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Spanish weekly news round-up 13th December
Last few days of frantic campaigning before Spain settles down into the festive season
Lead image: Part of the belén sculpted in sand in Las Palmas, Canary Islands
Spanish Property news round-up, week ending 13th December 2015
To see a wide range of properties for sale across Spain go to the Spanish property pages: www.spanishpropertypage.com
Current affairs in the Spanish market this week have been dominated by two reports published by the central statistics unit, and summarizing the content of these two bulletins is not a difficult task: excellent news.
Over recent months it has become customary to report positive information regarding the number of properties being sold but rather more ambiguous data concerning prices. This time, though, the trend has been turned on its head, with the data concerning residential property prices during the third quarter of this year providing undisputable evidence that the market has bottomed out and prices are beginning to bounce back.
The average house price between July and September 2015 was 4.5% higher than in the same period the year before, and even more encouraging is that increases are reported in all 17 of Spain’s regions. Certainly some of them are more spectacular than others, ranging from 8.4% in the Balearics to under 1% in both La Rioja and Aragón, but nonetheless analysts can at last remove the caveats about recovery being localized and sporadic from their comments.
This is the sixth successive quarterly bulletin to report a price rise in Spain as a whole, but it is by some distance the most positive set of statistics regarding the real estate market in this country for eight years.
If the price statistics steal the headlines, though, the figures regarding sales in October are also worthy of comment. For the fourteenth month in a row the number of transactions registered was higher than the year before, and although the increase compared to October 2014 was only 2.7%, this is a consolidation of the growth already registered in previous months. So far this year there have been 11.2% more property sales in Spain than in the first ten months of last year, and the combination of increased activity and recovering market prices has brought a spring back into the step of property professionals all over the country.
This is particularly true in Mediterranean coastal areas, where the market is more dynamic than elsewhere (there are more sales per 100,000 inhabitants in Valencia, Murcia and the Balearics than in all other regions). The latest sets of figures are particularly impressive in the Balearics, where the number of sales grew by 16.5% in October and prices are reported to have risen by 8.4% over the last twelve months. The days of doom and gloom seem to have receded into the dim and distant past in the islands!
In the long term, of course, the recovery of the property market will stimulate economic growth if and when the construction sector finally comes back to life after abruptly seeing demand fall from 2008 onwards. Signs that this might be beginning to happen are still not easy to find, but the first half of this year saw urban land sales increase in value by 12.8%, and this can be taken as an indication that developers and constructions companies are beginning to see openings in the market where more housing is needed.
If estate agents have seen a turnaround in 2015, it may be that next year it will be the turn of property developers to emerge from their eight-year hibernation…
For the Region of Murcia go to: www.murciapropertypage.com
For the Alicante Province go to: www.alicantepropertypage.com
Exchange rate from Sterling to Euros still good for those buying Spanish properties
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.
Spanish news round-up week ending 13th December 2015
Despite the holiday weekend which ended on Tuesday and the proximity of Christmas, the news in Spain has been almost completely concerned with just one topic over the last few days: elections, and this situation is likely to continue until the results of the general election on Sunday 20th December are known.
The PP continues to head the polls with the remaining contenders in a tightly bunched pack behind them
This year has seen an endless succession of elections, the country having selected its local municipal councils, regional governments and now on December 20th, it will once again head for polling stations to choose its national government for the next four years. Most of us will be relieved to leave the endless succession of polls, interviews and voluminous propaganda releases behind us, and with just one week to go before Spain hits the ballot boxes once again, the last polls and debates have once again dominated the national press.
Spains new political forces Podemos and Ciudadanos have gained ground ahead of the weekend, sapping support for mainstream parties and reinforcing expectations that no one party will manage to win a majority, although the PP remains at the front in the latest polls published over the weekend and on Monday morning.
Those with little interest in politics however, can start to enjoy the Christmas run-up, concentrating on soaking up the Christmas atmosphere as Spain prepares for the festive season. Ice rinks are already installed in major cities such as Valencia and Sevilla, and shops and high streets are bedecked with lights, Santa grottos and roast chestnut stands as people go about their hunt for presents. In addition, nativity scenes are proudly displayed by Town Halls all over the country, including a particularly tasty one in the Córdoba town of Rute, made entirely of 1400 kilos of chocolate. Javea in Alicante is currently head of the list of biggest beléns in Spain, covering an area of 1350 square metres.
Spain is full of interesting seasonal traditions such as the chocolate belén, and in the Canary Islands Las Palmas has a stunning sculptural belén made from sand. This attracted 50,000 visitors in its first weekend open to the public and is well worth a visit, being different every year for obvious reasons.
Christmas trees are as important as beléns, and Andalucía claims the most expensive, decorated with a million euros worth of jewels to promote an initiative by the jewelers of Córdoba (interesting fact: 70% of Spain’s jewellery manufacturing business is located in Córdoba) as well as one of the least expensive but most creative in the form of a gorgeous knitted Christmas tree made by the ladies of the traditional white-washed Alpujarras in Granada, a beautiful area replete with those little whitewashed streets which so enchant tourists in this corner of Spain.
However, not all traditions are set in stone and in La Alberca ( Salamanca Castilla La Mancha) a turrón maker has come up with two new varieties to lure shoppers to sample new taste sensations, Iberian ham and Penny Bun mushrooms.
Also related to Christmas, is a story about Christmas sweets, traditionally given over the festive season. This week the Toro Vega polvorones manufacturer has been obliged to change its name to placate animal activists who are targeting the company on account of its name, associating it with the Toro de la Vega bull hunt in Valladolid.
Although Christmas is a time for giving, (and time for speculation, the Spanish have once more been out stocking up on El Gordo lottery tickets, spending an average of 62 euros each) it’s also a time for education, and in the Canary Islands the government is promoting an interesting scheme to encourage parents to give non-sexist Christmas gifts, helping to fuel the fight against sexism which has resulted in so many deaths this year from gender violence.
Unfortunately, on Wednesday the annual total of women who have been killed by their partners or former partners in this country passed 50 again, with the latest victims losing their lives in Sevilla and Fuerteventura. Another sad story related to this same topic involved a mother who jumped to her death from a thirteenth floor apartment in Girona, throwing two of her children to their deaths before she herself jumped.
One of the only events to prize away first-page column inches from the election campaign during the week has been the climate change summit in Paris, where three of Spain’s seventeen regions have signed a commitment to reducing CO2 emissions by 80% before the year 2050. Various Town Halls have put their name to similar proposals, among them that of Madrid, where a parking ban in the city centre and a reduced motorway speed limit were lifted on Monday after being in place for five days.
The reason for these measures being implemented in Madrid was the high level of nitrogen dioxide in the air, and although many applaud the move others have pointed out that it resulted in almost a million euros of parking meter revenue being lost. Whether this was offset by the 8,000 fines imposed on disobedient drivers and unauthorized parking has not been made clear.
The full implications of the agreement for Spain have yet to be analysed, the agreement described as “ambitious” by the ruling PP. There are certainly mixed messages in Spain about the commitment to climate change, as its largest alternative energy supplier Abengoa teeters on the brink of bankruptcy, and Solarpack is forced to renegotiate its 94 million euro debts after building six solar parks in Spain. Both companies, along with thousands of smaller companies and private individuals, found their fingers badly burnt after the government withdrew the generous subsidies which had been offered by their predecessors to invest in alternative energy. With its vast potential for wind, wave and solar energy production, Spain should be a world leader in this field, although the reality is that valuable resources are being wasted and opportunities missed.
Historical Memory Law
Madrid was also in the news this week in connection with the Historical Memory Law, which is little by little being implemented in various parts of the country after being passed eight years ago. A lawyer named Eduardo Ranz has consistently made it his business to urge Town Halls to eliminate street names commemorating the regime of General Franco, thus complying with the law, and this week the courts of Madrid admitted his report concerning the nation’s capital for consideration.
On a related topic, the new regional government of Navarra was represented at the exhumation of a Civil War mass grave in Zurbao de Ibero, the first time that such government support has been offered in a case like this(another side-effect of the elections in May). Proponents of the law will take this as another indication that the Historical Memory Law is slowly being accepted as law in Spain, rather than a piece of optional legislation which can be implemented or ignored by local and regional governments according to their own political ideology.
On Friday the Taliban attacked a guest house in Kabul which was linked to the Spanish Embassy, killing two Spanish security guards and although the national government of Spain maintained that this was not an attack on Spain itself or its Embassy in Afghanisatan, it has nonetheless raised fears that Spain could be the subject of renewed terrorist interest.
The Spanish Interior Ministry put out a press statement over the weekend reiterating that the alert level in Spain would remain the same, and yet again dismissing the amount of mis-information circulating on the social networks about the terrorist situation. Information, will ONLY EVER be released by official sources the release said.
During the week four more suspected Jihadist activists were arrested, two in San Sebastián, one in the Canaries and one in Catalunya. On a similar note, the government warned that some of those who travel to join Daesh forces in conflict zones are trained in Syria to carry out attacks in their home countries, highlighting the need to combat the problem of Jihadist influence in this country at source.
ETA has been the terrorist threat most prominent in Spain for the last five decades and although there is still an official ceasefire in place, historic cases are still being processed by the courts, many of them due to new detentions. Four more suspected terrorists went on trial this week in Madrid, where they face charges of attempting to assassinate former President José María Aznar by using a ground-to-air missile under instructions from the leaders of ETA in 2001. All four deny their involvement in any such plot, but a signed confession made by one of the accused (which he claims was given under duress) may lead to their imprisonment.
However, in spite of the problems relating to Jihadism, Spain is still an attractive destination for immigrants, all the more so now that the economic depression is over and GDP is forecast to grow by between 2% and 3% in all parts of the country next year. During the week another mass assault on the border fence in the north African enclave of Melilla was thwarted by the security forces of Spain and Morocco, and as efforts are made to clamp down on the people-trafficking mafias in northern Africa 52 would-be immigrants were picked up of the coast of Adra in Andalucía, one of several attempts to reach Spain by sea during the week.
Another story related to immigration is the decision of the government of Madrid to press ahead with plans to offer free health cover to illegal immigrants in spite of the national laws only allowing for the treatment of the young, very sick and pregnant women. This week a campaign was launched informing those living in the region that “the door of their local health centre is open” for them. “Nobody is excluded” the posters proclaimed.
In recent times it has not often been possible to say that there are no real new developments regarding the issue of Catalan independence, but this week, with attention focusing ever more sharply on the forthcoming general election in Spain, that appears to be the case.
Responding to the declaration by Spain’s Constitutional Court last week that the independence resolution passed in the Catalan parliament on 9th November is null and void, the parliamentary authorities in Barcelona have commented merely that they have “taken note” of the decision. The separatist parties will now take advice on the legal implications before deciding on their next move.
Meanwhile, no further progress has yet been reported in the negotiations between the two separatist parties to secure the swearing in of Artur Mas of JxSí as the president of the regional government. Sr Mas’ appointment has already been blocked twice by the CUP party, and in an effort to reach an agreement the two parties are now committed to meeting every day until 22nd December.
Should no president have been appointed in Catalunya by 10th January, it will be necessary to hold another regional election.
Road accidents were once again a relevant topic last Bank Holiday weekend, when 23 people were killed on Spanish roads in just four days, and the death toll was added to by a 59-year-old tractor driver in Córdoba and a 6-year-old boy who died in a quad bike accident in the mountains of Asturias. Six of the victims were pedestrians, and in Málaga the reaction has been to impose fines of up to 1,000 euros for anyone who dares to cross the road without using a zebra crossing in locations where there is one close at hand.
Elsewhere, two wildlife species which are in danger of extinction in Spain have been the subject of some controversy over the last few days. One of these is the wolf, of which only a couple of hundred specimens were left in this country in the 1970s, but which has since benefitted from efforts to preserve populations in the mountains of the north.
Earlier this week it was confirmed that a small new pack in the Sierra de Guadarrama in Madrid is flourishing, with newborn cubs having been captured by movement-triggered cameras, but in areas where the species is more common their presence causes considerable resentment, particularly among livestock farmers whose cattle are attacked. One farmer in Ávila has lost four calves in under a month in this way, sparking calls for immediate compensation from the regional government of Castilla y León.
Controversy of a different kind surrounds the Iberlife campaign to save the Iberian lynx from extinction. Those who argue that the whole project is a waste of money because the species is doomed were provided with further ammunition on Tuesday when the roads of Andalucía claimed their ninth lynx life this year, illustrating that modern transport networks and the survival of the species are not compatible when the animals are forced to roam in search of rabbits.
However, at the same time it has been confirmed that two cubs whose mother was hit by a high-speed train have managed to survive in the wild on their own, and are now part of the lynx community in the Guadalmellato area of Córdoba.
The arguments over the lynx and the wolf will go on, but expect them to take a back seat for the next few days as the majority of the rhetoric in Spain continues to be produced by politicians as they strive to capture vital votes next Sunday!
And finally.....La Liga this week
The situation has changed significantly at the top of La Liga over the last two weekends, with results favouring Atlético Madrid to the extent that they are now level on points with FC Barcelona at the top of the table.
This follows Barça’s second consecutive draw, this time at home to Deportivo La Coruña in the Nou Camp, where two goals in the last 14 minutes on Saturday enabled the visitors to cancel out earlier strikes from Messi and Rakitic. Atlético then took advantage on Sunday with a hard-fought 2-1 home win over Athletic Bilbao, the winner being a superb first-time strike from outside the box by Antoine Griezmann, his seventh in the league this season. Click to continue reading this weeks La Liga round-up
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