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Spanish news weekly round-up 22nd November
Catalan presidential race frozen, higher areas of Spain feeling the chill and property market thawing nicely in Spain
Spanish National News:
This week the Spanish media was totally dominated by three topics: terrorism, politics and football. As expats can´t vote in the General Elections, stories relating to politics are generally disregarded, unless they’re likely to have a major impact on the December 20th vote, only one being of major interest to the international community due to the number of foreign businesses which have invested heavily into the area: Cataluña.
This week negotiations have continued to try and unlock the stalemate which is preventing the Catalan parliament from appointing a new regional president after regional elections in September, although by the end of the week the CUP appear to be edging closer to an agreement which will lead to the investiture of Artur Mas once again.
The CUP are apparently warming to the idea of permitting the investiture of Mas in order to maintain some momentum for the campaign to create an independent Cataluña, their fear being that an alliance between Junts pel Si (62 seats) and their own party (10 seats) represents a majority for the separatist cause, whereas any other potential combination allows a non-separatist voice in the regional government . Junts pel Sí are playing hardball and won´t pact unless Artur Mas gets the presidency, although they have offered concessions and governmental posts in compensation, but essentially, the fear of losing the separatist momentum, and perhaps facing defeat in a re-run election appears to be winning the day and it now looks more likely that the gamble taken by Mas will pay off and he will be re-invested as president.
Polls have suggested that the separatist movement would still win a majority should there be a re-election if a president is not chosen, but it is still a risk for the separatist movement when at the moment they occupy a position of strength.
This is provoking mixed comment, as while the business community is concerned that the uncertainty of not having a regional leader is bad for business, concerns have also been voiced about the potential financial impact of Cataluña maintaining a confrontational posture against the Spanish government and continuing to push for independence, something which could deter businesses from investing into the region.
The national government is also consolidating its position and this week has announced that although it will release 3 billion euros worth of funds via the FLA liquidity fund ( or bail-out fund as it is more commonly known!) to Cataluña, it will not allow the money to be used for any purpose other than paying debts, “not a single euro will be used to finance separatist whims” the national minister for finance said this week, stressing that the money would only be released bit by bit and must be used to pay pharmacists, hospitals and maintaining essential services.
Extremist terror threat
The events in Paris last weekend have absolutely dominated the Spanish media this week, with almost more coverage of developments in France and Belgium than Spanish news.
There have been false bomb scares in the major cities of Madrid and Barcelona this week and four people were arrested in Málaga for starting false rumours on social networks about an imminent Jihadist attack in Spain “for a bit of fun.”
The government felt compelled to issue a press release warning the public against the false rumours circulating on social networks, reminding them that were there an official alert then it would be issued through official channels and not via social networks.
Although there have been meetings of the security council and the cabinet to discuss the terror threat in Spain, the country will remain on alert level 4, ( the terror threat alert has NOT been increased in Spain as is being widely reported on social networks)but increased security will be visible at border crossings, in airports and ports, major transport networks and at major events.
An example of this was the Clasico football match between Real Madrid and Barcelona on Saturday, with nearly two and a half thousand police and security guards boosting security at the game, in which 80,000 fans filled a packed stadium to watch Barca thrash Real Madrid 4-0, the only surprise being that Barca didn’t manage to pop in another couple of goals. Although players have been quick to blame manager Rafa Benítez, it would have greatly increased the chances of Real scoring had some of the highest paid players in the world aimed for the back of the net instead of the side of it or over the top of it, but fans were left with images of Ronaldo visibly sulking before having an “either he goes or I do” tantrum in the changing rooms.
Spanish Muslims have roundly condemned the attacks on Friday night, maintaining that the actions of a tiny minority in no way reflect the beliefs of the majority of the Muslim community, a stance echoed by their counterparts across Europe.
However, as the week progressed and investigators ascertained that some of those involved in the attacks had entered Europe posing as refugees, ripples of fear resulted in some countries changing their stance towards the thousands of refugees seeking help due to the wars in Syria and Afghanistan, and also stoked the fires of those opposing the resettlement of refugees in Europe. France called for support from the remainder of Europe and airstrikes on Syria increased, the week an endless flood of stories as the various threads of the attack were unravelled, movements chased, raids undertaken, further threats received and actions initiated.
The Real Instituto Elcano reported this week that although most of the Islamist terrorist threat is perceived to come from foreigners, a high percentage of those arrested in this country are natives.
Since 2013 as many as 40.5% of those who have been arrested in Spain in connection with Jihadist terrorist activities were born in this country, while the proportion rises to 42.6% if the sample is limited to those registered as living in Spain. What this shows, according to Elcano, is that recent years have seen the emergence of “native Jihadist terrorism” in this country.
All week debates have been underway about the whole subject of immigration, but it’s worth considering that immigration is vital to maintaining the economic development of Spain: the native population is aging, the birth rate is falling and without a migrant injection the state welfare system would be incapable of maintaining its pension commitments as the demographics of Spain change.
Meanwhile, immigrants continue to risk their lives seeking a better life, and this week at least 24 died when a boat capsized on its way to Gran Canaria, and Melilla was the focus of a mass assault on Saturday morning as immigrants attempted to scale the wire fence onto Spanish territory.
Meanwhile Spain continued to help with humanitarian relief efforts and sent aid to Slovenia and Croatia to help those still trying to reach Europe as winter closes in.
40 years of democracy
This week Spain marked the 40th anniversary of the advent of democracy, the word “celebrated” being an inappropriate choice as the anniversary was barely marked at all. Most media managed to turn out some sort of piece to mark the occasion, although the lack of official comment served only to highlight the general attitude towards the whole subject of the Spanish Civil War and period of Dictatorship, the stance of the incumbent government being to leave the past in the past.
Indeed, the international media were far more interested in the subject than the Spanish media, although as is normally the case, isolated stories appeared relating to the application of the Historic Memory Law, specifically in relation to the steps being undertaken to remove all physical references to the period of Dictatorship from the streets and buildings of Spain. This week the new government in Navarra were hard at work trying to work out how to remove a shield forming a major part of a sculptural frieze over the entrance to their main parliamentary building, as well as trying to decide with what to replace the offending motif.
In spite of the general economic recovery there are still a substantial number of evictions taking place in Spain on a daily basis, for both economic and social reasons. This week a high profile eviction in Madrid attracted widespread coverage, 350 squatters removed from a former University building which was associated with Jazz and the Arts scene in the 60’s but was abandoned in 2014 and occupied by squatters. Although 45 people were arrested the eviction was largely peaceful, unlike an eviction in Barcelona which concluded with firecrews in the street extinguishing burning bins after bank windows were smashed.
Many of the evictions still taking place relate to mortgages constituted during the period before the economic crash when unemployment was low and house prices high, a situation now totally reversed and with mortgage interest rates at record low levels. As a result of this the number of new foreclosures is reducing, but there is still a considerable backlog in the courts.
The economic situation is slowly improving, consumer spending in Spain is rising cautiously as is consumer confidence and this Christmas the Spanish are anticipating spending more, with higher numbers of temporary staffing contracts being issued for the Christmas-Three Kings festive season.
This next week Black Friday comes to Spain and although some retailers are planning to by-pass the event, others view it as a sales opportunity and are pushing special deals to encourage shoppers out onto the streets and in through their doors.
Consumers will be pleased to know that gas bottle prices dropped yet again this week, but the government is being forced to recalculate electricity bills dating back to April 2014, which may result in either a refund or a backdated additional bill.
Record Spanish air traffic in October
The importance of the UK market was hammered home this last week by the latest passenger figures for Spanish airports. It’s been a bumper year for Spain, the problems in Egypt and Tunisia making Spain a more important destination, which is reflected in the volumes of air passengers. Over 19 million people passed through Spanish airports during October, nearly 8% up on the 2014 figure for the same month and all indications are that this trend will continue.
A couple of interesting natural world stories posted this week: The first pet organ donation service began this week, asking owners to donate their pets for research in return for waiving the euthanasia fees for dying pets.
Another piece looks at the growing demand for Aloe Vera from abroad, particularly from Japan where the leaves are a culinary ingredient as well as a useful medicinal and cosmetic component . The Spanish climate is perfect for large-scale Aloe Vera production in some parts of the country and climate change also improves the growing conditions for Aloe Vera.
Andalucia was also the location in which a resident with a major erosion problem trialled a tough sterile grass called Vetiver and discovered that its deep root system could be used effectively to prevent erosion, build hedges and even generate animal feed. If you have an erosion problem it’s well worth looking at!
Spanish property news:
A resurgent market attracts British buyers as the pound strengthens against the euro
After a seven-year slump in the Spanish property market it is pleasing to be able to report on a barrage of relatively good news, and this week has seen a continuation in the stream of positive statistical bulletins which have been published lately by the government, property websites and other authoritative sources.
This week the weightiest report was issued by Spain’s notaries, who report that during September both the number of sales and the average price of residential property were higher than in the same month last year. Although the average price rise of just 1.7% was far from spectacular, and the figure of 1,242 euros per square metre is still far lower than eight years ago, the generalized feeling is now that a gradual recovery in the value of real estate is under way, albeit more strongly in some areas than in others, and increases are reported in both flats and detached houses.
As for the number of transactions completed before notaries during the month, the monthly total once again topped 30,000, reaching 30,328. This is 8.7% higher than in September 2014, and the only discernible downside in the figures published is that the number of new-build apartments being sold continues to fall dramatically. In September just 2,310 sales fell into this category, representing only 10% of all apartments sold, whereas traditionally new-builds have accounted for approximately half of all residential property sales.
This is probably due to a combination of various factors. On the one hand, there are undoubtedly fewer new properties available than in the past due to the construction sector having practically ground to a halt during the crisis, but on the other hand the opinion is often voiced that many of the new-builds which are available are undesirable in terms of design, location and price. Certainly the price factor is an important one, and the notaries’ data confirm that on average the price per square metre of new property is 20% higher than it is for second hand homes.
Meanwhile, the degree to which the resurgent market in Spain currently depends on buyers from abroad is another constant theme. According to which figures one looks at, between 13% and 18% of all purchasers in the current market are made by non-Spaniards, a phenomenon which is no doubt boosted by the fact that whereas 33% of the average Spanish salary is required to finance a purchase, for other nationalities the equivalent figure is nearer 23%. For UK nationals in particular, with the pound-euro exchange rate now back up to 1.43, the highest since 2007, Spanish property has rarely appeared more attractive and affordable!
This is most noticeable in the Alicante Province in the Comunidad Valenciana where the recovery in the property market can be seen more clearly than in other areas: the Vega Baja in particular leads the way in the number of construction licences being granted and in this area the Scandinavian market is buoyant.
The Valencia government aims to limit future coastal development and has declared a 12 month moratorium on land re-classification in order to protect its coastline.
Real Estate continues to attract attention and according to one global real estate services group, investment into Spanish commercial property has reached record highs.
Finally, a brief insight into the importance of holding out for the best possible bargain when operating in the Spanish real estate market, either as a vendor or as a purchaser. According to one leading real estate portal, the average offer made for properties listed on the site during October was 20.8% below the asking price (although unfortunately no details are available regarding how many of these offers were accepted without further bargaining taking place). In the city of Zamora, the average offer fell as much as 31% short of the advertised price, while not far away in Cáceres the differential was far less at 11.4%.
The conclusion? If you’re a buyer, haggle: you never know your luck!
To see a wide range of properties for sale across Spain go to www.spanishpropertypage.com
For property in the Murcia Region go to www.murciapropertypage.com
Fopr properties in the Alicante Province go to : www.alicantepropertypage.com
Currency Exchange rate: 100,000 Sterling transferred to Spain now is worth 17,870 euros more than it was a year ago
This week the Pound Euro currency exchange rate increased to over 1.4320€
This is the best rate for several months, meaning those who transfer their pensions or buy a property in Spain now are getting more euros for every pound Sterling. This also makes Spanish property even cheaper for those buying with Sterling and pushes the prices even lower. But rates change constantly, so you need to keep an eye on currency rates if you are planning to make a transfer any time soon.
Click for this weeks currency round up showing the exchange rate between Sterling and the Euro.
If you still use a Bank to transfer money, ask our currency experts for a quote to use a money transfer service, youll be amazed how much more you get for your pounds using this method and its really easy to do!
Click here for a No-commitment quote to transfer money to Spain . Find out how much you can SAVE!
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