apply to all jobs in the civil service?
No, the only jobs that foreigners can’t apply for and that you must have Spanish nationality for are those which “directly or indirectly imply participation in the exercise of public power or in the safeguarding of the general interests of the State and Public Administrations” according to the Spanish government.
What qualifications do I need?
While some civil service jobs in Spain require a university degree, there are several that don’t.
Whatever types of qualifications you have, however, will have to go through the homologación (recognition) process so that it’s validated and accepted in Spain. Keep in mind that this can take months, and for non-EU qualification holders even longer.
You may also be required to show other proof and certificates.
According to the Spanish government: “This requirement will not apply to applicants who have obtained recognition of their professional qualification in the field of regulated professions, under the provisions of Community law”.
It also goes without saying that you will need a high level of Spanish to get a job as a civil servant and you may need certificates to prove this too. If you’re trying to get a job in Catalonia for example, you may also be required to know Catalan, as well as Spanish.
What are oposiciones?
Oposiciones are the entrance exams you’ll need to sit to become a civil servant in Spain. Each type of position will have its own requirements, some easier and some harder, which involve a series of exams to test your abilities and suitability.
Some positions may require practical exams, while others such as for the police force will require a physical test.
Photo: FREDERICK FLORIN / AFP
Is there anything that will prevent me from getting a civil servant job in Spain?
Yes, foreigners should not have received disciplinary action or been fired from similar roles in public service in their own countries.
Also, those who are applying for jobs where they will be in contact with children may have to show a police check from their home country to prove that their record is clean.
What are the advantages of being a civil servant in Spain?
- A decent salary
- You have the right to take holiday days in addition to personal days off
- Your social security is automatically deducted, giving you healthcare and pension rights
- It’s a stable job that you are less likely to be made redundant from
- You have the possibility of transferring to different departments
READ ALSO: The downsides of moving to Spain for work
What are the disadvantages of being a civil servant in Spain?
- It’s a big investment in time and effort to get a job as a civil servant
- The need for qualifications, extra tests, and exams
- The extensive number of requirements and paperwork that needs to be filled out
- Complicated systems as well as old-fashioned and bureaucratic work models
- Monotonous work, where you’re unlikely to face new challenges
- Little to no opportunities for remote employment
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