Business over Tapas: February 18 2021

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

Lenox Napier¹

Editorial:

The elections in Catalonia have been held and the results are in: the PSC (PSOE) won the most seats with 33, followed closely by two independent parties, the ERC and the Junts per Catalunya, with 33 and 32. After them came the Vox with 11, the independent (and radical) CUP with 9, Podem with 8, Ciudadanos with 6 and the PP with just 3.

Apart from the surprise of the Independent parties winning the majority from the Constitutionalists with 74 to 61 (and the announcement by them earlier last week that they wouldn’t form a government with the PSC come what may), an increase over 2017 of four, there were some other shocks.

The Ciudadanos, the largest party in the 2017 Catalonian regional elections, fell from 36 to just 6, losing 86% of their 2017 voters, although the disappointed party leader Inés Arrimadas said on Monday that she’ll soldier on.

The PP (who claim that they were at a disadvantage with the current crop of corruption cases before the courts in Madrid), fell from last place in 2017 with four to last place this past weekend with just three (technically speaking, as some small parties behind them got no seats at all).

The PSC rose from 17 to 33, which will bring satisfaction to the government in Madrid.

Lastly, Vox went from nowhere to 11, which will bring either elation or deep gloom to many across Spain.

Ciudadanos voters evidently migrated to the PSC or to Vox – but none of them crossed to the PP.

The reaction from the ex-president of the Generalitat Quim Torra (with 51% of the vote supporting the independent parties) was a bit of justifiable hyperbole ‘¡rotunda victoria independentista! – a huge victory for independence!’.

One thing will come out – the number of abstentions. Only 54% voted on Sunday. These will have been partially caused by the pandemic, but it was the courts who insisted on the elections taking place this past Sunday rather than postponing them, as the Generalitat had wanted, until May 30th.

In Madrid, despite the foreseen shock of an Independent win, the Government must be quite pleased. The socialist candidate did well, increasing the party share from 17 to 33 deputies, the Ciudadanos are dead in the water and Pablo Casado is looking very foolish with just three deputies.  But then, could the Catalonian parliamentarians in Madrid – following a fresh pro-independence government in Barcelona – drop their support for the PSOE/Podemos national Government coalition?

Here’s a piece from an old Spanish Shilling, previous to the 2017 election results, which looks at the cost to Spain of the losable treasure of the Independent Catalonian Republic.

Housing:

From Reuters here: ‘House sales in Spain tumbled 18% in 2020, the National Statistics Institute said on Monday, with tourist hotspots like the Balearic and Canary Islands hardest-hit amid the economic hardships caused by Covid-19. A months-long home confinement last spring as well as restrictions on regional and global travel delivered hard blows to Spain’s real estate market, which had only recently begun to recover from a crash in 2008’.

Mark Stücklin from Spanish Property Insight makes the point that ‘In my personal experience, and talking to agents and vendors, many people blow their best chance of selling well by going to market with an inflated asking price. This is especially true in falling markets, like the current one…’.

From The Local here: ‘Property sales in Spain fell by 17.7 percent in 2020 down to 415,000 transactions, the biggest drop since 2011. But not everywhere in Spain has been as badly affected …’. Later,  ‘…Britons continued to be the foreign nationals who bought the most properties in Spain with 6,043 purchases (2,715 fewer than in 2019), followed by French nationals (3,777 properties, 1,153 fewer) and Germans (3,589 properties, 885 fewer)…’.

Empty Spain. There are twenty-three provinces which have lost population since 1950. Some are beginning now to regain numbers, others are stagnant and some still continue to lose. A series of graphics at El Economista accompany an interesting article on how the provinces have fared in the last seventy years.

Ábaco Advisers (commercial site) has a «Guide to buying a rural property in Spain» here.

Tourism:

La Vanguardia looks at ‘Another year without tourism: the great threat to the Spanish economy’. Some graphics illustrate the huge drop between 2019 and 2020. If 2021 continues along the same disastrous path, then ‘This vital sector for the Spanish economy is going through a catastrophic moment and its operation in the short and medium term is unknown. The 106,000 million euros lost by companies and tourist destinations in 2020 represent more than half of the total fall recorded in Spain’s GDP last year. The foreign tourist spend fell from 91,912 million euros in 2019 to just 19,740 a year later while, of the 755,000 people in furlough back in December 2020, 57% belonged to the tourism sector. Furthermore, we must add 293,000 people in this industry who have already lost their jobs in the last year and hundreds of companies who are at the limit. Another similar cycle, with increases in unemployment and bankruptcy of companies, would again affect the economic balances of Spain…’.

Hosteltur says that the Government has refused a plea to help the travel agents. ‘The majority of the 9,500 travel agents in Spain are closed with their employees on furlough’.

At On Road Magazine here, we read that from May 8th, overnight parking for campervans will (likely) be prohibited in the Valencia region outside of a welcoming campsite.

Seniors:

Age in Spain is a useful link to have. It says on its website:  ‘Our vision: To enable all English-speaking older people to lead fuller lives in Spain. Our mission: To empower all older people to lead fuller lives as actively engaged citizens in Spain and provide access to appropriate services and support according to their changing needs, whilst protecting their human rights…’. They have a monthly newsletter too, sign up here.

Finance:

From The Corner here: ‘Brussels has raised the Spanish GDP growth forecast for this year to 5.6%, which is two tenths of a percentage point higher than the previous estimate. This would make the Spanish economy the fastest growing of the 27 EU countries, ahead of France (+5.5%). That said, the European Commission also increases the risk of business failures in the sectors most affected by the new restrictions, with the potential for increasing unemployment and cutting production capacity…’.

VozPópuli is concerned that ‘The public sector has become the main engine of the economy. The activity generated by public entities is larger than the hospitality, commerce and transport sectors combined’ With Spain’s GDP down 11% over 2019, the public sector now provides 19% of the Spanish gross domestic product.

More gloom is found at La Información here. ‘The crisis leaves another 640,000 long-term unemployed and already close to 2 million. Records show a 52% rise in the group of job seekers who have been in this situation for more than a year. It especially affects those over 55, who see their pension at risk’. The article says that ‘…This means that at the moment practically half (47%) of the total unemployed in Spain, now standing at 3,964,353, have been looking for a job for more than a year without success, up nine points over 2019…’.

No one is buying a car these days, new or second-hand, says elDiario.es here. Sales of new cars are currently 32% below this time last year and second-hand sales are down 28%.

A 14m video from Economics AltSimplified titled ‘The Economy of Spain: World’s Greatest Bubble? The question… is why?’ It asks, ‘Why did Spain go from a seemingly safe level of debt to one larger than its Economy? How was the housing bubble encouraged? And since then, has Spain’s Economy ever truly recovered? Or in what ways?’

The British hedge-fund Marshall Wace, which was partially responsible, says VozPópuli, for the fall of the Banco Popular, is currently betting eleven million euros against Meliá Hotel Group.  Meliá shares rose sharply in November, thanks to news of vaccines, but in all have fallen 16% since the British speculators bought in to the group.

Politics:

From El Español here:  ‘The PP says it will continue its confrontation with Vox without questioning the leadership of Pablo Casado. The strategy to veto Santiago Abascal is maintained: «There is no room for three centre-right brands in Spain,» says the party’. Several news-medias, including El Huff Post here, report that the senior PP circle (known as ‘The Barons’) is not happy with Casado and his strategy. ‘The barons of the PP revolt against Casado despite the official speech. Génova (the PP headquarters in Madrid) attributes the poor result in the elections to the erosion of corruption and the coincidence with the Bárcenas trial, but the territorial powers are demanding changes in the party hierarchy’.  Pablo Casado blames the poor results of the Catalonian elections (where the party only took three seats) on Pedro Sánchez, the Prosecutor’s Office and the CIS pollsters, who, he says, are «at the service of the PSOE». elDiario.es adds ‘…that he will not speak of his predecessors again to elude the stigma of corruption. The leader of the PP avoided any self-criticism after the debacle in Catalonia, saying that he will not move his party to the right despite the surprise of Vox and called for a convention in the autumn to seek ways to recover the lost votes’. From El Mundo (paywall) here: The PP firebrand Cayetana Álvarez de Toledo says ‘Pablo Casado has disappointed the hopes placed in him’. Who could become the successor to Casado asks Reddit here… Feijóo… Ayuso… someone else…?

The Partido Popular is to leave its headquarters in the Calle Génova says El Huff Post here. El Plural says here that the sale of the Madrid-based head office will bring in anything up to 36 million euros, but the party owes (slightly) more than this to the banks. Another page claims that, uh, with City Hall approval, the block could be given a hotel permit, which would sharply revalue the building.

El Español claims that ‘the success of Salvador Illa in Catalonia encourages Pedro Sánchez to propose Government spokesperson María Jesús Montero to lead the PSOE in Andalucía into the next regional election there – at the cost of (a most indignant) Susana Díaz’.

Catalonia:

From elDiario.es here: ‘ERC wants to tie the investiture of Pere Aragonès in two weeks: «We hold the best cards at the table». The Republicans appoint the negotiating team and will start the formal round with the CUP rather than the Junts per Catalunya while Salvador Illa (PSC) says he will call on all the candidates except the one from Vox’.

Europe:

From CGTN here: ‘Nearly five million EU citizens have applied to stay in the UK after Brexit – but where are they from?’. Spain is in fifth place in numbers at 246,600 applicants (Poland leads with 773,840).

From The Guardian here, problems for foreign residents include ‘‘It’s impossible to pay’: the UK residents trapped overseas by quarantine rules. With flights cancelled and travellers having to pay for hotel costs, three people talk about their difficulties returning to Britain’.

Should ‘artists’ get away with different rules? From The Guardian here: ‘Stars including Sir Ian McKellen urge changes to visa rules for artists. Julie Walters among signatories to letter saying post-Brexit changes a ‘towering hurdle’ to working in Europe’. A Facebook reply to this remarkable petition by the luvvies: ‘Can’t be just for one industry. My industry is also adversely affected by visa rules, but because it isn’t visible to the public doesn’t mean that it isn’t as important’.

The Coronavirus:

From Cadena Ser here: ‘»There are four times more infected among those who frequent bars than among those who do not,» according to Rafael Bengoa, the former director of Health Systems at the World Health Organisation and former Minister of Health of the Basque Government «I would not recommend them reopening now because the scientific evidence does not justify what the present order says»’.

Coronavirus outbreaks in Spain’s care homes fall by half thanks to vaccination drive. The improved situation has sparked debate about whether restrictions for seniors should be eased, with some arguing for caution and others highlighting the emotional needs of residents’. Item from El País in English here.

From El País in English here: ‘Spain set to receive 100 million doses of three new Covid vaccines. In the next few months, inoculations from Janssen, Novavax and CureVax are likely to be approved by the European Union, strengthening the offensive against the coronavirus’. By last Sunday February 14th, some 1,096,922 Spaniards had received their second dose says the RTVE here.

‘The first wave was a big shock, the second wave we actually saw it coming and the third one surprised us with its virulence and made us ashamed of how we partied over Christmas. And the fourth? Experts say that it is difficult to know what it would be like, for two reasons: We have a vaccine and we have successful mutations of the virus. Which of the two factors will weigh more? We can only cross our fingers…’ says the Al Dia bulletin here. From eldiario.es here ‘Regions begin to ease restrictions despite the risk of an unpredictable fourth wave’.

Público looks at the various tactics from the different regions of Spain and their success in slowing down the coronavirus.

Andalucía. President Juanma Moreno indicates when mass vaccination will begin.  There will be a mass vaccination point in each of the eight provinces’. La Voz de Almería here.

At least five of the 119 Spanish bishops have managed to get their vaccination shots inappropriately.

Courts:

The ex-President of the Region of Madrid, Cristina Cifuentes, has been absolved of her part in the ‘caso Máster’ – the case of her false master’s degree. elDiario.es looks here at the unmerited post-grad honours of Cifuentes and Casado, neither of whom were castigated by the courts.

‘Spanish police arrest the fugitive rapper at the centre of free-speech debate. Pablo Hasél had barricaded himself inside Lérida University to avoid prison sentence on charges of glorifying terrorism’. An item from The Guardian here.

Media:

Al Descubierto here with its monthly list of ‘bulos (fake news) from the far-right’ appearing in the Spanish media or in the social media such as Twitter and Facebook. For example – a post on Twitter from ‘Un Abogado Contra la Demagogia’ says that ’17,000 less people died in Spain in 2020 than the year before’ (and here he is on YouTube with similar messages).

Which is better asks La Información, comparing TVE and Antena3. The first only deals in facts on its news bulletin, while ‘…In the Antena3 news programs, it was decided to analyze the figures, expose contradictions, ask questions aloud, appeal to the video library and let the viewer draw their own conclusions…’. The larger question posed is whether government or private sector influence on the news that we are offered is more reliable. What say you?

Ecology:

From Think Spain here: ‘Switching to solar: Grants, tax breaks and other help with the cost of ‘green power’’.

Various:

Eye on Spain takes British citizens through ‘How to swap your «Green Residency» Certificate for the New TIE Photo ID Card’ here.

The Ley de Aznar allowed the Spanish Catholic Church to register almost 35,000 properties as theirs between 1998 and 2015. Of these, says elDiario.es here, ‘…20,014 are «catholic church temples or complementary dependencies», while 14,947 registrations «are not related to these uses», such as «lots, houses, premises, etc.», according to the Vice President of the Government, Carmen Calvo. Among the most emblematic assets that the ecclesiastical hierarchy has appropriated for just a few euros are the Mosque of Córdoba, in 2006; the Giralda and the Cathedral of Seville in 2010 and the Seo de Zaragoza (the cathedral). This list also includes the cathedrals of Valladolid, Granada, Jaca and Málaga.

The full list has now been made public and can be found here (pdf).

‘The Supreme Court has confirmed that the Right to Die with Dignity (DMD), the most important association in defence of euthanasia and assisted suicide, is of public utility, which gives it more facilities to access public subsidies and enables its members to deduct part of the fees they pay…’. elDiario.es has the item here.

Who has the most powerful army in the world? Certainly not Spain, but the ejercito español has risen by two places to Nº 18 according to Global Fire Power as quoted in ECD here. The article has a timely (?) comparison with the forces held by Morocco (Nº 53).

A major report here at El País in English on the narcos. ‘The staggering rise in marijuana production and trafficking is the hallmark of a new era of organized crime in the country, where anonymity is key as gangs go global and diversify. From Galicia to Cádiz, El País looks at the hotspots for the drug trade across the territory’.

‘Mallorca, pandemic and poverty: an island in the trap of mass tourism’ Deutsche Welle says that ‘The pandemic is impoverishing the Mallorcan population, although it’s hurting nationals more than the foreign residents. The next tourist season will not save them. The island’s economy needs a rethink’.

From Eye on Spain here: ‘Which trees thrive in a Spanish garden? A greenery guide for any climate’.

Reform work being carried out of a bar in Seville has revealed a fully decorated 12th century Islamic hammam – bathhouse (Wiki).  The discovery of the first hammam completely covered with paintings in Spain and Portugal in Seville’s Mateos Gago Street makes archaeologists wonder if there might not be others’ says El País in English here. Some nice pictures.

An enterprising young woman has been selling her grandfather’s onions on the Internet after the dealer suddenly pulled out. After months of work, the 4,000 kilos of onions were no longer wanted. So, instead of 0.7€ a kilo (!) from the dealer, she sold enough on Instagram at 1€ a kilo to private buyers to cover the family’s costs, then donated the remaining bulbs to charity. NIUS has the story here.

Eye on Spain brings us a brief history of Navarra here.

See Spain:

From Público here: ‘There is a mountainous paradise in the interior of Extremadura that is known as La Siberia Extremeña, in the province of Badajoz, a place of singular beauty and particular climate during winter and summer’. We visit five spectacular sites.

The Daily Mail brings us ‘Vejer de la Frontera, 55 miles west of Gibraltar, made the official list of the most beautiful villages in Spain’ here. Some beautiful photos here.

From the Daily Sabah here: ‘The peculiar and beautiful homes of Spain’s artistic geniuses’.

Letters:

HI Lenox

A new «blow» to the Brexit

As president of our urbanisation, I now see that the bank we use charge EURO 18 for all payments coming in from England, as they consider it as “Foreign transfer” This will be charged to the owners.

Kind regards

Harald

Hi Lenox,

I always give your weekly music links a spin. Here’s one you might enjoy. The beautiful voice of Roberta Flack singing some heavy lyrics in Castellano

Angelitos Negros – on YouTube.

Un saludo,

Brett.

The 90/180 day rule from the Spanish Embassy, 39 Chesham Place, London.

I acknowledge your letter regarding the restrictions affecting your ability to stay in Spain for longer than 90 days. Spain would like to ensure that UK Nationals can reside comfortably in Spain, but this situation is a direct consequence of the end of the free movement due to Brexit.

Unfortunately, the extension of the Schengen visa to 180 days for British Nationals who own a second home in Spain is not of our competence since short-term stays are determined by a European Regulation; therefore Spain cannot modify that stipulated maximum validity.

On the other hand, our National Immigration Regulations do not contemplate a National Visa for a stay of more than 90 days. With Spain’s current legislation, the only available option would be that of a Non-profit Residence Visa, Non Lucrative Visa, which would give UK nationals who spend more than 6 months a year in Spain, the possibility of renewing this annual authorization. Those who spend less than 6 months would have to reapply for that visa the following year.

We would like to inform you that the Department for Visas of the Consulate General of Spain in London will be able to help you when applying for a visa. The email address of this department is cog.londres.vismaec.es

Should you have further doubts or should we be able to assist you in other inquiries, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Yours sincerely,

José M. Fernández Lápez de Tu,

Chargé d’Affaires

Finally:

An amusing song from Maui de Utrera as she decides to go and live in the campo: De Madrid al Cieno.

(I had to look it up – cieno means mud, or maybe gloop!)

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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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