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Spanish news round-up, 20th to 27th June 2014
A princess is to stand trial and no end to misery for Spanish footballers
As the full summer season gets under way in Spain, with schoolchildren already on holiday, new King Felipe VI would no doubt enjoy a relaxing start to his reign, but unfortunately it seems unlikely that he will be able to do so. Although surveys suggest that his subjects are in general pleased that he has succeeded to the throne, the acceptability of the royal family is being severely jeopardized by the involvement of his sister Cristina in the Nóos corruption case, and it has been confirmed this week that the intention of the instructing judge is that the princess should stand trial as an alleged accomplice to the wrongdoings of her husband. If convicted she could face up to 16 years in prison.
In addition, a new law has been passed this week granting former King Juan Carlos judicial immunity, a status he enjoyed while in power, but which was lost when he abdicated. Although he still retains the official title of King, his legal status had been modified by his abdication, something which Spanish law had no provision for, hence the change passed this week on Thursday, extending his own immunity from prosecution.
Former PP party treasurer Luis Bárcenas is already “celebrating” a year behind bars today, although he hasn’t even been tried, let alone found guilty. This is because the instructing judge believes that there is a risk that he will flee the country, and Sr Bárcenas’ fourth request to be released on bail fell on deaf ears this week.
If the Spanish are happy with their King, they’re certainly not happy with their football team. For the first time in ages the Spanish players flew home even before the English team, and although they may have wanted to slink away quietly it seems that not even their homecoming passed off smoothly: on landing in Madrid their plane was struck by lightning! Among the most disgruntled at the team’s early exit from the World Cup will be Spain’s bar-owners and memorabilia traders, who will be losing an estimated 739 million euros in extra revenue as the general public will presumably be less keen on watching Belgium, Costa Rica and Switzerland than if their own heroes had progressed beyond the group stages.
Elsewhere in the sporting news, it might seem difficult to hold a road cycling race at sea, but this year’s Tour of Spain will be the second to feature an aquatic start line as the opening stage sets off from the aircraft carrier Juan Carlos I in the port of Cádiz.
Of course, while the monarchy and the World Cup have dominated the news, life goes on elsewhere. During the week the government has confirmed its plans to cut income tax rates across the board, a move which certainly won’t lose them many votes in next year’s general election, there was a bomb scare at the border between Spain and Gibraltar on Monday, and all the indications are that the tourist sector is due for a bumper summer with the number of visitors and the amount they are spending being higher than ever. As usual, the British lead the way in this field, despite the efforts of French air traffic controllers!
Other important issues include the developments regarding the Castor Project offshore gas storage facility, which seems likely to be closed for ever following an investment of a mere 1,700 million euros, and the news that Spain’s population is becoming older. This is due not just to advances in medical science (although in some regions heart attacks are a significantly less frequent cause of death than in others, it has been revealed this week) but also to the fact that birth rates have fallen alarmingly in most parts of the country. Life expectancy is six years longer than thirty years ago, and women are having their first children at an average age of 32, and all of this means that in the future fewer people of working age will be responsible for generating pension payments for more retired people.
In this context, the economic crisis from which Spain appears to be emerging could pale into insignificance compared to what’s to come!
For full details of these and other stories visit the spanish news section
Spanish property news
There has been very little to report on the national real estate market this week: it’s almost as if, with the figures beginning to show a slight improvement, analysts are nervous about publishing any more data in case the hopes for recovery are dashed!
This seems unlikely to happen, but although a note of caution should be sounded in the light of figures published this week by Spain’s notaries which show to what extent the timid improvement is reliant on purchasers from abroad. In the first quarter of this year, the notaries report, almost a fifth of all residential property sales were to non-Spaniards, and in the key areas of the Mediterranean, the Balearics and the Canaries the percentage is higher still.
In fact, in the Canaries, the Balearics and Valencia around 40% of all property sales were to foreigners. This makes it difficult to say that the Spanish market is reaching any kind of equilibrium, as it seems that the majority of Spaniards are still unwilling or unable to climb onto the property ladder.
It’s also interesting to note that despite scepticism in some parts, the Russian market made a significant contribution. British buyers were top of the list, but the Russians were ranked third, behind the French and well ahead of more established markets such as the Germans, the Italians and the Swedes. Despite the value of the rouble falling significantly against the euro in the first three months of the year, it appears that the Russians too believe that current prices in Spain represent a bargain.
Murcia Regional News: Hailstorms greet the start of the summer and its demolition time for the Santa Ana Urbanisation in Jumilla
It happened again! Just when it seemed that it might never rain again in the Region of Murcia, for the second week in a row there was a major storm in many areas, especially in Cieza, Blanca and Abarán, bringing welcome relief to many farmers. Many, but not all: in some parts of Cieza a spectacular hailstorm destroyed peaches and other stone fruits which had not yet been picked, and work at the local canning factories is likely to come to an abrupt halt as a result as agriculturalists count their losses.
Elsewhere, it’s the time of year when the tourist season gets into full swing. Spanish schoolchildren are now on holiday, and many families are already in residence at the beach as the flocks of tourists arrive both from other parts of Spain and from abroad. The number of foreign visitors to Murcia this year so far is up by an impressive 45% on the 2013 figure so far, although the market is tiny compared to other parts of the country: the Region still accounts for under 1.5% of all foreign visitors to Spain.
Certainly the number of residential tourists was not enough to merit the construction of the proposed Novo Carthago development in the municipality of Cartagena. This ill-starred project never got off the ground, partly as a result of the property bubble bursting and partly because there were grave doubts over its legality which have this week resulted in the national government delegate to Murcia being called to answer questions in the investigation. Not even the most senior politicians in the Region are exempt from being dragged into these long-winded and far reaching cases.
At the centre of the land on which Novo Carthago was to be built is the derelict monastery of San Ginés de la Jara, which the developers (Hansa Urbana) had agreed to restore as part of the deal by which they were given planning permission. Along with the La Atalaya castle in Cartagena itself this building is now in urgent need of restoration, and the Town Hall is facing increasing calls from locals to deal with the issues.
Another failed residential development in the news is the Santa Ana del Monte in Jumilla, where the promoter has been ordered by the local council to remove the foundations and infrastructures which were created before the project finally ground to a halt after seven years of court battles (again because it was illegal). Sadly, half of the 900 odd people who paid hefty deposits on these properties were foreign nationals, most of them from the UK, who are still continuing battling to reclaim deposits or seek an alternative solution.
As thousands head for the coast of Murcia (including Liam Neeson!), the week began with a timely reminder of the dangers of swimming, as three drownings were reported in quick succession in Cartagena and at La Torre Golf Resort, although each of the three was very different and one appears to have been a bizarre case of suicide. At the beaches of Calnegre the authorities are attempting to reduce the risk to bathers’ and lifeguards’ safety by imposing stiff fines on anyone failing to heed Red Flag warnings during the summer, and further east in Calblanque there is some controversy over the decision to open the protected nature park up to cars, with drivers being required to pay to park.
Cartagena was in the news again as it was announced that the A&E department at the Rosell Hospital will finally remain open. In the end the regional health service has been forced to backtrack by sheer weight of public opinion, and the unit in the city centre will operate alongside the facilities at the new out-of-town Santa Lucía hospital.
On the sporting front, Murcia’s football fans are even more depressed than others all over Spain. While the national team has arrived home in ignominy, the future of Real Murcia is in serious doubt. The team almost achieved promotion to La Liga this season, but now a cripplingly large debt means that Hacienda has stepped in to take away the club’s training ground, one of the few assets Real Murcia owns apart from the players’ contracts. Whether the club can survive this latest crisis remains to be seen.
Finally, news for those who are reading in the UK and have to negotiate the M-25 every day. So little traffic is there on the A-7 motorway in the Lorca area that it is apparently possible to drive for 32 kilometres on the wrong carriageway without causing any accidents, even with four times the legal limit of alcohol in your bloodstream. This was proved by a 35-year-old Ecuadorian in the early hours of Wednesday morning, although readers are not recommended to attempt to emulate his feat.
More details of these and many other stories can be found in the regional news section of Murcia Today.
Valencia Today:Tourist sector in full swing as bar terraces, bonfires and earthquakes share the headlines
As the full summer season gets under way all along the Mediterranean coast, it’s fitting that many of the news items over the last week in the region of Valencia are related to tourism, and in general it appears that the sector is set for a bumper summer. The number of foreign visitors in 2014, particularly to the Costa Blanca, has so far been higher than ever, although it has to be pointed out that on the other hand it does seem that the average length of their stays is shorter, and therefore not much more money is being injected into the regional economy.
In preparation for the sudden increase in population throughout Alicante, Valencia and Castellón 47 extra medical centres are being opened for the summer, and at the region’s main entry point from abroad, Alicante-Elche airport, it seems that at long last the taxi drivers have been placated, and the threat of strikes has receded. With this problem removed, at least for the time being, the most likely source of frustration to weary travellers looks like being one that we’re all used to: this week the French air traffic controllers have been at it again!
Apart from the beaches, most visitors enjoy the experience of sampling the local cuisine on the numerous outdoor bar and restaurant terraces, but some of the residents of Elche are less than pleased at the sudden proliferation of these terraces over the last few years. Ever since smoking indoors was banned at the start of 2011 the number of terraces has mushroomed, and while smokers welcome this development it can cause inconvenience to residents: in this case a residents rebellion has forced a new law to control noise pollution.
Although the summer is traditionally a quiet season for news, of course there are other issues hitting the headlines. A minor earthquake shook Pilar de la Horadada, Torrevieja and Orihuela Costa on Thursday, and on the subject of earthquakes the series of tremors in Vinaròs last year seem to have put an end to the Castor Project offshore gas storage facility in the north of the province of Castellón. Geologists are convinced that there is a link between Castor and the earthquakes, and it’s unlikely the plant will ever open again. Never mind, it only cost 1,700 million euros…
In the city of Alicante local residents, traders and politicians are decidedly hot under the collar on account of the proposals to open a new Ikea store and a macro-shopping centre, and not even the San Juan celebrations during the week managed to take the heat out of the debate.
These midsummer fiestas include the lighting of huge bonfires to burn away bad spirits, and many uphold the tradition of swimming in the sea on the night of San Juan in order to bring good fortune and robust health for the coming twelve months. The unfortunate death of a 60-year-old man on the Las Arenas beach in the city of Valencia after his evening dip would seem to cast serious doubts over the validity of this theory.
This week currency exchange rates remain 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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