Business over Tapas: January 28 2021

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

Lenox Napier¹

Editorial: 

It is now a month since ‘We saved Christmas’ with the consequent rise in contagion levels to today’s gloomy (and frightening) figures across Spain of around 900 cases per 100,000.  Saving Christmas meant allowing us to go shopping, to gather together as a family over the special days of Christmas and New Year and to stop off for a merrie flagon of mulled wine or two at the corner bar, with a few rowdy friends. 

The bar- and restaurant-owners have had it bad these past ten months. Social distancing, their interior spaces sometimes closed entirely, or with only meals to go, high-rents and low-income, and their margins have been holed under the waterline. Many have closed for good. 

We – the poor suffering consumers – are assailed by unhappy bar-owners on the TV news most days – as if it were somehow our fault that we no longer support their establishments. 

Honestly, I shout at the TV screen, it’s not you – we just don’t want to get sick. 

**A map here shows how Spain is doing – with 42 million people in the 44 provinces that are currently over 500 infections per 100,000.  In Andalucía, it’s now at 915 (Wednesday) and the city of Almería (where I live) is at 1,325. 

So, no, I’m not going to have a drink in the local pub. 

As Fernando Simón (the Government’s expert on pandemics) says ‘nobody goes to a bar to sit in the corner by themselves’. 

This point of view is in line with the Government’s focus on the hospitality sector, which is evidently partially responsible for the third wave of the Covid-19 pandemic.  

There are those who say this is all a plot of some sort, and a demonstration was held this past Saturday in a rainy Madrid in support of this theory. ‘Several hundred people without masks demonstrate against the vaccine’, says MSN here. 

Two years ago, La Sexta reported that there was a higher density of bars and restaurants per capita in Spain – at 175 inhabitants per establishment – than any other country in the world. This figure will now have been sharply readjusted downwards. 

In the hope that, when this is all over, our old habit of a friendly beer in the neighbourhood saloon will return. 

                                                                                                  Lenox Dixit

Housing:

‘The future is metropolitan, says Barcelona Mayor Ada Colau. As part of a series of interviews with mayors of leading global cities and regions, The World Association of the Major Metropolises spoke with Barcelona Mayor and Co-President of Metropolis, Ada Colau, to find out how Covid-19 is affecting her city and its residents’. The interview is at Cities Today here. 

There is much written recently about how ‘non-Europeans’ (they mean Brits) cannot buy a house anywhere near a military installation, because, you know, Franco. iNews says ‘Law brought in under General Franco could cause delays for British house-buyers in Spain. Any non-European Union nationals who want to buy property near ‘strategic points’ must ask for a special permit from the Spanish defence ministry’. The Majorca Daily Bulletin corrects this story: ‘Putting the record straight on British property buyers and the military permit’. 

From HM Gov here (updated Jan 2021): ‘Spain: buying and renting property. Information on legal requirements and advice for British nationals buying or renting property in Spain’.

Tourism:

‘Spain’s minister for tourism says the country hopes to welcome international visitors by the end of the spring. Reyes Maroto issued a statement after national newspapers picked up on comments at the WTO’s executive council by Spanish prime minister Pedro Sánchez, who suggested the country would be “better prepared” at the end of the summer – when he expects 70% of the population to be vaccinated. Tourism minister Maroto said efforts are being focused on controlling the pandemic, speeding up the vaccination process and guaranteeing the safety of tourists…’. More at Travel Weekly here.

From VozPópuli here: ‘European tourists would prefer to travel to Italy or Greece over Spain after the coronavirus. Our country ranks third in the list of destinations, as revealed by the interviews conducted by the Elcano Royal Institute last September, within the framework of a study commissioned by the Spanish Government’. Nine countries, including France, the USA and the UK were listed as options.

‘Getting a Covid test approved for cross-border travel has now become easier for residents on and visitors to the Costa del Sol – a well-known UK-based medical firm has just opened a test centre in Marbella…’. Think Spain enthuses here. 

Finance:

‘The President of the Government, Pedro Sánchez, said last week that Spain is exceeding the gloomy expectations that it had for its economy as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and is in a position to assume the leadership that it deserves. Sánchez has conveyed this message of hope and confidence in the future to the Association of Multinationals for Marca España, whose representatives had participated in an event at the Palacio de la Moncloa with the motto «For a sustainable and inclusive recovery»’. La Vanguardia reports here. 

‘The IMF lowers growth forecasts to 5.9% for Spain in 2021. Spain will be the country whose GDP will rise the most this year among the main economies of the euro’ says elDiario.es here. 

When a company has to pay tax, it passes it on to its customers, says El Salto Diario, as it warns us that the 3% Tasa Google to be charged to Amazon from April 1st will be added in the price. Naturally.

Inequality, thanks to Covid, has brought an extra 800,000 members of the ‘new poor’ in Spain says La Vanguardia here.

Tele-working. El Confidencial finds a man who works for a British company from his home in Spain ‘I earn 100,000€ a year and I’m happy’. Over three million people now tele-work from home in Spain, up three times over 2019. Meanwhile, suppliers of computers and other tech associated with tele-working are seeing high sales.

Barça Football Club has ranked up a debt of 1,173 million euros says El Periódico here. 

‘UK Businesses in Spain face huge import taxes following Brexit’ says Spain Today here. 

Politics:

‘The coalitions of PP and Ciudadanos in Madrid, Murcia and Andalucía are running tense at the gates of the Catalan campaign. Differences on how to face the third wave of the pandemic and the scandals that have occurred in Murcia with vaccines have opened new cracks in the increasingly difficult relationships between the partners’ says elDiario.es. 

At El Español, on the other hand, we read that ‘Inés Arrimadas distrusts the harmony between Juan Marín (Cs) and Juanma Moreno (PP) in the Junta de Andalucía and is preparing changes. The president of the Junta considers Marín an ally and wants him to lead Cs in Andalucía to repeat government after the next elections’. 

‘The General Council of the Judiciary (Wiki) has approved an agreement in which it asks Congress to reconsider its decision to dispense with the opinion of this body in the processing of a reform that affects it: the one that aims to prevent the CGPJ from making fresh appointments while it is in overtime’ The ABC reports here. The government plan to cut back on the CGPJ’s functions had worried the judiciary, but they have now decided not to call on Europe to defend their corner says infoLibre (paywall) here. 

‘Congress agrees to investigate the «presence of the extreme right» in the army as a result of the letters to the king and the WhatsApp group of military ultras, despite the rejection of PP and Vox. elDiario.es reports here of ‘…an Investigative Commission «on the presence of the extreme right in the Armed Forces and its possible interference and influence, through the military hierarchy, in the Executive and Legislative powers»…’. 

From VozPópuli here: ‘The feminist movement calls for the dismissal of the Minister for Equality Irene Montero and a change of course in the ministry.  Irene Montero «has embarked on an anti-feminist drift» contrary to the defence of women’s rights, according to the (slightly extreme) Confluencia Movimiento Feminista’. The CMF’s web-page is here. 

As Salvador Illa leaves his post as Health Minister to run as a candidate in the Catalonian regional elections of February 14th (probable date), his government post is taken by Carolina Darias. Miquel Iceta (the erstwhile PSC leader) takes over Darias’ previous post as Minister of Territorial Policy. 

‘The Spanish government has developed guidelines for boosting its relevance in the international arena’ says El País in English here. 

Catalonia:

‘Salvador Illa has burst into the Catalan electoral pre-campaign like a tsunami and all options to govern are open. The PSC candidate (the PSOE in Catalonia is called the PSC) has one point in his favour: almost half of the Catalans (46.3%) believe that he could calm down the independence conflict if he were elected president of the Generalitat’.  The story (with a survey) comes from El Español here. 

The Ciudadanos leader Inés Arimadas wants an alliance with the PSC in Catalonia to run ‘a sensible and moderate government’.

The PP has never had much traction in Catalonia, but they are now decidedly worried that Vox might be overtaking them says Cuarto Poder here. ‘…Pablo Casado says that «If Vox has grown so much it is thanks to the populist policies that the Government of Pedro Sánchez is implementing, so strongly influenced and weakened by Podemos and its leader, Pablo Iglesias.»…’. To help their flagging numbers, Pablo Casado has got Cayetana Álvarez de Toledo (the ex-party spokesperson) to help in the campaign.  

Europe:

‘Brussels warns Britain against downgrading the EU ambassador’s status. Denying the mission full privileges under the Vienna convention risks poisoning diplomatic ties, Nº 10 told’. The story comes from The Guardian here. We read that ‘The UK has so far declined to grant the bloc’s representative, João Vale de Almeida, and his 25-strong mission the privileges and immunities afforded to diplomats under the Vienna convention. The British government’s approach has stirred anger in Brussels as the EU has 143 delegations around the world, each of which has full diplomatic status…’. The EU’s Foreign Minister Josep Borrell said on Monday that the move “was not a friendly signal”.  

From Global Citizens Solutions here: ‘If you are a non-EU citizen seeking to relocate to Portugal with your own funding, the D7 visa — also known as the Portugal Passive Income Visa — is a perfect option for you’. 

‘European governments would be allowed to ban all UK residents from entering their countries and cut all passenger transport links with Britain under a German proposal to the European Union, The Times reported on Thursday. EU member states are free to impose temporary bans on entry and on transporting passengers entering from non-EU countries with virus variant areas, The Times reported, citing a draft proposal reviewed by the newspaper…’. Reuters reporting here. 

Eurostar, the company that operates the cross-Channel train service that connects the UK with France, Belgium and the Netherlands, is on the brink of collapse, the company’s management warned this week. With passenger numbers down 95% in the final quarter of 2020 and revenues down over 80% over the course of 2020, it is now “on a drip” and in desperate need of extra cash, says Christophe Fanichet, a senior executive of France’s state SNCF railways…’. An item from Wolf Street here. 

From the UK’s version of Okdiario, The Express, we read ‘EU rebellion: Italy, Spain and France join euro-sceptic alliance to leave Brussels bloc. Brussels is bracing for a new threat as euro-sceptic leaders in France, Italy and Spain are teaming up to launch a joint manifesto against their countries’ membership to the European Union’. Yes, amazed by the current problems suffered by the UK, the domino effect is finally coming into play. The Spanish partner in this international enterprise is the delightfully obscure ‘Somos España leader Luis Carlos Nogues’. Unsurprisingly, neither the party nor the party-leader rates a Wikipedia entry, although the webpage of ‘the indomitable and patriotic left’ can be found here. 

The Coronavirus:

Forty seven major Spanish cities are now over 1,000 per 100,000 infections of Covid-19 says elDiario.es here (with map).

For up-to-date information on vaccinations administered, go to the Ministry of Health here. 

‘Covid-19 vaccine doses are going to waste in some of Spain’s regions due to unsuitable syringes’ says El País in English here. The other problems of the vaccine, mentioned elsewhere in this bulletin, are improper use by public figures and a slowdown in supplies arriving in Spain. An odd footnote: ‘Spain re-sells 30,000 doses of the Pfizer Vaccine at cost to Andorra’ says Enfermeria21 here. 

‘Almost a third of recovered Covid patients return to hospital in five months and one in eight die. Research has found a devastating long-term toll on survivors, with people developing heart problems, diabetes and chronic conditions’. Item from The Telegraph (paywall) here. 

elDiario.es has a daily essay called Al día exclusively for subscribers. In Wednesday’s edition, it says ‘The pharmaceutical companies Pfizer and AstraZeneca do not cease to raise problems and warn of delays in the deliveries of the vaccines committed to the European Union. So much so, that a shadow of doubt begins to cast itself over them.

We have spent €2,700 million in European public money to buy the first available vaccines from these laboratories and guarantee supply. Not counting the money that the member-states have already invested so that these same companies could develop the treatment.

However, more and more voices, and some hint from a senior European official has already fallen, denounce that they may be reselling to other countries such as Israel or the United Kingdom the vaccines that we have already bought from them…’. From The Guardian here ‘Why has AstraZeneca reduced promised vaccine supply to EU and is UK affected?’ 

A late story here:  AstraZeneca cancels steering board meeting with EU. The Commission is demanding more information about the company’s projected 60 percent cut to the EU’s deliveries in the first quarter of 2021’ from Politico.

Corruption:

From El País in English here: ‘Spain’s Covid immunization drive dogged by line-jumping politicians and other irregularities. Hundreds of people, including political leaders, retired doctors and family members of health workers, have received the vaccine even though they are not part of the first priority group’. Named and shamed! Here is the list from El Español of the clever ones who got their vaccinations when they shouldn’t’ve. From Público, we read that ‘More than 450 senior officials and officials of the Murcia Health Department, in addition to the councillor and his wife, were illegally vaccinated’. Stung, ABC has its own story from next door Valencia:The Generalitat Valenciana detects 185 cases of people vaccinated without meeting the requirements’. 

The question is, of course, should they be given their second jab two weeks later?

A late report from La Mordaza says that some nursing staff have quit their jobs at the Santa Marina hospital in Bilbao where the manager had not only filmed his own improper vaccination but also had giving vaccines to various people, including ‘priests and waiters’

Courts:

‘“Far-right terrorism” still does not exist for Spanish justice despite international warnings.

A report by the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation numbers three dozen people convicted of extreme right-wing violent acts in Spain, but with sentences that do not exceed three and a half years and without ever being charged with terrorism crimes’. El Salto Diario looks at the phenomenon here. The article features a number of cases of far-right terrorism. 

Pity poor Juan Pedro. Due to the agonisingly slow justice system in Spain, he must now serve time in prison for a bar-fight from twelve years ago. What does his wife tell their two small children, asks El Español here.   

Media: 

The endless mediatic and judicial plots against Podemos are studied at La Voz del Sur here. The article looks at ‘agenda-setting’, which is described at Wiki as ‘the manipulation of public awareness and concern of salient issues by the news media’. Why Podemos in particular? A quote: ‘…This is basically what agenda-setting or the theory of media manipulation is about: hatred. The theory of manipulation explains the capacity of the media to denigrate any political leader or social reference that bothers the interests of the multinationals or which dares to defend the simple people. With Podemos, the agenda-setting has been operating since the party was born in 2014. The most direct consequence of this method of manipulation is the polarization and thus the cancellation of the debate, tempered by moralistic harangues built on emotionality. The thing is not about giving an opinion or informing about the policies that the group defends, but about delegitimizing its leaders, demonizing them, using the agenda-setting so that there is little or no talk about their management at the head of the Council of Ministers…’. 

La publicidad institucional is publicly-funded advertising. This kind of advertising can easily be manipulated – with adverts going to ‘friendly’ media. We see them, for example, on the regional TV channels or in the provincial newspaper. It keeps everyone sweet. The Government has published in the state bulletin that it is to spend 112 million euros on institutional advertising in the coming two years says VozPópuli here.  

From ECD here, ‘Survey: Six out of ten Spaniards do not trust the media. A report by the consulting firm Edelman analyzes the last months of 2020 and reveals that 58% of those surveyed distrust the information’. The survey was conducted in 28 countries and comes in full detail at Edelman’s Trust Barometer on pdf here. 

RTVE says that they check out the fake-news ‘bulos’ in social media. One Twitter user they are aware of, called @papayaykware, ‘spends eight hours a day putting out an average of 194 items of fake news about the pandemic’. These are usually either that the Covid-19 pandemic does not exist, climate change is a sham, 5G radiation alters the body or that chemotherapy does not cure cancer, plus their variations. He’s been operating since May. 

Ecology: 

As the numbers of hunted animals increase – wild boar and deer killed is now up three times to 639,000 animals from 2008 to 2018 – we read of the enthusiasm with which they have been shooting tortolas (doves), a bird which is now on the European protected list. 

‘The coastal barrier that the Doñana national park (Huelva) defends has receded 80 metres due to the erosion of the sea that accelerates climate change. The coastline in front of the natural park, protector of its most valuable heart, is of «enormous environmental fragility» and heads towards its extinction, warns a report’. An item from elDiario.es here.

Various:

Spain goes from having the most expensive electricity in Europe to the cheapest in just two weeks. On January 8th, the price of electricity was 94.99 €/MWh. Two weeks later (January 23rd), thanks to a lower demand (the Filomena storm had passed) and lots of wind-energy, the cost had fallen as low as 27.5 €/MWh. El Periódico de la Energía has the story here. 

The Sephardim weren’t the only group expelled from Spain five centuries ago – there’re also the Moriscos. How many stories are there of someone in Fez still owning the key to his forbear’s house in Córdoba or Granada? As descendents of the Sephardic Jews are offered Spanish nationality (15,300 had obtained Spanish nationality by the end of last year), isn’t it only fair that the Moriscos should be given a similar deal? The title from Público here: ‘A Moroccan foundation of Andalusian descendants expelled from Spain five centuries ago encourages Pedro Sánchez not to exclude them from the «Spanish collective memory»’. A long and interesting article follows. 

‘Boats emerge from Sahara sand to transport migrants to Spain’. The Associated Press brings both amazing photos and an interesting feature about the industry of bringing migrants from the North African coast to Spain’s Canary Islands. 

The eccentric QAnon movement appears to have landed in Spain says infoLibre here. ‘‘The Left’, we read, ‘perpetuates Satanism’’. Luckily, numbers of adherents to this peculiar sect remain small outside of the USA. 

From The Guardian here. ‘Mural in Madrid that celebrates women is pitched into Spain’s culture wars. The far-right Vox party leads efforts to erase 60-metre artwork it claims contains ‘a political message’’. 

elDiario.es brings us the ‘City Halls that battle against the betting houses from the back of a bus: «It may seem a pittance, but you have to go drop by drop»’. According to the Ministry of Health, last year almost 15% of youths 14 to 18 years old played bets for money online while 37% of them went at least once to betting saloons. The reduced number of large betting companies are (of course) against controls, says the article, and they have a lot of money in hand. ‘…The turnover of casinos, bingo halls, lounges and bars with slot machines reached 5,607 million euros in 2019, according to data from the industry’s  Cejuego  association (here)…’. 

The Junta de Andalucía has made a few exceptions to the rules of staying within one’s municipality. These include hunting events (we see the hand of Vox in this one) and skiing in the Sierra Nevada. El Plural looks at the popular – and well-attended – skiing resort here.

The «collapse» of the ITVs. Tráfico is finally acknowledging that it has become almost impossible to get a cita previa (appointment) for your vehicle inspection within a reasonable period of time, and if you carry the paper confirming that you’ve requested a cita, you will not be fined for an expired ITV sticker says EuropaSur here. (We just booked an appointment for June!) 

Spare a thought for the Brits from Jávea says El Levante here, who are finding that certain items in their supermarkets are no longer available thanks to Brexit. 

A useful link can be found here to the digital library of the Historias 16, a comprehensive collection of 400 magazines dealing with Spanish and European history. Taken at random, here is ‘Muslim Science in Spain’. Thanks to Antonio for the link. 

The story of the magnificent Hispano-Suiza is at El Confidencial here. 

Granada earthquakes. Molly from Piccavey was there this week. 

Lenox’s The Lavatory Bar is at Eye on Spain here (well, it made me laugh)

See Spain:

A well-illustrated article from Fascinating Spain here is called ‘The legacy of Al-Andalus through the great Moorish buildings in Spain’. The same useful site brings us here ‘Ten Jewish Quarters that show that Spain had a huge Jewish past’. 

Finally:

Camilo performs Vida de Rico on YouTube (the Colombian singer has got 448 million views on just this particular song! – we regret to say we’ve never heard of him here at BoT).

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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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