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Spanish and Spanish property news round-up week ending 17th June
A pivotal week in Spanish and European history
This coming week is a pivotal one in both Spanish and European history as the UK goes to the polls to vote on whether Britain remains within the umbrella of the European Union and the Spanish attempt to choose a government after six months of political impasse.
The outcome of both votes will have a profound effect on all of us who live in Spain, those who own property here and view the country simply as a holiday destination and all those considering whether to invest into Spain or buy here in the future.
The immediate effects of a vote to take the UK out of the European Union are likely to be financial, as currency markets are already jittery and various projections forecast currency movements of anywhere between 8 and 20 percent within the next few months. For those changing Sterling to Euros, that's a potential 8 to 20 percent less euros for every pound, something which will hit every pensioner here in their pockets.
Uncertainty about what a Brexit will actually mean, would follow, as the UK government will then begin negotiations over a huge range of topics, those which affect us most directly being freedom of movement, bureaucratic processes regarding our status here in Spain, right to access health services here, running businesses, and a raft of financial negotiations including taxation, inheritance etc; EU legislation would, after all, no longer apply to the nationals of a country no longer in the EU.
And of course, the whole issue of Gibraltar sovereignty is likely to move to another level, as the border reverts to one between Spain and a non-EU member nation.
How much of an issue this becomes depends entirely on the outcome of the Spanish elections on Sunday, something which will also influence the currency exchange situation, along with the response of world financial markets to the outcome of both votes. There is so much at stake this coming week, and with such varied poll forecasts and so many complicated factors playing a part in what happens, it's impossible to speculate what all of this will actually mean to the business community working out here in Spain and all of the 350,000 odd British nationals who actually live here and have virtually no control over their own future.
Interesting week ahead!
Spanish national news
General election campaign
The week began with a poll showing that the majority of voters for Spain's ruling conservative People's Party (PP) would consent to its leader and acting Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy stepping aside if this allowed the party to stay in government.
Monday evening saw the eagerly awaited live televised debate among the leaders of the main political parties in Spain prior to the forthcoming general election on 26th June, an event which due to the changing face of Spanish politics was a four-way affair, and all four main party leaders turned in polished and highly prepared performances which closely followed ideas which had obviously been scripted before the conversation began.
Mariano Rajoy constantly turned the discussion back to the economy, referring to the falling unemployment figures and the need to consolidate the progress already made as well as the advantages of electing a party which is already used to withstanding the pressures of government. Pedro Sánchez of the PSOE repeatedly outlined his policies with reference to the fact that he would already be implementing them had his alliance with Sr Rivera been allowed to form a government at the investiture debates in March: his target here was Pablo Iglesias of IU-Podemos, whom he again and again accused of supporting the PP by vetoing the proposed PSOE-Ciudadanos government.
Both Albert Rivera of Ciudadanos and Sr Iglesias were intent on highlighting the high profile corruption issues which have dogged the PP over the last four years and which they have both milked in order to promote their own ideals of "transparent government." Neither has any skeletons in their own cupboards as their parties didn´t exist during the construction boom years when the payment of commissions during the process of awarding lucrative public works contracts and building large second homes developments was a widespread practice in all areas of the country, with all the parties having cases to answer somewhere in Spain.
Later in the week, exactly six months after he was punched in the face during a visit to what he considers his home city during the last election campaign, Mariano Rajoy was back in Pontevedra on Thursday to attempt to drum up support prior to next Sunday’s repeat vote.
In the intervening months Mariano Rajoy has been declared “persona non grata” by the Town Hall of Pontevendra, a blow which he says hurt him far more than the punch which shattered his glasses, and the President was met with numerous boos and hisses as he was accompanied by a posse of bodyguards. Even when he jokingly announced that he had his spectacles back as he prepared to give a speech there was palpable tension in the air between his supporters and his opponents.
A sideline to the campaign was provided on Thursday by a demonstration in Madrid concerning the implementation of 2007 Historical Memory law, which requires that street names and monuments glorifying the regime of General Franco be removed from public places. Those who support the law are still upset that progress is being made only very slowly, and as a result demanded more commitment from the country’s political leaders during the current electioneering to implementing the law fully and in a uniform manner.
It's a topic which has been written about many times before and is a highly political subject: the ruling PP are reluctant to resurrect a topic they consider to be something best left in the past, the PSOE are determined to ensure that all those who were buried in unhallowed ground are given full Christian burials with their family members as well as all traces of the dictatorship removed from public view and the new parties who have gained power since the May elections last year are determinedly implementing the law as it stands now and gaining maximum political mileage from doing so.
The Día supermarket chain, which consists of almost 5,000 stores in Spain, has been reported to the Ministry of Agriculture for selling olive oil at below production cost in an effort to woo customers away from competitors with this “lead offer” on its own-brand products.
A Día special offer has made it possible to purchase a litre of olive oil in the stores for as little as 2.19€, whereas according to farmers’ union COAG the production costs last year averaged out at around 2.80€, and as a result the supermarket appears to have fallen foul of Spanish regulations governing fair and unfair competition.
This comes in the context of the latest inflation figures, which show that despite an overall fall in the retail price index of 1% in the twelve months ending this May the price of olive oil actually increased by 16.7% over the same period!
One sector of the Spanish economy which is definitely thriving is that of foreign tourism, the latest passenger numbers at the country’s airports showing an 11.3% increase during the month of May and an 11.9% rise in the year-to-date total after five months.
The amount of passenger traffic in the first five months of 2016 has been higher than last year at all 16 of Spain’s busiest airports, the most important being those of Adolfo Suárez Madrid-Barajas (up by 9% to 19.2 million) and Barcelona-El Prat (13.4% higher at 16.16 million). The next busiest destinations are almost all driven by tourism, with the 4 million mark having been exceeded already this year at Palma de Mallorca, Málaga-Costa del Sol, Gran Canaria, Tenerife Sur and Alicante-Elche.
Passengers on flights within Spain have so far accounted for 31.5% of the total in 2016 (25.7 million), but the leading international market continues to be the UK (13.43 million, or 16.5% of the total), followed by Germany (9.36 million, 11.5%), Italy (4.5 million) and France (4.4 million).
Gastro-tourism was also in the news this week when the three Roca brothers who own and run the Celler de Can Roca restaurant in the Catalan city of Girona failed in their bid to be named Number 1 Restaurant in the world for the third time, losing out to Massimo Bottura, the head chef at the Osteria Francescana in the Italian city of Modena. Such is the prestige of Spanish cuisine at present, however, that the country is also represented in the top 50 by six other restaurants.
Finally, a word about “astro-tourism”: theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking hogged the limelight in Santa Cruz de Tenerife on Sunday when he arrived in the joint capital of the Canary Islands prior to his participation in the Starmus festival, an event which combines astronomy, science in general and the world of the arts.
Over the last few years the popularity of the Canaries as a destination for astronomical tourism has risen sharply, the clear skies and high altitudes making the archipelago an ideal location for both state-of-the-art observatories and amateur stargazers. The Starmus festival has become a major international event, and apart from Stephen Hawking other notable figures taking part include musicians Brian Eno, Rick Wakeman and Brian May.
Summer heat and wild fires
As the summer heat kicks in across southern Spain the firefighters of Andalucía are preparing for their busiest period of the year, and in the coastal town of Almuñécar on Saturday the fire brigade were kept busy not only by a small fire which broke out on the Avenida Almanzora in the north of the town but also by an emergency call from the parents of a baby who they had accidentally locked in the car.
But the consequences of the heatwave were far more serious in Valencia, where a wild firest fire was raging out of control on Thursday morning, affecting seven municipalities in the interior after it first broke out on Wednesday. The flames were fanned by the lively winds which affected southern and Eastern Spain during the evening, when the situation was viewed by the authorities as potentially very serious, but by Thursday the breeze had died down and the firefighters were gradually beginning to control the situation.
That the province of Valencia has become something of a hotspot over the last few days was reiterated later on Thursday when another blaze necessitated the evacuation of a residential area and a hospital in the municipality of Carcaixent. The flames reached some of the houses in Marina de Les Barraques d'Aigües Vives, and four firefighting planes were drafted in to help prevent them from spreading any further.
Summer is also the time of year when many active sports enthusiasts head for the countryside, but of course these activities are also risky: a rafting trip down the River Gállego in the province of Zaragoza ended in tragedy last Saturday when a raft carrying seven people overturned and one of the occupants drowned after being unable to make his way back up to the surface. The 30-year-old native of Zaragoza became trapped in the rocks after the inflatable raft flipped over near Murillo de Gállego.
Transport issues in Madrid
A series of partial strikes began on Monday among workers on the metro and suburban Renfe lines in the city of Madrid, with the disruption escalating on Tuesday as the level of minimum services decreased still further. By Thursday, however, the strikes had been put on hold as negotiators sought to reach an agreement.
At the city’s airport, meanwhile, there is once again the threat of chaos due to another strike being called over the issue of work and rest timetables, an issue which six years ago resulted in Spanish air space being closed for 24 hours. However, this time those who have called industrial action on 28th and 29th June at the Adolfo Suárez Madrid-Barajas airport in Madrid are not the air traffic controllers but the ground staff who guide pilots on the apron as they make their way between the terminal buildings and the runways.
Moving onto the roads of the nation's capital, it is being reported that the Town Hall of Madrid is studying a proposal to introduce a maximum speed limit of 30 kilometres per hour in the district of Chamberí in 2017, reducing the limit from its current level of 50. According to José Manuel Calvo, the council’s representative for sustainable urban development, the aim of this measure is to reduce exhaust fumes and noise pollution in the city.
Valencia bull breeders fight the tide of public opinon
Little by little it seems that the tide of public opinion in the region of Valencia is beginning to turn against the holding of bull-related events in local fiestas on the grounds that the animals are subjected to unnecessary suffering, and although the number of municipalities where bull runs and other spectacles have been cancelled is still low the breeders of the animals in the region of Valencia claim that this is already having a negative effect on their businesses.
In addition, paradoxically, some of the animals being saved from the humiliation of taking part in bull runs, often with flaming torches attached to their horns, are being sent to the slaughterhouse instead, an outcome which is clearly at odds with the intentions of animal rights campaigners.
In the Comunidad Valenciana at present only around twenty municipalities have suspended or banned bull-related events, while on the other hand almost 300 of the 562 municipalities in the region still hold them, so at this stage it can be assumed that the breeders are not yet in danger of going out of business. Nonetheless there is considerable alarm in the sector: each animal costs its owner approximately 400 euros per year to maintain, and if it does not bring in revenue from bull runs and the like, the need for financial viability condemns it to an early death.
Crime and punishment
One of the most curious crime stories during the week involved ten people who were arrested by the Guardia Civil in Málaga following an investigation into the sale of items of archaeological interest online. The investigation began late last year when the items appeared for sale on websites in the Andalucía provinces of Málaga, Granada and Cádiz, and it was soon found that some of them had disappeared from sites which had previously been catalogued by government archaeologists. At the same time, other items were found to be fakes, including a shrunken head, allegedly from the Amazon, which was advertised at a price of 4,980 euros but which had in fact been made using animal hides.
Further west, one and a half tons of hashish were confiscated from a luxury yacht in Sotogrande in the province of Cádiz by the Guardia Civil, who discovered the drugs in a hidden compartment underneath the floor of the boat after it was spotted approaching the port on the radar of the SIVE division of the Guardia. As soon as the 16-metre yacht arrived in the marina of Sotogrande the two Bulgarian nationals on board were promptly placed under arrest.
Offenders on the roads this week included a 56-year-old ambulance driver in Ciudad Real who was found to be under the influence of alcohol while preparing to pick up patients with hospital appointments, and in Madrid the Policía Nacional in Madrid are investigating an incident in which slogans demanding free abortion were daubed on the walls of the chapel in the Cantoblanco campus of the Universidad Autónoma in Madrid on Tuesday night.
Immigration and refugees
As Spain gradually begins to accept the first of its EU-agreed quota of Syrian and Iraqi refugees from Italy and Greece, the Spanish refugee aid commission CEAR reports that last year this country granted full refugee status to only 220 applicants.
Of the 3,240 requests dealt with by the Spanish authorities last year – under a quarter of those received – 2,220 were rejected outright and another 800 people received only secondary protection. Just 220 were granted full refugee status and allowed to remain in this country, none of them on humanitarian grounds.
In other words, despite being obliged by the EU quota agreement to accept a total of 16,000 refugees, the Spanish government welcomed fewer new arrivals last year than the year before, and only 18 of them corresponded to the EU figure.
LGBT Pride controversy in Valencia
A controversial poster advertising the events being held to celebrate LGBT Pride Week in Valencia brought about a massive show of support for the Virgen de los Desamparados, the patron of the city, at an outdoor mass of Reparation presided over on Thursday by Archbishop Antonio Cañizares.
The poster, which was produced by an anti-capitalist group called Endavant, showed the Virgen engaging in a kiss with the Virgen de Monserrat, but far from appealing to the Valencianos’ sense of humour it clearly offended a large number of them. Such was the level of discontent that the Archbishop decided to take the “Geperudeta” (as the Virgen de los Desamparados is commonly known) out of the cathedral for a special Mass which was attended by a huge crowd keen to show their affection for her.
Spanish property news
The latest data published by Spain’s notaries show that during the month of April there were 16.2% more residential property sales than last year, although on the downside a slight fall of 5.1% in average price is also reported.
The number of transactions finalized before notaries during the month was 39,461, one of the highest figures in recent years, and as for the news regarding average prices, the figure of 1,241 euros per square metre is the lowest in the last eight months and representing a fall of 5.1% in comparison to April 2015. Much of this decrease is attributable to a sudden drop in the average price of new apartments (down by 23.4%), and at the same time it also has to be taken into account that second-hand properties are generally cheaper than new-builds, and with the new-build share of the market becoming less and less significant a downward effect on average price is to be expected.
On the subject of property prices, the latest report published on Tuesday by leading property valuation firm Tinsa shows that the recovery in prices is spreading along the Spanish Costas: of the 135 municipalities studied, there were price rises in 71 between the first quarter of 2015 and the equivalent period this year, the most significant being those reported in Teguise (17.8%) and Tias (14%), both in Lanzarote. At this point a year ago prices were found to be on the way up in only 35 of the municipalities, indicating that the recovery is gradually spreading along the coast.
More encouraging news is that most of the supply of homes in coastal areas is now reported to consist of second-hand properties, rather than unoccupied new-builds, indicating that the surplus created by the construction boom in the early years of this century has been eroded in most locations.
That the Costa Blanca is at the forefront of the recovery is reflected in the fact that apart from the major cities and provincial capitals the most active property markets are reported to be in the municipalities of Marbella (Málaga), with 4,396 sales, Torrevieja (Alicante) with 4,356 transactions and Orihuela, also in the Costa Blanca, with 3,782.
In broad terms the slump in the Spanish property market lasted for approximately seven years, and according to at least one market analyst another nine years of steady price increases now lie ahead before the peak prices of 2007 are once again reached in the year 2025.
This is the opinion of José Luis Suárez, a professor of financial management at the IESE business school, who has also forecast that it will be necessary to build 100,000 new homes in Spain every year between now and 2020, and that annual demand will then increase to approximately 140,000 in the following five years.
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Cádiz Province, Andalucia
Granada Province: Andalucia
Huelva Province, Andalucía
Jaén Province, Andalucia
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Region of Andalucia
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