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Spanish news round-up, 11th to 18th July 2014
Sharks and balconing mar the holidays for some as underwater chess hits the sporting headlines in Granada
Now that the summer is with us a high proportion of the Spanish have migrated to the coast, and inevitably stories related to the beach feature highly in the news. In Catalunya six beaches were hurriedly evacuated after three blue sharks were spotted cruising just off shore, and while in many parts of the country the feast day of the Virgen del Carmen was celebrated on Wednesday in Torrevieja the activities on the day before the maritime procession were put on hold as all the local fishermen hurried out to sea to take advantage of a large shoal of fat fish. Suddenly the bouncy castles and paella-making competitions were relegated to the background as the chance of a bumper catch took precedence.
The fishermen of Andalucía, meanwhile, will be breathing a sigh of relief after the news that the King of Morocco has finally signed a new EU fishing treaty which will allow Spanish boats back into Moroccan fishing grounds after a three-year absence, and, still on the coast, the resorts of the Balearics are once more overrun with tourists from northern Europe. Unfortunately a number of those choosing the islands for their summer holidays from northern Europe seem to be of the opinion that it’s a good idea to leap from hotel-room balconies into swimming-pools, a practice referred to in Spanish as “balconing”: it’s certainly not everyone’s idea of fun, and the consequences if they miss their target can be fatal, as has been proven in various incidents over the last ten days.
While some choose to risk their lives balconing, others opt to spend a week in July in Pamplona at the annual San Fermines bull runs, which ended on Monday in gory violence when two Australians were among three who suffered serious injuries from the horns of a 600-kilo bull. Year after year the locals complain that foreign visitors lack the knowledge and common sense to avoid injury, but the other man gored by “Olivito” was a local from Navarra.
Apart from these mishaps and a kilometre-long oil slick on the coast of southern Gran Canaria, in general the picture for Spain’s tourist industry looks promising this year, with record numbers of passengers passing through the country’s cruise ship ports and airports. Reports published this week show that cruise ship traffic in Spain is 6% up on last year, and a total of 8 million could be reached for the first time by the end of 2014, while at the country’s airports the popularity of low-cost flights continues to grow. Overall passenger numbers are 6% higher than last year, but in the low-cost sector the increase is over 10%, and almost half of all passengers now choose this option.
Unfortunately the number of people flying into Spain was accidentally increased by three last week when Ryanair had to repatriate three ladies from Mallorca whom they had accidentally flown to Stansted instead of Santiago de Compostela. Despite the unexpected bonus of spending a night in the idyllic setting of Essex, they were not impressed.
The long-running saga concerning the Nóos corruption case lurched onwards again this week, with the instructing judge sharing the opinion of one of the accused that Princess Cristina may have been treated leniently in terms of the number of offences for which she is likely to be charged, and for those who like their politicians to be outspoken the latest comments made by Esperanza Aguirre, in which she likened the propaganda campaign of the Podemos party to the tactics used by Josef Goebbels, will have made enjoyable reading. Equally controversial in the eyes of many people is the policy adopted by the ERC party in Catalunya, which affirms that an independent Catalan nation ought to include the Balearics, Aragón, Andorra, the region of Valencia and parts of southern France as well as Catalunya itself.
Another ongoing political disagreement concerns Gibraltar, where a Spanish navy vessel this week intercepted two ships entering and leaving the port on the grounds that Spain claims these waters as her own. The respective ambassadors in Madrid and London have been hauled in by the two governments, but until serious talks are held to resolve the situation it seems that Gibraltar will continue to make the news for all the wrong reasons for the foreseeable future.
Elsewhere, Leo Messi’s disappointment at failing to win the World Cup final may be softened by the news that he can proudly claim to be the highest taxpayer in Spain, having single-handedly contributed over 50 million euros this year. That may seem a lot, but it’s nothing compared to the 3.2 billion euros “earned” by banks in commissions on cash withdrawals at ATM machines, a figure which has led to vociferous protests form consumer watchdog groups.
Finally, back to the beach, where those hankering for cooler weather are now able to think of Christmas and start stocking up on their El Gordo lottery tickets. Alternatively, those attempting to cool down in the sea might be interested in getting in some early practice for next year’s underwater chess championship in Motril. Yes, underwater chess. Anyone who can find a way to set up a parallel darts tournament at a depth of ten metres will surely be onto a winner…
For full details of these and many other stories, including a Spanish property news round-up, visit www.spanishnewstoday.com
Spanish property round-up, 11th to 18th July 2014
Attitudes towards the state of the real estate market in Spain at the moment appear to be, in a word, ambivalent.
On the one hand there are grounds for optimism: the official sales figures for the month of May, according to the country’s central statistics unit, were higher than in the same month last year, and this has now been the case for three months in a row, but there is still ground to be made up before the cumulative sales for 2014 outstrip last year’s figures. Similarly, in important areas such as Madrid and Galicia the May figures were lower than last year’s, and this indicates that it would still be inappropriate to consider the situation buoyant.
In addition, the weight of figures showing that the market depends to a large degree on non-Spanish buyers continues to grow. The Tinsa coastal property market report notes that in Alicante, Málaga, Tarragona, Santa Cruz de Tenerife and Girona between a third and a half of coastal sales were to foreigners, and despite knock-down prices it seems that the Spanish are still unwilling or unable to purchase their own homes.
As if that weren’t enough, Tinsa also confirm that prices are continuing to fall in most areas of the coast, although in some parts the opposite is the case. Along the Mediterranean coast as a whole the accumulated depreciation since 2007 now stands at 47.7%, and at the current rate of decline that figure could rise to over 50% by the end of this year.
All of which seems to point to gloom and doom, but it should be pointed out that although the latest statistical publications give grounds for concern, they are far less pessimistic than they have been for quite a long time. In general, the market appears to be slowly returning to a state of stable health, albeit in a far leaner, more slimmed-down version than during the boom years a decade ago.
Fiestas, fish and football are in the news as the first heatwave of this summer hits the Region of Murcia www.murciatoday.com
The population of the Region of Murcia is currently in full summer mode, with a host of exhibitions, festivals, activities, concerts and fiestas to keep visitors from the rest of Spain and Europe occupied, and many of the headlines this week have been concerned with these summer events. On Wednesday, for example, most coastal towns and villages celebrated the feast day of the Virgen del Carmen, the patron of seafarers and fishermen, and while the traditional marine procession took centre-stage in San Pedro del Pinatar the fishermen of Cartagena marked the occasion by donating half a ton of fresh fish to families in need in the municipality.
Also on the coast, the Town Hall of San Javier announced that the ferry service to and from La Manga will be free for those travelling to the Jazz festival and music events in the town, and residents and visitors in La Manga will also be pleased to know that their water supply appears to be guaranteed for the foreseeable future following the completion of renovation work on the infrastructures along the strip.
Most of those visiting the Region gravitate towards the beaches, and as usual there are a series of incidents making the news there too. Drownings have been reported this week in Los Urrutias and Santiago de la Ribera, and as the temperatures rise towards 40ºC the regional health authorities have issued recommendations about how to avoid heatstroke: the key point is basically to do what the Spanish do, and stay out of the midday sun.
Away from the beaches there has also been some weightier news this week regarding the Region. A report published by property valuation firm Tinsa shows that house prices on the coast are still falling, despite increased sales figures and general optimism in the market, and the same report states that hopes for improvement are pinned on the eventual opening of the Paramount theme park in Alhama and the construction of the Marina de Cope macro-development. Unfortunately, the future of both of these projects is in serious doubt: Marina de Cope has been halted by a Supreme Court judgement, and work at the site of the Paramount theme park has still not begun due to a lack of success in finding investors willing to finance construction, although the government continues to seek EU financing in order to start the building work.
Sr Samper has met with more success in another area, though: his re-negotiation of a 14-million-euro debt with the taxman means that Real Murcia football club’s survival is practically guaranteed, at least for the next five years, and another piece of good news for the Region was the announcement that workers at the Navantia shipyard in Cartagena will continue in employment due to funds being unblocked for the refit and overhaul of the S-74 Tramontana submarine which belongs to the Spanish navy.
Another important project for the Region of Murcia, the new international airport at Corvera, is still on hold pending the EU’s analysis of the legality of a government loan which would allow it to open, but the regional government remains optimistic. This week Deloitte produced a report saying that the Corvera airport could carry almost seven million passengers per year by 2051, but again the consultants based their figures on the assumption that Paramount and Marina de Cope will go ahead. Flight statistics however, show that Alicante continues to storm ahead, while Murcia flight figures could do with a bit of a push from behind.
Elsewhere in the Region an illegal fireworks factory has been busted in Archena, the rural crime squad has recovered over two tons of stolen fruit from a market in El Palmar and the health centres are on the alert to spot any cases of chikungunya which might occur in Murcia. This tropical virus is rarely lethal but is causing considerable alarm following a major outbreak in the Caribbean, and the fear is that if tiger mosquitoes become carriers it could become endemic in this part of Spain.
Finally, as the week draws to a close so too does the latest Guardia Civil campaign to heighten awareness of the dangers of driving under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol by means of intensified random spot checks. Most of us have got the message by now, but this is clearly not the case of the driver of a 40-ton truck who was detained on the A-7 near Lorca after zigzagging all over the road; breathalyzer tests showed that he was not drunk, but further investigations revealed that his erratic driving was due to having taken a good dose of cocaine.
For more details on these and many more stories visit the regional news section at www.murciatoday.com.
Correos chaos in the Vega Baja as tourists wilt in the heat www.valenciatoday.es
As the summer season begins to reach its peak and temperatures climb towards 40ºC the region of Valencia’s tourist industry is making the most of its busiest season, but despite some indications that this could be a record year for the sector not all is good news on the Costa Blanca, it would appear.
On the plus side, more and more low-cost airline passengers are choosing the region as their destination – the Comunitat Valenciana now accounts for almost 15% of all such visitors in the whole of Spain – and the number of passengers using Alicante-Elche airport topped a million in June for the first time. However, all of this is of no use to local businesses and the regional economy as a whole if the visitors don’t spend money here, and this week there has also been a warning from the Costa Blanca hoteliers that they have more vacancies than they would expect at this time of year, especially from Monday to Thursday. Alongside the falling numbers of cruise ship passengers at Valencia and Alicante this year, this comes as a reminder that the overall success of the region’s tourist industry in 2014 is far from being a foregone conclusion, and that efforts still have to be made to ensure that the tourism offered matches the expectations of visitors and residential tourists as closely as possible.
In order to achieve that aim, the role of Town Halls throughout the region is to make their municipalities better places to visit and live in, especially bearing in mind the importance of residential tourism, and many stories related to this have caught the eye this week. In Rojales, for example, where only a quarter of the population is Spanish, moves are at last afoot to ensure that local taxi drivers charge their customers according to fixed tariffs rather than questionable mental arithmetic, thus catering to the expectations of the northern Europeans who live in the area, and in Torrevieja it has been confirmed that a fully equipped walkway is to be built on the Dique de Poniente on the western side of the harbor, matching its longer counterpart on the Dique de Levante which has proved enormously popular with both visitors and residents.
Similarly, in Orihuela Costa procedures have been set in motion to investigate an illegal toxic waste dump which is reportedly endangering the health of those on nearby residential developments, although the Green Party Mayor will not be actively taking part following his heart attack last weekend, and in Guardamar del Segura the council has warned that it will be fining people found feeding the feral cats which abound in the streets of the town.
Other local issues which demand attention in the Vega Baja area of the province of Alicante include the lack of postal services in Los Montesinos, where the electricity supply has been cut off causing “Correos Chaos”, and the desperate attempts being made by the Policía Local in San Miguel de Salinas to operate effectively without a patrol car. Viewed from the outside these failings can sometimes appear comic, but to those living in the towns affected they can bring misery and annoyance.
Despite this, though, foreigners continue to choose to live on the Costa Blanca, and a bulletin published by property valuation Tinsa this week reports that over half of all property sales in the coastal areas of the province of Alicante so far this year have been to non-Spaniards.
Elsewhere in the region of Valencia this week those in the news include the boy who was saved from a water mill after being swept away by the current in the river in Requena, the five people arrested after nine tons of stolen water melons were recovered in Cullera, and the archaeologists in Callosa del Segura who have unearthed three more Argaric graves in the 4,000-year-old settlement of Laderas del Castillo, which is believed to have been one of the largest in south-eastern Spain at the time.
Finally, as the week draws to a close so too does the latest Guardia Civil campaign to heighten awareness of the dangers of driving under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol by means of intensified random spot checks. Most of us have got the message by now, but this is clearly not the case of the South American woman who knocked down and killed a cyclist in the southern part of Torrevieja on Wednesday evening. The driver was found to be well over the legal limit for alcohol in the bloodstream, and until such cases cease to occur the spot-check campaigns are bound to continue.
This week currency exchange rates remain at a 23 month high for those changing money from sterling to euros, making Spanish property even better value and giving those who transfer their pensions across to Spain more for their money. If you still use a bank to transfer money, ask for a quote to use a money transfer service, youll be amazed how much more you get for your pounds using this method!
Click for this weeks currency round up showing the exchange rate between Sterling and the Euro.
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