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Editorial:

At the last minute, Catalonia got its Government. Not presided as expected by Artur Mas, but rather by one of his disciples, the Mayor of Gerona Carles Puigdemont. The deal was sweet – the other independence group, the ‘anti-capitalist’ CUP, which theoretically made up a majority, didn’t like Artur Mas as the candidate and had dug in their heels. Now, with Puigdemont, they were prepared to sign a pax with the JxSí Party and, furthermore, to cede some deputies to that party as a dealmaker. Independence moved a little closer. In Madrid, relying heavily on the word democracy, Acting President Mariano Rajoy went on the television to rattle his sabre, warning that any undemocratic and anti-constitutional step from the Catalan government or its minions would be fiercely met by Madrid. Rajoy is backed in this by Pedro Sánchez from the PSOE and Rivera from Ciudadados. Not, however, by Iglesias from Podemos, who says he believes in the democratic right to hold a consultation. In reality, the sedition from the north east provinces plays into Rajoy’s hands... in the event of a new election, Spaniards would say, ‘we need a strong leader’. Unfortunately, through poor politics, Madrid and Barcelona are now very far apart.

...

Housing:

‘Nationally residential property prices in Spain increased by 1% last year with the market having bottomed out and now on the way to recovery, new index figures suggest. The data from appraisal company Tinsa shows that the overall rise in prices was boosted by an increase of 2% in the regions of Catalonia, Madrid, and the Balearics. It is the first time since 2007 the Tinsa index has end the year higher than it started. The index, based on the firm’s own figures relating to new and resale properties, shows that prices rose the most in Catalonia with growth of 5.3%, followed by Madrid up 3.3% and the Balearic Islands up 2.7%...’. From a report at Property Wire.

From Typically Spanish: ‘The owners of the irregular properties in the Axarquía are to take their case to the United Nations. The general assembly of SOHA (Save our homes) will decide next week whether to send a consultation to the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. The owners of around 50,000 irregular countryside homes which have been calculated across Málaga province, of which half are in the Axarquía, continue to fight for the plain and legal recognition of their rights, and to halt the threat of demolition which many face...’.

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Tourism:

From Agent Travel, we read that foreign tourists spent 63,657 million euros last year through November, an average of 1.063€ per person. This is the official figure supplied by the INE, which never exaggerates, fudges or fiddles. Is this the total budget spent by a holidaymaker, or just the money spent by the tourist while actually in Spain? Then of course – who are we talking about? Cruise ships, transients, campers, business-people and long-term visitors. Anyhow, it’s all good.

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Finance:

Town Halls are raising less income from taxes following the new reductions in catastral values of many thousands of rustic farms. A new law says that certain farms (fincas) which had been included as ‘urban’ in a General Plan but had not been ‘improved’ would now be considered as ‘rustico’ until such time, if ever, that the land was urbanised. As Diario Sur reports, this can have a large impact on many towns and villages.

How do the banks here make so much money, yet don’t seem to make a cent? As Sabemos Digital points out, ‘Just in the first half of last year, Spanish banks made more than 11,000 million euros. .... So why do banks complain? Why do the regulators and analysts never lose an opportunity to worry that the sector's profitability is not enough?...’. The answer, apparently, is that the banks make 5% ‘return on equity’ or capital return – where a few years ago, before ‘la crisis’, they were taking 20%.

Deutsch Bank and Correos have fallen out. The Spanish Post Office, after seventeen years with Deutsch Bank, is breaking off the arrangement in March. They say they are seeking ‘a new banking partner’. Story at El País.

From something called Spanish Business Visas: ‘Good news for those who are in Spain and plan to stay. The gov't just came out with a change to the Entrepreneur Law procedure that allows entrepreneurs already in Spain to apply directly for a residency permit and get approved in about 4 weeks (no visa or separate submission of a business plan)...’. Here.

Along with other companies immersed in foreign adventures, the old guard at Spain’s Ibex 35 stock index – two mega-banks Banco Santander and BBVA, oil giant Repsol, telecommunications behemoth Telefonica, and utility Iberdrola, are in trouble. See why at Wolf Street.

Whoever wins, everyone loses... from Spanish Revolution: ‘The Spanish budget violates the rules. The European Commission was clear about this point. The new government must show more belt-tightening. "The head of the Eurogroup, the Dutch Social-democrat Jeroen Dijsselbloem, heads the hardliners in Europe: in favour of punishing Spain for weakness in its fiscal targets. "Spain has to make further reforms, but the real challenge of the next government is to resolve the deficit, "says Dijsselbloem.

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Politics:

Patxi López will become the Congressional Speaker in the Spanish Parliament. López, who is a well-respected PSOE politician, has the support of the PSOE, Ciudadanos and, perhaps a trifle unwillingly, the Partido Popular. El País in English notes that ‘...López, who was Basque premier between 2009 and 2012, had emerged as a potential consensus-building figure, who looked set to be able to bring together – if only momentarily – the parliamentary forces that emerged from the inconclusive general election on December 20...’.

In the opening of Parliament Wednesday with the swearing in of members, two deputies from Podemos were ‘thoroughly’ searched by the police. It’s just a precaution, said the Acting-minister for the Interior, Jorge Fernández Díaz airily... Story here.

Spanish voters living abroad had difficulties voting in the recent general elections. Indeed, only 4.7% of them managed to do so – despite their understandable hostility towards the state of the economy which obliged them to seek work elsewhere. A study here shows that their votes went principally to Podemos, and if these counted as a trend, they would have won 30 of Spain’s 52 provincial circumscriptions.

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Catalonia:

‘Over three months after the September 27 regional election, Catalonia finally has a new premier. After the victorious Junts pel Sí coalition of pro-independence forces and the anti-capitalist Candidatura d’Unitat Popular (CUP) reached an 11th-hour deal on Saturday, Carles Puigdemont was sworn in as leader in the Catalan parliament on Sunday night. He was elected with 62 votes from Junts pel Sí and eight from the CUP in an unusually brief session lasting under five hours so as to avoid going past the midnight deadline that would have required new regional elections to have been called...’. From El País in English. Just who is Carles Puigdemont, who ‘has been tasked with leading the north-eastern region to independence from Spain within 18 months?’ The Leader introduces us to the comparatively unknown politician here. *In a departure from Mariano Rajoy’s command of foreign languages, Puigdemont speaks Catalán, Spanish, English, French and Romanian. His wife edits the English-language newspaper Catalonia Today (here). Late news: Artur Mas has resigned his seat in the Catalonian Parliament.

Spain may invoke a constitutional provision to suspend the autonomous status of Catalonia if its government continues the push toward secession, the spokesman for acting Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy's Popular Party (PP) warned Monday. Article 155 of the Spanish constitution allows authorities to suspend rights of an autonomous community if it does not abide by the constitution or other laws...’. From Sputnik News.

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Corruption:

By Jingo, an improbable story in a book called ‘Bárcenas. La caja fuerte’ by the journalist Marisa Gallero and reported in El Mundo suggests that Luis Bárcenas recorded a bung made in 2010 to his chief Mariano Rajoy. Nevertheless, no copy of this recording has as yet found its way into Media hands...

Always nice to have a little inside knowledge... From El Diario: ‘Forty directors from eleven companies of the Ibex 35 (Ferrovial, DIA, Iberdrola, Santander, IAG, BBVA, Abertis, Acciona, Bankinter, CaixaBank and AENA) earned last year 13.44 million euros through the sale of shares of the companies they manage...’.

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Courts

‘Tens of thousands protested in Bilbao, northern Spain calling for the return of more than 400 prisoners linked to the Basque separatist group Eta who are being held outside the region. Families of the convicts, who are dispersed across 73 prisons in France and Spain, led the march in the Basque region's most populous city. A banner called for "Basque prisoners in the Basque country" while the crowd chanted for those being held to be brought home...’. From The Local

‘Spain’s Princess Cristina spent 12 hours in court Monday at the start of her landmark criminal case, confronting accusations of bankrolling a lavish lifestyle with funds her husband received from an alleged scheme to embezzle millions from public contracts for conferences and sporting events. Cristina and her husband, Iñaki Urdangarin, said nothing during the opening of their trial as their lawyers and attorneys for 16 additional defendants argued why their clients should have the charges dropped and made requests about evidence and witnesses for a trial expected to last six months...’. From The Washington Post.

‘...That the Infanta Cristina has sat in the dock is a national miracle. It is not proof that "the system works" as many claim, rather, it is the consequence of heroism and persistence by a courageous judge, Judge Jose Castro, who has achieved much, despite all the pressures and sticks in the wheels. Some of these impediments worked: Francisco Camps and Rita Barbera are not on trial and, even though the Nóos scam brought more millions to Valencia that to Baleares. Both politicians have been saved because they have political immunity: a decision on whether to go to trial was taken by the Valencian High Court of Justice, which consists of judges who were appointed by the PP...’. El Ventano explains...

Typically Spanish describes the opening of the trial as the State anti-corruption prosecutor attempts to argue for the removal of the Princess from the trial (!). The trial now resumes (either with or without the Princess) on February 9th. Following the gruelling day in court, the Princess and her husband Iñaki Urdangarin left for Zurich on Tuesday...

That well-worn phrase ‘Hacienda somos todos’ which is used to remind us to pay our taxes is, in the words of the Lawyer for the State, evidently hoping for charges against the Princess to be dropped, just an advertising catchphrase not to be taken seriously.

Not that anybody comes away totally clean, as David Jackson explains...

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Brexit:

‘Cameron could extend tax credits ban to British expats to reach EU deal. Prime minister is looking at whether ban on in-work benefits could also apply to Britons living abroad for four years or more’. The Guardian reports: ‘British expatriates could be banned from claiming tax credits for up to four years as part of a compromise deal David Cameron is negotiating with fellow EU leaders, the Guardian understands. In an attempt to win support for his proposal to ban EU migrants from claiming in-work benefits for four years, the prime minister is looking at whether the ban could apply to Britons who live abroad for four years or more. The plan could prove controversial among British workers who take advantage of EU free movement rules to relocate to countries such as Spain, and who would expect to be able to top up low wages through tax credits on their return to Britain...’.

‘The UK Government will have to make EU exit work if public vote for it’. Headline at Spanish News Today.

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Various:

The television is basura, says an opinion piece in Cuartopoder. Not just because it is wall-to-wall tripe, but because ‘...TV in Spain is rubbish because politicians and their advisers have designed a system that leaves private broadcasters in the hands of two large companies: Atresmedia (Antena 3, La Sexta, Neox, Nova and Mega) and Mediaset (Telecinco, Cuatro, FDF, Divinity, Energy and Boing). This duopoly in 2015 had 58% of the audience and 86% of the advertising investment. It’s a cartel that monopolizes the power of the television; which handles the market at will; which despises competition; which mocks the laws for the protection of viewers; ignores the regulation on advertising time limits; which makes a mockery, in short, of the Private Television Act which regulates the indirect management of essential public television service, which belongs to the Spanish State...’.

‘A full hour and no shouting: that’s how they do interviews in Spain’, Peter Preston writes an interesting column in The Guardian about television interviews...

‘The Islamic Commission of Spain (CIE) is considering asking the educational authorities to adapt its calendar of examinations to avoid Ramadan, as this begins on June 6 and ends on July 6, coinciding with the end of courses in all stages of education, university and non-university, and even with university entrance examinations...’. From Europa Press.

Several deadly diseases that could arrive in Spain following Climate Change. The article in El Diario discusses the possible arrival of Malaria, the Zika virus, Chikungunya, Dengue Fever, O'nyong-nyong Fever and Yellow Fever – all from tropical mosquitoes, and finally, the South American Chagas Disease.

Poisonous new radar traps in Spain will not only be able to calculate your overall speed, but will also detect if you have your seat-belt fastened or if you happen to be talking on your mobile phone. Autofácil explains.

Road-trains are now legal in Spain. These giant lorries, which can weigh as much as a Boeing 737 and be up to 25 metres in length, will begin to appear on our roads in the months to come. The justification – to lower transport costs... The story is at Ideal.

A Guardia Civil captain, who tweeted that the solution to this country’s problems would be to recreate the times of Franco, Mola and Yagüe (in other words, an armed revolution), has been released from duty for three months on full pay. Story here.

Greenpeace has found that Spanish apples can be covered with the highest amount of pesticide of any apples in the EU. Story here.

According to El Ventano, the Government has obliged the desalination plants in the Canaries to use oil rather than wind-based energy.

‘As far as Social Security is concerned, any writer over 65, who has a pension and receives income off their copyrighted material, is a scammer. At retirement, one has to take one of two paths: the pension or rights acquired throughout one’s career. Otherwise they are obliged to stop writing or creating and to stop sharing their experience with the rest of society...’. El Español says that a Premio Cervantes winner has just been fined.

Sur in English reporting from the Axarquía: ‘Periana's new foreigners' office is already helping international residents to integrate. When a new mayor took office last year, he made it his priority to facilitate the sharing of cultures and ideas in the village...’ it continues, ‘Angela and Chloe (who between them run the foreigners office), both of whom are English, say that although Periana is a small place, you could sense that the two groups, locals and foreigners, led separate lives and didn’t mix with each other...’.

In Almería, the Provincial Delegate for the Environment says he can’t understand why there is such a lively reaction to the Junta’s plans to build a jolly coffee-shop and souvenir centre on Mónsul beach in the Cabo de Gata. It’d be lovely, you’ll see... Story at Ideal.

An article in The Olive Press says that many foreigners are no longer interested in being registered on the padrón. ‘ Axarquía towns fear they may lose 5,000 foreign residents from their books this year, with disastrous consequences to council resources...’.

(Opinion from the AUN): Why is this happening? How much may have to do with the wish to avoid being considered fiscal residents? That relates not just to taxes on worldwide income, but no doubt for many the more frightening, and highly punitive implications of Spain’s foreign held assets declaration (aka Model 720) process, and its potential penalties. The stories are rife that many expats are not just trying to stay “below the radar” of the tax authorities however they can, but deliberately restricting their stays in Spain to below 183 days and refusing to renew their registration on the local population registry.

So, quite apart from the costs in lost payments from public funds commerce, based on the custom of expats, will suffer greatly. Ditto will the prospects of sales to potential property buyers, Brits and other Europeans in the main, who might wish to take up residence in Spain and who become aware of the inherent tax traps. Since the current government in Madrid , albeit now “en funciones”, and maybe in its death throes, hasn’t paid attention to this economic aspect of the 2012 asset declaration diktat, perhaps the next administration of whatever stripe or composition could be persuaded, in the interests of the Spanish economy, to review this issue as a matter of urgency. Affected town halls, the real estate industry and in many areas commercial enterprises who rely on the expat for their livelihood, should all collaborate in encouraging this.

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See Spain

 

Ten towns where the tapas are free. From El País.

Business over Tapas on Facebook here.

The Almería baths, from Spanish Shilling: ‘The hammam, the Arab bath-house, is the perfect place to take your weary body - and there are a couple of them in the city of Almería. The best one is under a small hotel in the town hall square. It's called ‘Aire de Almería’...’.

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Letters

(The Modelo 720). Hi Lenox, I have not read anywhere anything which has convinced me that it is such a bad thing, apart from the fact that it appears the Government has not taken prompt action to penalise most of those who have failed to comply. That is those, many of whom probably cannot defend where that asset came from. Bribes, back-handers and failure to declare income over maybe many years, etc. springs to mind.

The argument that it is anti-foreigner because it applies only to asset outside Spain:   Well of course all assets held in Spain can be examined by AEAT through the NIE, NIF etc.

That one declares the asset in itself does not mean any increased tax burden as that income probably should have been declared when acquired, and any income from it should all along have been declared in Spain anyway.

The only thing I see as a potential problem is that upon death it may be a lot harder to conceal the wealth liable to inheritance taxes.

Having nothing to hide, I have made the declarations as required.

If I have missed something, I should be grateful if you would point me to information which will put me straight.

Many thanks, John

PS. I was talking to David Searle, of ‘You & the Law in Spain’. He said he understood the 720 was brought in as a tool to use when the Government could not get prosecutions for dishonesty, tax evasion etc.

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Finally:

Julio Iglesias and Charles Aznavour – ‘Que C'est Triste’ on Youtube, here.

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