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Weekly round-up of Spanish news 27th November
Lead image: Christmas lights were switched on last night in Madrid, heralding the start of the festive season
Despite the imminence of the Spanish general election on 20th December, one of the most dominant issues in the news continues to be the highly complex situation in Catalunya, where Artur Mas of the JxS coalition pro-independence party is still hoping to be sworn in as president before the national election campaign begins.
Other separatist news
The topic of Basque separatist group ETA is another which is hard to keep out of the Spanish news, despite the fact that the ceasefire has now held for over 5 years and the “definitive cessation of armed activity” for just a year less. Earlier this week an apparent softening of the Spanish courts’ attitude towards ETA saw five of the seven people charged with belonging to the ETA Youth group “Segi” acquitted by the Supreme Court: this ruling was made on the grounds that it is not an offence merely to be subscribed to a “satellite organization” of a terrorist group, and at the same time the sentences passed on the remaining two accused were reduced from six to two years.
Meanwhile, some of the effects of the Jihadist attacks in Paris on 13th November continue to be felt in Spain. It’s important to point out that there has been no change to the alert status 4 which was decreed on 26th June, but the proximity of the events two weeks ago has caused considerable jitteriness in the press and on social networks. Increased spot checks on the streets of major cities such as Valencia are making it clear that extra security measures have been introduced, and during this week a 42-year-old man of Moroccan origin was arrested in his Segovia prison cell on charges of recruiting and indoctrinating people to fight for the IS and of issuing bomb threats in Madrid and Barcelona.
The Catholic Religion is also in the news
The Catholic Church has also been in the news this week in a couple of vastly different stories. One of them concerns a priest in the province of Sevilla who informed one of his parishioners that he could not be accepted as godfather to his niece because he is engaged in an open and public homosexual relationship, an attitude which has surprised many, especially in the light of Pope Francis’ recent words to the effect that he is unwilling to pass judgement on the gay community.
160 million euros worth of fake Picasso’s apprehended
Another arty story related to the recovery of five fake artworks which their vendors claimed to be authentic pieces by Pablo Picasso, offered from hotel rooms and even car boots for a total of 160 million euros
The cross of Vigo can remain in-situ
Meanwhile, a victory of a kind for religion in Vigo: a monumental cross which was erected in 1961 as a monument to the forces of General Franco who fell in the Civil War is to be allowed to stay on the hill of O Castro, after the local Mayor’s protestations that all Francoist symbology has been removed from it and it is now a purely religious symbol convinced the Constitutional Court. This decision comes almost exactly 40 years after the death of the dictator, but as councils and regional governments begin to implement the Historical Memory Law and remove symbols of the dictatorship from public places, many people still believe that there are scores to be settled. There was a demonstration this week demanding that the 1977 amnesty which was granted to Franco’s colleagues and collaborators should be overturned so that those accused of committing acts of torture prior to 1975 can be tried.
Economic news this week
In terms of the economy, it has been another week of good news in Spain. GDP during the third quarter was 0.8% higher than in the previous three months and 3.4% up on a year ago, and the retail sector is currently embracing the American concept of Black Friday in an attempt to kick-start what is expected to be a prosperous Christmas season.
Too many ni-ni’s in Spain
Yet although the economic indicators are positive for Spain there is still a major problem with the level of unemployment as Spain’s young people languish without work as part of an unemployment rate which still exceeds 20%. This week it has been reported that 30% of young Spaniards suffer from the ni-ni syndrome, neither working, nor studying.
Messi will face trial for tax fraud in Barcelona
However, for some, the desire to save a penny or two is always irresistible, and this week it has been confirmed that football legend Lionel Messi and his father will stand trial in Barcelona for alleged tax fraud.
As usual there has been a fair smattering of items related to immigration during the week, including that of a would-be immigrant who is now in an induced coma while hospital staff in Melilla treat him for injuries he sustained during a mass assault on the border fence. While he and his companions sat on top of the fence, some of them for as long as ten hours, a part of the structure collapsed under their weight, and the victim not only fell six metres but also had his injuries compounded by three other men falling on top of him. Two individuals succeeded in crossing into EU territory during the assault.
Whether of course, we maintain our current status depends on the outcome of the Brexit debate which continued in the UK this week.
In a week in which the first cold snap of the winter grabbed many of the headlines, with heavy snow falling in the mountains of the north and temperatures reaching well below zero in inland areas all over the mainland, other stories related to nature include the recovery by the Guardia Civil of 4 tons of illegally picked mushrooms in the countryside of Guadalajara. 42 Moroccans, Bulgarians and Rumanians were arrested in connection to this haul.
In Asturias, meanwhile, trawler fishermen were amazed to find that they had captured a ten-foot long giant squid weighing in at 150 kilos in their nets, and at the other end of the country another catch made by fishermen in Málaga ended up in the hands of the Guardia Civil. This time the haul consisted of five ancient amphorae, which rather than being handed over to the authorities, as Spanish law requires, had been offered for sale on the internet.
Osborne bull in Malaga beheaded
Shocked residents alerted the police and soon afterwards the Mayor of Vélez-Málaga, Antonio Moreno Ferrer, announced that a full investigation would be undertaken to ascertain whether the beheading of the bull had been a deliberate act of vandalism by those opposed to bullfighting, or if the head of bull had simply been ripped off by strong winds the night before.
Project to increase Spanish motorway speed limit to 130 km/h founders
The project to raise the speed limit to 130 km/h on certain stretches of Spanish motorway looks as though it is destined to remain on the drawing board for now, as time runs out for the government to implement it before the general election on 20th December. The current government’s plans include the introduction of a 130-km/h limit on certain stretches of motorway, but only when traffic and weather conditions allow it. At the same time, speeds on single-carriageway roads are to be limited to 90, 70 and 50 km/h, while in built-up areas limits of 20, 30 and 50 km/h are to be established.
However, it now seems that following criticism of the draft proposals from the State Council and the Ministry of the Interior, the plans are unlikely to become reality unless the existing PP government wins a majority on December 20th.
Spains two main parties, the governing centre-right Peoples Party (PP) and opposition Socialists (PSOE), are pulling away from the newer parties which have enjoyed a sharp rise in their popularity during the years of economic crisis, according to an opinion poll published on Monday.
Neither party, however, looks close to achieving a majority in the forthcoming December the 20th elections and the most likely outcome is that the PP will gain the most votes, although could be forced into agreeing a voting pact in order to maintain overall control of the government.
Newly founded movements such as leftist Podemos and market-friendly Ciudadanos have been widely expected to grab a big chunk of the vote from two parties who have essentially shared power over the past four decades, drawing on fears over an economic crisis and anger over corruption scandals.
But Spain is now once again delivering positive economic indicators, although Spaniards continue to be concerned about the economy and unemployment, according to an interview with Narciso Michavila, director of the GAD3 polling organisation published this week.
Extension of Plan PIVE
On Friday it was announced that the Spanish government would continue to subsidise the purchase of new vehicles with a scheme which aims to support the Spanish car manufacturing and sales sectors, both of which have been heavily castigated during the economic crisis, as well as remove antiquated vehicles which tend to emit larger volumes of contaminants from circulation, replacing them with newer, cleaner, and more energy efficient vehicles.
The new plan makes 225 million euros available until July 2016 or until the money is exhausted. This is effectively a scheme whereby the government subsidises the purchase of each new vehicle and the dealer matches the subsidy with a discount off the vehicle when an old vehicle is surrendered via the purchase of a new car.
Tourism has many forms
The Spanish tourist sector has also enjoyed a record year, and is now looking to attract more lucrative high-spending visitors from Asia, but tourism has so many façets and Spain so many interesting draws for those looking to visit.
This week Madonna defied those unhappy with her use of original bullfighting accoutrements during her stage show to deliver two sell-out concerts in Barcelona and this week Adele not only notched up the most sales in its opening week of any UK album with 25 and broke the single-week U.S. album sales record in just four days, announced she would be playing Barcelona next year as part of her “25” tour: tickets go on sale 3rd December.
Spanish property news round-up
Prices on the up as unsold housing stock is eaten into
The attention of the Spanish property market this week has been focused chiefly on both the latest data regarding the recent past and the predictions for the medium-term future, in terms of the possibility of an upturn in new construction activity.
The latest statistics regarding key market indicators continue to provide cause for optimism, and this week arguably the most significant set of figures was provided by the Ministry of Development. A collation of the official valuations performed by surveyors during the third quarter of 2015 showed that the average perceived value of residential property in Spain has risen by 1.4% over the last year, and while the upward trend was not quite reflected in all of the country’s 17 regions it was apparent in most of them, most significantly in Madrid (3.5%) and the Balearics (3.2%). Equally encouraging is the fact that valuations rose not only in terms of properties which are over five years old, a category which currently accounts for over 80% of all sales, but also in newer ones, where a 1.6% increase kept the average approximately 20% higher than in older homes.
The national average figure of 1,476 euros per square metre is 30% lower than when the peak of the boom was reached in the first quarter of 2008, but that differential is now gradually decreasing as prices begin to make a timid comeback.
As sales activity recovers, so too does mortgage lending, and the central statistics unit this week reported that during September the number of loans which were registered on residential property was higher than the year before for the sixteenth consecutive month. Again a couple of regions buck this positive trend, which in September showed an increase of 20%, but the overall picture is one of continuing growth in both bank lending and the investment in property which it serves.
So much for results from the recent past, but one of the most interesting reports to come out this week concerns the present and the future. Leading valuation firm Tinsa reports that of the 1.56 million homes where construction has been completed in Spain since 2008, only a quarter (389,000) now remain unsold, and if the rate at which this stock is being eaten into were constant and consistent throughout the country it would completely disappear within just two and a half years (a view shared by property developers’ associations). This appears to indicate that unless a start is made on building more new homes very soon, then the current excess of supply over demand could very quickly be reversed, causing a shortage of available property.
However, as has been remarked on countless occasions, the Spanish property scene is not just one market, but a whole host of regional, provincial and local markets, each of them with different conditions. One of the key findings of the Tinsa survey is that in Mediterranean coastal areas the amount of remaining stock is far higher than the national average, reaching almost 39% of properties built since 2008 in Almería and well over 40% in many coastal municipalities between Girona in the north-east and Cádiz in the south-west. While in parts of many large cities, including Madrid and Barcelona, the high demand is already making new construction both desirable and profitable, in these Mediterranean coastal areas the stock of unsold properties will take a long time to shift, and in some cases, according to the experts, may never be sold at all due to demand having almost completely evaporated since the homes were built.
The folly of the over-building in the boom years prior to 2008 is also illustrated by the fact that according to a professor affiliated to the Carlos III University in Madrid, enough land is currently owned by developers and equipped with basic infrastructures such as roads and street lighting to build another 1.5 million homes, duplicating all of the new construction since 2008. However, and this is a very potent sting in the tail, most of this land is in precisely the same areas where demand has dried up, in the hinterland behind the Mediterranean coast.
One place where the property market remains undeniably buoyant, especially in terms of commercial premises, is the street of Portal de l’Ángel in Barcelona, where the average yearly rental cost of 3,240 euros per square metre makes it the most expensive shopping street in Spain and the 14th dearest in the world. Topping the list with an average price of almost ten times as much is Fifth Avenue in New York.
Finally, confirmation (if it were needed) of how different the housing market is in Spain from other countries, particularly the UK. A report published this week by Eurostat confirms that almost two thirds of all Spaniards live in flats and apartments, the highest proportion in any EU state, while the UK lies at the other end of the scale with just 14.4%. For those of us whose interest lies exclusively in detached properties with a garden, it’s important to remember that we move in a relatively minor sector of the Spanish property market!
To see a wide range of properties for sale across Spain go to the Spanish property pages: www.spanishpropertypage.com
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 moving £100,000 from the UK to Spain would get an extra €17,130 this week compared to the same week last year and €1,140 more than a fortnight ago at todays 1.42 rate.
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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Cádiz Province, Andalucia
Granada Province: Andalucia
Huelva Province, Andalucía
Jaén Province, Andalucia
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Region of Andalucia
Seville Province, Andalucía
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Autonomous Community of Galicia
Castilla La Mancha
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