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Spanish News Today weekly news round-up 14th February
Quails going "cheep" in Andalucía after royal visit, Princess Cristina court appearance, and Spanish property round-up
The week begins with a message from the British Consulate to advise residents that the system by which those living in Spain obtain, renew or replace their passports has been changed and from now on applications will be processed ONLINE. The embassy say this is to minimise the risk of error and advise that residents must allow 4 weeks for new passports, or 6 for replacement, so if you’re planning a trip, make sure you check your passport well in advance.
Warning: The Gas scammers are back
And the week continues with a second warning about gas scammers, as reports have been received in the Murcia region and Alicante province that a group of individuals purporting to be from Repsol are operating in these areas. However, these same scams are carried out nationwide, so if youre new to Spain, its well worth reading a full report about gas scammers which was posted last year, with full information about the types of scams which are carried out around Spain, so you don´t get caught out.
Although gas fittings must be changed on gas bottle appliances every 5 years, this should be done using an authorised gas company, and although it is not illegal for somebody else to change the fittings, these conmen take advantage of the more mature and charge them extortionate rates for the job. There is also the risk that those posing as gas fitters are in fact thieves, and there have been many cases of theft during their visits, so don´t be bullied into allowing these people in your home, you will NOT have your gas supply cut off, and will NOT face any penalties for not allowing them in. You can call the major gas companies any time to find out who the legal concessionaries are in your area and not be caught out by the cowboys.
Spanish property news ( go to Spanish property section, on top header bar of every page)
It’s been a very interesting week on the Spanish property market, with statistics being published and forecasts being made left, right and centre.
Just for a change, not all of the figures out this week paint a picture of doom and gloom. The main data were those published by the country’s central statistics unit, which showed that in 2013 there were 2.2% fewer salesregistered than in 2012. That may seem like a piece of bad news, but most analysts are cautiously viewing it as a sign that the slump is bottoming out and better times are just around the corner as the decline in sales is a lot lower than in 2012.
In some parts of the country optimism is even more justified: on the Costa Blanca, in the province of Alicante, last year saw 7.8% more sales than in 2012, an increase fuelled to a large extent by interest from foreign buyers, Alicante having the highest percentage of foreign buyers in the country. Murcia has also performed well in percentage terms, second only to the Canary islands which recorded the biggest growth in Spain, all of these areas popular with second home owners.
At the same time, more statistics suggest that prices nationwide are now falling more slowlythan at this time last year, again, supporting the theory that prices are reaching their lowest point and a Price Waterhouse Coopers report states that Spain is now once again a prime market for investors.
In this context there have been hints that the “bad bank” Sareb is content to sit on the assets in its portfolioin the expectation that market conditions will improve and better sales prices can be achieved in the medium-term future. In the meantime they will make the most of the healthy rental marketwhich analysts expect to grow still further over the rest of this year and rent out more of their properties to achieve income while they wait for prices to start on a positive course upwards once again.
Spanish National News www.spanishnewstoday.com
The week began on Saturday with Princess Cristina of Spain, the first member of the Spanish Royal Family ever to testify in a criminal case called into court to give evidence about the business activities of her husband, accused of fraud and money laundering as part of the Caso Nóos investigation. The princess denied, denied, denied and claimed she knew nothing about the activities of Aizoon, a company of which she herself is a 50% partner, and which is believed to have syphoned off over a million euros from the Instituto Nóos, a sports foundation which gained over 6 million euros of public money for running sports events in the Balearics and Valencia regions.
Following her court appearance, legal buffs believe her depiction of “a good Spanish housewife who left everything to her husband” may well be enough to keep her out of prison and position the blame fairly and squarely on the shoulders of her husband, Iñaki Urdangarín, who was in partnership with Diego Torres, both of whom are expected to receive custodial sentences. However, what kept the media humming all week was the appearance of video footage and images in the “El Mundo” newspaper, which had been secretly filmed by somebody inside the court, against the express instructions of the judge hearing the testimony. Police have been out with their set squares and calculators all week working out where the footage was shot from and tracking back to who posted it on the internet and sold it to El Mundo to start with. Surprise, surprise, the owner of the website on which the footage was posted is the brother of the secretary of Iñaki Urdangarín, husband of Princess Cristina……strange that.
With Spain hotting up for carnival, the annual chirigotas event in Cádiz, which brings together the best of these satyrical and irreverent groups in a hot competition of bawd and wit prior to carnival, sparked controversy, when the subject of whether participants in carnival are allowed to wear Guardia Civíl costumes in carnival parades following a new ruling by the Interior Minister came up. As this is such an important subject, a question was tabled in parliament, and yesterday it was all cleared up, the Interior Minster confirming it’s fine, if you want to wear a Guardia Civil costume in the carnival parade this year, go right ahead, it’s OK by him.
With that important question settled the nation can breathe a sigh of relief, and it’s back to the real world, the next topic of national importance being the launch of the Wikipaella site, making sure that the flavour of real paella is unadulterated and visitors who want the real thing can get it anywhere they want.
Quails going "cheep" in Andalucia after royal hunting trip
Talking of flavoursome dishes, there may be several hundred quails going "cheep" in Andalucía this week following the visit of British Royals, William and Harry for a spot of fun, shooting game in the Spanish countryside. The press has had a right royal time, blasting Prince William over the unfortunate timing of his trip, which took place the week before he launched a wildlife protection campaign called “Let’s unite for wildlife”.
Staying in Andalucia, a Mayor has fined himself for smoking in a council meeting, then announced he’ll appeal his own fine in protest at the fuss caused by him lighting up in the first place, claiming that the whole situation is just a political witch-hunt against him. However, the rows over contraband tobacco continue to smoulder, although the tobacco industry in Spain have this week called for tougher measures on contraband as figures show the sales of legal tobacco have nearly halved as the locals enjoy the benefits of cheap cigarettes, which fell off the back of a passing boat.
And the locals like a bargain on their music as well: a report out at the end of last week shows that sales of music have fallen 80% in Spain since the cd made it easy to copy records and not buy them. The arts have been absolutely blasted by the economic crisis, with funding withdrawn from many of the key music events which have always made Spain such a joy, and the government is under pressure from the music and cinema industries to reverse the crippling vat rates they imposed recently on public spectacles and the cinema, to bring people back into theatres and prevent the loss of talent abroad. Although Vat has been reduced on art sales, this still leaves hundreds of thousands of musicians, actors and performers suffering, along with the cultural life in the country today. However, the artworld keeps moving, with a new exhibition in the Guggenheim opening this week by Ernesto Neto , the Henry Moore in Spain touring exhibition has now moved to Seville, and the music world announces more confirmations for the Arenal Sound Festival in Castellón this summer, and the Barcelona Guitar festival.
The arguments about contraband tobacco look set to spark off the Gibraltar controls row again and this week Fabian Picardo has been in Brussels complaining about the “totally unacceptable” queues at the Spanish-Gibraltan border.
We´ve also had the arrival of the first US warships being stationed in Rota as part of NATO protection agreements, the “Doctor Zhivago” steam train has returned home to Andalucía,with a fascinating story of its own to tell which makes it even more of a saga than the Hollywood blockbusters in which it has starred as Spains oldest working steam train and insects have been revealed as the star export from the Andalucia port of Almería, opening up a whole new world of business opportunity in the eco-pest control world.
We´ve also had a few animal related stories this week, a controversial new bylaw in Granada has limited the numbers of pets per household, and an Almería man has been given the red card after throwing a fellow spectator’s dog at the referee before starting a punch-up at a football match! Whatever next!
Those campaigning against the proposed abortion law changes have been out on the streets in force as the protests intensify, although the PP women ignored a call to “vote as women not as politicians “ and stood by their party in a secret ballot vote about whether to throw the motion out of parliament.Protestors , however, vow they will not back down and will continue their fight to preserve the rights of women to decide for themselves.
Other women are also fighting for their rights and on Saturday prostitutes are gathering in Madrid to fight for the right to work after recent changes to the controversial Citizen Security Law.
Valencia Today www.valenciatoday.es
Full information about the major news stories in the Valencia region this week can be read on the dedicated Valencia Today weekly bulletin, which summarises what’s going on in the Valencia.
In the Region of Valencia no single story has dominated the news this week, but perhaps the most eye-catching headlines concern the property market, where the country’s central statistics unit’s 2013 summary contained mixed news for the region. As a whole sales in Valencia were 1.8% downon 2012, following the national trend, but the province of Alicante was the best performer in the whole of Spain, with the number of properties changing hands rising by 7.8% compared to the previous year. A timely reminder of the attractions of the Costa Blanca as spring weather seems to have arrived over the last couple of days after the strong winds which dominated the start of the week.
More good news for the Costa Blanca’s economy is that Alicante-Elche airport enjoyed a positive start to the year, with the number of passengers using the facility in January being 7% higher than in the same month last year, again, bucking the national trend. Another sure sign that spring is on the way is that the annual flu epidemic is officially on the wane, but the virus has this year left 30 fatalities in the Comunitat Valenciana.
The saga regarding architect Valencia architect Santiago Calatrava goes on: on the one hand the first phase of 3 million euro’s worth of repair work is almost complete on the emblematic Palau de les Arts in the regional capital after the ceramic coating was found to be unstable just before Christmas, while on the other a judge has ruled that a website criticizing the architect should not be withdrawn. The architect had tried to shut down the website, which lists the problems and defects on these groundbreakingly modern structures around the world, claiming he was losing work because of the bad press the site was giving him.
While the Palau to de les Arts is a modern emblem of the region’s culture, a more traditional one is also receiving attention with the launch of the Wikipaella project: the paella being the focus of a new initiative to preserve its genuine identity worldwide on a new web platform.
At the same time a very different element of the world’s diet, Coca-Cola, is also in the news as Alicante bars are boycotting the soft drink in protest at the closure of the company’s plant in the city.
Most municipal politicians have enjoyed a quiet week out of the spotlight, but the former Mayor of Elche asked to be relieved of all political posts while he faces charges of domestic violence. In Orihuela the councillor for Tourism has been defending her decision to spend almost 8,000 euros on theatrical tours of the city, and in Pilar de la Horadada the Mayor is proud to have begun work on knocking down the Cuello de la Paloma, the large unfinished tower of the cultural centre which dominates the town’s skyline after his predecessor spent four million euros on the building and left it half finished.
Also in Pilar, holiday homeowners will be relieved to learn of the arrest of those who committed eighteen burglaries in the municipality and another fifteen in nearby San Pedro del Pinatar. Others now facing charges are those responsible for electrical cable theft in Guardamar, robberies at 26 bars in the Vega Baja and Elche and top range vehicle thefts in Elche.
Other interesting items on this week’s crimewatch in the region have been the bullfighting professional who has been nabbed for feeding police a load of bull and making false insurance claims, the thieves with a shoe fetish who helped themselves to 5000 pairs as well as the squeeze police are putting on a man accused of vandalizing 200 orange trees in Torrent, Valencia.
Another story which some readers in the province of Valencia may find interesting, relates to the Cofrentes nuclear power plant which is located just 3km from a dormant volcano in the region, which produced almost 5% of the whole country’s electricity in 2013, and those in Valencia may enjoy a visit to the display of ninots, which are the best bits from the massive Valencia fallas which will burn in the middle of March on the night of san josé.
Perhaps the saddest story of the week in some ways is that of a crime which wasn’t actually committed. In Alicante a 14-year-old girl has confessed to faking her own kidnapping so that her classmates would pay more attention to her, although the week began with a positive note, as Pilar de la Horadada council launched a scheme to offer half price cat neutering to its residents in a move to cut down on the number of unwanted cats born in the municipality every year.
Murcia Today weekly bulletin www.murciatoday.com
Murcia Today has a considerable whats on section, lots of suggestions for great places to enjoy a trip out and a busy classifieds section. To read this weeks Murcia bulletin, Click Murcia Today bulletin.
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