Business over Tapas:  April 8 2021 

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

Lenox Napier¹

Opinion:

A thoroughly modern entity like the European Union should have its own official language. Currently, we have the agreed number of ‘24 languages as «official and working»: Bulgarian, Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, English, Estonian, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hungarian, Irish, Italian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Maltese, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Slovak, Slovenian, Spanish and Swedish’ (Wiki).

Parlamento Europeo
Parlamento Europeo

Since few of us can speak all these, plus the many other tongues preferred in various bits of the union (including Catalonian, Valencian, Basque, Galician plus around another ninety palavers and a further fifteen major immigrant languages), we generally settle for English, French, German and (to a degree) Spanish. Everybody, hopefully, speaks at least one of these.

EU rules – designed not to offend – mean that products have to carry the local language on their merchandise, which is why Kleenex for example says tissue, mouchoir, pañuelo and, er, Papiertaschentuch and so on in 24 languages. The main reason, I think, that the EU can’t grow any larger is that there isn’t any more room on our boxes.

That’s also why there are three labels of closely-worded text on the inside of one’s trousers saying ‘Do not Bleach’ in a veritable Babel of lingos.

Europeans are generally unfazed by foreign languages (many readers of the BoT have English as a second language). Although this may not be entirely true of the British who always view learning languages at school as a rather futile exercise rather than something which may one day prove useful.

Probably because they start us off on Latin. If someone were to speak Latin, after all, he’d certainly speak English as well.

From Connections France this week comes the slightly silly ‘Expat campaigners: Help us bust myth of boozy Brits abroad’. We read that ‘Britons abroad are not all wealthy boozers who speak no foreign languages…’.

Actually, and take it from me, some of the Brits here in Spain not only don’t speak a word of Spanish, they can barely manage their own language.

Even when they’re sober.

Seriously though, despite the UK no longer being a member of the EU, English remains the first language of use, says Forbes here. It says ‘As of 2012, a majority of EU citizens (51%) could speak English, either as a first or second language. It was the only language that could realistically be used as a mode of communication, given that only 32% can speak German and 26% can speak French’. As we wait for newer statistics, they estimate that around 50% of Europeans can speak English ‘as a second language’ today.

I believe that the language of culture, maybe thanks to Hollywood, is English. Who wants to see Humphrey Bogart in translation, or listen to Frank Sinatra without understanding the words to his songs?

But can you have English as the de facto language of 446 million people following Brexit?

There are no countries currently within the EU who use English as an official first language, although we might be splitting hairs here (Ireland has Gaelic and Malta has Maltese as their ‘official languages for EU purposes’). Within the Schengen Area, and we must again tweak the facts, only Gibraltar speaks English as its first language. Maybe one day we shall be obliged by the pedants to say that ‘in Europe, we speak Gibraltarian’.

In reality, of course, in Europe we speak American. Just don’t tell Shakespeare.

Housing:

When the State of Alarm ends on May 9th, with it goes the current protection against evictions for non-payments of the rent. Anything up to 40,000 families could be out on the street from that date says Cinco Días here.

La Información reports that Portugal is beating Spain on attracting high-end teleworking executives from abroad. They’ve done it by introducing low tax-rates.

From The Olive Press here, a title ‘Number of young Brits looking to move to Spain soars by nearly 500%’ and a story: ‘Online property platform Kyero says they saw a 446% year-on-year increase in Britons aged 18 to 24 viewing Spanish property on its website. The site owner Martin Bell says “a new younger generation of ‘corona nomads’ are embracing a move to Spain”…’.

A puff from Forbes here: ‘What $5 Million Buys Right Now On The Coast Of Spain’. We look at three high-end properties.

Mark Stücklin tells us about a squatter group in Sitges that asks the owner for a ransom to leave the premises. Other sad okupa tales come from La Vanguardia here.

Tourism:

There’s a fuss about the rule to wear a mask at all times while outside. We read: ‘Spain’s tourism industry rails against new face mask rules: ‘They are going to turn beaches into field hospitals’. El País in English says that ‘Experts from the sector argue making coverings mandatory in all public spaces will hurt business and not do anything to stop coronavirus contagions’. Ideal, in late news, says that the Government has dropped the rule to wear masks on the beach or at the pool (as long as distance from others is maintained). The reality is– cover up, or this will keep on going!

Finance:

‘The number of registered unemployed in Spain fell by 59,149 people in March (-1.5%), its largest decline in this month since 2015, according to data published on Tuesday by the Ministry of Labour. With this drop in unemployment, which puts an end to five consecutive months of rises, the total number of unemployed stood at 3,949,640 at end-March…’. Item found at The Corner here.

‘Despite the third wave of the pandemic and the delay in the vaccination plan, the International Monetary Fund has raised the growth forecasts for the Spanish economy to 6.4% in 2021, half a point more than the forecast it released in January of this year, when expectations of an increase in Spanish GDP fell from 7.2% to 5.9%. The organization considers the Spanish economy to be the most dynamic in the European Union, whose forecasted growth has improved from 4.2% to 4.4%…’. Item from elDiario.es here.

The period to declare income tax IRPF for 2020 is now open and the calendar is posted at 20 Minutos here. Who should be declaring? It says ‘Currently, the personal income tax law establishes that those taxpayers who have received income below 22,000 euros will be exempt from filing the income tax return. However, for those who have had more than one payer, such as those who have received unemployment benefits or an ERTE, the obligation to present the declaration is from 14,000 euros per year, unless the total amount of remuneration received from second and subsequent payers is under1,500 euros…’.

‘Spain received 23,824 million of foreign investment in 2020, of which about three-quarters went to Madrid (the region has always benefited from the ‘headquarters effect’ – companies prefer to register there because of the kudos of the capital city). The distance between Madrid and the rest of Spain has only increased over the years…’. More at elDiario.es here.

‘CaixaBank has completed its merger with Bankia, putting an end to the 10-year history of the latter brand – the company as a whole will go by the CaixaBank logo and trading name’. Think Spain explains ‘CaixaBank’s takeover of Bankia completed – what it means for customers’. And here at Bolsamania, what it means for employees: ‘Analysts anticipate around 8,000 layoffs or more, at a cost of 2,400 million euros.

Politics:

‘The Guardian view on Podemos: desperately seeking lost momentum’. The media doesn’t help – with (for example) the TVE news here discussing the five main parties for the Madrid elections and dropping Podemos from the spread (it’s running fourth at the moment).

Madrid. Regional elections for May 4th:

The CIS has issued its latest poll on the Comunidad de Madrid and gives to suggest that there’s a dead heat between the left and the right. Wiki lists here various recent polls that give the victory to the PP. Few pundits appear to believe any of this however (even the ABC is worried), and the current thinking is that a coalition of the left would win a narrow victory says La Vanguardia and El Plural (here). All very exciting. Another question is – does Isabel Díaz Ayuso (the PP regional president) think that she can get away without asking Vox to ally itself to her flag? Maybe. Público says that Ayuso insists on designing her own campaign away from the control (‘meddling’) of the national party machine.  Ciudadanos says that it is not worried that it could lose its voice in the regional government (you need at least 5% of the vote to have representation). Meanwhile, one of the twilight parties (a total of 23 candidates have thrown their hat into the ring), the Falange Española de las JONS, has discovered a snake in its breast, as the candidate for that hopeless, absurd, ultra, manic, ludicrous far-über right party, Manuel Andrino, must report to the cárcel for a two-year stint in the coming days for violently attacking a rival party headquarters in 2013.

Catalonia:

Catalan justice minister says imprisonment of pro-indy leaders is about ‘vengeance and punishment’. Video at Catalan News here. All nine are now once again in jail.

Europe:

From Politico here: ‘Brits in Spain spooked by post-Brexit status. The end of free movement makes living in Spain more complicated — but fears of imminent deportation are far-fetched’. The article quotes the president of Eurocitizens (here): “There is a good deal of scaremongering in certain parts of the British press,” he said. “We can speculate why that is — steering anti-EU feeling?”.

The Independent is less sympathetic: ‘A message to the Brits forced to return home from Spain: this is the Brexit you voted for. It’s tragic how little the British public was informed about the benefits of free movement, or of the variety of things they would stand to lose upon Britain’s departure from the EU’.

‘The Brexit elite cannot hope to fool us for much longer’: opinion at The Guardian here: ‘There can be few people who have not at some stage in their lives felt that they had been “taken for a ride” or conned. Yet that, I think, will be the dawning realisation of a fair proportion of the 37% of the electorate who – without, in most cases, having the faintest idea of the implications – voted on 23 June 2016 to leave the European Union. Now, usually, if one is conned, it is over some relatively minor matter in the great scheme of things, and one learns one’s lesson. But when a significant part of a country is taken for a ride, it cannot be dismissed as a trivial matter from which it can easily recover…’.

El Confidencial is unimpressed by events in the UK. ‘Britain’s great dream faces the stark reality of Brexit. The UK’s new foreign strategy document clings to old illusions and ignores the current realities’.

‘Almost five years on from the Brexit referendum, and three months on from the end of the transition period on 1 January 2021, full-fat euro-scepticism seems to have quietened in mainland Europe. The so-called domino effect that some British politicians predicted Brexit would trigger hasn’t happened…’ from an item at The New Statesman here.

The Coronavirus:

‘Pedro Sánchez announced this Tuesday April 6 that the Executive has no intention of extending the State of Alarm once it expires on May 9. In this way, mobility restrictions, such as curfew or perimeter closures, would no longer take effect’. Hosteltur adds that restrictions and rules will thenceforth be decided by the regional governments.

From Think Spain here: ‘Spain to get 20 million Janssen vaccines this year: One dose only, suitable for any age with ‘mild’ side-effects. A single-dose vaccine against Covid-19 created by Janssen will be in use throughout the European Union from April 19, and Spain is set to get enough for 40 million jabs…’.

From Cadena Ser here: The Minister of Health Carolina Darias says that, beyond the one million vaccines from AstraZeneca just arrived, on April 5th, a further 1,200,000 vaccines from Pfizer reached Spain and, during the month, Pfizer has undertaken to send another similar-sized batch every week.

In short, the vaccines are arriving!

From El País in English here: ‘Spanish prime minister: 33m people will be vaccinated by end of August. Pedro Sánchez sought to convey a note of optimism during a press conference on Tuesday, setting a series of targets for the upcoming months of the Covid-19 vaccination campaign’.

Corruption:

Ciudadanos has expelled the president of Melilla Eduardo de Castro for breaking the party’s rules and hiding an accusation against him. He is involved in a judicial proceeding for a PP complaint for an alleged crime of administrative prevarication. El Español has more here. De Castro nevertheless continues (for the time being, at least) in his post.

El Confidencial looks at the future ‘Whistleblower Law’, designed to protect those who publicise corruption in industry. We meet some of those for whom the law comes too late.

From Cinco Días here: ‘The president of the Spanish Confederation of Hotels and Tourist Accommodation (CEHAT), Jorge Marichal, has announced that he will make his position available to associates after being sentenced to two years in prison for a crime of tax fraud’.

Media:

The Olive Press celebrates its fifteen year anniversary this month with a letter from their Editor-in-Chief Jon Clarke.

I ran a free-newspaper here in Spain during the eighties and nineties (‘The Entertainer’  here) and I know how hard it is to put everything together: find the stories, sell the adverts, collect the money, design the pages, proofread (!), get it to the printers on time and handle one’s own distribution – while all the time, facing the banks, the accountants and the tax- and labour-people, plus taking on as one’s own the occasional problems of the staff – Lenox. 

There is a tendency to become mealy-mouthed when reporting on the antics of the extreme-right in Spain. Contrainformación here applauds the newscaster Cristina Saavedra from LaSexta for recently calling a spade a spade, or rather ‘a neonazi is a neonazi’.

Thread Reader looks at how the fake news about a supposed secret annuity of 107,000€ for Pablo Iglesias agreed with Pedro Sánchez is hitting the social media. It says that there are over 24,000 Tweets alone. The story was invented by ‘Periodista Digital’ and spread by Alvise Pérez, Tony Cantó, Hermann Terscht, Eduardo Inda, Alfonso Rojo, various Vox members and even a Guardia Civil group called JUCIL. The problem being that Iglesias would never dream of puncturing his reputation and efforts over the years by taking such a bribe.  These things, of course, only work on those people who are apt to believe them.

Ecology:

Animal sanctuaries. From National Geographic we see a woman hugging a duck. It says ‘Carla Heras, a volunteer at Santuario Gaia (here) in Camprodón, Gerona, cradles Laietana the duck. Laietana is one of 1,500 animals—most rescued from the streets and the farming industry—living at the sanctuary. Gaia is among a few dozen sanctuaries in Spain providing a home to animals previously farmed for food’.

‘Can solar panels be installed at home? It is becoming increasingly easy to access solar energy with photovoltaic self-consumption to save on electricity bills’ says ECD here in a puff for a company called AutoSolar here.

Various:

BoT was caught out by a bulo last week. Maldita says ‘It is false that Inditex has paid «zero euros» in corporate taxes in Spain in 2019 as stated by the politician Oskar Matute’. Our source was this article from Contrainformación. Indeed, Amancio Ortega, the man behind Inditex, is no longer one of the world’s ten richest people – he’s now eleventh – says Vanitatis regretfully here, despite his estimated wealth having risen in the past year by 40% to 77,000 million dollars.

‘The Spanish Royal House directly has thirteen people on its payroll. Yes, thirteen, 13. Not a typo. Two employees and eleven senior managers. Does that mean that only thirteen people work in the Royal House? Of course not. The Royal House only includes 92,000 euros in payroll in its budget and the rest of the workers, more than 100, are paid by various ministries. So it is easy to boast of austerity…’. The details are at elDiario.es here.

The population of Spain has grown by seven million since 2000, of which 80% are immigrants. Spain leads immigration in the European Union and is the second country in the world that receives the most migrants, only behind the United States’ says VozPópuli here. Of the population increase in the past two decades (births versus deaths), domestic growth has accounted for only 1.5 of the 6.8 million now living in Spain. 20 Minutos says that Spain’s life expectancy fell in 2020 by 1.6 years – from 84 to 82.4 years.  This is the largest drop recorded by Eurostat (here) of any EU country.

‘The Spanish government is looking to scrap the list of dangerous dogs and increase punishment for mistreatment’ says The Olive Press here. This is to ‘eliminate unfair prejudices against specific breeds’ says the article. Personally, I wouldn’t want to be the lawmaker responsible for that unfortunate piece of legislation when the next child gets mauled to death by a pit-bull.

El País offers the reader ten eccentric architectural wonders to savour.

‘A year after an exhibition celebrating the works of the pioneering Spanish surrealist artist Maruja Mallo closed its doors in Lalín, Pontevedra, a letter from experts has emerged claiming that none of the works displayed actually sprang from the hand of the avant garde painter’. A piece from The Guardian here.

Walking around one’s block in Madrid, late at night and without one’s keys? In the old days, it was easy – a piercing whistle would summon el sereno, who would let you in through your front door. National Geographic tells the story of the serenos – retired policemen, who finally disappeared from Madrid’s streets sometime in the mid seventies.

The wealthy American war photographer Robert Capa, whose photographs of the Spanish Civil War are well-known, was a man who was impossible to meet. One dealt with him through his representatives, or not at all. The reason for this is because Robert Capa was in reality two people, the Hungarian Endre Friedmann and his companion Gerda Taro, a photographer from Stuttgart in Germany. The story of Gerda Taro is at Sportfem here.

Here’s praise for huevos a la flamenca at ‘Lunchtime Blues’ on Spanish Shilling.

See Spain:

Periodistas en Español says that the historic photographic collection of 275,000 pictures taken between 1860 and the present held by the Ministry of Culture is now available to the public. Going to the Ministry’s page here, we find that one has to ask to visit the centre and to take one’s own pictures oneself with a digital camera. The IPCE (Spanish Historical Heritage Institute) is in Madrid (Wiki).

Finally:

Rosario La Tremendita, part of the Andalusian new wave, here with Romance del Silencio on YouTube.

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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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