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Spanish News Today weekly round-up 28th March
Spanish property news round-up
The Spanish property sector is the subject of a welter of statistical information published at monthly and quarterly intervals by a variety of institutions, from the general council of notaries to the national central statistics unit, the Ministry for Development and a plethora of architects’ and constructors’ associations.
For this reason barely a week goes by without new data being issued, often seeming to contradict the figures of the week before! However, it is generally possible to distinguish underlying trends in the numbers which are published, and this week one common thread to various statistical publications has been the extent to which non-Spanish buyers are often the driving force behind the small green shoots of recovery sprouting up in parts of the country.
The notaries’ report summarizing 2013 property sales was released earlier in the week, showing that over 21% of all residential property purchasers in Spain last year were foreigners. 55,000 non-Spaniards bought here last year, almost as many as in 2007, although it’s interesting to see how the purchasers are now of different nationalities from those of six years ago. The Brits are still top of the list, but there are now far more Scandinavians, Germans, Russians and Belgians, while the number of South Americans has dropped sharply.
Most of the interest of northern Europeans lies on the Mediterranean coast, of course, and as has become increasingly apparent over the last couple of months the province of Alicante is leading the way in leaving the slump behind. Such is the level of demand for property there that it appears that, in the southern part of the Costa Blanca at least, the construction sector is at last being called upon again to build new properties: the provincial College of Architects reports that the number of new homes on which construction has started in the province is back up to a level last seen seven years ago, and most of this is attributable to activity in the southernmost coastal municipalities.
While this boost on the Costa Blanca is due largely to individual buyers, investment funds and institutional purchasers are also active, particularly in Spain’s larger cities. One example of this is the announcement earlier this week that Vodafone’s headquarters in Spain, an office complex with 50,000 square metres of floor space in Madrid, has been snapped up for 117 million euros by the London and Regional Properties fund.
However, this stimulus to the property market should not be allowed to hide the fact that the level of activity is still extremely low in the country as a whole, and as cash buyers take advantage of bargain prices the number of mortgages granted continues to fall. In January only 17,000 mortgages were taken out, roughly a sixth of the number in the same month six years ago. In part this is a result of the banks’ wariness after getting their fingers so badly burnt when the bubble burst in early 2008.
Finally, in an interesting set of figures published earlier in the week by an insurance search webpage it was revealed that almost a third of Spanish homes are uninsured, and another 40% are insured for less than their full value. Apparently rising premiums are to blame: while fewer people can afford to insure their houses, the total revenue made by insurance companies has actually increased over the last six years. At least some people are still making money in the depressed property market!
Amendments to road safety laws.
This week one of the most important pieces of news which will undoubtedly affect Ex-pats living in Spain is the amendment of the traffic and road safety law which has finally been passed by the government. This vast piece of legislation contains many points, which are summarised in a document on the Spanish news site, but the point which will directly affect a number of people living within our community is that all foreign registered vehicles which are kept in Spain for more than a month must now be transferred on to Spanish plates. This is frequently not done by those who either keep a car here for holiday use or have limited financial means, ( or can´t face the administrative hassle) but this new law means that anyone caught driving vehicles which can be proven to have been kept in Spain and have not been re-registered will face substantial fines.
Other points which are important include those relating to children travelling in cars, as this is something which must be taken into consideration when hiring a car for a summer holiday and ensuring that child restraints are requested when booking a vehicle, and also the changes relating to cycle helmets: under 16’s must now wear safety helmets when riding through any urban areas.
EU Commission to outlaw roaming phone tariffs
The week began with news that the EU Commission are seeking to outlaw abusive roaming tariffs on mobile phones, a source of frequent complaints from beleaguered consumers who object to the additional charges for taking their phones abroad.
Objection has been a popular theme this week, as 100,000 anti-abortion protestors gathered in Madrid, joined by many local protestors in towns and cities across Spain, to demonstrate support for the proposed government amendments to abortion legislation, showing that in spite of the much publicised protests against the proposed legislation that there are still many women throughout Spain who want to see abortion prohibited. The proposals include allowing abortion only if the mother has fallen pregnant through rape, or if it can be proven that the mother would be at risk carrying to full term. The points proposed by the amendments are still being discussed in consultation with external bodies before the final draft law is presented..
Students have also been on strike across Spain, protesting against cuts in education, increased class sizes and increased university fees, and while the protests were largely peaceful, there were some major exceptions where violence and vandalism marred the events, particularly in Pamplona and in Madrid where radicals from other protests which took place over the weekend decided to remain in Madrid. Unfortunately violence also marred the Marcha de la Dignidad over the weekend, which united marchers from across the country in Madrid, with many people injured, including a large number of police, after the protests again disintegrated into violent confrontation and street violence.
Fortunately, the border with Melilla has been quieter, although on Friday morning tensions again rose following a series of assaults on the border, but on this occasion very few managed to make it across the fences and onto Spanish soil. The Spanish Interior Minister has called a meeting of other European Ministers from along the Mediterranean coastline to discuss the needs of coastal nations under constant assault from would-be illegal immigrants.
The border with Gibraltar has also been quiet, although the Gibraltan authorities did complain midweek about an incident believed to relate to tobacco smuggling, during which Gibraltan police were pelted with stones by four individuals who climbed back over the border into Spain before fleeing.
The early part of the week was dominated by the weather and the death of the first Prime Minister of Spain following the death of Francisco Franco, Adolfo Suárez, the man who smoothed the transition from dictatorship to democracy and helped to shape the face of modern Spain with the creation of the Spanish Constitution. It’s easy to forget what a young democracy Spain actually is and incredible to think that in the mid 1970’s executions by firing squad were still taking place here. His premiership lasted until 1981, then shortly afterwards there was an attempted military coup, and this week he was buried in Ávila cathedral, with full honours.
The weather made the news across Spain this week, snow and strong winds starting spring with a snarl, causing severe problems for firefighters in the Almería province where a fire was blown out of control by strong winds. By Friday morning when it was declared officially out, over 3000 hectares of scrubland and mountainside had been burnt in the Sierra de Gádor (Almería). There were also other smaller fires, exacerbated by the wind, although in some parts of Spain, particularly the Mediterranean coastline, the lack of rain is starting to concern regional authorities who are preparing for the hot, dry summer ahead and the inevitabe strain the dry winter will place on their fire prevention resources.
Almería was also in the news this week in relation to the hotel El Algarrobico in Carboneras, which could now be legalised following a surprising ruling by the Supreme Court, which contradicted several judgements it has made in the past and opened the way to an avalanche of protests from ecologists by announcing that the land on which the hotel is located could be built on. Following the previous court judgement, most people were waiting for the demolition order, so this ruling has put a real cat amongst the pigeons, although the appeals which will inevitably be placed by ecologists against this, one of a long series of judgements, will keep the hotel in the courts for some time to come.
Another "hot topic" in the Andalucía region this week was the subject of the spicy "chorizos de infierno" sausage dish in Málaga which left two Dutch tourists hospitalised after the alcohol used to heat the sausage caused severe burns to their upper bodies. Other tourists in Málaga were too busy joining their cruise ships to eat sausages, 5 cruise liners and more than 10,000 cruise passengers passing through the port in just one day this week.
Andalucía has had a busy week, with the case of the ton of hashish stolen from a customs storage depot on New Years Eve finally concluding with just one conviction, the inauguration of Spains first drone testing centre, its first battery recycling centre and the controversy over evictions in Granada cave houses.
Further down the coast in Cataluña, defiance is the order of the day after the Constitutional court effectively annulled the declaration of sovereignty made in December of last year. Regional premier Artur Más, however, vows that the fight for Catalan independence will continue.
Finally, another story which raised a few eyebrows was reported on Thursday afternoon when the BBC mistakenly announced that there had been a plane crash off the Canary Islands. Emergency services leapt into action, sealing off roads and launching emergency plans before it was highlighted that what looked like a crashed plane was in fact a tugboat towing a large barge with a curiously angled deck…..
Valencia News www.valenciatoday.es
The construction sector reawakens, Castellon airport is still asleep and something odd is happening to the sacred paella
Back in the Comunitat Valenciana, all the signs continue to indicate that another prosperous year lies ahead for the region’s tourist industry. The latest figures released show that at the back end of the winter hotel occupancy was higher than last year, and with a view to the future it seems that possible disruption at Alicante-Elche airport by a taxi drivers’ strike has been averted as the authorities have given in to their demands to restrict competition from outside the municipality. In addition, new agreements signed at last week’s tourism trade fairs in Moscow will lead to a further increase in the number of Russian visitors to the Costa Blanca, and despite the fact that three years after the official ceremony no planes have yet taken off or landed at Castellón airport hopes are still high that by next year the facility could be supplying a new entry point for foreign visitors to the Comunitat Valenciana.
In Torrevieja the beaches are already being made ready for the expected influx of visitors during the Easter holidays, and perhaps the only bad news for the tourist sector this week has been the disappointing weather.Winter has refused to just lie down and fade away: as we approach the month of April, snow has fallen in the province of Castellón and for much of the week high winds and stormy seas have battered the coast.
Other items in the news in Torrevieja have included the continuing improvements being made to the Reina de la Sal park and the bus drivers and passengers who are complaining that they can’t spend a penny because the Town Hall hasn’t spent enough euros.
In Orihuela, meanwhile, it seems that the controversy over the Town Hall’s plans to re-locate the weekly markets has finally died down, with the councillor responsible admitting that it was a mistake to attempt to force the changes down everyone’s throat. This week the focus of attention has been more on the issue of the municipality’s 1,700 streets with no name, a problem which the council now intends to address by spending almost half a million euros. The good news is that this problem could be getting even more serious as new homes are being built in Orihuela, contributing to the revival of the local construction sector while in the rest of Spain it remains comatose!
Among those detained by the long arm of the law this week have been the Dutchmen accused of importing 40kg of cocaine through Alicante airport, twelve people responsible for around a hundred robberies in the provinces of Castellón and Valencia and a British man who was on the run after helping prisoners to escape last year while on their way to trial in Manchester. However, if it were possible to be arrested for impudence then possibly the most wanted people in Spain would be the conceptual artists auctioning off pieces of the trencadis which fell off the roof of the Palau de les Arts in Valencia in order to help out a local primary school which is housed in portacabins. And they say the Spanish don’t understand irony!
Finally, a story which has deeply angered a number of proud natives of the Comunitat Valenciana. If you don’t want to annoy a Valenciano then don’t mess with his paella, but that is precisely what a Catalan chef is doing, creating a new version of the dish which includes sausages and plums.
Is nothing sacred?
Murcia Today www.murciatoday.com
Portmán Bay Regeneration licensed, evidence found of Roman invasion of Cartagena
Portmán Bay regeneration
There may finally be an end in sight to the long-running saga of the Portmán Bay regeneration project in the La Unión municipality, following an announcement yesterday by the Ministry of Environment that permission has finally been given for the contract to be put out to tender. This will happen within a very short time, granting a concession to clear away the sterile deposits dumped in the bay during the years of open cast mining which took place towards the end of the last century, when millions of tons of waste were dumped into the bay. This waste can now be recycled and the residual minerals extracted for sale, before the bay is cleaned up for future development and use as a tourist asset within the municipality, generating much needed employment for La Unión.
There is no new news on the Corvera airport front, although the imminent change of government may change that situation, with wide expectation that President Valcárcel may formally resign today ( Friday) in the weekly regional cabinet meeting. Prime Minister Rajoy has still not officially named the European election candidates, President Valcárcel hoping to be amongst them, and he himself is absent from the national cabinet meeting today following the death of his brother.
Cartagena has enjoyed a fairly busy week in the news, unveiling an exciting discovery in the Plaza de la Merced, which is believed to date from the moment of the Roman invasion of Cartagena, following the departure of Hannibal with his army and elephants off across the Alps to attack Rome, leaving Cartagena virtually defenceless. The Romans took advantage of his absence to sack the city, evidence found in this excavation that the house was destroyed in a sudden fire co-inciding with the date of the invasion sparking excitement that this discovery is evidence of the destruction of the city by the Romans.
There has been a spot of disappointment that the treasure of the sunken ship, Nstra Señora de Mercedes, recovered from the American Odyssey marine salvage team, and won by the Spanish government after a long court battle, which is currently being cleaned in Cartagena at the subaquatic museum will go on show in Madrid before Cartagena, although at the same time the positive benefits of the tourism promotion this will give Cartagena are also being highlighted.
The tourism season begins at Easter, although the first cruise ships of the season have started to arrive in Cartagena. Tourism figures for the region are positive at the moment, the number of foreign visitors has increased, as have the number of nights being spent in hotels, and figures released this morning show that expenditure by foreign tourists is also up, foreign visitors to Murcia having spent 37.3 million euros in the Murcia Region during February, an increase of 23.9% on the same month last year, meaning that the amount spent by foreign tourists in the first two months of the year has increased by 44% on the same two months last year.
All positive for businesses in the region.
Taxi drivers unhappy at airport protectionism
However one sector of the region’s businesses are unhappy, as Alicante-Elche airport takes measures to protect local Elche taxi drivers and bans “foreign” taxis, including those from Murcia, from making more than 6 runs into the airport a month, a bit of a blow for the fully legal taxi drivers who earn a living taking tourists to and from the airport, although the new number plate recognition system being installed at the airport will help to limit the activities of “pirate” drivers who offer a cheaper service for travellers.
Other news stories in Murcia this week include ongoing complaints about the multi million euro Santiago Calatrava bridge in Murcia, which in spite of its hefty price ticket is still causing a headache for the council, an issue also experienced by other cities in other parts of the world who splashed out on avant garde architecture during the boom years.
Murcia has also featured in a child kidnap case, after a Yecla drug runner failed to make her delivery, the penalty being the kidnap of her children. This is the third case reported relating to kidnapped children being taken to Bolivia in a couple of weeks. There was also another story relating to a brothel in Murcia being closed down as police suspected it was being used for money laundering, 500,000 euros sent to China had been traced as coming from the brothel, and when police raided, an abnormally high quantity of jewellery was found.
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