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Spanish news round-up, week ending 18th November 2016
Is the Brexit effect starting to hit Spain?
The Supermoon and a woman who died as a result of being unable to pay her electricity bill grab the headlines in the week when the King at last opened parliament after 10 months without a government.
This week began with people venturing out into the cold November night all over Spain on Monday to witness the “Supermoon”, the largest and brightest appearance of the moon since 1948 and one which will not be matched until the year 2034, but as the moon waned so attention drifted back to the issues which have dominated the news in recent months.
Politics and economic news
The new government in Spain has been in office since the start of November, but only this Thursday did the official opening of parliament take place in Madrid, with the King addressing Congress for the first time since he came to the throne in June 2014.
After two general elections and ten months of failure to form a government it was doubtless with some relief that Felipe VI finally inaugurated the 12th legislature since democracy was restored, but the pomp and pageantry of the event was not without controversy as some of the political parties represented in parliament used the occasion to grab the limelight by refusing to participate in the official protocols. The separatist Catalan and Basque independence parties ERC and EH-Bildu announced beforehand that they would not be attending at all, while the leaders of Unidos Podemos made a great show of their decision to attend the King’s speech but not the official greetings and the military parade which took place afterwards.
According to Podemos MP Irene Montero the decision to boycott the greetings was made because protocols such as this are nothing more than an example of “Congress examining its own navel”, and because it is indicative of the party’s intention to “work in order to improve the life of citizens” rather than simply making the most of a photo opportunity.
In fact, of course, the consequence of the decision has been exactly the opposite, with attention having focused more on those who were not present than those who were.
Earlier in the week another significant event took place in the national parliament, when a motion to halt the process by which the new national education law is being implemented was passed with the support of all opposition parties. For those who are not students in secondary education, arguably the real significance is that this is the first time that the new PP government has had to face the reality of what it means to govern in minority.
More royal news:
Weekday internet and tablet ban for the daughters of the King of Spain: Queen Letizia worries over the effects which too much “screentime” might have on the social skills of Princesses Leonor and Sofía.
Elsewhere, after a balmy summer the autumn has finally settled in and just as temperatures drop, up goes the price of gas! The maximum price of a standard gas bottle as established by the Spanish government, increased on Tuesday by 4.7% to 12.28, following on from the 4% increase applied in September.
Barcelona Mayoress plans to introduce local social currency: Spain’s central bank has described the project as both “impossible” and “undesirable”.
Spaniards expect to spend 4 per cent more this Christmas: the Spanish are the second highest Christmas spenders in Europe.
Basque and Catalan separatism
There is no getting away from the issue of nationalist separatism in the Basque Country and Catalunya at the moment, and this week more attention than has been the norm of late was focused on the former.
Eight people were arrested in Navarra on Monday in connection with the attack on two off-duty Guardia Civil officers which took place in mid-October in the town of Alsasua, and seven are now being held in custody on charges of “causing a state of terror in the town”. However, the pro-independence party EH Bildu has avoided condemning the violent attack, describing it as a mere “early morning brawl”, while the regional government criticized the imprisonment of the six attackers as “unnecessary”, reflecting a reluctance to categorize the violence in Alsasua as terrorism.
In Catalunya, meanwhile, thousands of people marched through the centre of Barcelona to protest on Sunday against the legal proceedings being undertaken against not only politicians, but also against councils and administrations who have committed infractions in the name of the independence cause. Among the 259 Town Halls who face charges for diverse reasons is that of Sant Cugat del Vallès in the province of Barcelona, which has been ordered by a judge in the courts of Barcelona to remove an “Estelada” flag(the Catalan flag) from the plaza Lluís Millet within ten days, turning down an appeal against a ruling which was originally made on 22nd July 2015.
The appeal by the Town Hall alleged that the taking down of the flag, which was hoisted two years ago, would cause “irreparable harm” to the right to freedom of speech and expression.
Also in Catalunya, some potentially harmful news to the separatist cause was the confirmation that between January 2012 and December 2015 a total of 645,970.04 euros was spent on trips abroad by former regional president Artur Mas and his traveling entourage. The main purpose and justification of these expenses is officially described as the promotion of the image of Catalunya abroad, and as such they are inextricably linked with the process by which the regional government is attempting to achieve independence from Spain.
In addition, there appears to be some scepticism even among separatists over whether their plans will come to fruition: a survey produced this week concludes that only around a third of those who in principle support the idea of independence actually believe that it will be achieved.
One issue on which Basques and Catalans currently appear to agree is their opposition to Mariano Rajoy’s national government: this week it has emerged that Catalan president Carles Puigdemont will not be the only absentee at the next meeting of the “Presidents’ Committee”, in which all of the other regions of Spain will be present, as Íñigo Urkullu, the president of the government in the Basque Country, joined him in opting out of the meeting on the grounds that it “doesn’t make sense” to attend.
More manoeuvrings in the ongoing disagreements about sovereignty in Gibraltar this week, the highlight being the news that Fabian Picardo, the Chief Minister of the British Overseas Territory, is to be investigated by the National Court of Spain in connection with the arrest of one of the leading figures of the Vox political party in June of this year.
The incident in question took place on 20th June, when Nacho Mínguez, the president of the Madrid branch of the right-wing Vox España party, was arrested after taking part in a “mission” to drape a 200-square-metre Spanish flag on the north face of the Rock of Gibraltar. He and his companions were later arrested, and as a result Mr Picardo faces possible charges of “torture” and offences against “moral integrity”.
Earlier in the week, Alfonso Dastis, who took over as Minister for Foreign Affairs in the new Spanish government ten days ago, made his first public statement concerning Gibraltar since taking office, taking a far more moderate and diplomatic approach than his predecessor. Speaking after a conversation with the UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, Sr Dastis reported that he and his British counterpart had not spoken about Gibraltar in any great depth, and stated his aim was not to “become stressed” over the issue of sovereignty.
Energy poverty outrage after a woman who lived by candlelight died in a house fire
The death of an elderly woman in a house fire in Reus earlier this week, which has been attributed to her mattress catching fire due to her having to use candles to light her home after her electricity supply was cut off, has caused widespread controversy and indignation throughout the country, with the regional government of Catalunya and the electricity company pointing the finger of blame at each other for the tragic accident.
Pablo Iglesias of the Unidos Podemos party denounced on Wednesday that while some talk about economic recovery there are still citizens whose lives are at risk because they can’t pay their lighting and heating bills. There have even been calls for Isidro Fainé, the president of the power supply company Gas Natural Fenosa, to be required to explain in parliament why the power supply of the 81-year-old victim in Reus was cut off.
In the meantime there have been demonstrations outside the woman’s home in Calle Santa Anna in Reus (province of Tarragona), and another has been called on Saturday at midday outside the offices of Gas Natural Fenosa.
In their defence, the power supply company points out that the Town Hall had not notified the company of the vulnerability of 81-year-old Rosa despite it having been known since 2013, and that neither relatives nor neighbours had informed the company of the situation in the two months since the victim’s power was cut off.
26-year-old Laura Pulham from the UK made a little piece of history at Málaga-Costa del Sol airport on Wednesday when she became the 15 millionth passenger to pass through the terminal this year, the first time the landmark has been reached at the facility.
Traffic at the airport of Málaga has increased by 15.1% in the first ten months of 2016, and the fact that the landmark was reached with a flight from London Stansted was appropriate given the importance of the UK market in the Costa del Sol, where up until the end of November almost exactly a third of all passengers this year had been on flights to and from the UK.
During October Málaga consolidated its position as the fourth busiest airport in Spain, behind only those of Madrid, Barcelona and Palma de Mallorca: across the country passenger figures were 12.1% higher in October than the same month last year (click to read full story).
In Catalunya, as the regional government seeks to impose greater control on tourism, particularly in the city of Barcelona, one of the proposals under consideration for next year’s budget is to increase the “tourism tax” which is levied on those staying in the tourist apartments in the region from 0.65€ to 2.25€ per night, an increase of 246%.
Although no modification is planned for hotels, hostels or campsites, it is not only in the area of tourist apartments that the authorities are seeking to increase their revenue: in future even cruise ship passengers calling in at the port of Barcelona for under 12 hours will be required to pay a fee of 65 cents for the privilege, despite their not spending a night in the city, while those who stay for longer than 12 hours will be liable to a few of 2.25€ as if they were staying in hotels or apartments.
Another tourism-related item this week highlights a rather different take on the post-Brexit devaluation of the pound, as due to the availability of cheaper flights and the increased purchasing power of the euro in the UK, it appears that the prospect of a weekend city break in London is tempting more and more Spaniards into spending a few days (and a few euros) in Britain. The plethora of flights available from airports such as Málaga and Alicante-Elche may exist mainly to cater for the large numbers of Brits heading for a few rays of winter sunshine, but at weekends some of the aircraft contain more Spaniards than UK nationals, particularly heading northwards on Friday afternoons and back to Spain on Sunday evenings.
21 year old British holiday dies after falling from ninth floor apartment in Benidorm: Danielle Hall died just a day after arriving when she plunged nine floors from the balcony of her holiday apartment.
Two women have been arrested by border guards in the north African enclave of Melilla after they attempted to cross into Spanish territory with a one-month-old baby concealed inside a travel bag.
The incident occurred when one of the guards inspected the bags being carried by the two women and found, to his surprise, a small baby wrapped in a blanket. He immediately took the baby boy out and observed that he was in a state of considerable discomfort: there were signs of suffocation, and as soon as the baby was extracted he vomited on the Guardia Civil uniform of the man who had found him.
A Senegalese national has been arrested by the Policía Nacional in Cádiz in connection with the organization of perilous voyages in the Atlantic and the Mediterranean on board fragile boats and without food and water, and is accused of taking advantage of desperate would-be immigrants in his activities to support illegal immigration. It is alleged that it was on one of the crossings in which the arrested participated that five people died of hunger and exhaustion in February of this year.
Elsewhere, ten immigrants have applied for asylum after they were found inside a truck in Barcelona: the disorientated refugees believed they had succeeded in making their way into England from Turkey.
The Ministry of Health, Social Services and Equality has confirmed that a second case of sexual transmission of the Zika virus in Spain has been reported.All 304 of the Zika cases reported in Spain have been detected in people who have visited or have visited affected countries except two cases of sexually transmitted diseases, and 42 pregnant women have been affected.
5 million Spaniards have driven under the influence of drugs: a recent survey found that 12% of drivers gave positive test results results, but only 2.6% were related to alcohol.
Madrid struggles to make electric bike hire scheme efficient: the BiciMad scheme has been plagued by vandalism and faulty technology.
Madrid school bus driver caught under the influence of alcohol: the woman in Villaviciosa de Odon had consumed almost double the limit for professional drivers (0.15mg).
Animals, wildlife and the environment
The trial began on Tuesday of Carmen Marín, the president of the “Parque Animal” animal protection society in Torremolinos, in the province of Málaga, and Felipe Barco, on charges of “exterminating” 2,183 animals which were placed in the care of the centre, with Sra Marín denying all charges.
It is alleged that the accused knowingly used less than is advisable of the substances which are used to put animals down, thus condemning them to slow and painful deaths, and employees at the Parque Animal have spoken of “extermination days” on which large numbers of animals were sacrificed. However, in her defence Sra Marín claims that she is a passionate lover of all animals and is incapable even of cutting their claws or nails, let alone administering lethal injections: she even maintains that she has a phobia of injections, and uses syringes only to ensure that the animals in her charge swallow the medications with which they are treated.
In addition, she stated in court that the figures are “monstruously” exaggerated, and that all processes of euthanasia were decided upon by vets at the centre.
Olive trees threatened by deadly virus in the Balearics: the “ebola of the olive tree” could be disastrous for Spanish olive growers.
Madrid duck hunter found dead in River Tajo: the man fell out of his boat while hunting ducks with a rifle.
Galicia vineyards to research drone technology usage in Galicia: unmanned aircraft come to the aid of wineries on the steep slopes of the valley of the River Duero.
The fat one gets fatter as the Christmas lottery grows: TV advertising starts for the El Gordo draw on 22nd December.
Barcelona municipal funeral parlour to cut the cost of dying by 30 per cent: “Death has been privatized in Barcelona”, according to Deputy Mayor Gerard Pisarello.
Norwegian Kraftkar scoops major cheese award in San Sebastian: two Spanish cheeses compete in the Champion of Champions event on Friday.
Terrorist attack simulation at Pamplona shopping mall: 250 involved in the capital of Navarra as anti-terrorist groups aim to learn from the mistakes which were made.
Morocco believes 450 Spanish Jihadists have traveled to fight in Syria and Iraq: the figure is more than double the estimate of the Spanish government.
Spanish Air Force takes delivery of first Airbus A400M: after numerous setbacks the first Sevilla-assembled A400M was handed over on Thursday.
437-year-old book returned to Ecija archives after 30-year absence: the volume was put up for sale by a Madrid bookseller for 750,000 euros.
Blue cow stolen in Benissa: thieves target German bakery on the Costa Blanca.
Spanish property news
As the long-awaited recovery in the Spanish residential property market struggles to become consolidated across the whole of the country the latest data published by Spain’s notaries provide a salutary warning that this is not yet the case.
The positive news contained in the notaries’ report for September is that the number of sale and purchase contracts signed during the month was 34,918, representing a rise of 10.3% over the figure for the same month last year, but at the same time the proportion of sales relating to new properties has continued to fall over the same period, now standing at only around 10%, and this is having a negative effect on the average price of housing in Spain.
In September the notaries report an average purchase price 3.5% lower than a year previously, and despite being higher than the figure for August this is the second lowest so far in 2016.
Indeterred by these data, the “bad bank” Sareb has announced that it intends to sell off another 1,500 homes by the end of December at discounted prices in order to meet its objectives for 2016. The bulk of them located in the Mediterranean regions of the Comunidad Valenciana, Catalunya, Murcia Andalucía and the Balearic Islands, providing a reminder that there are still attractive bargain prices to be found in all types of property, and that both investors and those looking for homes can find tempting offers both within the Sareb portfolio and elsewhere.
Is this the Brexit effect? Registrars show less Brits active in Spanish property market
During the third quarter it is reported that sales to foreign buyers totalled 13,717, or 13.31% of the overall figure of 103,055, and that among these were 2,422 buyers from the UK. This means that of all sales registered during the 3-month period, 2.35% (or one in 43) were to UK nationals.
However, during the equivalent period last year the figures were rather different. In the third quarter of 2015 there were 12,545 sales to foreign buyers (13.52% of the overall figure of 92,786), and among them were 2,900 buyers from the UK: in other words, of all sales registered during the quarter 3.12% (or 1 in 32) were to UK nationals.
What stands out here is that while the overall sales figure has risen by 11.1%, the number of British buyers dropped by 16.5%.Click to read full article
This trend has also been highlighted by money transfer specialists who say that money transfers for the purchase of property in Europe have fallen by a quarter against the same period last year: Click to read full story
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