23 July 2015 Nº 122
The next threat to Spain’s future wellbeing comes from the Catalonian elections to be held on September 27th. The current president of the region is Artur Mas who leads his Convergència (CDC) party, now disassociated from the long-term Unió (UDC) partnership. For this election, Mas has joined with the left-wing ERC and a number of independents to form the ‘Junts pel Sí’ or in Spanish ‘Juntos por el Sí’ party (in the best tradition of populist party names) and this ‘Independence for Catalonia’ group is expected to do well. Facing them is the popular Podemos-led coalition of ‘Catalunya Sí que es Pot' (in Spanish, ‘Cataluña, Sí se Puede’) which wants a strong far-left Catalonian nation within Spain. The smaller parties here are the constitutionalist PP (the ‘PPC’) and the PSOE (the ‘PSC’) plus the irrepressible Ciudadanos. Who will win: Independence or Popularism? – The latest poll (Tuesday) gives a better than 20% lead to the Podemos coalition at 39.2%. (More on the process in English at Wiki here)
Per Svensson discusses the General Elections below in ‘Essays’.
‘Have you noticed the good news coming out of Spain? It’s been hard to miss as almost every newspaper, estate agent and expert has been waiting to shout about the moment after nearly eight years of recession. If you haven’t then here it is: prices and demand for property in Spain have begun to rise again. For example, estate agent Engel & Volkers sold over 1,000 properties in Spain last year, up 77.6 per cent compared to the previous year...’. Cheerful reading from A Place in the Sun.
‘The price of housing in Spain registered a 1.6% increase in the first quarter of 2015, compared with the same period of 2014, according to recent data published by the European Commission statistical office, Eurostat, which is almost double the increase registered in the eurozone in the same period, where the prices rose by 0.9%...’. Found at Kyero. The article notes that house-price rises outside the eurozone have, in some cases been much higher, with Ireland (16.8%) and Sweden (11.6%) leading the pack.
‘The research department of La Caixa, one of Spain’s biggest banks, offers two reasons why the Spanish house price crash is over. “The price adjustment has practically come to an end,” says the latest report from La Caixa Research (‘Real Estate Thermometer’), forecasting that there will be no more “big falls in house prices in the coming months.” La Caixa have two main reasons in mind when making this forecast.
1) The first quarter decline in house prices came after a “surprising level of growth in the fourth quarter of 2014?, which compensated for the house price weakness in Q1.
2) The housing affordability ratio in Spain has now dropped to a sustainable level, given household incomes...’. From Mark Stüklin’s Spanish Property Insight.
Fake notaries seeking cash? ‘Far too many inquiries are received from concerned Timeshare Owners about calls received from notaries in Spain’, begins Mindtimeshare here. ‘The main issue is that most of these callers don’t even properly identify themselves and all consumers know is that they are a “notary office” from Málaga and they provide a phone number which is always a Spanish mobile...’. Earlier item also at Sur in English here.
You can buy a foreclosed home from the banks, or maybe from the vulture funds, at a small part of its likely value. And, while ignoring the smell of broken dreams inside the residence, some people do. But while the price may be low, the tax assayed on it will be based on the full-value estimate from Hacienda. Indeed, according to Sabemos, even the Public Ombudsman for Andalucía is getting involved in fighting this unexpected cost...
The Governing Council of the Junta de Andalucía has signed a bill to modify the LOUA to incorporate urgent measures to deal with buildings constructed on illegal land divisions on non-urbanisable land to parliament. As David Jackson reports ‘...this basically means that if sufficient time elapses from the building of the home without anyone lodging a complaint, no charges can be bought against the owner and retrospective permission applied for. It’s basically the situation that existed back in 2002 before all this nonsense about making builders ask for permission and pay some sort of tax started’.
A Press Release from the AUAN says: ‘AUAN is pleased with the modification of the LOUA’. Gerardo Vázquez, spokesperson for AUAN stated ‘I sincerely believe that those affected by planning irregularities within the associations AUAN and SOHA, and also CALU, will be pleased with the announcement of the change in the LOUA which the Governing Council of the Junta de Andalusia has presented to Parliament. I believe that this modification planned for the LOUA will permit a solution for many thousands of houses that were irregularly constructed in Andalucía, many of which were acquired in good faith by innocent people’. Sr. Vázquez added, ‘It is said that the number of houses that will benefit is around 25,000 although the total number of irregular houses in existence is around 300,000. However, we are still talking about 25,000 houses with an average of 3 occupants, so we are talking about, say, 75,000 people, who today can be calmer and more hopeful for the future. We think that this is the way forward, to resolve the everyday problems of the people, to put forward practical solutions. We can only be grateful for this step forward, which is another big step towards a solution for the grave problem of illegal houses and we hope to continue working and moving forward’.
Asked about the environmental impact of these regularizations, Sr. Vázquez clarified ‘I believe that once this law is approved, the environmental impact of these houses will be reduced by the procedure required to grant an AFO certificate. It is not good for the environment or the inhabitants of these houses if they are allowed to remain in a legal limbo. Everyone knows that it is impossible to demolish the three hundred thousand irregular houses that are estimated to exist in Andalucía, so you must try to find solutions for them, even if it is little by little’.
Maura Hillen, president of AUAN was in agreement with the words of Sr. Vázquez and added ‘the truth is that those affected are victims of these planning problems, in the same way that the environment is a victim, and AUAN is asking all the political parties to take practical and real measures to avoid a recurrence of this problem in the future. Irregular houses must be stopped from the laying of the first brick because once they are finished, little can be done. I believe that this is an important battle that we must fight so that never again can we have the same magnitude of illegal construction’.
As for the future, Maura Hillen stated that ‘this change has yet to take effect because it must first go through its procedure in the Parliament of Andalucía, including the eventual vote on its text. However we have already asked all the parliamentary groups in person to approve this initiative, in consideration of the common good, and we have the sincere hope that they will do this, in the same way that the Spanish Senate did with other recent measures’.
Gerardo Vázquez, the British-born lawyer for the AUAN, discusses events in Diario de Almería, noting that the ‘illegal houses’ issue ‘has been very bad for Spain’s reputation abroad’.
More foreign tourists visit Spain than ever. La Vanguardia says that a record 29.2 million visited this country in the first six months, up on last year by over 4%. This included 6.7 million Brits, 4.7 million Germans and 4.6 million French. Of course, it’s an approximation.
An Australian view of Spain from the Sydney Morning Herald. ‘...Today Spain has the 13th largest GDP in the world, which makes it about the same size as Australia but with a population of 46 million. And it's fast becoming a "new world" of growth itself. The Spaniards copped the GFC like everyone else but finally, after seven years of stagnation, the European Central Bank has announced it has a very respectable growth of 2.8 per cent. ... Despite its unemployment rate still being high it's dropping significantly and is now one of the fastest growing countries in the EU. The Spanish recovery is attributed to banking and labour reforms and protection of family businesses. Consumer confidence is now at a record high...’.
The Chinese group Tzaneen International offered 10,000€ last week for the Aeropuerto Central de Ciudad Real, a sum which will be accepted or otherwise by the Tribunal Superior de Justicia de Castilla-La Mancha on September 15th. The airport cost 450 million euros to build, says Expansión here. El Confidencial tries to make sense of the story with ‘Ten key facts to understand the (non) acquisition of the Ciudad Real airport for 10,000 euros’. For one thing, the airport owes 329 million euros in debt, which the creditors would expect to be paid (in a large measure, at least) before signing off. The article rates the cost of the airport to the taxpayer at somewhere between 600 and 900 million euros. El País in English sticks to the simpler version of the headline here ‘A group of Chinese investors has bought the abandoned airport at Ciudad Real for €10,000 after submitting the only bid for the facility at a court bankruptcy auction. On Friday, Tzaneen International was awarded the land and buildings, including the runway, hangars and control tower at Ciudad RealCentralAirport in Castilla-La Mancha – the first major airport to be built in Spain with private investment...’. Finally, The Telegraph has a stab at the story: ‘Spain's "ghost airport" - that cost hundreds of millions of euros to build and which became a notorious symbol of the excess of the country's bonanza years has been sold to a group of British and Asian investors for just €10,000 (£7,000). Ciudad Real airport, in the central Castilla-La Mancha region, has been closed since 2012, despite opening only four years prior to closure...’.
The ABC newspaper, perhaps taking over the role of Fox News in Spain, has uncovered a fiendish plot by the ‘extreme left’ to unseat the King. El Ventano has its fun here, and the original ABC exposé is here.
‘Is Spain’s influence on the international stage waning?’ asks El País in English here.
Gerrymandering to become law? The PP has brought its plan to Parliament to change the way local elections will be held, with the largest party, as long as it has 35% of the votes, to take charge locally as a majority. If no party reaches the 35% limit, then there would be a second round. (What about the famous postal vote?). This is to stop any and all coalitions (which rarely include PP candidates). El Huff Post explains the plan.
The new president of Navarra is Uxue Barkos, a nationalist from Geroa Bai and part of a coalition of left-wing and pro-Basque groups (Navarre has for many years been run by the conservative UPN), says that she has no immediate plans to consider a political union of the three Basque provinces together with Navarra (the Greater Basque Country,Euskal Herria, a kind of Narnia, is theoretically made up of four Spanish provinces and three French ones, with the capital in Pamplona).
The General Secretary for Energy in the Junta de Andalucía has resigned after being nabbed for improperly taking an electric feed for his home (on non-urbanisable land) in Yunquera, Málaga. The ABC tells the story here.
The bail of 18 million euros set for the political high-flyer Rodrigo Rato has been confirmed by the Provincial Audience of Madrid, says El Huff Post here. Of more interest, perhaps, the same source reports that the chief anti-fraud inspector at the ONIF, Margarita García Valdecasas, told the court on Monday that she was not the author of the complaint regarding a number of fiscal crimes signed by her against Rato. Story here. On Wednesday, Rato was in court but declined to speak in his defence until the content on the papers taken from his house by the Oficina Antifraude was revealed. Story at El Huff Post.
‘Artur Mas has threatened independence if the State blocks his process. The members on the independence list, established by Artur Mas and Oriol Junqueras, for the Catalan elections on September 27 warned yesterday there would be an immediate declaration of independence if Central Government blocks the process which will be started in the Catalan Parliament after the election...’. From Typically Spanish. The subject is also tackled in detail by The Local, with: ‘... "If in this process, the Spanish state, through its political or legal decisions, blocks the autonomous government of Catalonia or the Catalan parliament, we will move forward with a declaration of independence," said Raul Romeva, a former MEP and key figure in the coalition, which brings together the centre-right CDC party and left-wing ERC. ... "There will be no independence for Catalonia," Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said on Thursday...’. The Minister for Justice said on Wednesday that the Catalonian autonomy can be revoked at any time, according to the Spanish Constitution.
Some background on the face-off between Madrid and Catalonia with ‘Coercive democracy and the legal argument against Catalonia’ at The Bad Rash.
Barcelona – bloody tourists!
The Road to The Moncloa -
There’ll be a new government in Spain before the end of this year
By Per Svensson
Before the end of December the fumbling Rajoy government has to call General Elections in Spain, and the new Congreso de Diputados will elect a Prime Minister, governing Spain from the aristocratic Moncloa palace. What will be the outcome of the elections? Elections are always difficult to predict, but all political parties and commentators agree: They will be dramatic, and change the «two-party-system» that we have had for the last 30 years (the socialist PSOE and the conservative PP alternating in Moncloa). This is also confirmed by the results in the European, regional and local elections that have taken place his year, as well as in the opinion polls.
Already the elections to the European Parliament that took place on the 25th of May 2014 were ringing the warning bells for the «two-party system»: The two parties running the «system» lost votes and mandates: PSOE down 2.5 million votes and 9 seats, while PP lost 2.6 million votes and 8 seats. The party of the «indignados», registered only weeks before elections under the name Podemos, without a proper party organisation and without financing from the banks or the «corruptors», took 8% of the vote and captured 5 seats in the European Parliament.
The results in the local elections in May of this year are more diffuse, since Podemos did not present candidate lists under their own name (they were afraid of being invaded by careerists, commission-hunters or moles waiting for the right time (and price!) to switch their allegation for one of the system parties). Instead Podemos took a leading part in a number of local coalitions.
Such coalitions won the mayorship in Madrid, where former judge Manuela Carmena, heading the ticket Ahora Madrid, defeated the arrogant PP countess Esperanza Aguirre.
The 41 year old anti-eviction activist Ada Colau, heading the coalition Barcelona en Comú has been elected as mayor of Barcelona after obtaining more than 25% of the popular vote. She has slashed the mayoral salary from the 140,000€ of the outgoing socialist mayor to just 28,600€. Nationalist Joan Ribo was elected mayor of Valencia thanks to the votes of Valencia en Comú and the socialists, replacing Rita Barbera from the rotten PP.
Pedro Santisteve from Zaragoza en Comú was elected mayor of the Aragon capital with the votes of this coalition, the socialists and the nationalists.
In Alicante, Gabriel Echevarri from PSOE ended 20 years of PP hegemony, thanks to the support of the coalition Guanyar, the nationalists and Ciutadans.
Juan Espadas from PSOE was elected mayor in Sevilla with the votes of his own party, the coalition Participa and Ciutadans.
The Spanish polling organisation Metroscopia recorded in January 2014 the PP as having 32.7% of voting intention (already down from 44.6% of the vote in the general elections in November 2011). In its latest poll from 6th of July this year, the percentage of vote intention for the Government party is down to just 23%.
The socialist party, PSOE, is not faring much better: In the general elections 2011 it scored only 28.8% of the vote, after the disastrous years of the Zapatero government. In the Demoscopia poll of January 2014 it obtained a vote intention of 33.5% while in the poll from July this year it fell to 22.5%.
In the result list for the poll of January 2014, Metroscopia reports Podemos as «did not exist». In the European elections a few months later it gained 8% of the vote. In the poll of July this year Podemos has a vote intention of 21.5%, almost equal to the two system parties!
Metroscopia has in a recent poll found that 69% of the Spanish consider positive for our political life the disappearance of absolute majorities and the emergence of new parties.
The PP has been playing the usual melodies against Podemos, like «dangerous radicals», «hidden communists», «young professors without political experience», «financed by Venezuela» and lately «toeing the same line as the Greek government party». The effect of their litanies can be seen in the election results mentioned above. The voters are seeing through the PP propaganda, aimed at making them forget the sad truth that the two old «system-parties» have corrupted politics in Spain.
According to El Mundo, there are 360 politicians and other senior figures in the administration accused or sentenced in corruption cases. Half of them can be found in the PP, 30% in PSOE.
European citizens in Spain have over the last decennium been kept abreast of this cancer on the Spanish political body, over several years by me in the Weekly Reports of the association Ciudadanos Europeos, over the last years in an eminent way by Lenox Napier in Business over Tapas. It should be clear to all readers that this rot must be extirpated. The Spanish people hold in their hand the instrument needed: the vote in the General Elections that by law must come before the end of this year.
Rajoy is sitting in the Moncloa biting his nails: Should he convoke the General Elections at once, while the weather is still nice and most voters in a «vacation-mood»? He would then hope to avoid more revelations from his previous treasurer Barcenas, who 10 years long distributed black money collected from fat corruptors to almost all PP-leaders, including Rajoy personally. Furthermore, he may avoid the bad smear coming from the court case against Princess Cristina and her husband Iñaki Urdangarin in the incredible Noos case. He may even duck the debris that will be flying when the previous general secretary of PP, Angel Acebes, must appear in court in the Barcenas case; or when the general secretary of PP in Madrid comes before the judge to explain the Operación Púnica corruption case....etc...etc.
On the other side, the recuperation in the economy has, after seven crisis years, not come as far as he had hoped: Recorded unemployment has only fallen from 27% in 2013 to 23% this year, to a great degree due to many long-term jobless not registering any longer since they do not qualify for any unemployment support, and that hundreds of thousands of young and well educated people have gone abroad to try to find a job. A swelling number of families cannot pay their mortgages and are facing eviction from their dwellings. Caritas writes the following about Spain:
«The social situation in Spain is deteriorating and reaches across broad sectors of the population. According to a survey carried out in 2013, only one out of every three people in Spain feels fully integrated, 34.3% In addition, the survey shows that in 2013, five million people were affected by severe forms of exclusion. The survey also shows an impoverishment of people at risk of poverty and social exclusion: 54% of households at risk of poverty and social exclusion were below the poverty threshold (14% more than in 2007) and 23.8% were in severe poverty (an increase of 4.7 %.). Caritas observes a growing distrust of public policies, which often creates a greater sense of alienation of the most vulnerable groups: they lose interest in participating in public affairs (elections, civil society, etc.)»
And the world economy is stalling in such a degree that one may ask: When is the next crisis coming?
The scheming president of Andalucía has given up her intents to become the PSOE candidate for the national elections and will have to face the shit-storm when two previous PSOE-A presidents are facing the court in the greatest of all corruption scandals – the false pensions and training scandals.
The socialist candidate for prime minister will be 43 year old Pedro Sánchez, elected General Secretary of his party last year. He has not taken part in the smear campaign against Podemos, has forcefully attacked corruption in his own party and during the negotiations after the local elections PSOE and Podemos collaborated in several places to defeat the PP tickets. Sánchez knows that PSOE cannot win an absolute majority on its own, and he deeply fears a collaboration with the tainted PP – even if the PSOE has almost as many corruption cases to explain.
In the run-up to the General Elections, we have an interesting situation, with three parties almost at the same level in the polls (20 to 25%) and a fourth party, Ciudadanos, trailing behind, trying to pick up the votes the PP are losing, bringing them back to Rajoy & Co. in the negotiations for power after the elections.
Podemos is the party that has grown most over the last two years, in polls and at elections. With the power-base it now has in many municipalities and regions, it is to be expected that the growth will continue. The chances are considerable that Podemos will be taking most votes and mandates and will be moving into La Moncloa before the end of this year.
Spain is in the mood for change!
Following from the ‘scandalous’ Versión Original webpage put out by the Madrid town hall to counter false reporting about that city, plus other sites questioning the veracity of mainstream news reports, the Minister of Justice has said that the Government does not manipulate the Media with false reports. Público has the story here.
‘There's a series, a police thriller, being filmed in and around El Ejido (Almería) called 'Mar de Plástico'. Rather unsurprisingly, some of the actors have begun to pontificate about the conditions of the workers in the plastic farms which cover 30,000 hectares on the south-western part of the province. Several local newspapers are saying 'well, it's one thing when the foreign press accuses us of slavery, but now we are getting this shit from our own side, and frankly, no one wants to talk about the sweat of thousands of Almerians who have converted the desert into the orchard of Europe'. See here. I've often thought that the ecologists are oddly silent about the damage to the environment, but I like my quality fruit and veg at a cheap price too. Perhaps one claim of the benefits of the invernaderos is a bit hard to swallow, and that's the one that says the plastic is actually helping fight Global Warming by reflecting the sun's heat back into space (see Nova Ciencia here). We should cover the entire planet in plastic perhaps’. From The Entertainer Online.
‘Despite its economic problems, Spain is still the healthiest place to live in Europe, and possibly the world, according to the medical journal Lancet, with an average of 70.9 years of healthy living, and a life expectancy of 81.4 years. ... The country ranks number one for life expectancy with an average of 81.4 years, which is two years longer than people living in the UK. Spaniards' years in good health are also higher at 70.9 compared to 68.6 years in Britain. In fact the UK is way down the list in 12th place, behind Greece, Ireland and Germany...’. An article from 2013 from Digital Journal. Yet some sources say that Spain has partially turned its back on the famed ‘Mediterranean Diet’ – ‘...the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) recently released a report revealing that more and more people in Mediterranean countries were actually turning away from the traditional diet. The FAO warned that as a result, Mediterranean countries are seeing higher rates of obesity...’. Found at The Epoch Times here.
Ashley Madison is a kind of ‘singles’ site for married people looking for ‘an adventure’. It used to be a keen advertiser in El Mundo. Now it’s shown up in Xataka after a report surfaced that the unpleasant site has been hacked by a group that call itself ‘The Impact Team’ who are threatening to release the names of their 37 million clients worldwide (!).
Junipero Serra: Saint or sinner? An interesting essay at The Olive Press. ‘To Pope Francis he was a Spanish missionary worthy of sainthood, to others he was the devil incarnate’. ‘...Junipero Serra’s legacy is so venerated in California that his statue adorns the state capital and many highways, hospitals and schools are named after him. August 29 (the day he died) is a statewide holiday there and commemorative stamps have been issued in his memory. In 1988, Serra’s fame spread when he was beatified (‘made blessed’) by Pope John Paul II who stated that: “He sowed the seeds of Christian faith amid the momentous changes wrought by the arrival of European settlers in the New World. It was a field of missionary endeavour that requires patience, perseverance and humility as well as vision and courage.”
This September, Pope Francis will formally canonise Serra as a saint during his first visit to the United States. Serra will be the first Hispanic American to achieve formal sainthood (notably, from the first Hispanic American pope). However, the visit promises be anything but seamless...’.
The bullfight business. According to the association of abolitionist veterinarians AVATMA, figures routinely published by the industry are false and misleading. Story here.
Apparently unaware that her microphone was switched on, Angela Merkel told Christine Lagarde from the IMF that Spain will lower its salaries ‘because it’s my bitch’. Whoops.
Lest it be thought that BoT brings strong stories to the Reader, they should see the heady stuff found at a page called Espía en el Congreso...
A popular new video for Granada tourism.
Strong stuff. The Basque woman harrijasotzaile (stone lifter) Idoia Etxeberria breaks the world record with a 157k block. Wuurrgghh! Here.
Business Over Tapas
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