Business over Tapas: April 15 2021 

A digest of this week's Spanish financial, political and social news aimed primarily at Foreign Property Owners

Lenox Napier¹

Editorial:

I suppose we weren’t offered much in the way of history at school from the Spanish point of view (that pirate and slaver Francis Drake? – so says the Spanish Wiki) or indeed, much history about Spain at all, unless it had something to do with our own country-of-birth.

That being the case, Spain becomes doubly fascinating as we hear the stories of their kings, their artists and their champions for the first time, as we view their legacies of magnificent buildings or their wonderful art on view in the many museums which, if not particularly easy to visit quite yet, at least as often as not are on view in their cyber-versions.

The history becomes doubly fascinating when it is local. One stands on a crumbling castle wall and learns its story. Much has been written for us to discover, as our Spanish improves, our curiosity grows, and the Google-translate feature becomes all the more efficient.

We have in our province – as you do in yours – a supply of keen historians who put up interesting pages on the Internet. Not for profit, just for the fun of the thing.

These pages are usually soaked with interesting photographs. Here I’m looking at the confluence of two railways in Almería, both built by the British. The photo comes from 1905. Here, a picture of our local fishing port of Garrucha in 1875 and here (drawings rather than photos for obvious reasons), the earthquake that almost destroyed Mojácar in 1518.

Our part of Almería attracted miners from at least as far back as the Romans (silver, lead, iron and a bit of gold). By the nineteenth century, several companies – mostly British – were working the mines, and while our area was hard to get to and largely unknown even in Madrid, it did have its own railways and Spain’s first football club (in Águilas, Murcia – introduced by John Gray Watson 120 years ago) and even a funicular (I remember the rusted remains stretching over the road back in the late sixties) to bring the ore from the hills down to the port.

It’s a great way to learn Spanish, too. By showing interest in the history of one’s small corner of this country, the local experts will be glad to explain their knowledge. The town hall and the Diputación Provincial (‘county council’) will have records and someone to share them with you. There may be a local society that knows the history of the area – maybe to view the old Roman or Visigoth or Moorish ruins which are so generously scattered across Spain.

Whatever you do, bring your camera and a notebook.

Housing:

Público looks at ‘…the resistance against a French investment fund that intends to evict sixteen families and two businesses in Valencia. Only a few tenants continue to hold out in the two buildings on the Calle Turia that a French investment fund wants to convert into tourist flats…’.

From Catalan News here: ‘The Spanish president Pedro Sánchez has announced that once the state of alarm ends on May 9, his executive will extend the measures related to evictions and rent for three more months. Specifically, the ban on evictions of people in vulnerable situations will last at least until August. The measure covers households affected by eviction proceedings that do not result from leases in the event that the tenants are dependent people, victims of gender-based violence, or minors…’.

The Government is to allow the IBI to increase on empty homes, says El Confidencial here. If four or more homes with a single owner were left empty for more than two years, the plan is to allow the town halls to collect up to 50% more on the annual property tax (rates).

From Piccavey here: ‘how to make your home abroad homely – tips for expats’.

Tourism:

From El Español here: ‘Fear in the tourism sector: vaccination deadlines and doubts about the arrival or otherwise of the British tourists are putting the summer season at risk. National tourism will preface foreign tourism as doubts remain’.

France intends to limit domestic flights where a reasonable rail alternative exists says Hosteltur here. Could Spain follow suit?

Also from Hosteltur here: ‘The Cultural Routes of Spain association is created. Five routes are offered – Caminos de Arte Rupestre Prehistórico, Ruta Vía de la Plata, Camino del Cid, Rutas de Carlos V and Caminos de Pasión. Their web-page will appear shortly.

From The Corner here: ‘The larger Spanish hotel chains are seeking liquidity by selling assets and are opting for the ‘sale & leaseback’ option to maintain management’.

Seniors:

Imserso tours are still without any useful news, says Agent Travel here, beyond beginning ‘as soon as possible’.

Finance:

From El País in English here: ‘Spain’s PM says €140bn (140,000 million) in EU funds will deliver greatest economic transformation since the 1980s. Pedro Sánchez has unveiled the guidelines of a spending plan meant to pull the country out of the crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic and help effect structural reforms’.

The banks evidently have their customers in a steely grip. One can change banks, but for those who don’t bring in useful business (we could use the word ‘profit’), then the banks will charge commissions as best they can. For the poor, this is evidently frustrating, as their modest payments from el paro (the dole) or the pension will be shaved by the bankers. The BBVA this week – who currently charges ‘the little guy’ up to 160€ a year for having a current account – says here that it is tightening account requirements to avoid extra fees.

The SEPE suffered a massive cyber-attack a few weeks ago (March 9th) and is only now recovered. The director of the State Employment Service says here “After the cyber-attack we have regained normality following a gruelling 19,000 hours of extra work by our staff”.

La Vanguardia has a number of interactive maps of Spain where each municipality (or even neighbourhood) can be high-lit to find the average declared income, divided into state-pensions, unemployment benefits, rents and other income. It’s always fun to see how the Jones’ are doing.

‘The Government has completed the new regulations that oblige tax advisers to report their own clients who intend to withdraw money outside of Spain. This regulation, according to El Economista, regulates an «automatic and obligatory» exchange of information with Hacienda in the field of taxation in relation to cross-border mechanisms…’.

Politics:

‘Pablo Iglesias confirms that he will not stand for re-election as secretary general of Podemos at the next party congress’ says 20Minutos here.

Madrid. Regional elections for May 4th:

From elDiario.es: a possible draw for Madrid with 68 v 68 seats? That would mean fresh elections. Furthermore, new elections for 2023 are already written in stone. El Plural says here that the conservatives are already beginning to complain about a fiddle of some sort to cheat them from their deserved victory. Another later poll from Onda Cero gives the PP 61 seats and (with help from Vox) a small lead over the combined left parties of the PSOE, Más Madrid and the UP, as it will apparently ‘absorb all of the Ciudadanos votes’.

El Huff Post says that the current president and candidate Isabel Díaz Ayuso is crusading for herself and has quietly dropped ‘the PP brand’ from her campaign. ‘…Is Ayuso too large for the PP? “Absolutely”, says Toni Aira, a doctor in political communication from the University of Ramón Llull, adding: “But that is one of the great qualities of good political leadership. A good candidate is one whom people who do not vote for that party would vote for; one who can widen the normal borders of the party. There are many people who did not vote for the PSOE, but for Felipe González; or for Jordi Pujol in Catalonia and so on”…’.

Just as we were getting excited about the PP’s two star additions – Toni Cantó (ex-Ciudadanos) and Agustín Conde, the ex-mayor of Toledo – a Madrid court has struck down their candidatures, for not being residents of Madrid at the time the snap-elections were called.

Despite their size (6%?), Vox takes the lion’s share of reportage from the Madrid elections. Here’s elDiario.es reminding readers that Vox considers the poor boroughs of Madrid to be ‘multicultural sh*tholes’.

One group whose vote the conservatives can be assured of is the wealthy Venezuelan exiles who live in Madrid. La Vanguardia notes the similarity between them and the Cuban Republican supporters in Miami. Deutsch Welle (español) reports that over 42,000 Venezuelans live in Madrid – mostly in the wealthier barrios.

Europe:

From North East Bylines here: ‘The invisible 1.2m British citizens scattered across Europe’. The article says that we Brit ex-pats don’t all spend the whole time in British bars, drunk and sunburned, as some of the British media would suggest. Indeed not, although we do argue furiously on the social media about whether we are expats or immigrants (like… who cares?). The article thinks that around 30% of us work in education, which seems to this old sunburned expat drunk to be something of an exaggeration.

Noticias de Gipuzkoa says that ‘One hundred days after Brexit, trade collapses and political distrust grows. In January, British exports to the bloc fell by 40.7%’. It notes that ‘…The impact on imports is less due to the fact that the United Kingdom has postponed until 2022 controls on goods arriving in the country from the EU, precisely to try to cushion the economic blow of Brexit…’. From CNN Business here: ‘100 days later, Brexit isn’t working and business wants it fixed’.

From The Olive Press weekly newsletter: ‘…and we’ve found yet more examples of how Brexit is causing problems, from exorbitant fees charged on parcel deliveries from the UK to one woman having to itemise her entire wardrobe (including underwear) in order to bring over her clothes when she moved to Spain…’.

Some news from Scotland of interest… ‘Boris Johnson will allow second referendum if SNP wins, says the Scottish first minister, who tells The Guardian that a fresh poll would be impossible to resist should her party land a majority in next month’s elections (May 6th)’.

The Coronavirus:

From the elDiartio.es newsletter: ‘We were celebrating the arrival of the Janssen vaccine to Spain and now we have to regret that the vaccine for the time being remains in disuse. This is a major setback to the Government’s immunization strategy because these single doses would go much faster and because this incident is in tandem with AstraZeneca‘s reputational crisis, which has an impact on overall confidence in vaccines…’. A story from La Stampa quoted by EFE says that the EU will not renew its contracts with AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson (‘Janssen’) after the current deal ends.

‘The Junta de Andalucía warns of «two very difficult months» ahead due to the coronavirus with the infection rate described as «high risk». According to the Regional Health Minister, Jesús Aguirre, younger people take longer to realize that they have hypoxia (low oxygen levels in the blood) and when they arrive at the emergency room they are often in a bad condition and must go directly to the ICU’. Item from ABC de Sevilla here.

A comparison of deaths per hundred thousand inhabitants from Covid-19 puts Spain in nineteenth place worldwide. The leader is the Czech Republic (the UK is tenth).

Media:

‘The Coalition of Content Creators and Industries has met with the main internet operators who have agreed to sign a protocol that will oblige them to follow a weekly list of websites that will be impossible to access from Spanish networks and that will be implemented on 98% of broadband lines…’. The item comes from Banda Ancha here. The readers, understandably, recommend the service of a VPN in the comments.

Al Descubierto brings us the March bulos (fake news) from the far-right. The increasingly notorious Alvise Pérez has a few items here such as ‘The SEPE wasn’t the victim of a cyber-attack, it had just run out of money’…

TVE ran a segment in its weekly news show Informe Semanal on bulos and, among the talking heads, they interviewed Alvise Pérez (real name Luis Pérez), who creates them.

Eduardo Inda is often on the news, and sometimes in the news. Inda is the director of Okdiario, a far-right news-page. He might be the Spanish version of Fox News anchor Tucker Carlson. Inda often appears on TV chat-shows, including a show hosted by Ana Rosa on Tele5. Pablo Iglesias from Podemos, a regular victim of Inda’s rhetoric, is to sue him for his latest declarations on the Tele5 show, after he described Iglesias and his wife, the Minister for Equality Irene Montero, as «chusma» and «gentuza» – that’s to say (Google-translate) «rabble» and «riffraff». His larger comment was ‘When I call Irene Montero and Pablo Iglesias rabble, I am not insulting them, I am just describing them. People who identify journalists and ask that an innocent person like me should go to jail are rabble; riffraff. That’s what it is, no more, no less’. Linguee prefers the translations “vermin” and “rogues”. The article from El Plural leads with Roberto Sotomayor – a champion athlete and well-known critic of the far-right – saying ‘…and no one corrects these remarks. It’s the tactics of a dirty war’. Público runs an opinion: ‘Unidas Podemos and the Media: It’s not a war, it’s a witch-hunt’.

Ecology:

‘Spain Reduced Its Emissions In The Carbon Market By 21% In 2020’ says The Corner here. We read that ‘…The emissions of all the major companies fell, albeit with very notable differences between them: Endesa decreases by 45%, FCC, EDP or Iberdrola by around 25%, while the oil companies Repsol and Cepsa or the gas company Naturgy have presented smaller declines. The fuel combustion sector has decreased by a historic 26% between 2020 and 2019 while the oil companies, for example, have only fallen by 8%…’.

The Climate Change and Energy Transition Law. A survey among readers of the far-right ECD were given the choices ‘I think it’s a bad law, I’m not interested in the environment’ and ‘I think it’s a good law, it’s necessary’ and gave the former group 69% versus 15% (a further 16% didn’t know, but evidently felt that they wanted to vote anyway).

Various:

The Government is working with the Monarchy to establish a better code of royal conduct. El Español brings us: ‘The plan to save Felipe VI and the monarchy from Juan Carlos and the princesses Elena and Cristina. The two institutions are trying to modernize the Royal House; although with pending issues, such as the return to Spain from Abu Dhabi of the ex-King. A short video from Reuters (August 2020) explains the issues with Juan Carlos here.

Wednesday April 14th was Republic Day (at least, the II Republic was founded on this date in 1931). El Huff Post (liberal) has its reader poll on preference, giving the Republic 78%.

A Parador hotel, the Convento San Marcos, located in León, was once a Francoist prison which housed over 15,000 prisoners – including the grandfather of ex-President Rodríguez Zapatero. In 1965, Franco ordered the site to become a Parador hotel. The ‘memory’ of this building has only now been officially recognised. An article with photos at Naiz here.

Empty Spain – where the countryside loses its population as people migrate to the larger cities in search of a better life – is occurring in Extremadura, says the local paper, where the population loss in the next fifteen years is estimated to be around 10%.

There’s a fuss in Murcia about an advert which offers lemon-pickers a flat one euro per case. The story is at La Opinión de Murcia here.

Coches zombies’ are cars that circulate without their papers in order and without insurance. One can legally put their vehicle en baja temporal – to temporarily deregister one’s car – useful if it’s not being used for a period and thus save on car-taxes. A small saving, perhaps, but the rule has now been flouted to such an extent that around 8% of all vehicles on the road – around 2.6 million cars, motorbikes, vans and trucks, says MotorPasión here – are zombies.

From My Modern Met comes ‘Drought reveals “Spanish Stonehenge” that had been hiding in a reservoir for over 50 years’. The Dolmen de Guadalperal (Cáceres) on Wiki here.

The young American photographer Ruth Matilda Anderson arrived in Vigo, Galicia, in 1924 and she spent the next two years travelling around the region and taking pictures for The Hispanic Society of America. El Español has the story, with photos, here.

From Think Spain here: All over the world – at least, on both sides of the Atlantic – monoliths almost identical to those left by aliens invading earth in the cult Stanley Kubrick film 2001: Space Odyssey have been appearing, and disappearing just as fast…’. As regards the latest monolith, we read ‘…The town council in Castell-Platja d’Aro (Girona province) dug it up from the sands in the middle of Sa Conca beach in the S’Agaró area to protect it from vandals. Now, the brightly-shining monolith has been given a new home in the town’s Els Estanys Park…’.  But then, says Catalan News here, ‘The monolith found in Costa Brava disappears just two weeks after its discovery. The civic officer who went to open park only found the concrete base with its screws sawed’. Curses!

But don’t worry; it’s now safe outside the windows of BoT headquarters in Almería.

See Spain:

Ten Spanish pueblos with superb views come from Club Rural here.

Público invites us to take a look at Sepúlveda (Segovia). Some terrific photographs.

The Olive Press shows us around La Alameda, a trendy barrio in the city of Seville.

Finally:

Christian rock with Trisagion performing Magnificat in a slightly odd video on YouTube.

An article on this evangelic group from Ecuador is at Revista Vive! here.

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Licenciado en Filosofía y Letras, Magisterio y Estudios en la Escuela Oficial de Periodismo de Madrid. Residente 40 años en Francia, Reino Unido e Irlanda como profesor de español. En Irlanda fundó el Centró Español de Documentación y el Instituto Cultural Español, actual Instituto Cervantes de Dublín. Asímismo, fue corresponsal de: Agencia EFE, Diario Informaciones, Carta de España, Crónicas de la Emigración, España Exterior, La Región Internacional y Escuela Española. Jubilado.

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