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Spanish weekly news round-up 7th November
Political potty talk, increasing property sales and prices, plus Catalan and Spanish governments firmly on a collision course over independence declaration
Spanish national news
Catalan and Spanish governments on course for head-on collision
This week has been both complicated and turbulent in the ongoing battle of wills between Artur Mas and his separatist supporters and the Spanish government. There is still no clear decision as to who will be the leader of the Catalan region: negotiations continue, yet in spite of the uncertainty as to who will lead the fight, the two separatist parties are pushing forward with their plan to initiate a process to declare Cataluña as an independent republic.
The regional government of Catalunya and the national government of Spain are now fast approaching a head-on collision over the issue of Catalan independence, with the proposed debate and passing of a motion in the Catalan parliament to begin the process of “disconnection” next Monday having brought matters to a head.
It is to be assumed that the motion will be passed on Monday with the support of the Junts pel Sí and CUP parties, and if this is the case then a deadline of 30 days will be set for the process of drafting laws to create independent social security and taxation mechanisms to begin.
However, this new law in Catalunya will most likely be valid for no more than 24 hours, as it will be suspended by Spain’s Constitutional Court for an initial period of five months on Tuesday: the national government already has its objections prepared for submission to the Court as soon as Monday’s debate in Barcelona ends, and a special cabinet meeting is planned for Tuesday morning in order to ratify the objections immediately.
The objection which will be raised invokes Article 161.2 of the 1978 Constitution, and the Constitutional Court will convene immediately to admit it and thus suspend the motion passed in the Catalan parliament. As soon as the five-month suspension is announced any refusal to respect it will be punishable by fines of up to 30,000 euros and, if disobedience is continual, the possible suspension of the region of Catalunya’s right to self-government.
Other separatist stories
Another story related to the Catalan Independence movement revolves around the continued defiance of Barcelona football supporters who made a point of displaying the Estelada, the Catalan regional flag, at the Champions League game pitting Barca against BATE Borisov of Belarus on Wednesday.
UEFA has already levied two fines this year after fans waved the starred pro-independence flag at other games, which the European football body says flouts its rules on political messages at sport events. The club has vowed to fight the latest UEFA fine of 40,000 euros imposed after a September Champions League game, adding it would not limit peoples freedom of expression.
ETA: A fire at a bus garage in the municipality of Derio (province of Vizcaya, Basque Country) in the early hours of Sunday morning ended with six buses being completely destroyed and another two seriously damaged. The blaze started deliberately as an expression of support for ETA member Ibon Iparragirre, sentenced to a total of 320 years in jail, but now requesting release on the grounds of ill health: he suffers from AIDS, and refuses HIV management treatment.
A ruling issued by the National Court this week supported the stance of the Spanish Government that ETA prisoners must remain dispersed in jails around the country and in France: 20 ETA prisoners had claimed that their fundamental human rights were being violated by imprisonment outside the Basque Country, but the Court rejected this notion and ruled that all the prisoners are receiving adequate visiting rights, legal advice and educational opportunities, and that their rights are being respected.
Meanwhile, the numbers of prisoners supporting ETA looks set to increase: Six suspected members of ETA went on trial in France on Monday over the killing of a policeman in a shootout in the eastern suburbs of Paris in March 2010. This trial will continue for some weeks, and in Madrid a man has been sentenced by the National Court in Madrid to 18 months in prison this week for extolling ETA and its members, advocating terrorist attacks and humiliating victims through a series of comments and postings on social networks.
Spain remains on a high level of terror alert, watchful of the dangerous situations in Afghanistan, Syria and Turkey, particularly heightened by the loss of a Russian airliner over Egypt which killed 224 people at the weekend. All week investigations have eliminated possible causes of the crash, and by Friday evening at the time of writing, reports were circulating that black box recordings indicated that the crash was caused by an explosion inside the plane.
This week Spanish security services arrested three Moroccans in Madrid on Tuesday morning on charges of preparing to carry out terrorist attacks on Spanish soil, and on Wednesday two more people were arrested in the province of Barcelona on suspicion of having been involved in recruiting and indoctrinating militants to join the IS forces in Iraq and Syria.
On Wednesday Spain’s Supreme Court upheld a governmental order to expel Nourredine Ziani, a former president of the Union of Islamic Cultural Centres in Catalunya, from Spain for having collaborated with the Moroccan secret service since the year 2000.The original expulsion order was issued in May 2013, and Ziani will now be forbidden from entering Spanish territory for a period of ten years.
Meanwhile in Málaga local Christian charity workers have appealed for calm and an open mind after the Iglesia de Nuestra Señora del Carmen in the town of Rincón de la Victoria was attacked and vandalised, with religious statues damaged and Arabic slogans daubed on the walls of the church by the vandals. This is the second attack in the area in just 6 weeks and local community workers are concerned that far from being an attack on the church by those with differing religious beliefs, that this is more likely to be an attack designed to stir up racial tensions with the local immigrant population.
Last week Spain began a new system of examinations for those applying for Spanish nationality, testing them on their knowledge of Spanish culture and daily life, although if the truth be told, the Ed, a 10 year veteran of Spain would have been unable to answer some of the questions posed.
This week the Spanish government received the backing of the Constitutional Court to suspend a law passed by the regional government of the Comunidad Valenciana allowing illegal immigrants to receive public medical care. The central government claims that the law in Valencia usurps the authority of the government, interfering in a matter which is the exclusive responsibility of the State, and the Court has now admitted the case for consideration, suspending the law for five months while it does so, effectively removing the right of thousands of illegal immigrants to receive health care in the Valencia region in spite of the wishes of the regional government.
Stormy start to the week: four dead
The week got off to a shaky start as the whole of the southern and eastern Spanish coastline tussled with a major weather front, gale force winds whipping up angry seas which stripped several beaches of sand, bounced around any beach chiringuitos which had attempted to take advantage of the warm autumn weather and killed four people in Cataluña when a residencia for the elderly was flooded after the river Sío burst its banks. Investigations have been underway all week to clarify why the four people were not moved when the authorities had issued flood warnings and the owners of the home been informed of the risk.
The Valencia Region bore the brunt of the Gota Fría rains and areas of Cataluña were flooded as rivers struggled to cope with the flash downpours, Andalucía was battered by strong winds and heavy seas, while Murcia escaped the worst of the weather, although still received isolated downpours of heavy rain which flooded basements around the Mar Menor and caused the River Segura to burst its banks in Calasparra.
The heaviest rainfall was reported in Castellón in the Comunidad Valenciana (Valencia region) with 114 millimetres: the equivalent of pouring 114 litres of water into a one metre square area, and ports were closed due to stormy seas.
The storms caused extensive damage, right along the coast from Cádiz to Cataluña, the beaches of Málaga badly hit by rough seas and high waves, while slightly further east in Granada, areas such as Almunecar estimated the cost of repairing walkways and beaches was over 600,00 euros.
In total, the damage ran into millions.
The storms always bring animal casualties, and this week an unusual whale washed up in Mallorca: a 5 metre Cuvier’s beaked whale.
The Guardia have been called in to investigate strange injuries found on two dolphins washed up in Almería with their jaws broken, and in Murcia naturalists went out dolphin watching and came back to shore with a haul of hashish they found floating in the sea!
The damp weather has brought on the mushroom crop nicely and although the first victim of the season has died from mushroom poisoning, the mushroom rustlers are out in force, picking huge quantities in the forests of Almería. Sadly, such mass picking is illegal, and damages stocks for the amateur pickers who enjoy gleaning autumn’s natural treasures.
There are always those happier to destroy the environment and all it contains than care for it, and this week a man was finally jailed for throwing his mother’s dog out of a window in Granada and killing it: he appealed the sentence but the judge insisted that he go to jail rather than be given a suspended sentence.
It’s to be hoped that respect will be shown for Spain’s remaining 34 brown bears; this week the Cataluña government released video footage showing that its three beautiful cubs born this year are still alive and well.
A little more respect is also being shown to the donkeys who pull the donkey taxi service in Mijas, and following the posting of a disgraceful piece of video footage showing one of the donkeys being brutally mistreated the town hall has now begun training courses for its donkey taxi drivers to ensure their animals are cared for correctly, and the image of the donkey service improved!
This week the subject of bulls once again reared its head, and the 14th person to be gored during a bull-run died in the Valencia region. Unfortunately the individual concerned was apparently more interested in watching than taking part, but still found himself in the wrong place at the wrong time and died from his injuries after several days in hospital.
Political potty talk
One of the signs that Christmas is approaching is the annual presentation of this years selection of “caganer” figures, one of the essential elements of every Catalan Belén, and an increasingly popular choice for nativity scenes in other parts of Spain as well.
“Caganer” is a Catalan word, sometimes rendered as “cagón” or “cagador” in Castilian Spanish, which is used to refer to a curious figure, traditionally a male peasant, who can be found somewhere in the background of the nativity scene, squatting on his haunches with his trousers round his ankles and defecating unceremoniously.
These days caganers come in many shapes or forms, ranging from cartoon characters to the monarchy, caricatures of the best-known public figures of our age, with new representations added every year. Elections are looming on 20th December and this year’s selection includes a motley assortment of leading political figures from both Spain and the rest of the world, Angela Merkel, Vladimir Putin and even David Cameron engaged in the same activity as Mickey Mouse, Queen Elizabeth II and Madonna.
The real struggle for popularity however, is not tucked away in the back of a nativity scene, but in the opinion polls, and at the moment the PP are leading the way heading towards the December 20th elections, with Podemos losing votes to Ciudadanos.
Ciudadanos could be the "Kingmaker" following the elections in December, as should the PP win, but with a reduced majority as is being widely predicted, then Ciudadanos could hold the sway in parliament, with the government unable to pass legislation without their support. Should voters castigate the PP as they did in regional and local elections in May this year, there could even be a coalition government, with Cs holding the balance. This is a situation which can be currently witnessed in the Murcia Region, with the PP one seat short of a majority in the regional government being prevented from passing regional budgets for 2016 by Cs due to an uncomfortable situation whereby politicians have been indicted in court cases since May. In return for its support in backing the PP so that they could hold the government in Murcia for the next four years, Cs forced the PP to clear the decks of all indicted politicians and guarantee that they would maintain that situation, but since the indictment of three politicians, Cs are refusing to support the regional government until these three individuals resign, leaving the regional government unable to pass its own budget.
The economy is likely to be a big vote influencer and this week there was a slight fall in consumer confidence, along with a rise in unemployment, but as October is traditionally a month in which employment figures rise, the year to date total is more important, and this has fallen by 350,000 from the same point last year.
However, Spain still has more than 4 million unemployed and is up there alongside Greece with the highest unemployment rates in Europe.
One business project which is proving difficult to “get off the ground” is the airport at Ciudad Real, and this week the sale of the airport to a British company was ruled null and void by the courts….again!
Another indicator of economic health is car sales figures, which this week showed that consumers are starting to lose their fear of major capital purchases and are once again starting to buy new cars.
One person who went out and bought the oldest and most battered car he could find is Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, who is inviting messages in support of freedom of expression to be dropped through a slot he has cut in the roof of the car, along with pieces of lego from which he will build a large-scale artwork in Melbourne, Australia. The vehicle is outside the CAC in Málaga, along with others stationed around the world, trying to collect enough lego: apparently the manufacturer was reluctant to supply a large quantity of Lego on the grounds that the company “does not get involved in projects of a political nature”.
This week Valencia hosts the Valencia Moto Grand Prix title decider, but the action actually began back in Malaysia when Italian great Valentino Rossi tangled with Hondas outgoing double world champion Marc Marquez at Sepang.
The young Spaniard has said Rossi used his leg to make him crash, an allegation the Italian has denied, but which has been backed by the arbitration court which has banished Rossi to the back of the grid.
Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi called Rossi to express his support while Spanish counterpart Mariano Rajoy took to Twitter to back Marquez. Yamaha have taken up the cudgels against Honda. Hundreds of thousands have also signed an online petition calling on MotoGP organisers to drop the Valencia penalty while another petition called for Rossi to be stripped of his Jerez star of fame award.
Such has been the atmosphere that the International Motorcycling Federation (FIM) and promoters DORNA cancelled Thursdays pre-race news conference and summoned riders "to address the situation".
However, on Sunday there was still tension in the air and a furious Rossi accused the Spanish riders of "stitching him up" after Lorenzo took the championship, and outgoing champion Marquez and Dani Pedrosa acted as "bodyguards" to Lorenzo (according to Rossi), allowing him to win and keeping Rossi away from the front of the pack.
But if you want to fight this out at home, then this week a new Monopoly edition dedicated to the sport has also been launched, so Rossi and Marquez can fight it out in the comfort of your own living room.
Some sports are best left to the experts though, and this week an Italian Go-karter nearly strangled herself in Menorca when her scarf became entangled in the moving kart.
Cops and robbers
British “tourists” found themselves in court this week, ten YEARS after trying to pass off more than 2,000 euros worth of forged 50 euros notes in Magaluf and Calvía.
Police arrested an eastern European gang who targeted travellers on the AP-7 this week, committing more than 450 robberies right along the motorway. Their most common ploy was letting down the tyres on vehicles being driven by more affluent foreigners, then “helping” them while their companions relieved their unfortunate victims of personal belongings.
Drug raids and confiscations have also been underway as normal: in one case smugglers abandoned 600 kilos of hash on the beach when the forces of law and order became too close for comfort, and another gang made a right hash of their operation, leaving more than a thousand kilos of hash stash for the Guardia when they were caught unloading in Tarifa (Cádiz, Andalucía).
The legal cigarette sector is so fed up with contraband cigarette smugglers eating into their trade that they’ve agreed to supply the Guardia Civil with extra equipment and support to help them catch more smugglers.
But some people are determined to protect their trade through legislation, and in Barcelona companies running cemetery operations have joined forces to try and push through a law to stop relatives throwing ashes to the wind wherever they want to as is permitted in Spain: the high cost of maintaining niches in cemeteries is resulting in many opting for cremation, a situation which is losing business for those maintaining the municipal cemetery sites who now want to “kill the competition” and protect their trade through legislation.
In Murcia meanwhile, the Guardia faced an altogether different challenge when a local shepherd reported that a strange object had apparently fallen from space in the municipality of Mula. A team of men in green suits and matching biological wellies descended on the area, activating nuclear, radiological, bacteriological and chemical alerts.
Having ascertained that this was not the start of an alien invasion, and after combing the area for any other remains, the Guardia Civil removed the offending object and sent messages to Nasa and the European Space Agency to see if anyone would like to claim whatever had fallen off one of their rockets.
And finally, tourism
No week in Spain would be complete without some stories relating to tourism and this week the nation has been displaying its wares in the important World Travel Market in London. Success stories have been thick on the ground, as councillers return triumphant with a few thousand hotel nights reserved by tour companies or new airline routes. Barcelona is targeting high spending Chinese tourists, Andalucia is seeking to capitalise on its golf courses and and natural backdrops which are perfect as film sets, while the Comunidad Valenciana is boosting its efforts to attract British visitors to Benidorm throughout the year and city break traffic to Alicante City itself. Murcia meanwhile, is looking for new emerging markets and is targeting off-season tourists from countries such as Bulgaria.
Another story related to the spectacular hilltop town of Montefrio in the Granada province of Andalucía, which saw its tourist visitors soar after being listed by the National Geographic as having one of the best views in the world.
And in Murcia the idea of creating a vulture colony to attract tourists has also been proposed, helping to protect these enormous birds which now find it increasingly difficult to find natural food sources in our modern world, and create an interesting new tourist centre.
Tourism has many forms, and if you enjoy a good live gig, then 2 sets of tickets have gone on sale this week: Bryan Adams playing four dates in Spain during January 2016 and Noel Gallagher will be in Madrid and Barcelona in April.
www.spanishnewstoday.com is updated daily with Spanish, International, UK and sporting news
Spanish property news
As the end of 2015 approaches it is becoming apparent that in terms of the Spanish property market the good news is now beginning to triumph over the bad, and the last week has been a case in point.
In terms of activity in the real estate market, the government’s central statistics unit reported that in September the number of properties bought and sold was higher than in the same month the year before for the 13th time in a row, this time topping 30,000 after a 13.8% increase. The most significant rises in the September figures were in Extremadura, La Rioja, Catalunya, the Balearics and Murcia, while in three regions (Valencia, Murcia and the Balearics) there were over 100 transactions per 100,000 inhabitants). Only in three regions was the September sales figure lower than in 2014.
The implication of these geographical data seems to be that the Mediterranean coast is attracting a large number of buyers, and it may be more than mere coincidence that fourth place on the list was occupied by Andalucía (93 sales per 100,000 inhabitants).
In the Comunidad Valenciana, there is no doubt that the consistently high level of activity is due in large part to heightened interest from non-Spanish buyers in the Costa Blanca, and while UK nationals take the largest share of this market interesting data have been published this week regarding the number of Swedes and other Scandinavians purchasing homes in the province of Alicante. If the British account for 20% of all non-Spanish buyers, the Scandinavians number almost half as many, and according to leading Swedish estate agency Fastighetsbyrån the number of purchases being made this year in the Costa Blanca is around 17% more than in 2014. At the same time, the value of these purchases has risen by 27%, indicating that prices on the Costa Blanca are rising healthily.
The most popular areas among Fastighetsbyrån clients in the Costa Blanca are Torrevieja and Orihuela Costa, where properties are cheaper than in Alicante and the Marina Alta y Baja, but all along the coast of Alicante there are encouraging signs of prices rising, according to the agency.
Another indication that the corner finally appears to have been turned came this week from leading property valuation firm Tinsa, which reported for the first time since March 2008 that prices are now higher than twelve months ago. For some this might appear a good reason to pop the cork on a large bottle of expensive champagne, but the overall increase of 0.8% since October last year masks a great deal of variation among different areas: rises of 3.6% in Mediterranean coastal regions and 4.2% in the Canary and Balearic islands are almost cancelled out by falls in the categories of “metropolitan areas” and “other municipalities”, and the turnaround is at best fragile for the time being.
Despite the caution, though, there can be little doubt that the tide is turning. A leading property portal reports an average rise in asking prices across Spain of 0.46% during the month of October alone, although the level of prices is still 4% lower than a year ago, and all the signs now point to most price indicators moving back into positive territory over the next few months.
One of the many factors boosting the sector at the moment is the extraordinarily low interest rates available on mortgage loans, and now, just as it seemed that the Euribor couldn’t possibly fall any further, it has. Having ended October at a record low of just 0.128%, the most widely used mortgage base rate in Spain has since plummeted even further to 0.096% (on Friday 6th November), meaning that property purchases in Spain have become even more affordable over the last week.
Such is the infectiousness of the optimism this week that even the construction sector has jumped on the bandwagon. Sepoan, which represents Spain’s largest construction companies, is expecting a growth in activity this year of 6%, the first upward movement since the effects of the crisis took hold in 2008, and the association’s president puts this down mostly to increased demand for new housing.
At last it seems safe to say it: the light at the end of the tunnel is not, as some feared, an oncoming train, but a return to something approaching normality for a property sector which has endured an unprecedented seven-and-a-half-year slump. Prices are estimated by Tinsa to have fallen by 41% since late 2007 – 46.7% in Mediterranean coastal regions – but it finally appears that they will not be going down any further.
See a wide range of properties available across Spain on www.spanishpropertypage.com
Currency Exchange rate: Get more Menu del Días for your money!"
This week the Pound Euro currency exchange rate increased to over 1.4056€
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.
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