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Spanish news weekly round-up 4th October
Catalan president indicted 2 days after elections, British tourists spent 3 million euros an hour during August and not enough rabbits in Andalucía
Spanish news round-up
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The over-riding theme dominating the Spanish news this week was Cataluña and the uncertainty following the regional elections of last week.
Although the results were immediately hailed as a victory for the separatist vote, with Junts pel Sí winning 62 seats and the CUP another 10, giving them an overall parliamentary majority among the 135 seats available, the euphoria was short-lived as it rapidly became apparent that in percentage terms while nearly half of the voters had backed separatist parties, that MORE THAN HALF of them hadn´t, and the vote for the separatist movement had been split between two distinct groups of ideologies, the smaller of which, the CUP, immediately announced that while it fought from a separatist platform, that it had no intention of backing Artur Mas in his campaign to continue as regional president.
Then, just as the media had flexed their fingers ready to start typing and politicians cleared their throats ahead of a mass of TV, radio and media interviews speculating what would happen next and what were the likely outcomes of many rounds of negotiations, it was announced that Artur Mas was to be indicted by the courts on several charges including serious disobedience and misuse of power relating to the “informal consultation” held on the 9th November last year.
The timing of this announcement seemed too perfect to be mere coincidence, but national president Mariano Rajoy reiterated on Thursday that it had nothing to do with instructions from his government and was part of a process initiated in November last year when Mas held his ”informal consultation” about independence after the courts had banned him from holding a referendum.
As for Artur Mas, after learning that he will be required by the high Court of Catalunya to answer questions on 15th October he has declared that he has no intention of becoming either a martyr or a hero, and denies that he disobeyed the orders of the Constitutional Court last 9th November by holding the informal consultation. Read a full report about the likely course of events as Cataluña attempts to choose a regional president for the next 4 years.
Meanwhile the Spanish parliament approved measures giving the Constitutional Court powers to fine or suspend authorities that do not carry out its sentences, so unruly officials, civil servants and politicians ( or even regional presidents) can be fined or suspended if they fail to enforce the law. This, of course, gives the government the power to effectively discipline any political leaders undertaking actions which are contrary to the Spanish Constitution, actions for example such as ……holding an “informal consultancy” about breaking away from Spain which is illegal under the Spanish Constitution.
Prime Minister Rajoy said he was prepared to hold talks with the next Catalan government about a wide range of issues, but always “within the law”, words echoed by his German counterpart who said that the German government is convinced that "its important with everything thats happening at the moment, to maintain the rule of law, both with regard to EU treaties and with regard to national law, i.e. the Spanish constitution".
An interesting extra story this week relating to Cataluña was the decision of a town hall in Badalona (Barcelona district) which took the decision to remove the portrait of King Felipe VI from the town hall.
The policy of removing images of the Spanish royal family from Town Halls in Catalunya, which grabbed the headlines in July when a bust of King Juan Carlos I was unceremoniously removed from the Town Hall of Barcelona, appears to be in direct contravention of a law passed in 1986 which requires that an image of the monarch shall be placed in a prominent place in the chamber of council, and apparently took place without any prior warning being given. A similar move in the municipality of Montcada i Reixac, on the other hand, was approved in a full session of council.
Armed Basque separatist group ETA said on Wednesday the recent arrest of two of its senior members was making it more difficult to complete the dismantling of its remaining weapons and explosives. This follows a statement from mediators last week who adopted the same stance.
Spanish and French police arrested the two leaders of the group last week. Spains Interior Minister Jorge Fernandez Diaz said at the time the arrests meant those responsible for the management of ETAs arms stash were no longer at large and that there were so few ETA members left that they "could fit into a minibus".
ETA itself said in a statement published in the Spanish media that the arrests "interfered with the orderly nature of the weapon destructions and dismantling of explosives."
National election date set
Prime Minister Rajoy also confirmed this week that the General election establishing who will run the national government for the next four years will take place on the 20th December, just before the Christmas break. This ensures elections are out of the way before the festive season and gives the elected government time to settle in before the new parliamentary year begins.
Economic news this week
The economy will be a key battleground during the election run-up:
Unemployment figures came out on Friday, showing a slight rise at the end of September. Unemployment is still over the 4 million mark in Spain, with 22.4% of the adult population out of work and youth unemployment the highest in Europe at nearly 50%. Although the economy is expected to start showing stronger growth within the next few months, unemployment continues to be a headache for the Spanish government, so could Spain start to solve the problem by taking a leaf out of the book of other nations which have a labour shortage such as Germany?
Provisional Retail Price Index figures published this week suggest that inflation in Spain has fallen by 0.3% during the month of September and is now 0.9% lower than a year ago, returning the economy to a state of negative inflation after a brief return to positive figures in June and July. Fuel and electricity both “fuelled” the downward turn.
The Banco de España confirmed this week that GDP grew by 0.8% during the third quarter and is expected to remain on course for an overall growth of 3.1% for this year with increased domestic consumption contributing to the growth, positive news, although the rate of growth is expected to slow down next year.
Mains gas went down in price this week, so 1.9 million households can look forward to a 1.1% reduction in their bills from the 1st October onwards and 5 million homes will be able to take advantage of the flexible electricity consumption meters which are gradually being installed across Spain from this week onwards. The idea of these meters is to help consumers use energy heavy appliances at the cheapest times of day ( and night), so if you hear a bumping and a thumping coming from the flat above at 3am in the morning then the neighbours are either using the spin dryer or doing the ironing and household chores at the cheapest rate.
Of course, there are always those who like to save money on a grand scale, and this week Barca football star Javier Mascherano has been called to answer charges of defrauding the Spanish tax authorities of more than 1.5 million euros.
Also concerned about protecting their income levels are Spanish taxi drivers. This week over 2,000 taxis blockaded the centre of Málaga in protest at the gradual deregulation of the sector. The taxi sector has managed to keep Uber at bay for now, but faces an uphill battle as the internet opens up opportunities for car sharing and although in some places the authorities are being forced to implement measures to eliminate “unfair competition” such as in Alicante airport where taxi drivers from outside of the area are limited to a maximum number of runs permitted per month and barriers have been installed to control pick-up and drop-off passenger zones, consumers are starting to demand more flexibility. However, for now, the taxi drivers still have enough clout to paralyse the city centre of Málaga as they did this week.
Air traffic controllers, however, cancelled their strike action planned for this weekend after a long campaign to resolve issues dating back to the large-scale 2010 controller stoppage. A big relief for the tourist sector.
Tourism remains motor of the economy
As anticipated, tourist expenditure figures came in for August this week, showing that spending by foreign tourists in Spain continues to hit record levels. During August visitors from abroad parted with 9,462 million euros (9.4 billion) while visiting Spain, a new monthly record, and almost a quarter of it (23.7%) is due to visitors from the UK, who spent 2,246 million euros in Spain during the month.
Tourism has many faces, so if you’re a motor racing fan, then the Barcelona F1 Grand Prix will be on May 15th next year, part of a record series of 21 F1 races confirmed for next season this week.
Or maybe you prefer fish net stockings, high heeled boots and extravagant wigs, topped with a fizz of feathers and a dash of something sparkly? If Carnival is your thing, then this is how the new “God” of the Carnival in Cádiz is likely to be dressed next spring; new Mayor José María González ( Kichi to his friends) has decided to add a Díos to his Diosa and thus ensure that there are no accusations of sex discrimination in Andalucía when the big carnival, a huge draw for tourists, kicks off.
Looking after tourists is always a lot of work and this week the results of the boosted SATE ( attention to foreign tourists) police office campaign for this summer were presented, showing that nearly half of the crime reports made by foreign tourists were in the Balearic Islands, particularly areas where young people enjoy a boozy holiday in the bars and discos. However, in spite of the best efforts to save us from ourselves, two British tourists have died in alleged drug-related incidents within the last ten days in Ibiza.
Two more British tourists also died in Girona after being swept out to sea in the strong waves and currents which followed weekend storms along the Mediterranean coastline. Cataluña was the subject of a meteorological alert for heavy waves, and the red warning flags were flying in Girona on Thursday evening when a group of 5 British women went out for the evening. At 4.15am they were warned by a beach bar owner not to enter the sea when they were seen undressing for a nocturnal dip, but ignored the warning, two drowning as they were swept out to sea.
Police in Andalucía also called off the search for a young man, believed to be British, who was apparently swept away in Granada following heavy rains: the police have been unable to establish an identity and confirm the facts behind reports that a person living rough was caught by floodwaters tumbling down the river, having chosen to sleep under a bridge.
However, the identity of one Irish gunshot victim shot dead in Málaga was clarified this week and the Irish press have been having a field day after the execution of Gary Hutch was reported. Hutch died after eight shots were fired by a balaclava-wearing gunman following a chase around a swimming pool, and in his colourful past took part in the largest robbery ever reported in Ireland, a 7.5-million-euro heist from the Bank of Ireland. He is also known to have been involved in murders and international drug trafficking, and had escaped two previous attempts on his life since moving to the Costa del Sol.
It was also announced this week that Tunisia has lifted the state of emergency imposed after 38 foreigners were massacred in an attack on the beach. Tunisia has lost millions of euros in tax revenue as tourists chose alternative destinations, Spain amongst those who have benefited.
Bullfighters do battle
Bullfighting managed to find a place in the headlines yet again this week, but this time it’s the bullfighters fighting back against the concerted assault on the tradition of bullfighting in Spain by anti-animal cruelty protestors. A striking series of posters were produced featuring leading bullfighters with their torsos bared in an attempt to attract support for the “artistic and cultural” elements of bullfighting, one example being the “torero” Morante de la Puebla posing as Salvador Dalí, with the name of the artist emblazoned on his chest.
"I am pure art" the posters proclaim, using the hashtag #SoyArtePuro.
However, those who view bullfighting less as art and more along the lines of animal cruelty continue their campaign and this week it emerged that the Balearic Islands is on the verge of joining Cataluña in a total ban on bullfighting.
However, events involving bulls also encompass the encierros, or bull running tradition and this week the thirteenth victim of the summer was gored to death while taking part in an encierro in Madrid.
Immigration has remained in the news this week: Three Syrians were found hiding in the back of a refrigerated lorry in the Basque Country having travelled from Poland in the back of the truck.
Late on Sunday a number of boats were intercepted off the Andalucian and Murcian coastlines as more than 200 ( sub-saharan) immigrants attempted to enter Spain via sea and 87 immigrants managed to scale the razor wire topped border fence in Ceuta and enter Spain. 11 of their number were minors.
There was also one incident widely reported in the Spanish media, involving a Moroccan national who smashed the window of a casing surrounding the Virgen del Carmen in a town within the Málaga province with a rock shouting “Allah is great.”
This, of course, sparked off similar comments to some of those being aired in Germany, Hungary, Greece, Austria and other nations affected by the huge migrant problem being caused by war in Syria. Although Spain is noting very little direct migration, it’s an interesting topic to follow, as Europe attempts to cope with this relentless human avalanche.
Click onto any of the migrant stories in the International news section and you’ll find a linked thread on the bottom which covers the topic in some detail. There is also an international migration subject heading on the right hand side of the page with full coverage. Articles linked to the points above include: Merkel’s popularity slumps as Germans worry about migrant volumes, UN warns current refugee flow to Euroe is just “tip of the iceberg”, and Italy clears migrants from tent settlement on French border.
There are many International news stories in the subject heading International news and UK stories are also updated daily, along with a busy sports section.
Ten Jihadist activists were arrested in Spain and Morocco early on Sunday morning as the number of detentions of this kind made during the four-year legislature of the current government rose to 156.
According to the Ministry of the Interior, all of those arrested in Toledo, Badalona (province of Barcelona), Xeraco (Valencia) and Casablanca in Morocco belonged to a network which was recruiting and indoctrinating foreign fighters before dispatching them to the Daesh-controlled conflict zones of Syria and Iraq, and further detentions have not been ruled out as the investigation is still ongoing.
The arrests on Sunday came almost immediately after the first sentences were passed in Spain on individuals found guilty of recruiting and indoctrinating for IS. Those sentenced have been given prison terms of between ten and twelve years for their part in a network which recruited Mujahiddeen fighters and sent them to the combat zone in Syria, and were taken into custody during the raid on a Salafi cell in Ceuta in June 2013.
Those arrested formed part of the Frente al Nusra network, which sent at least six suicide bombers from Ceuta to Syria between April 2012 and May 2013, and the two ringleaders, Karim Abdeselam Mohamed and Ismail Abdellatif Al-Lal, have each been handed 12-year sentences. The other nine defendants received ten-year sentences, with one of them also being given an 18-month penalty for illegal ownership of firearms.
This week a topic which was also recently in the UK news has caught the Spanish media as the parents of a 12-year-old girl suffering from a fatal illness in Santiago de Compostela demanding that she be allowed a dignified death, and have reawakened the emotive debate over euthanasia in Spain by taking their case to the press after being denied permission to curtail the treatment which is currently prolonging her life.
As well as having been born with a neuro-degenerative condition Andrea Lago Ordónez is now also suffering from thrombocytopenia, and her parents Antonio and Estela maintain that her condition has worsened steadily since September 2014. Although she continues to fight “like a champion” she now suffers extreme pain and, in the words of her mother, “her body can’t take any more”. However, despite their request for passive euthanasia being approved by the Ethics Committee in Santiago, the doctors have ruled that the time for withdrawing life support systems has not yet arrived.
Her parents are returnig to the courts on Monday to continue their fight for the right to die with dignity.
Not enough rabbits
In Andalucía the fight continues to save the native Iberian Lynx from extinction and increase the numbers in the wild through a monitored re-introduction programme.This week the programme has assigned more money to help boost the numbers of rabbits: the natural food of the lynx which have been decimated by illness and drought, hoping that this will prevent the road deaths caused by the animals straying onto roads in search of food.
Lots more new stories at www.spanishnewstoday.com
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Spanish Property news round-up
Yet again a mixed bag in terms of news this week on the Spanish property scene, with most of the signs indicating that a gradual upturn in the market is already being felt but one or two statistics annoyingly failing to fit correctly into place and complete what would otherwise be a rosy picture.
One of the surest indications that a healthy balance between supply and demand has been reached in any residential property market occurs when there is a sizeable amount of new building going on, and in Spain when the bubble burst the effects were most devastating in the country’s construction sector. In September 2006, for example, licences for 126,000 new homes were granted, but by the dark days of 2013 the monthly totals were consistently close to only around 2,000.
For this reason,a total of 5,198 in July 2015 represents something of a turnaround. It is the highest total for 43 months, and in the first seven months of 2015 the cumulative figure of 28,870 is now 27% higher than in 2014. It will not be true that the residential construction sector is back to good health until monthly figures of close to 20,000 are recorded, but nonetheless the latest data published by the Ministry of Development seem to add weight to the theory that things are gradually getting better.
Similarly, the fact that residential property transactions generated total turnover of over 24 billion euros during the first half of this year, 8% more than in the same period in 2014 is also a good sign. This, according to the Ministry of Development, is due to there having been 10% more transactions this time round rather than to any price increase, but even so it demonstrates that purchaser confidence is returning to the Spanish property market, especially among foreign buyers who have not suffered the full effects of the slump in the Spanish economy over the last few years.
The only regions where the amount of money changing hands on the residential property market was lower than in the first half of last year were Navarra, Extremadura and Castilla-La Mancha, while the most significant increases in activity are reported to have been in La Rioja, the Balearics, Cantabria, Andalucía and the Comunidad Valenciana.
With all of this positive news, though, there has to be a fly in the ointment, and property valuation firm Tinsa duly provided one on Thursday. According to the firm the year-on-year price comparisons across Spain resolutely failed to cross into positive territory during the third quarter of 2015, edging 0.9% downwards compared to the same period in 2014. While inter-annual price rises are reported in four regions (Madrid, Catalunya and the Canary and Balearic islands) and ten of Spain’s 50 provinces, significant price decreases were also recorded in the regions of Navarra (6.4%), Extremadura (6%), the Basque Country (5.6%) and Murcia (5.1%).
On a change of tack, it shouldn’t be forgotten that property and housing news is not all about sales. Housing is an important issue in coastal areas where the majority of properties lie empty for between 8 and 10 months of the year, and the regional government of the Balearics is taking steps to try to remedy that situation.
In what seems at first sight to be an extremely logical move to discourage seasonal variations in the housing supply, owners who make their properties available for rent all year round will receive property tax credits, while those who fail to do so will be punished by similar mechanisms. This is unlikely to sit well with those who only consider it worthwhile to rent out their homes when income is at its highest during the summer, but that’s the way the wind is blowing in Spain at the moment and if the scheme proves a success it could well become far more widespread in future.
To see a wide range of properties for sale across Spain, go to www.spanishpropertypage.com
For the Region of Murcia, go to www.murciapropertypage.com
Currency Exchange rate: Get more Menu del Días for your money!"
This week the Pound Euro currency exchange rate 1.3566€
This is a good rate, meaning those who transfer their pensions or buy a property across Spain are getting more euros for every pound sterling at the moment than they have for many years. This also makes Spanish property even cheaper for those buying with Sterling, because with the historic currency exchange trading rate for the Pound Euro having been at 1.18 / 1.16 not so long ago, if you exchanged 100,000 Pounds now to Euros you would be over 20,000 euros better off. 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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