CLICK HERE for our
FREE Weekly News Bulletin
Spanish news round-up W/e 6th March
Spanish news round-up: still without a government after two and a half months
The Spanish news this week has predictably been dominated by the political situation, where the parliamentary presidential investiture debate ended, as forecast, in an impasse and as a result the country remains without a government two and a half months after the general election.
The coalition plan of PSOE leader Pedro Sánchez stumbled at the first hurdle on Wednesday evening as rivals on both the left and the right voted against it in parliament, potentially setting in motion a two-month countdown to another election. A second vote on Friday evening also failed, leaving Spain without a working government.
There is now speculation that Mariano Rajoy of the PP will seek a “grand coalition” with the PSOE, but such has been the bitterness of the inter-party criticisms made during the week that at the moment any such alliance looks implausible, and in the eyes of many observers the main priority for the parties is to begin a pre-election campaign with a view to the nation going to the polls again on 26th June.
On Wednesday the party leaders, including Pablo Iglesias of Podemos and Albert Rivera of Ciudadanos, skimmed over policy issues with a volley of recriminations over who was to blame for the deadlock. All four of the main parties are standing their ground on key policy issues such as the issue of Catalan independence, and while such insistence on being faithful to their principles could be seen as admirable, at the same time it is preventing any workable agreements being forged.
On the subject of Catalunya, while the focus is on events in the national parliament in Madrid relatively little attention is being paid to the developments in the Catalan capital of Catalunya, but this week the regional government led by Carles Puigdemont gave the go-ahead to the laws which are intended to lay the basis for an independent State, despite the warnings received from legal experts. The ruling JxSí and CUP parties are of the opinion that the risk involved is minimal, and this is almost bound to cause a head-on conflict with the government in Madrid whenever one if formed.
In the meantime, it is likely that the getaway Catalan government will introduce a few more initiatives while Spain remains without a government to stop it.
The lack of a central government is beginning to have a noticeable effect on the general public, as is shown by a sharp decrease in consumer confidence since the December election, but at the same time most of the main economic indicators are still performing well. Perhaps crucially for the credibility of Mariano Rajoy, still acting President, the latest unemployment figures show that there are now 360,000 fewer people out of work than a year ago, bringing the total down to 4.15 million. The decrease has been of 10% or more in the Balearics, Aragón, Catalunya and La Rioja, and several other regions are not far short of this improvement.
More good news for the economy is that Spain is now the eighth biggest automobile producer in the world, with production of 2.7 million motor vehicles in 2015 marking a return to the pre-crisis figures of 2007, according to the International Organization of Motor Vehicle Manufacturers (OICA). The tourism sector is also booming, with an 11.2% increase in the number of visitors to this country during January bringing the total for the first month of the year up to 3.51 million on the back of a 16.2% rise in the number of visitors from the UK during the month. British tourists thus accounted for 20.14% of the total.
As the consumer confidence figures show, not all is well in the Spanish economy, but data such as these will add credibility to Sr Rajoy’s attempts to secure a second term in office, with an 8% fall in live plant and flower export figures unlikely to make a serious dent in his efforts.
Drugs and crime
Plants of another nature were in the news this week in Granada, where the police are searching for the source of 200 bags full of discarded marijuana plants which were found in the La Azulejera district of the city. It is assumed that the rubbish was discarded from an illegal plantation, and it has since emerged that numerous similar bags have been found in the nearby municipality of Jun.
Other drug-related crimes hitting the headlines this week include the large trafficking ring which was busted in Albacete, where 25 people were arrested, and the 130 kilos of cocaine which were confiscated from an agricultural warehouse in Serra, in the province of Valencia. Eight men and four women were arrested in connection with the raid, all of them of Spanish or Colombian nationality.
A princess in court and a celebrity out of jail
In a nation as obsessed with celebrity as Spain, the long-awaited appearance of Princess Cristina in court on Friday received massive coverage in all of the media. The King’s sister, the first member of the Spanish royal family ever to stand trial, maintained the same stance she had taken at the preliminary hearings in February last year: that she had no knowledge of financial matters and her husband handled all their accounts.
She also expressed her confidence in the innocence of her husband, Iñaki Urdangarín, adding that she had no role in the couple's Aizoon company and that she simply signed papers when asked to without questioning how it was managed. Earlier in the week Sr Urdangarín pointed the finger at the Spanish royal household, claiming, like his former business partner Diego Torres, that he did nothing without consulting Carlos García Revenga, who was secretary to Cristina and her sister Elena.
According to Sr Urdangarín, the idea of setting up Aizóon, which allegedly listed fictitious employees as a means of laundering money, was that of Miguel Tejeiro, the brother-in-law of Diego Torres and financial secretary of Nóos. The former Duke of Palma could face a maximum sentence of over 19 years in prison if found guilty of all the charges leveled at him, and although his wife Cristina is not due to reappear in court until the end of the trial the proceedings will doubtless continue to receive extensive coverage.
So great has the interest been in Princess Cristina that even the release of Isabel Pantoja from prison was pushed off the front pages. The popular singer has been in the spotlight of the media for well over three decades as the widow of legendary bullfighter Francisco Rivera Pérez, alias Paquirri, who died in the ring in 1984. At that point she became Spain’s favourite widow, but in more recent years her romantic association with the former Mayor of Marbella Julián Muñoz saw her embroiled in corruption, and on 21st November she began serving a two-year sentence in the prison of Alcalá de Guadaira (Sevilla) after being convicted of money-laundering.
The Basque issue
Another recurring topic in the Spanish news is that of the Basque independence movement and the ETA terrorist group which for many years used violence in supporting it. This week three high-profile stories have been in the news, each of them highlighting different aspects of attitudes towards ETA and the separatists, arguably the most important being the release of Arnaldo Otegi from the prison of Logroño on Tuesday.
Sr Otegi completed a six-and-a-half-year sentence after being convicted of attempting to reconstitute the banned Batasuna political party, which was held by the Spanish courts to be a thinly disguised political wing of ETA, and while behind bars has received support from widely respected international figures such as Desmond Tutu. In February 2013, despite still being in jail, he was elected Secretary General of the pro-independence Basque party Sortu.
On emerging from prison on Tuesday morning he declared “Today a political prisoner is leaving a Spanish jail” before adding that if he went into jail a Basque, a separatist and a socialist, he comes out again exactly the same. In the opinion of Hasier Arraiz, the president of Sortu, though, one thing has changed: Sr Otegi may have entered jail as a prominent politician, but his imprisonment has converted him into “a myth”.
Two days prior to the release of Arnaldo Otegi another prominent Basque separatist was released from jail, namely José Luis Urrusolo Sistiaga. Urrusolo had served nineteen of the 449 years to which he was sentenced for his role in at least sixteen murders during a career of violence which lasted from 1981 to 1992, and reaction to his being granted his freedom was somewhat mixed.
However, the wintry weather which hit northern Spain last weekend provided proof that time can heal even the most serious of wounds. Various ex-ETA convicts were among those heard to shout “Viva la Guardia Civil!” after being rescued from a snowdrift in the Navarra town of Beruete on Saturday: quite some turnaround, bearing in mind that for decades the terrorists of ETA attempted to use violence as a means of removing the Guardia Civil from the Basque Country. Never mind gritting the roads, the Guardias could possibly be forgiven for gritting their teeth while rescuing those who in the past carried out bomb attacks against them, but by all accounts the atmosphere was cordial rather than tense.
The weather provided some spectacular images last weekend, with picturesque snow-covered landscapes in Galicia and the rest of the north, but at the same time there was misery for drivers all over the north of Spain as roads became impassable. In coastal areas waves of five metres and winds of up to 100 kilometres per hour meant that practically none of the north remained unaffected - in Cantabria flood alerts were activated – and further south in Sierra Nevada almost all of the pistes in the ski resort of Granada are now open. The winter weather even claimed two lives in Castellón, where two walkers died in the north of the province after getting lost in a snowstorm.
During the week the weather improved markedly, but another cold front will arrive on the north on Friday, bringing a repeat of last weekend’s wintry conditions over the next couple of days.
Of goats and olive oil...
Elsewhere in the country the authorities in the Sierra de Guadarrama in Madrid have given the green light for 2,700 mountain goats to be culled over the next four years, a decision which meets with the approval of environmentalists, and the ecologists are also anxious to see demolition work begin at the hotel in El Algarrobico (Almería) which was finally declared illegal last week.
In Málaga efforts are being made to end a rubbish collectors’ strike before the Easter Week celebrations begin, and in Ciudad Real (Castilla-La Mancha) there are renewed hopes that the auction to sell off the airport which has not been used since 2012 could finally result in the facility being put to some use. The latest bid of 200 million euros is 20,000 times higher than the one which originally looked as though it had been successful last summer!
Other stories include a reminder that Spain has so much history (and pre-history) that it’s hard to know where to put it all was unearthed during the week in Huelva, where a stele menhir was unearthed during a routine archaeological survey in Beas, and in Andalucía a Huelva lawyer plans to take the government to court in an effort to rid Spanish society of the scourge of smoking once and for all.
In the Costa del Sol, meanwhile, a local olive oil producer has come up with some innovative variations to the standard product. Aceites de Málaga is producing aromatic olive oils tinged with flavours such as orange and chocolate, and for those who really like their salads with a little razzamattazz there is even a variety containing granules of 22-carat gold. The good news is that this is an eminently affordable luxury at under 30 euros per bottle, but, on the downside, unfortunately it cannot be marketed in Spain due to the rules concerning adulteration and quality of olive oil.
Currency Exchange Rate this week
It's important to keep an eye on the exchange rate if buying a property or transferring your pension
Anyone exchanging their pension from Pound Sterling to Euros or buying a property will be aware of just how much difference the rate can make to the amount they will have to spend and for major purchases, such as a property, transferring cash at the right moment can make a difference of several thousand Euros.
Currency rates went into freefall last week as the markets were unsettled by the prospect of a possible BRexit, with fears that the UK could leave Europe adversely affecting the Sterling-Euro exchange rate.
This week, currency markets have started to recover and the exchange rate for those converting Sterling to Euros has improved.
Spanish property news
The beginning of March has seen yet more statistical evidence produced by various sources to show that the situation in the Spanish residential property market is improving noticeably, the main indicator being that prices are on their way back up after the prolonged slump which began in 2008.
This week leading Spanish property valuation firm Tinsa published its monthly summary for February on Thursday, reporting a 2.7 per cent increase in the average value of residential property in the country over the last twelve months. This is the most encouraging result for over 8 years, ending market price falls which have resulted in residential property values falling in Spain by over 40%.
The drop in property value over the last few years has been sharpest along the Mediterranean coastal regions, but at the same time the latest Tinsa bulletin suggests that the bounce-back effect is also strongest in these areas. Over the twelve months ending in February the increase reported along the Mediterranean coast is a healthy 6.1%, making this the stand-out result among the broad categories defined by Tinsa.
In Spain’s regional capitals and other major cities the inter-annual price rise is reported to have been 4.6%, and increases are also reported in the Balearics and the Canaries (2.5%) and metropolitan areas (1.5%), while the only area in which a year-on-year decrease is reported is the catch-all category of “other municipalities”, where values are reported to have fallen by just 0.7% since February 2015.
Meanwhile, figures released on Thursday by Spain’s central statistics unit show that during last year the number of mortgage loans which were foreclosed due to non-payment was 101.820, a decrease of 15.5% compared to 2014, and at the same time, the figure of 30,334 foreclosures related to main residences was 13% down in comparison to the year before.
The reasons for the decrease in the number of loans being foreclosed are various, but prime among them are low interest rates, increased confidence in the market value of properties and, in all probability, the fact that many of those who faced problems in paying mortgages which were contracted at over-estimated market value have already been foreclosed in previous years. At the same time, the trend also reflects a greater willingness on the part of Spain’s banks to renegotiate mortgage terms rather than initiating repossession and possible eviction proceedings.
Other property news includes the proposed re-development of Madrid’s emblematic Edificio España building, which was built under the regime of General Franco in 1957, and stands as a monument to the stark architecture in Spain of that time. Its 28 floors reach a height of 117 metres, and in 2014 it was acquired for 265 million euros by Wanda, the giant Chinese corporation.
However, Wanda is now threatening to put the emblematic Edificio España in the centre of Madrid back up for sale if disagreements with the Town Hall over the renovation project are not resolved, placing Manuel Carmena, the city’s Mayoress, under pressure to soften the council’s stance on protecting the façade of the building. It is also believed that negotiations are ongoing between Wanda and the Spanish authorities regarding the possibility of building a huge leisure and residential complex on an area of 2.1 million square metres in the south-west of Madrid, and Sr Carmena will be aware of the need not to jeopardize this project.
Would you like to receive this bulletin?
If you enjoyed this free weekly round-up, then please forward it on to your friends. If you have received this from a friend and would like to have it sent directly, then click Register for weekly bulletin to sign up.
NONE OF THE TODAY PRODUCTS HARVEST, OR SELL EMAILS IN ANY WAY and we GUARANTEE your details will not be passed on, sold, or used for any other purpose, and are maintained in an off-site facility from which you can unsubscribe at any time.
Images: Copyrighted Murcia Today, Reuters and Efe. Cartagena photographs José Albaladejo. Full or partial reproduction prohibited.
Search or scroll below to see our latest properties.
Cádiz Province, Andalucia
Granada Province: Andalucia
Huelva Province, Andalucía
Jaén Province, Andalucia
Málaga Province, Andalucía
Region of Andalucia
Seville Province, Andalucía
Córdoba Province, Andalucia
Autonomous Community of Galicia
Castilla La Mancha
Castilla y León
Airlines and Travel SpainCaso BárcenasCaso NóosEbola SpainGibraltarProperty in SpainRodrigo Rato BankiaSareb, Bad Bank, Banco MaloSpanish separatism/ETATourism SpainWeekly Bulletin Spanish NewsWeekly Bulletin Spanish Property