The town halls of Spain’s ten biggest cities are an odd mixture of parties these days, with only Málaga and Murcia staying with the Partido Popular, the two cities of Seville and Las Palmas hewed to the PSOE and as for the other six: Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia, Zaragoza have all taken on a version of Podemos-style left-wing coalitions (Compromis and others in Valencia), while Palma de Mallorca has a switch-around between the PSOE and a local party, and the Conservative city of Bilbao stays with the PNV, although now as a minority government. The smaller cities of Cádiz and La Coruña have also gone to Podemos coalitions. (A list of the breakdown of the ten cities here).
‘Lone Star Funds, the private-equity firm founded by billionaire John Grayken, will invest as much as 500 million euros this year buying land for Spanish housing developments as demand picks up. “Despite the glut of homes in Spain, there are areas where stock is running out and we aim to fill that gap,” said Juan Velayos, chief executive officer of Neinor Homes, the Lone Star unit seeking to become Spain’s biggest home builder. “We aim to build homes where there is solvent demand and where people can afford to and want to buy.”...’. Story at Bloomberg.
‘Encouraged by the recent surge in foreign investment in real estate, Spain has relaxed norms for issuing residency permits to non-EU nationals. Now a foreigner investing more than €500,000 will automatically qualify for permanent residency. Moreover, residency permits will be granted not only to the investor, but also to his or her parents and children, adults as well as minors. Until now, only the spouse and minor children could qualify for residency permits...’. From Global Property Guide.
‘According to all recent statistics, the housing market in Spain is picking up pace, with the latest data on real estate transactions, released by the Ministry of Public Works, showing that the number of home sales increased by 4.4% during the first quarter of 2015, to reach a total of 85,133 transactions, which represents the highest number of transactions in a first quarter of a year since 2010. In the 12 months from April 2014 until March 2015, the number of home sales transactions formalised before a notary amounted to 369,238, and represents an increase of 12.8% compared to the preceding 12 months...’. From Kyero.
Coastal towns and resorts. Houses sold 2013 and 2014 both new and used, with other useful information on prices and local conditions, by town here.
‘Victims of planning irregularities and demolition orders seek amendments to the law’, says Spanish News Today here.
‘Another thirty homes have been demolished this morning without warning or previous notice. The sixty or so foreign residents concerned were not able to reach their dwellings scattered among the plastic farms of El Ejido, the large ‘plastic’ farming in Western Almería, but since they are merely agricultural workers from the Third World, we don't expect any scandal in the Media’. The Entertainer Online reports.
‘Is it legal to rent out your home for a few days to tourists? That’s the question posed by a recent article published by the Spanish daily El País, trying to make sense of the myriad regional laws that make such a mess of a common activity in Spain...’. Mark Stüklin’s Spanish Property Insight explains.
ABC has put together ‘the most popular beaches in Spain’. It seems that the order of popularity is (unsurprisingly perhaps) Costa del Sol, Costa Blanca, Costa Brava, Costa Dorada and then Costa de la Luz.
Spain’s position in the international ranking of worker relations has fallen due to the tightening of rules on protest, says El Diario here.
The new political map of Spain: capital cities, from the ABC. The three biggest cities – Madrid, Barcelona and Valencia, all with ‘indignados’ as mayors. Sans culottes almost...
Reuters introduces us to Manuela Carmena: ‘Spanish leftist mayor ends 24 years of PP rule in Madrid’. And here she is, walking (and taking the metro) to work. In the same vein, here’s the new mayor of Valencia,Joan Ribó, arriving at the Town Hall on his bicycle.
The first scandal of the new Carmena administration was quite silly – an obscure councillor called Guillermo Zapata, in charge of cultura (not an important department in the PP’s opinion), was found (after, one imagines, diligent searching) to have posted a comical, but racist twitter to his mates some four years ago. A huge hue and cry followed, lead by the Right Wing media, forcing him to apologise and resign from his still-untried post. Now, many observers are making fun of the Right, with comments along the lines of ‘In Spain, more councillors have quit for having accounts in Twitter than for having accounts in Switzerland’. Etc! Indeed, almost no other political news was discussed over the weekend!
Suasana Díaz took possession on Sunday of the Junta de Andalucía, with the support of Ciudadanos and IU. The other parties rather pettily stayed away from the occasion. Then, just one day later, one of the returning PSOE mayors from the province of Huelva – from Punta Umbría – was arrested for complicity in the ‘Operación Edu’ which is cutting swathes through the PSOE ranks. Ciudadanos’ price to support Susana Díaz was to root out corruption. How will this all play out?
The new President for the Balearic Islands is the socialist Francina Armengol. More here.
In Valencia, the long-term mayor Rita Barberá (PP) quit her post a few hours before the distasteful formality of being obliged to hand over control to the new mayor Joan Ribó (Compromis). Story here.
Along with many other towns across Spain, AlmeríaCity was to have a new mayor. This would be a PSOE chap called Juan Carlos Pérez Navas, who would take power with the support of both Ciudadanos and Izquierda Unida. But then, word came from Head Office in Barcelona and the Ciudadanos councillor in Almería was told at the final hour to cool his jets. Luis Rogelio Rodríguez-Comendador (PP) was returned as mayor in a minority government afer all. Video of unfortunate Ciudadanos councillor taking his oath. The party’s single councillor has also gone with the next door resort of Roquetas’ Gabriel Amat (PP) while, down the road in Cuevas, the once-again single Ciudadanos councillor went with Antonio Fernández (PSOE), taking that town away from long-time mayor and senior provincial figure Jesús Caicedo (PP). Ciudadanos, a kind of 'conservative-lite', has become a king-maker across Spain, supporting sometimes the Left (Susana Díaz President of Andalucía) and sometimes the Right (Cristina Cifuentes, President of the Region of Madrid). Not, perhaps, what its supporters always wanted? In all and without any room for doubt, the oleaginous Ciudadanos will do badly in the national elections later this year.
There are a number of stories about the smaller Town Halls, as can only be expected. One comes from Cervera (Lerida), where the PP unexpectedly lost the support of an Independent after midnight talks on the night before ‘the taking of possession’. Thus, the outgoing mayor was surprised around about 2.00am by members of the PSOE (having a celebratory drink in the bar next door) as he was leaving the ayuntamiento with the treasurer and a number of plastic bags full, apparently, of ‘private material’. The Guardia Civil are now leafing through the documents... In Albox (Almería), the entire PSOE resigned from the Party after their candidate was ejected from the Party by Central office following a sentence against him for failing to provide documentation to the opposition PP. Thus, in the Saturday ceremony, the new mayor and his crew were all presented as being in the unaligned ‘Grupo Mixto’. The opposition parties in Albox are understandably indignant. In Alhaurín (Málaga), meanwhile, there’s a Belgian mayor (which makes a nice change).
Compromís per Crevillent are asking for the mayor of that Alicante town, Cesar Augusto Asencio (PP), to resign, following on from a recently surfaced article written by that worthy in 1979 denying the Holocaust. Well, it worked in Madrid...
An expected Government reshuffle by Mariano Rajoy, following the disastrous results of last month’s elections, is leaving many politicians and editors as nervous wrecks. The most likely ministers to ‘fall’ or to be moved somewhere safe are probably Education Minister José Ignacio Wert and Hacienda Minister Cristobal Montoro... the man to watch is Health Minister Alfonso Alonso.
Pedro Sánchez has been confirmed by the PSOE as Party Secretary for the General Elections. Story here.
‘The President of the PP in Madrid, Esperanza Aguirre, announced Tuesday that she will ask the national leadership of the party for the convocation of an extraordinary congress of the PP in Madrid after the electoral defeat of the 24M, adding that she would not present a candidature for re-election. El Huff Post has the story.
‘Unió to leave Catalan government over independence plan. Partner party in premier Artur Mas’s CiU nationalist bloc turns down his ultimatum’. Headline in El País in English here.
More scandal in Valencia – El País in English title: ‘Valencia’s IVAM museum overpaid for artworks by as much as 1,500%’.
‘...In a worst case Brexit scenario, British residents in Spain would have to leave the country and re-apply for citizenship from the Spanish Embassy in the UK, a Spanish immigration lawyer has told The Local...’. More here.
Foreign Asset Declaration Model 720:
A retired gentleman from Granada had worked offshore for some years and saved €340,000 in USB in Switzerland. According to his lawyer, he had not known about the overseas asset declaration process (Modelo 720), and voluntarily made his first declaration a year late. As a result he has been fined a total of €439,267. – 150% because it was a “very serious infringement”. It has been estimated that around 30,000 people have undeclared assets. The case has been appealed to Brussels. Found at El Pais. (Story submitted by a Reader). El Confidencial Digital in a report from April this year says that Hacienda is investigating some 175,000 ‘Spaniards’ regarding their foreign assets. Contributors may nevertheless make a complementary declaration in the expectation of a smaller fine, says the same source here. Several different initiatives are now in Brussels challenging this remarkable and evidently unfair situation (note from last week’s BoT: 32 of the 35 companies which make up the IBEX-35 at the Stock Exchange operate branches based in fiscal paradises. Nueva Tribuna is suitably indignant here).
‘Spain’s King Felipe VI has issued a decree stripping his sister Princess Cristina of her title as Duchess of Palma, the palace announced, as the royal sibling faces tax evasion charges in a scandal that has embarrassed the monarchy...’. From The Guardian.
‘The Spanish government expects up to 200,000 Sephardic Jews to apply for citizenship, following a repatriation bill passed last week, according to a Jewish community leader who works with the government and is tasked with helping approve applications. The bill entitles descendants of Jews who were forced to leave centuries ago to apply for citizenship. The ruling goes into effect October 1 and lasts three years...’. From Newsweek. The same law ignores both the Saharans (Spaniards until only 40 years ago) and the Moriscos, expelled in 1609, says El Diario here.
You can get up to two years prison for owning a tortoise, according to the Voz de Almería. Whether this draconian plan will save the species is another matter...
Traffic police in Salamanca fined a man eighty euros for biting his nails whilst driving.
Following on from last week’s BoT about energy... ‘To protect entrenched oligopolies, Spain’s government makes it almost impossible for small businesses and households to generate their own solar power. If there’s one thing we should have learnt from this extended period of post-crisis drudgery, it is that there is no limit to how far our elected governments will go to protect the interests and privileges of oligarchs and oligopolies. In Spain, the government will even steal the sun’s rays to protect the country’s energy plutocracy. Now the Spanish government is planning to tax homes that produce their own energy through solar power and store some of it using batteries...’. From Wolf Street.
Recommended by a Reader: ‘Electricity for homes and small businesses will be charged by the hour from July 1, meaning peak and off-peak rates will apply to everyone and not just those who have applied for the so-called ‘white tariff’ where costs differ throughout the day and night. All premises which have a digital, remotely-managed meter will automatically be switched to the hourly charge system, and the cost of each day’s consumption will appear online from 20.15hrs for customers to check. Where a digital meter has not yet been fitted, the electricity board, Iberdrola, has until October 1 to do so’. For full story see ThinkSpain.
Currently, sixty per cent of evictions in Madrid were originally publicly owned homes and afterwards sold by the MadridTown Hall to vulture funds, says El País in English here.
Spain has an interesting electric car going into production soon: ‘...There will soon be an e-car, 100% designed and produced in Spain, for the Spanish drivers interested in this kind of vehicles. The vehicle in question is known as Velántur Car, a model currently in testing and development, which will be marketed early in 2016 if all goes well. This new vehicle is the result of the joint venture of the companies Jofemar and Retrofactory, and the car is being produced in the town of Linares (Jaén, Spain)...’. The story is at Smart Talk.
The Isla de los Faisanes is Spanish for half the year, and French for the other half. Huh?
An Anonymous Andalusian Cookbook of the 13th Century. Why not try? Here.
‘...Ornithologists seeking a bird-watching holiday should look no further than Cullera on the Valencia province coast in eastern Spain, say UK travel agents who have just come back from a fact-finding mission in the town. According to tour operators including Gourmet Birds, Naturetrek and Wildlife Worldwide, the mountain above Cullera which houses its iconic lighthouse is one of the best places in Spain for checking out feathered wildlife...’. Story at Eye on Spain here.
Spain has many wonderful and well-known destinations, ‘...but away from the costas and its more famous cities, Spain is home to dozens of beautiful towns and villages, steeped in history, yet undiscovered by the majority of tourists. From medieval walled villages to beautiful whitewashed ports, The Local explores some of the most charming towns in Spain you've (probably) never heard of...’. Here.
The Greek Deadline
by Andrew Brociner
The meeting between Greece and its European partners is taking place today and there’s just a short time before the end of June deadline to make a deal. It can go both ways, but it is looking increasingly difficult for Greece to reach an agreement.
It had looked until now that Greece was keeping up its hand, not willing to bargain on certain issues like further spending-cuts, for instance on pensions – which are already very low – as it wants to stick to its anti-austerity programme on which it was voted in. It is also counting on its creditors backing down to avoid losing their loans. But it has gone as far as it can with this bargaining strategy and if something does not give by the end of June, Greece could effectively default on its loans.
If this happens, Greece could leave the euro area and the EU, something neither they nor their European partners really want. Greece understandably receives economic benefits from remaining within the euro area and Greece's creditors do not want to write off that much debt. If Greece did leave the euro and go back to the drachma, it would face depreciation of its currency with its inflationary consequences. There would be a run on the banks which would add to the €30 billion, which according to the Bank of Greece, has been withdrawn from Greek banks between October 2014 and April 2015, in anticipation of such an event. Greek banks could not sustain such withdrawals and capital controls would have to be imposed.
With this precedent set, other countries in line could follow suit. Greece may not be the most significant country economically in the EU, but should other countries, such as Portugal, Spain and Italy come next, the system would obviously collapse. There is also something historically symbolic about Greece being part of the EU, which may not have much to do with its current economic situation, but without which it is difficult to imagine the meaning of an integrated Europe, not only due to its rich history and culture – which gave much to European culture – but also as one of the first countries to join in 1981, shortly after the establishment of the EEC, and before Spain and Portugal, which joined only in 1986.
Greek's economic situation is not looking favourable at the moment, with a decline in GDP of 25% since 2010, an unemployment rate of 26% and a government debt which is 177% of GDP and rising. The economic conditions sought by the IMF to guarantee further lending have not been satisfied and Greece is running out of funds. The next weeks will tell who will be more flexible: Greece – in which case it will get more funding, but go against its principles and its electorate; its creditors – which would then have to accept some write-offs on their loans; or neither – in which case Greece would default and likely have to exit from the eurozone.
A disturbing video called ‘Adiós Botella, Bye-bye PP’ celebrates the passing of Madrid’s conservative mayor (best remembered for her ‘relaxing cup of coffee’). On YouTube here.
Business Over Tapas
A digest of this week's Spanish financial, political and social news aimed primarily at Foreign Property Owners:
with Lenox Napier and Andrew Brociner
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