CLICK HERE for our
FREE Weekly News Bulletin
Spanish weekly news round-up 6th December
This week the news in Spain has been dominated by two main issues. The first is the forthcoming general election on 20th December, for which the campaigning officially began on Friday (although in reality all of the major parties have been engaged in a propaganda war for quite some time). This week the Prime Minister refused to engage in an open debate, leaving the other three main protagonists arguing it out between them while he undertook a solo interview on another channel. With posters featuring the Vice-president prominent all over the national capital the PM is being accused of hiding behind her skirts by some of the press, and also of preparing to stand aside by others. The last opinion poll before the campaign suggests that the governing PP will again win more seats than any other party, but will fall a long way short of an overall majority when parliament is reconvened, and this opens up the possibility of long and protracted negotiations involving PP, PSOE, Ciudadanos and Podemos to arrive at a workable agreement in order to form the next government. The PM has already said he will stand aside should his party fail to gain a working majority.
Opinion polls can be wrong, of course, and much can change during the next two weeks, but a period of uncertainty looks almost certain to follow the voting on Sunday 20th.
One of the political stars of the week, though, was a Ciudadanos councilor in the town of Castilleja de la Cuesta, in the province of Sevilla, where Carmen López Santana has been stripped of her party membership card after a series of events which have called her suitability for the job into question. Not long after taking her seat on the council Sra López accepted a job in Chicago, and demanded that the Town Hall pay her travel expenses to and from council meetings, a request which was not received favourably, and now, just before she flew back to Spain for the first time since moving to the US in August, the far-from-publicity-shy councilor has responded to criticism by doing a little stripping of her own and has appeared on the front cover of Interviú magazine, a product well known for its graphic nude front cover images.
In consequence it seems highly unlikely that she will be playing a prominent role in Ciudadanos’ campaign for the general election, although there can be little doubt that she would exert a strong appeal among a certain sector of the electorate.
Spanish courts declare independence resolution null and void
The other major issue from which it is impossible to escape on the front pages of the Spanish press is the resolution passed in the parliament of Catalunya on 9th November to initiate a process of democratic disconnection from Spain within 18 months ( to create an independent democratic republic of Cataluña.) This week the Constitutional Court declared the resolution unconstitutional, effectively making it null and void and implying that any move towards independence will be a serious offence of civil disobedience.
However, Artur Mas, who has championed the separatist cause for the last few years, is nothing if not determined, and has since responded that although in legal terms the disconnection process is not valid, in his view it is still politically viable due to the support it has gained in the regional parliament and among the electorate. He is still committed not only to achieving independence within 18 months, but also to being sworn in for another term of office as president, despite the continuing refusal of the CUP party to vote for him as the candidate proposed by the JxSí group.
So complex is the situation in Catalunya that it is hard to predict who will make the next move, but the head-on conflict with the national government in Madrid is certainly not going to disappear during the election campaign and at the moment the Catalan parliament continues without a leader as the parties discuss terms for finally agreeing terms.
A cautionary court judgement for Artur Mas will be the 5 year prison sentence doled out to a man who participated in the “surround the Congress “ demonstration in 2013, when the anti-austerity protests were at their peak.
Another recurring topic in the news is the Basque separatist group ETA, who may be severely weakened and not have engaged in armed activity for over five years but are still in the news. This week the man who committed the last ETA murder in 2010 was jailed for life by the French courts, and another member of the organization went on trial in Spain after being arrested while living a double life under a false identity in Belgium. Javier Aguirre was spirited out of Spain by ETA but was arrested in Brussels in 2011, and could face up to 13 years behind bars.
Good news for the economy this week was provided by unusually positive unemployment figures for the month of November, possibly affected by staff being taken on in the retail sector prior to Black Friday and Christmas, and although Spain still has the second highest unemployment rate in Europe (behind Greece) the total has been falling for approximately 18 months.
The economy is also being boosted by what is likely to prove the most successful year ever for the tourist industry in Spain. Passenger numbers at Spanish airports are set to exceed 200 million by the end of December, and the contribution of the UK market to this success cannot be underestimated: in October over a quarter of all foreign visitors to this country were British, and the overall figures appear likely to carry on rising as travellers continue to view Spain as a safe destination after the Jihadist attacks in Paris on 13th November.
One export market may be about to experience a mini boom as it emerged this week that the dress being worn in pictures of young Princess Charlotte taken by her mother which caused so much comment this week had been purchased by her Spanish nanny from a small family dressmakers in Castilla y León! Orders are flooding in from all over the world although at the moment production is limited as the family only has enough material for a handful of dresses.
The owner of the company says she’s not going to increase her prices from just over 30 euros and has made enough money out of the lucky purchase as it is, but some Spaniards however, like to cling onto every cent, or every peseta. 1.6 billion euros worth of pesetas are still stashed away across Spain and are only trickling into the Bank of Spain at the rate of around a million a month.
Another person looking after money is world famous Opera singer Montserrat Caballe, who has finally been given permission to make a video declaration from her Barcelona home as she is deemed to be too ill to attend a court hearing relating to her conviction for tax evasion.
On the downside, Spain looks set to beat its own record for the most expensive bankruptcy ever as alternative energy giant Abengoa enters bankruptcy protection and administrators unpick its vast, worldwide holdings in almost 900 subsidiaries and partnerships. This week preliminary reports indicated that the company could have exposure to over 20 billion euros, although the declared debts total 9 billion euros.
More Jihadist arrests
In the aftermath of those attacks four more people were arrested on charges of Jihadist activity in Spain this week, one of them a Moroccan tea-shop owner in Pamplona who was preparing to join the IS cause in Syria, and the other three, also of Moroccan origin, in Barcelona. One of those arrested in Catalunya literally had her bags packed in readiness to travel to Afghanistan.
In the current climate it is important to point out that while many European countries are committed to military deterrents against the Islamic State in Syria, in Spain there is a well-supported anti-war movement. Exactly how many people are for and against the possible involvement of Spanish troops in the fight against Jihadism is not certain, but the anti-war “Not in My Name” campaign is a vociferous one, and demonstrations were held all over Spain last weekend to publicize this view.
Another story to make the news this week concerned Spain’s falling population. For three years now there have been progressively fewer people living in this country, mainly due to migration patterns as the economic slump has deterred immigrants, but now that immigration appears to be increasing again the problem has been compounded by deaths outnumbering births. This caused natural population shrinkage of almost 20,000 in the first six months of the year, and the population of Spain is now 90,000 lower than it was 18 months ago.
One unfortunate person joined the list of dead this week when he became the victim of a botched suicide attempt. The 80 year old individual concerned was sitting on a bench minding his own business when a woman threw herself off the balcony of an apartment seven floors above him. Landing straight on top of the unfortunate man, she walked away with nothing more than injuries and the unfortunate man below her was killed on the spot.
First Jews gain Spanish nationality after their ancestors were expelled from Spain 500 years ago
However, one person who could now contribute to reversing the trend by coming to this country at any time is an 80-year-old Sephardic Jew named Simona. Her forefathers were expelled from Spain along with the Moors in 1492, and she has now become one of the first to take advantage of the Spanish government’s decision earlier this year to right that wrong the small matter of 523 years later: earlier this week she passed her Spanish language and general knowledge exams, and is now awaiting her Spanish passport.
Other historical news this week
There have been a number of interesting stories relating to Spanish history this week.
One of these involves the Spanish treasure galleon, the San José, sunk by the British whilst bringing cargo of coinage and jewellery gathered from Spain’s colonies in South America and destined to support the war efforts of Felipe V in Europe. This week it was announced that the wrecksite had been “found” by the Colombian authorities off the coast of Cartagena (Colombia) and the content of the vessel would be put on display in a purpose built museum, although in fact the wreck has been thye subject of a protracted battle with the treasure hunters who located the wreck as far back as 1981.
On Wednesday palaentologists announced the discovery in the province of Cuenca, Castilla La Mancha, of beautifully preserved fossils of a strange giraffe-like animal with three horns atop its head and a set of fangs that roamed Europe about 15 million years ago.
They gave it the scientific name Xenokeryx amidalae, meaning "strange horn of Amidala," referring to the "Star Wars" character Queen Amidala, played by actress Natalie Portman, as the peculiar shape of Xenokeryxs largest horn was "extremely similar to one of the hairstyles that Amidala shows off in Star Wars Episode 1 when she is the queen of her home planet Naboo,"paleontologist Israel Sanchez of the National Museum of Natural History in Madrid explained during the presentation.
While researching interesting places to visit in Spain which contained prehistoric rock art we came across an interesting cave in Cantabria which readers might like to know about. Although the prehistoric cave paintings of Altamira are renowned worldwide, Spain has many interesting prehistoric sites amongst them the cave of Covalanas in Ramales de la Victoria, in the region of Cantabria, one of many which are listed as a World Heritage Site by Unesco under the title of “Cave of Altamira and Paleolithic Cave Art of Northern Spain”.
This site stands out as although it contains approximately 20 prehistoric paintings created thousands of years ago by the settlers in the north of Spain, it appears to have been used as a site in which budding artists were taught how to create designs. Read more
There was also a story this week about the ongoing task of maintaining the Unesco recognized Roman wall at Lugo, which is the only intact fortification of this nature anywhere in the world, the news being that a lift has now been installed to enable visitors in wheelchairs to access the top walk around the wall.
Another history-related piece was about the importance of lead ingots found in the Bou Ferrer Roman vessel located off the coast of Villajoyosa in Alicante and now on display in the national archaeological museum in Madrid. This is a major wreck site and contained a complete cargo of over 3,000 amphorae and lead ingots, the examples put on display in the museum this week stamped with the mark of the Emperor Nero.
More recent past has also featured this week with the news that in Camas (Seville) the council has undertaken to carry the cost of moving the bodies of civil war victims exhumed in the municipality into the municipal churchyard in order to give them a Christian burial, while in Alicante the municipality of Gata de Gorgos has voted to strip General Franco of his title of “hijo adoptivo” 40 years after his death.
Shock and scandal in La Liga this week
Sports news in Spain this week has been dominated, as it almost always is, by football and at the end of an exciting week Atlético Madrid and Real Madrid took advantage of a slip-up by Barcelona who only managed a 1-1 draw against Valencia to close the gap at the top of La Liga by close of play on Sunday evening.
In La Liga FC Barcelona’s majestic recent form continued with a 4-0 dismantling of Real Sociedad, and although Real Madrid continue to be involved in the title race they will have been distracted by the outcome of their fixture against Cádiz in the Copa del Rey (the Spanish cup) on Wednesday. Madrid won the match 3-1, but have now been expelled from the tournament after it transpired that one of the players selected, Denis Cheryshev, was still serving a suspension which was carried over from last year’s tournament when he played for Villarreal. Rafa Benítez’s annoyance will not have been lessened by the fact that Barça won the first leg of their tie 6-1.
Real have also been distracted by the ongoing scandal involving Karim Benzema, who managed to deliver some good goals this week amidst the alleged blackmail sex scandal in which he is currently involved.
Elsewhere, former England international Gary Neville has been named the new manager of Valencia, with his brother Phil confirmed as assistant manager. The Nevilles’ first match in charge promises to be a tough one: at 20.30 on Saturday Valencia take on FC Barcelona.
It has also been finally confirmed that the Barcelona Grand Prix in 2016 will take place on the 15th May: final confirmation is still awaiting for one date in America, but the remainder of the calendar has finally been guaranteed
Spanish property news round-up
To see a wide range of properties for sale across Spain go to the Spanish property pages: www.spanishpropertypage.com
Things have been relatively quiet on the Spanish property market this week, while analysts prepare for a raft of new data which are due to be published by the central statistics unit next Thursday and Friday. However, the little that has been made public in terms of statistics has been positive, and it seems that at last the world of Spanish real estate is definitely shaking off the effects of the seven-year-slump.
The clearest example of this is that of property prices. Again and again it is pointed out that any “bounce-back” effect in prices in Spain is localized and unrepresentative, but a set of figures published this week by leading property valuation firm Tinsa seems to indicate that a more generalized state of good health is gradually becoming apparent. During November, the firm reports an average price per square metre of 1,341 euros across the country as a whole, 1.9% higher than in November 2014, and in all of the broad sub-categories this increase is reflected to a greater or lesser degree.
Even more encouragingly for the majority of non-Spanish owners and prospective owners, in Mediterranean coastal areas the first eleven months of this year has seen average prices rise by 2.6%. This is far from spectacular and cannot yet be considered a consolidated trend, but it appears from these data that rather than merely hoping for price stability it is becoming realistic to anticipate an increase in market prices.
Another interesting set of figures to come out this week concerns mortgage foreclosures. The Spanish government only began to publish detailed statistics on this subject in the first quarter of last year, but already since then a significant decrease has been reported. During the third quarter of this year a total of 11,584 residential property mortgages were foreclosed, including 7,590 which were in the name of individual buyers rather than companies, both figures being around 40% lower than 18 months previously.
At the same time, no doubt as a result of unwise over-investment during the boom years of 2005 to 2008, as many as 71% of all foreclosures in Spain during the third quarter were in the Mediterranean regions of Andalucía, Murcia, Valencia, Catalunya and the Balearics. It is reasonable to suppose that among these were most of the 1,631 related to second homes.
That residential property in Spain is becoming a safer investment in Spain is also reflected by a BBVA report which reaches the conclusion that among all of the major cities in Spain there are only three where the financial commitment required currently represents a risk. These are Madrid, Barcelona and Cádiz, where over a third of average household income is required in order to finance a purchase, and in the first two cases it has to be remembered that the prices are distorted by a high demand for properties among the growing workforce.
Finally, a potential coastal property purchase which is rather out of reach for most pockets. The Chinese Wanda group is currently tabling a bid for 75% of the shares in the Marina d’Or resort on the coast of the province of Castellón, a development which was originally presented as a tourist destination which could eventually become the European Las Vegas. The amount being offered by the group headed by Wang Jianlin is in the region of 1.2 billion euros, and if China’s richest man believes that the Mediterranean coast of Spain is a worth investment target it take a brave man to question his business acumen!
For the Region of Murcia go to: www.murciapropertypage.com
For the Alicante Province go to: www.alicantepropertypage.com
Good Exchange rate from Sterling to Euros makes Spanish property even cheaper
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.
Would you like to receive this bulletin?
If you enjoyed this free weekly round-up, then please forward it on to your friends. If you have received this from a friend and would like to have it sent directly, then click Register for weekly bulletin to sign up.
NONE OF THE TODAY PRODUCTS HARVEST, OR SELL EMAILS IN ANY WAY and we GUARANTEE your details will not be passed on, sold, or used for any other purpose, and are maintained in an off-site facility from which you can unsubscribe at any time.
We also welcome contributions from local charities or clubs, including post event reports, news items and forthcoming events. Use the contact us button in the top header to contact our editorial team.
Images: Copyrighted Spain Today Online S.L, Reuters and Efe. 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
Airlines and Travel SpainCaso BárcenasCaso NóosEbola SpainGibraltarProperty in SpainRodrigo Rato BankiaSareb, Bad Bank, Banco MaloSpanish separatism/ETATourism SpainWeekly Bulletin Spanish NewsWeekly Bulletin Spanish Property