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Weekly round up of Spanish national news 27th September
Spanish national news
The big story all week has been the run-up to the regional elections in Cataluña which were held on Sunday and concluded with the result predicted by the pollsters as the combined separatist parties won a majority.
A record 78% turnout concluded with the main secessionist group "Junts pel Si" (Together for Yes) winning 62 seats in the 135-strong assembly in Spains wealthy north-eastern region, while smaller leftist party CUP won another 10 seats, giving the combined separatist cause 47.33 percent of the vote. Although this is being hailed as a victory for the separatist vote, it has already been pointed out by opposition politicians that the vote against secession was larger than that in favour of the separatist cause. However, the combined seats won between the two main separatist parties will give Artur Mas the presidency again, should he receive the backing of the CUP, "Catalans have voted yes to independence," he told supporters, the vote guaranteeing that the whole issue of Catalan independence will remain in the headlines for some considerable time to come.
The results also ensure that the separatist issue will dog the national government for the remainder of its time in office until the General elections, most probably in December just before Christmas. The result was a poor one for the PP (the national ruling party) who won only 8% of the vote, losing 8 seats against the 2011 vote to hold just 11 seats. Podemos, in the form of Catalunya Sí que es Pot, also gained 8% of the vote, but this was a disappointing result for Podemos, losing out to rivals Ciudadanos, who won three times as many seats as in 2011.
This all leaves the hard-line CUP with the real power after tripling their own vote, and could lead to a more aggressive push towards an independent Catalunya, something the major Spanish banks, NATO and several world leaders warned against last week in the run-up to these elections.
However, it could also signal an end to the immediate push for independence, as the combined independence vote failed to gain an overall majority.
This is also likely to lead to continued “flag disputes” which were highlighted when two opposing politicians nearly came to blows on the balcony of Barcelona town hall just before the elections when an Estellada, the Catalan independence flag was draped over the balcony during an official event, and a Basque mayor was personally fined for failing to ensure the Spanish flag was flown outside his local town hall.
ETA members arrested
As stated before, Catalunya is not the only area of Spain which has aspirations of independence, the Basque Country and Navarra at the heart of the ETA campaign ( although surprisingly, Galicia currently has the only active separatist terror group in Spain). Since ETA declared a ceasefire the Spanish government has been working to completely dismantle the organisation and this week claimed that it had “decapitated” ETA by arresting two key figures after raiding a small village in the French Pyrenees in collaboration with French security services. Jorge Fernández Díaz, the Minister for the Interior, said on Wednesday that “what is left of ETA could be fitted into a small minibus”, and that the minibus “no longer has a driver”, and reminded the media that the current PP government has arrested 158 ETA members since it came to power.
However, specialist mediators from the International Contact Group warned that the detention of the “heads” of the organisation, David Pla and Iratxe Sorzabal could negatively alter the balance of negotiations, and at the same time expressed the worry that the gap between the opinions of the Basque government and other parties involved appears to be widening in terms of how ETA ought to be dismantled.
In total, four people were detained during the week.
Anti-monarchy campaign continues in Barcelona
The municipal elections in May changed the balance of power in many local councils, sweeping away the “traditional” major parties in favour of younger, independent parties which have surprised voters with wide-ranging reforms in their first 100 days in office. One of the targets in Barcelona, which was taken by Podemos, has been the monarchy, and this week the council continued its campaign to remove what it calls the “over-representation” of the monarchy in Barcelona by reviewing the number of streets and public places which bear reference to the Spanish monarchy in an attempt to “even-out the balance” within the city.
This comes hot on the heels of a widely publicised incident in which a bust of the former monarch, Juan Carlos I was removed from the council chamber and put into storage. Several councils with a strong sense of loyalty to the monarchy across the country immediately contacted Barcelona council asking if they could display the bust if it was no longer required by the city, although for the moment the former King remains in a packing box out of sight.
Madrid removes subsidy for bullfighting school
Another council won by Podemos in a shock victory is Madrid, and this week the Mayoress announced that she was considering closing off central areas of the city to minimise air pollution when levels reached pre-determined danger points. Part of the scheme involves reducing the speed limit on motorways heading into the main urban centre of the city and limiting the number of vehicles allowed into the urban centre of the city using an odd-even automatic number plate selection system. Public transport systems would be boosted to give increased cover for travellers to compensate for the lack of traffic movement in the main centre of the city. The city had a taster of how this could change the level of air pollution when the main urban centre was cordoned off for four hours as part of international mobility week, the Mayoress herself taking to the streets on a bicycle.
Another measure announced this week by the Mayoress was the cancellation of a 61,000 euro subsidy for the regional bullfighting school, Manuela Carmena fulfilling a pre-election pledge to withdraw all Town Hall support from bull-related events. The Mayoress believes that bullfighting and other similar events “are not compatible with the rights of animals”, an opinion which is becoming more and more common in Spain as the tide gradually turns against one of the most emblematic aspects of traditional Spanish culture.
Ciudad Real airport may have British buyer
Staying in Madrid, the bidding process for Ciudad Real airport appears to have finally concluded after a total of eight realistic bids were presented, following the cheeky Chinese “Tzaneen International” group bid of just 10,000 euros being accepted in the previous bidding round when no other offers were presented. However, a mandatory period of 20 working days for offers of up to 70% of the asking price to be presented then began, and as the courts closed down in August this deadline did not expire until 14th September.
Six offers were presented within the specified time period (and 2 afterwards!) one of them from the British backed Eca Program Group for 80 million, the plan being to turn the privately built airport, which never quite got off the ground, into a military pilots training centre.
500 million euro bridge finally opens in Cadiz
Another major piece of infrastructure in the news this week was finally inaugurated in Cádiz, Andalucía. On Thursday the official inauguration of the second major bridge over the bay of Cádiz took place, this vast structure spanning five kilometres, including 3.1 km over the sea. This is the third largest cable-stayed suspension bridge in Europe (behind the one over the Seine in Normandy and the Rion-Antirion bridge in Greece), and standing 69 metres above the water, is higher than the Golden Gate in San Francisco and second only to the Verrazano Narrows bridge in New York. The monster structure took eight years to build and cost approximately 511 million euros, double the original budget of 272 million euros.
Court action this week
The “Abuela de Fuerteventura” was back in the news (and set to be back in the courts!) again this week. Josefa Hernández, aged 62, was sent to prison for six months in August for refusing to demolish her illegally built home in a conservation area of the island in Fuerteventura, pleading that this would make herself and her family homeless ( most of her children have left home and are living elsewhere with their own families but Sra Hernández still cares for one disabled daughter , a divorced son and two grandchildren). Following a huge public outcry she was released, but must now return to court to face further charges, including one of building an additional wooden shack alongside the condemned structure in spite of having been offered alternative housing by the local council.
Also back in the headlines was Luis Bárcenas, as the PP party itself may now face a fine following the long-term dispute between the former party treasurer and his employers. Although his employment contract had been officially terminated in April 2010 he continued to receive a monthly gross payment of over 21,000 euros a month until January 2013, and had use of a chauffeur driven car, without apparently, performing any service for the party. This lasted until El País published the now infamous “Bárcenas B-books” which alleged that donations made to the party were paid in cash to high-ranking party members. The result was a claim by Bárcenas for unlawful dismissal, which has been rejected by the courts, but who have queried the alleged irregularities in the contract which will now put the PP under the spotlight of judicial investigators just before the General Election. Bárcenas, meanwhile, continues to await his trial on charges of involvement in the Gürtel corruption case, and on another front investigations continue into how he accumulated a personal fortune of over 48 million euros in Swiss bank accounts.
Also in the news was soprano Montserrat Caballé who is appealing for permission to give a video testimony after being required to appear in court is to ratify the 6-month suspended sentence which was agreed upon after she was found to have evaded half a million euros of taxation in 2010 by declaring herself to be a resident of Andorra.
Two years without Asunta
The body of Asunta Basterra Porto was found early in the morning of 22nd September 2013 next to a forest path in Teo, in the province of A Coruña, (Galicia)and became one of the most widely covered murders in Spain during that year as evidence slowly built against the parents of this 12 year old Chinese natural adoptee.
Her parents have been held in prison since a few days after the body was discovered, and if found guilty of her murder could face up to 20 years in prison. In a court case which begins next week they will be charged with conspiring to murder their daughter by giving her tranquilizers before suffocating her with a pillow.
This week locals remembered her death two years ago, placing flowers and candles at the spot where her body was found.
20% of Spanish adults are ni-ni’s
At the other end of the income scale are Spain’s ni-ni’s, those who “ni trabajan ni estudian” (they neither work nor study), and a study published this week by the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) concludes that this “ni-ni” label can be applied to 20% of young adults in Spain.
This, they say, is likely to hinder Spain in terms of consolidating economic growth, and the conclusion is that the basic competences of students who complete compulsory secondary education must be improved.
Tourism, as predicted, continues to boom
As predicted, August tourism figures came out on Monday and show that August was a record month for Spain, helping to continue consolidating the employment opportunities for these youngsters. The total of 9.2 million tourists represented an increase of 1.6% in comparison to August 2014, and after eight months of the year the overall figure now stands at 47.2 million (4.1% up on last year). Both figures are the highest yet recorded, and the busy month of August makes it practically certain that in terms of visitor numbers this will be the best year ever for the Spanish tourist sector. The current record was set last year, and stands at 65 million.
This year the figures are doubtless boosted to a certain degree by the continuing harm done to tourism by the terrorist attacks in Tunisia, with other contributing factors including the uncertain situation in Turkey. As war continues to dominate the headlines in Syria, provoking the mass migrant crisis which as caused so much discord amongst European leaders, although finally some agreement was reached to deal with a percentage of the migrants, this can only increase the appeal of Spain as a “safe destination.” Similarly, last week’s accidental bombing of 14 Mexican tourists, 8 of whom died, by the security forces in Egypt is likely to lead to a loss of revenue from foreign tourists, and Spain will foreseeably be one of the beneficiaries.
As is the norm, the highest total in terms of visitor nationality is that of the UK, which in seven months has provided almost 10.9 million visitors to Spain (2.9% more than last year).
More of the same this week in Spains own fight against migrants
Troubles in the Middle-East and Africa continue to fuel the migrant crisis, and this week Syrian nationals protested in Melilla against the continued delays in processing Syrian refugee applications, permitting them to cross the border into Spain via the exclave on the African coast. Last week Moroccan customs closed the border down altogether due to the overwhelming pressure being placed on their resources by the volume of migrants trying to pressure them into speeding up the handling of Syrian refugees. “We’re victims of war” their placards proclaimed, “not criminals”.
The normal pressure on the Spanish authorities continued this week, with several boatload of sub-saharan immigrants intercepted on their way to the Spanish coastline and rescue services saving the life of an Algerian from drowning (a non-swimmer) who attempted to stow away on a passenger ferry by shimmying along the ropes mooring the ferry in Ceuta, but fell into the sea.
In another attempt on the border, three immigrants were taken to hospital after scaling the barbed wire border fence, also in Ceuta. Meanwhile a young man died in the Calais end of the Eurostar train tunnel attempting to reach the UK.
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Weekly Spanish property news round-up
Official Spanish property sales figures give great cause for optimism
The week’s property news in Spain came mainly on Friday, with the release of important data by both the Ministry of Development and the central statistics unit, both of them confirming the upturn in activity in what is now without doubt a recovering market.
The figures published for the second quarter of the year by the Ministry of Development are a very complete set of data regarding the sales registered during April, May and June, and the overall result is that a total of 104,530 is the highest second-quarter figure since 2010. The year-on-year comparisons have now shown improvements for six quarters in a row, and while still a long way short of the numbers recorded at the height of the property boom – sales in the second quarter of 2006 topped the quarter-million mark – the upward curve is undeniable. The cumulative sales figure after six months of 2015 is just over 190,000, having risen by 9.7% compared to last year, while the running 12-monthly total of 382,000 is 13.3% higher than it was a year ago.
Even more encouraging is the fact that the increase is almost universal across all of Spain’s 17 regions. Only in Navarra, Extremadura and the Basque Country was the second quarter of this year less active than in 2014, and the most significant increases were those recorded in La Rioja (44.2%), the Balearics (30.1%), Cantabria (29.4%) and the Region of Murcia (25.7%).
It has been written many times before, but it bears repeating, that much of the impetus behind this recovery has been provided by non-Spanish buyers. During the second quarter there were 17,307 sales to foreign purchasers resident in Spain and another 1,244 to non-residents: put those two figures together and non-Spanish buyers accounted for 17.7% of the overall total, or rather more than a sixth.
There are many reasons why this should be the case. Firstly, it is a fact that in general non-Spaniards who buy property in Spain are more geographically mobile than natives, in that many are retired, have disposable capital and are pulled by family ties in different countries rather than in the area where they live. As a result they tend to be more active in the property market both as buyers and as vendors, and are at greater liberty to take advantage of what they perceive as bargains, whereas natives have difficulty obtaining finance and tend to stay longer in the homes they purchase.
The province of Spain where the market relies most heavily on foreign purchasers is Alicante. In the Costa Blanca province just over half of all purchases during the second quarter (4,522 out of 8,928) were made by non-Spaniards, with the next highest percentages being in Santa Cruz de Tenerife (47.2%), Málaga (39.4%), the Balearics (38%), Girona (35.5%), Las Palmas (33.5%), Murcia (23.8%) and Almería (21.7%). The pulling power of the Costas could hardly be demonstrated more clearly!
Another of the driving forces behind increased sales figures is the increased availability of mortgage finance at record low interest rates. The latest figures published on Friday by the central statistics unit show that during July a total of 21,863 mortgages were registered, an 21.8% increase on the same month last year and the fourteenth month in a row to show this kind of growth. The numbers rose in all 17 of Spain’s Autonomous Communities, most spectacularly in the Balearics, the Canaries, Cantabria, Galicia, Murcia and Extremadura.
Similarly, the loan capital involved in these mortgages came to 2,282 million euros, an increase of 26.6% compared to July last year, and although in this category there was one regional decrease there are once again some spectacular rises to be observed in the Balearics, Murcia and Cantabria.
During July the average loan capital of mortgages constituted in Spain was 104,402 euros, 3.9% more than twelve months previously.
Eventually, given that some degree of health is being restored to a sector of the economy which has been in freefall for most of the last seven or eight years, it can be assumed that demand for housing will be sufficient to eat into the stock of completed but unsold property and construction activity will again prosper. However, for the time being the figures for cement consumption in Spain are showing only a timid recovery, with the year-to-date totals at the end of August only 5.6% higher than at the same point in 2014 following a disappointing summer. There can be little doubt that construction of residential properties in Spain is likely to increase over the next few years, but clearly no marked upturn is being felt by cement manufacturers just yet.
The gradual return to something resembling prosperity in Spain is also perhaps reflected this week by the latest data issued by one of Spains domestic property portals, who report that the average rental price of 7.07€ per square metre is 4.5% higher than a year ago. Like sales prices, rentals have fallen sharply since late 2007 – by over 30% according to Fotocasa – but the gradual upward trend adds further weight to the idea that the slump is now a thing of the past.
To see a wide range of property for sale across Spain, go to the www.spanishpropertypage.com portal
To see a wide range of properties for sale or rent in the Region of Murcia go to the www.murciapropertypage.com
For a selection of properties across the Murcia region, from a wide selection of agents and private buyers, click for www.murciapropertypage.com
Currency Exchange rate: Get more Menu del Días for your money!"
This week the Pound Euro currency exchange rate 1.3655€
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!
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