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Spanish weekly news round up week ending 25th March
Semana Santa dominates the news this week as Spain continues without a government
Spanish news roundup
This week Spain is immersed in a whole week of Semana Santa parades and activities, and with Thursday and Friday as Bank Holidays, there has been very little in the way of real news. This week the bulletin is considerably shorter, reflecting the short working week and two days of Bank Hoilidays.
The media in Spain this week is of course currently dominated by the events in Brussels, following which it has been decided that this country is to remain on terrorist attack level 4 alert.
The week began with the awful news of a tragic coach crash in Catalunya in the early hours of Sunday morning, when 13 Erasmus students lost their lives on the return journey to Barcelona from the Fallas festival in Valencia. The victims of the accident at kilometre 33 of the AP-7 motorway near the small town of Freginals, in the province of Tarragona (Catalunya), were young women from Italy (7), Germany (2), Rumania, France, Uzbekistan and Austria, and it is believed that the cause was that the driver fell asleep at the wheel. His declaration to the investigating judge has been postponed as he is among the injured and his condition is too serious for him to be questioned.
As one of the busiest weeks of the year got under way on the roads of Spain another spectacular crash ended without fatalities in the province of Salamanca, where ten cars and three trucks collided during a hailstorm in Salamanca and ten people were injured.
Other motoring and travel stories
Motoring issues also made the news due to the extraordinary efforts of a driver who was clocked at an impressive 297 kilometres per hour on the R-4 motorway in Madrid. His speeding offence was compounded by various other factors, including the fact that his licence had been withdrawn until this April after he was docked all of the points on it, and by a partial disability which left one side of his body paralysed. This means that he is not allowed to drive at speeds of over 100 km/h.
While he waited for a wheelchair to arrive in order for him to leave the scene of his arrest, it also emerged that the Porsche 911 he was driving was not his own: he had merely been taking it for a test drive while deciding whether to buy it. Having racked up so many traffic offences during the test, he will now have at least a year in which to weigh up the pros and cons of the vehicle, as his licence has been suspended for another twelve months.
Still on the roads, in the Almería town of Olula del Rio and Cantora three people, two of them aged under 18, have been detained in connection with the theft of a hearse and the subsequent crashing of the vehicle. The hearse contained a coffin at the time, and was found with damage valued at 5,200 euros.
At the start of a long holiday weekend road travel is very much in the news, but so too is travelling by air. Of course serious disruption to international flights in Europe was caused by the bombing at Brussels airport on Tuesday morning, but this merely compounded the numerous delays and cancellations resulting from the ongoing French air traffic controllers’ strike.
Political deadlock continues
Attention has been slightly deflected this week from the efforts of Spain’s political party leaders to form a new government by the holidays, although in truth there has been little if any progress to report. Hopes that a coalition could be agreed upon were raised last week when Pedro Sánchez of PSOE and Pablo Iglesias of Podemos announced that they would meet for talks “before Easter”, but on Tuesday evening both sides admitted that due to the “impossibility” of arranging a face-to-face meeting a telephone call on Wednesday had been scheduled instead. This announcement made on Tuesday smacks of expediency, as neither leader has any official commitments on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, acting President of the government Mariano Rajoy (PP) and all the other political party leaders in Spain have expressed their horror at the events in Belgium and offered their condolences to the victims and their relatives, but as things stand in Spain at the moment this is one of the few areas of common ground that they appear willing to share.
It is now 94 days since the general election on 20th December, and if no President is agreed upon within another 40, parliament will be dissolved on 2nd May and another general election will be held.
One group of people severely affected by the failure to form a government are all the "new" politicians elected during the December election who have been selected by the electorate to represent them in a parliament which has not yet been constituted. Frustrated by their inability to begin the job they have been given by the population of the country, they can do little other than hold endless meetings and discussions while they wait in a temporary limbo for a government to be formed or a new election to be held in June.
The suspicion that the lack of a government may be affecting the economy was strengthened this week by the publication of figures regarding foreign investment in Spain 2015. In the year as a whole the amount invested in this country from abroad rose by 11%, but in the last quarter, prior to the general election, there was a 33% year-on-year drop. Although the figure of 5,358 million euros is still a healthy one, the decrease between October and December stands out, and if it is indeed a reflection of the political uncertainty in Spain at the moment then the same effect is likely to have been felt in the first quarter of 2016.
On Wednesday Sr Rajoy at last exchanged words with the new president of Catalunya, Carles Puigdemont, prior to the Germanwings anniversary ceremony at the airport of Barcelona-El Prat, but there is no sign of any thawing in the “Cold War” between the Spanish and Catalan governments. Sr Puigdemont was invested as regional president on 12th January, but no official message of congratulation was sent by Sr Rajoy to the man who is bent on laying down the foundations of a future independent State of Catalunya, and neither was there any communication between the two men following the tragic coach crash in the region at the weekend.
Another dominant theme in the news of late has been the issue of immigrants and refugees, and although the situation in Turkey has been most in the spotlight the fact that Spain faces a constant wave of immigration from Africa has not been forgotten. Over 100 immigrants were detained between Saturday and Monday on the Isle of Alborán, in Ceuta and in the Atlantic Ocean between Western Sahara and the Canaries, and on Sunday morning approximately 300 sub-Saharans launched an assault on the border fence between Melilla and Morocco in an attempt to enter Spanish territory.
Some of them reached the last 6-metre barbed wire barrier and stayed on top of it for hours before climbing down onto Spanish soil, where they were summarily returned to Morocco, as has become customary procedure on occasions such as this over the last few months in the enclave.
For those keen to criticize the government this appears to be an example of double standards: just days after rejecting the mass deportation of refugees arriving in the EU from Turkey – José Manuel García-Margallo, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, complained that this policy is akin to “treating human beings as if they were suitcases” – Spain itself automatically denied access into the country to 300 people.
In defence of the actions of the Guardia Civil in Melilla, the central government delegation in the enclave maintains that the immigrants did not actually reach Spain because they were unable to pass the “anti-intrusion mechanisms”. These “mechanisms” include the Guardia Civil, according to the delegation’s semantic interpretation of the terminology, and the “rejection at the frontier” policy was therefore applied.
The "devolución en caliente" as this process of returning those who have successfully climbed over the border fence via the back door has been in the news many times, as human rights organisations attempt to bring court actions against the police officers charged with guarding the borders, and the Spanish authorities assert their right to protect their territories from those attempting to enter illegally and protect their employees charged with defending the fences.
Although the illegal immigrant problem is constantly in the news, the scale is significantly smaller than the problems currently facing the Balkan countries. On the bottom of each article about this topic is a long thread of previous posts written about this topic and extensive coverage is given to the European migrant crisis in the International news section.
The Easter holidays begin
As the Easter weekend starts the weather in Spain is beginning to reflect the fact that spring started on Sunday morning, but in the north of the country there is still plenty of snow around. This makes for ideal skiing conditions in the resorts of the Pyrenees and Sierra Nevada, but at the same time, as temperatures gradually rise, there is a constant risk of avalanches, a danger which was highlighted in the province of Huesca (Aragón) on Monday.
Two climbers from Madrid were caught by surprise by an avalanche and one was partially buried, and although he managed to dig his way out of the snow without help he suffered multiple bruises and a broken finger.
For most Spaniards Semana Santa is a time of year to enjoy the religious processions or to relax, but others will be tempted to head for the countryside, a popular inland destinations in Andalucía being the Caminito del Rey in the province of Málaga which celebrates the first anniversary of its re-opening this week.
This cliff path on the sides of the El Chorro gorge near Álora was first built as part of the construction of hydroelectric power plants at Chorro falls and Gaitanejo falls in the early twentieth century and was reopened last 28th March, giving intrepid visitors an opportunity to enjoy one of the most breathtaking walks in Europe, and in the first twelve months of its new incarnation has welcomed as many as 300,000 people, according to the provincial government delegation. Until now access has been free of charge, but by May the management of the path will have been passed over to a privately run company and a small entry fee (maximum 10€) will be in place. Currently anyone attempting to book is greeted with a closed booking page as there is a waiting list to walk the Caminito.
Unrepentant offenders in Catalunya and Granada
Finally, a couple of crime stories in which the guilty parties do not appear to be aware that they are doing anything wrong. In Catalunya various Town Halls are enlisting the services of forensic scientists in order to initiate DNA dog pooh testing programs and clean up the streets, employing technology which was pioneered in the USA. This sounds at first like an expensive way to deal with an issue which is increasingly in the spotlight in numerous municipalities, but the company marketing the technique claims that once municipal ordinances have been changed to oblige dog owners to supply samples of their pets’ DNA it is in fact inexpensive and 100% efficient.
The other unrepentant offenders are a Rumanian gypsy couple living in the municipality of Almuñécar in the province of Granada. Following a report to the authorities by a concerned neighbor it has emerged that the couple sold their 15-year-old daughter to another clan in Asturias at the price of 3,500 euros, 100 bottles of whisky, two sheep and a pig, and were expecting a similar dowry for the girl’s 13-year-old sister.
The two under-age victims are now in care, and are reported to have been told by their mother that once married they would have to repay their parents-in-law the dowries decided upon by finding a job or begging: if not, the tradition has it, they would bring dishonor to their family.
Summer time starts on Sunday
The holidays are now under way here in Spain and with the weather set fair, processions the streets and a myriad of other events scheduled during the first genuinely busy weekend of the year for the tourist sector, the next few days are full of distractions. For this reason, a reminder: don’t forget to turn the clocks forward by an hour on Saturday night or Sunday morning, when at 2.00 it will suddenly become 3.00.
Spanish property news
Further evidence of the improving health of the Spanish property market and construction sector was provided this week by the publication of the final data showing the level of foreign investment in this country in 2015.
The overall total of foreign investment in Spain last year was 11% higher than in 2014 at 21.72 billion euros, and the combination of real estate and construction accounts for over a third of this figure.
Encouragingly for the construction sector this part of the economy accounts for the largest single proportion of the overall total, following a spectacular 167% increase to 4,706 million euros. This is followed by manufacturing (3.4 billion euros), real estate (3 billion euros), retail (2.4 billion) and the financial services sector (2.3 billion). Between construction and real estate this gives a figure of 7.7 billion euros, or just over a third of all foreign investment in Spain throughout the year.
Other than that, no significant data relating to the Spanish property market has hit the headlines this week as the country prepares for the holiday weekend: in fact, the figures show that 91.4% of the statisticians have begun their Semana Santa breaks early!
Currency Exchange Rate this week
It's important to keep an eye on the exchange rate if buying a property or transferring your pension
This week the exchange rate for those transferring Sterling into Euros has hit a 15 month low, meaning that it's even more important now than it has been for a long time to choose the method by which you transfer currency with care. The Torfx Currency Exchange service guarantees more euros in your pocket than using a bank.
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.
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Images: Copyrighted Murcia Today, Reuters, Efe, Cartagena Semana Santa photo José Albaladejo-Ayto-Cartagena. Full or partial reproduction prohibited.
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
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