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Spanish news round-up 21st February
Spanish Property News
After a glut of statistical reports and bulletins concerning the Spanish real estate market over the last few weeks, at last things have settled down a little over the last few days.
What news there has been, though, has not been good. Last week it was reported that although Spain’s central statistical unit were publishing data which hinted at an upturn in the market, the summary which was due to be published by the country’s notaries would probably be both more realistic and less encouraging, and this turned out to be the case. The notaries report a 19.7% fall in the number of properties sold last year, despite the relatively healthy state of the second-hand market and increased interest from foreign buyers. Part of the reason for this is that low-end buyers are still finding it extremely difficult to be granted mortgages by the banks.
This grim outlook was later reinforced by a property registrars’ statistical bulletin which reported that prices fell again last year, and are now back to levels last seen in 2003.
The crumbs of comfort lie mainly on the Mediterranean coast and in a few other areas, where it really does appear that the market may finally have bottomed out, but until the statistics nationwide begin to follow the same pattern the country’s property sector officially continues in a slump which has now lasted six years.
Meanwhile, those of us who have got our fingers burnt in the property market can console ourselves with the knowledge that we are in good company: even James Bond almost got caught up in a property development corruption scandal. This week Sir Sean Connery gave evidence by video-recording concerning his involvement, or rather non-involvement, in the “Goldfinger” corruption case which is under investigation in Marbella, and although he has now been cleared by the investigating judge his wife is still part of the ongoing investigation. The actor was said to be “shaken, but not stirred” by the accusations.
Problems on Melilla and Ceuta frontiers
This week the headlines have been totally dominated by the continued assaults on the Spanish borders of Melilla and Ceuta. Although the numbers of immigrants attempting to enter Spain has started to increase again, the numbers remain considerably lower than in previous years when the construction boom was at its peak and jobs on building sites could be easily found.
However, the onset of the economic crisis and the fact that Spanish domestic unemployment is so high, has meant that the desire of so many people to enter Spain illegally and compete for the lower paid jobs with native Spanish who are desperate for work has meant a hardening of attitude towards illegal immigration, and a huge amount of money has been invested into preventative vigilance systems.
The success of both Spanish and Moroccan police in catching immigrants out at sea has resulted in increased pressure on the border fences of Melilla and Ceuta, and last week 15 people drowned when an attempt to swarm the border at Ceuta went badly wrong.
Spanish police were accused of using excessive force to repel the illegal immigrants, and it was acknowledged in Congress that the border police regularly use anti-riot measures to control the borders. The Governor of Melilla was outspoken in his defence of the police, saying that if they couldn´t use force to prevent unwanted immigrants entering the exclave, then he might as well employ hostesses to give them a welcome instead. Police numbers have been increased, but the border police are demoralised by the criticism levelled at them over the incident, so on Monday refused to use riot equipment to repel the attackers, with the consequence that 150 got across the fences and onto Spanish soil. The immigrant transit centre is now at more than double its capacity, so the army have had to bring in campaign tents to accommodate the unwanted arrivals.
This week the gamble taken by the lawyers of Princess Cristina not to appeal her indictment in the Caso Nóos has backfired, Judge Castro unconvinced by her explanations that she knew nothing about her husband’s business activities and was unaware that the money she was spending using credit cards of a company of which she was half owner had come from dubious sources. For now, the princess remains in the list of those who may yet stand trial in this highly public corruption and money laundering case. However, police are confident they have identified the lawyer who recorded her testimony in court and facilitated its publication in a national newspaper.
Corruption, however, remains in the headlines, as it transpired that another high ranking PP Senator and former Mayor had 1.5 million euros in a Swiss bank account, prompting another major media coverage eruption towards the end of the week.
However, at least Sir Sean Connery has been cleared of involvement in the “Goldfinger” case down in Marbella.
ETA has remained in the news, with two of its most wanted terrorists located in Mexico, one of the crimes in which they were allegedly involved being the only murder in Murcia, and a London court has allowed Antonio Troitiño out on bail in the UK until March 14th.
Troitiño was accidentally released when a court failed to apply the Parot Doctrine ( before it was overturned by the European court) after being sentenced to 2,746 years in prison for 22 murders.
Remaining with the courts, the Argentinian judge who is handling cases against former police officers accused of torture during the period of dictatorship has been taking video testimonies. Spain has declined requests for the extradition of the surviving parties.
The case concerning top CAMbank officials has also been in the courts this week, accused of misappropriation of funds and company fraud, bail set at 1.9 and 6.6 million euros for the two individuals involved.
Arguments over the proposed abortion law amendments have continued this week as protestors step up the amount of demonstrations taking place across the country, a poll showing that 85% of Spaniards believe that women should continue to have the right to abort if a foetus is deformed.
The arguments have also continued between the Iberian bottling Company and Coca-Cola after the multinational accused the Spanish bottling company of causing damage to its brand with the current dispute over plant closures. As the week has worn on the offer to those facing the loss of their jobs has improved, but as of Friday there had been no firm agreement.
Spanish Cultural News
Despite the crisis and spending cuts, the cultural scene in Spain appears to be alive and kicking if the exhibitions at the nation’s most important museums are anything to go by.
The Prado in Madrid is playing host to a real “guest of honour” painting in Fouquet’s 15th century work“Virgin and Child Surrounded by Angels”, a fascinating masterpiece with uncanny parallels to the current scandal surrounding François Hollande’s private life, while in Málaga the Thyssen Museum’s hugely successful display of late 19th and early 20th-century landscapescontinues to draw large crowds of visitors. Among the artists featured are Courbet, Van Gogh and Monet.
In Valencia, meanwhile, a new exhibition has opened containing a look back on how painting in Spain developed under Franco’s régime and in the years following the dictator’s death in 1975, and in the city’s IVAM Museum a special exhibition of over 400 of permanent itemsheld is being held to mark the 25th anniversary of one of the city’s prime exhibition venues.
In Madrid’s Thyssen-Bornemisza museum the exhibition to mark the 100th anniversary of the death of Dario de Regoyos is now open, and in the Guggenheim in Bilbao “The Body that Carries Me” is a display of the organic sculptures by leading Brazilian artist Ernesto Neto.
On a slightly different note, another of Spain’s emblematic cultural genres is the subject of a series of Flamenco matinées to be held over the next month and a half in Córdoba. Initially these lunchtime concerts are being held inside, but when the weather improves they will move outdoors to the Patio del Potro in the centre of the city. And these flamenco recitals are priced at a credit crunching 2 euros each.
If any further reason were needed to visit Córdoba in the spring, this this is one!
Murcia Regional News www.murciatoday.com
Corvera Airport news
In spite of the apparent goodwill to sort out the problems between the former concessionary and the regional government, Aeromur have already announced that to open the airport by the 18th September will “be impossible.”
This, they say, is due to the failure of the regional government to request that the Supreme Court allow the rescission of the original management concession to be annulled, as without this legal impediment being removed, they have no official authority to start completing the remaining bureaucratic procedures that have to be put in place in order to open the airport. And of course, there has still been no response from Brussels as to whether the regional government can legally offer financial support to this private consortium.
All of which means that the chances of the management team being ready to open for the Winter flights schedule diminishes by the hour. Realistically, Winter is not the best time to open as the volumes of flights coming into Murcia over the last couple of Winters have been negligible, and it is hard to see how two competing airports within a 30 km radius of each other will be able to viably offer flight services unless some money is spent by the regional tourist board to promote more aggressively to the UK market and fill more planes.
Murcia currently attracts just 7% of the 14.3 million British tourists who chose to holiday to Spain last year, so there is plenty more to play for, although this week the regional tourist board announced that it was targeting the Czech, Polish and Bulgarian markets who currently record such insignificant figures that they don´t even appear on official reports.
Other Murcia news stories
Another story which relates to tourism is the current debate underway about the future of diving in the Islas Hormigas regional marine park off the coast of Cabo de Palos. This protected area is being abused by illegal fishermen and private divers, damaging the fragile environment, meaning that diving schools and those running professional tourism diving packages face an uncertain future, with the numbers of divers they can take into the water restricted. The schools point out that their divers are not interfering with the marine life, are not touching or killing anything, merely observing with respect, and that substantial sums of taxpayer’s money has been spent promoting the diving attractions of the natural park. Limiting the numbers of divers during the main diving season could make their businesses unviable and the divers will simply go elsewhere. What is needed, they say, are increased measures and vigilance to stop those who are abusing this marine environment to the detriment of those who respect it.
Yet Cartagena fishermen had a good year, recording catches which have increased by20%, in spite of the national catch haul percentage falling in other ports.
Staying with wildlife, an interesting story focuses on research to use Murcian silkworms to heal ligaments, tendons and broken bones, this strong, flexible thread a product which once helped the economy of the region to boom.
The regional economy could certainly do with a shot in the arm, figures released this week showing that more than 77% of unemployed Murcians have now been out of work for more than a year, and more than 50% have been out of work for more than two years. This does little more than raise concerns about burglaries, and this week police have arrested a group in the North-west of the region.
Health has been a busy topic this week, fortunately the flu epidemic seems to have passed its peak, and it’s been announced that the Rosell Hospital emergencies unit in Cartagena will remain open for the next year following a huge public outcry over the proposed closure. Further resources will also be injected into reducing the waiting lists by opening up more day surgery at the Rosell as part of the overall restructuring of services following the opening of the Santa Lucia hospital in Cartagena.
Paramount Park Alhama de Murcia
Ecologists are unhappy that the Department of Environment has decided to accept the environmental protection and conservation document submitted by Premursa rather than the environmental impact report which would be the normal procedure. It is a surprising decision, as those of us who live in protected areas have to submit an environmental impact report to even change the route of an existing vital entrance road or put in a supporting wall for a crumbling bank, ( cost over 2 grand a time) but the decision has been taken to push forward the project and allow the construction to begin as soon as the council of Alhama concludes its administrative paperwork. This could pull forward the beginning of construction to earlier in the summer, providing the cash can be confirmed to finance the park.
Valencia Regional news www.valenciatoday.es
Orihuela markets to finally move, Torrevieja sending salt for American Big Freeze and ex-Murcia councillor found murdered in Alicante
Local residents in the Vega Baja area of the south of the Comunitat Valenciana will be making a few adjustments to their daily and weekly routines over the coming weeks, following developments which affect such simple everyday tasks as going to the market or crossing the road.
For those who enjoy the colour and bustling activity of Orihuela city’s two weekly markets, the news is that following months of argument, protest and general unrest the venues of the Tuesday and Saturday markets are to be changed as of March 4th. This doesn’t seem like an earth-shatteringly important decision, but in Orihuela recently the disputes and protests have been bitter and vehement, and it remains to be seen whether in the end the changes will benefit stallholders, shoppers and the city itself as the council intends.
Half an hour down the road in Orihuela Costa, meanwhile, residents in the La Regia area will be pleased to see that the local townscape has been altered by the addition of a new footbridge, enabling them to cross the busy N-332 more safely and more quickly. In Pilar de la Horadada, on the other hand, a new nature area has been officially opened in Las Lagunas de Lo Monte, offering a pleasant alternative for those looking for an opportunity to relax and learn more about the area’s flora and fauna.
All these changes to residents’ daily routines may bring about a need to get away from it all, so an Easter break might be in order in April: thanks to Vueling, Easter flights to Menorca and Tenerife from Alicante are now an easy alternative, with the new summer services getting a sneak preview for a limited time period only in the second half of April.
The news in the region’s industrial sector has been a mixture of the old and the new this week. For the first time in many years the Torrevieja salt industry has received a major order: thanks to the cold weather in North America a massive transport vessel is transporting a full cargo of Torrevieja gritting salt to Baltimore, breathing life into an industry which is over 2,000 years old. More recent is the Ford plant at Almussafes, where this week a Transit Connect became the eleven millionth vehicle to leave the production line since the factory opened 37 years ago. Even newer is the BabyKeeper, a new mattress designed by Valencia researchers to reduce the likelihood of cot deaths: years of research have led to claims of a 72% statistical improvement.
These success stories are unfortunately not matched by the recent history of Alicante’s cruise ship terminal, but the Port Authority is confident that with the appointment of new management the facility can rise from the ashes and compete with its neighbours in Valencia and Cartagena: let’s see if Francesco Balbi can tempt cruise ship companies back to the capital of the Costa Blanca!
Politically this week has been relatively quiet in the Comunitat Valenciana, although it seems that Rita Barberá, the Mayoress of Valencia capital, may have landed herself in hot water with a move to restrict the right to hold public demonstrations in the city centre. As a result her opponents are now protesting about the right to protest, but Sra Barberá is protesting her innocence. It’s all very confusing…
In the region’s courts one of the main talking points has been the appearance before a Torrevieja court of Daniel Galván, the convicted paedophile who was accidentally freed from a Moroccan jail a couple of years ago but now finds himself facing new charges back in Spain. On the one hand the offences of which he is now accused are very unpleasant, and it is to be hoped that he did not commit them, but at the same time there will be those who simply want to see him back behind bars as soon as possible.
Elsewhere an Alicante court awarded over 200,000 euros in damages to a man who cut his own fingers off in a mincer as a result of forgetting to unplug it when cleaning it, a woman’s handbag containing 20,000 euros was stolen by thieves in Crevillent, a former Lorca town councillor was found murdered in El Campello and three Rumanians in Elche were arrested in connection with the theft of 4,000 litres of fuel from the city’s industrial estates.
Meanwhile, the extent of the gold shops fraud in the region of Valencia became clearer, with estimates pointing to a figure of over a billion euros per year, and the sad tale of a marriage gone wrong in Torrevieja ended up with the wife in prison for feeding her abusive husband rat poison. And all this just a couple of months after they reconciled. Hell hath no fury, they say, like a woman scorn’d…
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