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Editorial:

According to the latest figures from our friends the bean-counters over at the INE, there are now just 236,669 Britons on the 'padrón' here in Spain. That's a 10% drop from this time last year. Are we dying... leaving... perhaps getting Spanish nationality? Were we ever registered in the first place? Do the British consul, embassy and media know? How accurate are these figures (with the crafty ones careful to not contribute to this fine country in any way and certainly to not even register their presence here)? With such a low number of Brits apparently here, the Spanish government is not going to be too worried about us post-Brexit, now are they!

 

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Housing:

From Mark Stücklin’s Spanish Property Insight: ‘...foreign demand now accounts for a record 13.25% of the Spanish housing market, significantly higher than the 8.97% clocked up in the boom year of 2006. The other big story in the registrars’ figures was the retrenchment in British demand, which fell from 21% of foreign demand in 2015, to 19% in 2016, something the registrars attributed, quite rightly, to Brexit. This shows a “declining trend in relative importance [of British demand] since Brexit,” say the registrars, “in contrast to what happened before, when quarter after quarter its relative importance increased, taking advantage of the strong Pound.” The registrars lament the “reduction in demand from our biggest market.”...’.

From The Guardian: ‘Brits abroad? Not so many, it seems. Uncertainty about the future of Britain in Europe and the fall in the value of the pound are taking their toll on the number of UK buyers investing in a little place in the Mediterranean sun. A report by Spain’s Association of Land and Commercial Registrars last week revealed British demand for second homes in Spain was down nearly 30% on last year’s pre-referendum levels...’. (Thanks Heidemarie).

From The Express comes a harsher version of the above. The first paragraph pretty much sums up the Express view ‘Aena, a state-run Spanish airport operator, revealed that despite a rise in passengers from Britain during the first quarter of 2017 compared to last year, travellers are spending less since voting to leave the crumbling super-state...’. To see what the ‘comments’ from Express readers at the bottom of the article, it’s best to put on a tin hat first...

The situation is also examined by The Olive Press here: ‘...the new report shows sales to UK buyers were down for the first quarter of 2017, from 2,800 to 2,000. The pound is down 10% compared to pre-referendum levels, meaning a €300,000 villa, which would have cost a UK buyer £229,000, will now cost them £254,000, a £25,000 increase...’. They note that ‘From 2012, British property purchases were increasing in Spain by an average of 20% each year’.

Spain’s largest construction companies are beginning to see profits reminiscent of 2007, says El Mundo here, including seeing triple the benefits of just a year ago. The graph shows the evolution of house prices in Spain since 2007.

From Sin Dinero comes some interesting news: ‘We have learned that in Galicia it is quite feasible to be given a free farm or one for a ridiculous rent. The reason is that the owners are older people who can no longer work them and they want the land to continue under cultivation. The problem is that tenants are not easily found to take over the land (they are located in rural areas away from the most important urban centres), so many have opted to offer them for ridiculous amounts (20 euros a year, for example) and in some cases without asking for even a euro in return...’. The Xunta de Galicia even provides information on where to find these farms here.

Not all notaries are above suspicion in land deals, apparently. Treasury technicians and notaries are among those who have been detained in the Canary Islands, Baleares and Avila for usurping properties. Canarias Ahora reports that ‘The Guardia Civil has dismantled a plot that usurped real estate for sale, after arresting 17 people, the majority in the province of Las Palmas, including two notaries, as well as lawyers, real estate managers and Catastro officials...’. (Thanks Steve)

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Tourism:

Spain’s tourist industry is on an upward trajectory and brimming with optimism. So far, the figures for 2017 show a hike in numbers on 2016, which was already a record-breaking year. According to data gathered by the Deloitte consultancy firm, 67% of company directors within the sector believe 2017 will bring more tourists, higher hotel prices and improved services...’. Report from El País in English here. International tourism up 9.3% in first three months to almost 13 million visitors, says AgentTravel here. The British numbers rose by 11%, says the official ‘Encuesta de Movimientos Turísticos en Frontera’.

El Confidencial examines the profits available to holiday booking companies. The report says that the eponymous Booking.Com takes 30% in commission and is based, for tax purposes, in Holland.

Spanish hoteliers have called for Brits to be banned from all inclusive holidays after food poisoning claims rocketed by 700% in one year. Hotel owners in Spain have had to fork out a staggering €4.9 million in compensation for Brits blaming the food for their fake illness...’. Story at The Olive Press here.

The US State Department has issued a travel alert for its citizens going to Europe, citing the continued threat of terror attacks. "While local governments continue counterterrorism operations, the Department nevertheless remains concerned about the potential for future terrorist attacks," the alert said. "U.S. citizens should always be alert to the possibility that terrorist sympathizers or self-radicalized extremists may conduct attacks with little or no warning."...’. From CNN (article plus video).

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Seniors:

Spain is aging rapidly as it loses two million young people (between 15 and 29) within a decade. Together with Italy, Spain has only 15.1% of its population within these ages. The UK, as an example, has 19%. As Spain gets older, the provision of pensions becomes more complicated, says Bez here. Spain’s average age is currently 42.9. Almería has the youngest population in Andalucía at 39.6 years of age (La Opinión de Almería here). On the other side, El Confidencial reports that: ‘The data is spectacular and highlights the phenomenon of longevity. In 1998, only 3,474 Spaniards had crossed the border of 100 years of age; nearly two decades later, the figure has soared by almost five times. As of January 1 of this year, 15,413 Spaniards have made it to a hundred years old. What is even more significant, the phenomenon has only just begun. By the end of the next decade, more than 100,000 Spaniards, according to some projections of population, will be able to celebrate the 100 years of life...’. The article notes that there are 8,460,000 Spaniards over the age of 65 – that’s 23% of the population.

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Finance:

From El País in English: ‘Winter has once again proved to be the harshest time for Spanish unemployment, which rose by 17,200 people in the first quarter of 2017. Jobs have been lost, and Spain’s active population has fallen by 69,800. The unemployment rate is now 18.75%, according to the latest figures from the National Statistics Institute (INE). This is very slightly above the 18.6% registered in January – a figure which was the lowest in seven years...’.

Público expands on the theme of unemployment, saying that households with all the family without work has risen by 6,900 in the past year to 1,394,700.

The Government forecasts that unemployment will fall to around 11.2% by the end of 2020, says El País here.

From InfoLibre comes the news that Spain occupies five of the EU ten highest regional unemployment figures. Of these, Melilla has the second highest unemployment in Europe, at 30.8%. Andalucía is fourth at 28.9%, Extremadura fifth with 27.5%. The Canaries are seventh (26.1%) and Ceuta tenth (24.9%). The other five regions include four in Greece (including the highest, Dytiki Makedonia, at 31.3%) and one in overseas French territories (Mayotte). A pdf has the full story at Eurostat.

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Politics:

From Business over Tapas editorial 206: ‘...The majority opposition parties could (and should) call for a motion of censure and topple the government. But there’s a problem – with the socialist supporters watching anxiously over their party’s implosion, there’s no PSOE leader around...’. From news sources just two hours later came: ‘Podemos promotes a motion of censure against Rajoy. The PSOE, which is not in a position to present an alternative candidate, announces that it will reject the initiative of Pablo Iglesias’ El País reported on Thursday. Regarding the PSOE - it looks like Pedro Sánchez was right!

Later, the caretaker PSOE says they will vote against the motion here. The Guardian explains the larger situation here. They quote a political expert: ‘...“For a long time now, Rajoy has been touched and wounded by a lot of corruption allegations but he’s immensely lucky because the Socialist party is in the state it’s in and … Podemos could be seen as a party that’s too radical to form a government in Spain,” he said. “That’s why he’s still alive. Any other advanced democracy wouldn’t be able to carry on like this. Thanks to these games and the state of the other parties, he’s still alive.”’. Podemos has called for a public demonstration in Madrid in favour of the motion of censure for May 20th. A video of Pedro Sánchez has him saying: ‘Unbelievable. The PSOE won’t join in. It’s a f**king shame’.

What has the Motion of Censure (vote of no-confidence) of Podemos got to frighten all the other parties and especially the PSOE? The criticism provided so far give no clue. They accuse Podemos of frivolity, of breaking the rules of the game, or that the motion will strengthen Rajoy’s hold. But that is more or less what they say every single time the party led by Pablo Iglesias makes the slightest movement. Nor is it surprising, really. Because Podemos plays in another field. That is its main point: its very reason to exist. And the other parties don’t like that, it bothers them a lot. Hence the animosity. The same as always. But this time the issue in question is critical, since it could be the beginning of a new phase in Spanish politics. Although it could of course also end in mere anecdote...’. from an editorial at El Diario.

The PSOE and Ciudadanos jointly voted last Thursday against Mariano Rajoy explaining the details of the Operación Lezo in the Cortes – the latest in the long line of PP corruption.

The Partido Popular is losing support in the Madrid Region (not surprising). A poll gives them 25.7% (against 33.1% in the last regional elections of 2015), Podemos now in second place with 24.9% (18.6%), Ciudadanos 22.6% (12.1%) and the PSOE now in fourth place 19.7% (25.4%). The Metroscopia poll comes from El País here.

There is more from Público on the right-wing’s remarkable support for Susana Díaz as the best alternative for the PSOE. Hmmn. As Jordi Évole says ‘Susana Díaz governs in Andalucía thanks to Ciudadanos, she abstains so Rajoy can govern in Madrid and even Esperanza Aguirre speaks well of her. What a remarkable curriculum vitae to lead the Spanish Left!’ another useful quote: ‘When the bourgeoisie speak well of us, it is because we are doing something wrong’, said the founder of the PSOE Pablo Iglesias Posse (Wikiquote). Probably the idea behind this is to return to the corrupt politics of y tú más’.

From El Mundo comes this: ‘Susana Díaz reckons she has by now won the primaries this morning on National Radio and has already advanced to the next step: to be the candidate of her party to the Presidency of the Government. In fact, the President of the Junta de Andalucía has asserted on the public radio interview that "we are going to have a candidate in a matter of days." Afterwards, "I will fight for the Presidency of the Government"...’.

The internal election for the party secretary for the PSOE will be held on May 21st.

The mayoress of Madrid, Manuela Carmena (Ahora Madrid), says she will not be a candidate in the municipal elections of 2019. More here.

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Corruption:

With the various recourses exhausted, the Seville Audience will soon judge the case of the ERE fraud against 22 defenders, including ex-presidents Manuel Chaves and José Antonio Griñán, six ex-counsellors (regional ministers) and others. This fraud, valued at least at 1,200 million euros, is the Achilles heel of the PSOE. The ABC reports on the case here.

Spiriman’, the alias of Granada doctor Jesús Candel, is sending shivers down the Junta de Andalucía’s spine. Spiriman began with a popular campaign against the reduction of hospital services in Granada and is now producing a series of videos against the savage corruption hidden behind the Junta, as he sees it. The two videos (so far) are called ‘El Cortijo’... The second one, here, is called ‘Susana, where the f**k is the money?’

Seven senior bankers from the Santander and three more from BNP are under investigation for money-laundering some 74 million euros between 2005 and 2008. The bankers appear on the famous ‘Falciani List’. El País has more.

El Confidencial reports on the wind energy turbine scam in Castilla y Leon, where 80 million euros are said to have been paid in improper commissions.

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Catalonia:

Nicolás Maduro (the moustachioed leader of Venezuela) has become the first foreign president to be photographed holding the Catalonian flag, the Estelada. They are having trouble finding other international leaders to support their independence movement.

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Gibraltar:

From El País: ‘The decision of the European Council of 29 October, which approved the guidelines for the negotiation of Brexit, to condition any future relationship between Gibraltar and the EU to a previous agreement between the United Kingdom and Spain, has given the latter an unprecedented veto power over the colony. Spain has now drawn its red lines. Among them, it will not admit an agreement that allows Gibraltar to maintain unfair competition with its Spanish neighbouring towns or region. This is ensured by the report on the departure of the UK from the EU that the Foreign Ministry has now sent to Congress...’.

From Bolsamanía: ‘Gibraltar to leave EU together with the United Kingdom. Fabian Picardo, the Prime Minister of Gibraltar, has said that the proposed treatment of the Rock is "discriminatory and unfair"’.

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Courts:

Spain’s ‘greatest usurer’ Antonio Arroyo has been let off of a fraud case against him, because the case was one day over the legal limit, says Cinco Días here.

The judge Mercedes Alaya (remembered for her part in the ERE case in Seville) told a conference in Valencia that ‘Prosecutors here won’t move a finger without instruction from Madrid’. Politics controls the justice system, she said and asked about ‘...the recordings between the former president of Madrid Ignacio González and his Valencian counterpart Eduardo Zaplana in which they talk about placing and removing judges, the magistrate said: "Of course they move the judges around as they like...”’. Story at Valencia Plaza.

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Brexit:

Two British expatriates living in Spain ask Nick Clegg what’s going to happen next. The video from Antena 3 is all in castellano (found on Facebook here).

"We need real guarantees for our people to live, work and study in the UK and the same thing for Britons who are living in Europe," says the President of the European Council, whose proposals revolved around access to "permanent residence" after "five years of uninterrupted legal residence". The European Union agreed today on its priorities for negotiating the exit of the United Kingdom, the so-called "Brexit", to firstly ensure the rights of the nearly 4.5 million expatriates who will be affected by the changes...’. An item at Cinequo here.

Europe should create a new class of supranational MEPs after Brexit in order to demonstrate that the European project is “alive and kicking”, a high-level EU ministers meeting was told last Thursday. Under the new plan, the 73 British seats in the European Parliament that will fall vacant after Brexit will be transformed into new seats representing a “a single European constituency”, according to a document submitted to EU’s General Affairs Council in Strasbourg...’. Story at The Telegraph here.

A reader sends us this from The New York Times: ‘To Understand Brexit, Look to Britain’s Tabloids. Despite their falling circulations and tarnished reputations, tabloids maintain a striking grip on power as Britain prepares to cut ties with the European Union’.

To make matters ‘worse’... The Irish Times reports that ‘EU leaders prepare declaration on potential Irish unity. Member states may be asked to endorse idea of backing united Ireland after Brexit.’

For readers who can’t get enough ‘Brexit news’, here’s the page for you.

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Media:

The Olive Press has launched a new edition, this time for Mallorca. Here’s the publication.

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The French Elections: more on the Second Round

by Andrew Brociner

France, like other countries, has shunned the political establishment and voted away from the mainstream. A young, unelected candidate and a far-right contender are in the second round, and a far-left candidate, Mélenchon, almost came third. This situation is similar to other elections in which populist parties are dividing opinion and people are polarised.

Ironically, however, most of the traditional parties will back the centrist, Macron, in the second round, in a bid to prevent the far right from taking power. The Socialists had already given their backing before all the results were in. Fillon too, even though he is Republican, gave his support, as did other Republicans. In that case, together with the lack of bold new policies presented by Macron, the result for France will not be very different from today.

Le Pen too has taken a mainstream Republican on board, Nicolas Dupont-Aignan, who is also anti-EU and against the euro, in an attempt to garner more votes, although he scored only 4,7% in the first round. Though it is doubtful it will make much difference, she is clearly trying to do all she can to close the gap on her rival. Indeed, opinion polls show this gap has narrowed since the first round.

Only Mélenchon refuses to back either candidate, as their policies are too different from his. He is anti-capitalist, anti-austerity and euro-sceptic, whereas Macron believes in free markets, is pro Europe and wants to reduce the budget deficit. That such different views can be offered, from Mélenchon's far-left anti-capitalism to Le Pen's far-right protectionism, and to Macron's centrist liberalism, for which these candidates represent three of the four parties with the most votes, in addition to being outside the mainstream, is a reflection of the need for change and disgruntlement with the establishment in France, as in other countries. With the backing of the other parties, it is very likely that Macron will win. But Le Pen started campaigning vigorously as soon as the election results were in, upstaging Macron on different occasions, trying to gain more ground during the run up. Also, another factor which could play a role is voter abstention. If a sufficiently large number of people who say they will vote for Macron abstain from voting, and most of the people who say they will vote for Le Pen do so, then in theory, she could just get by. She certainly has her work cut out for her, but anything is possible.

The mood created by not having enough change is demonstrated by street protests. There were riots in Paris following the elections, both anti-fascist and anti-capitalist. In this sense, they were against both candidates who advanced to the second round. This message is significant, since if it were only against Le Pen, it would be one thing, but as it also against Macron, it is a protest against the way things will be, one way or another, with either as Head of State. The only candidate it did not seem to be against is Mélenchon, the radical left candidate. Just to add to the mood, when Macron visited a factory with workers on strike in his home town, he was heckled, whereas Le Pen, who also visited, was well received. It is more evidence that he is not identified with the working classes. Moreover, now that the traditional parties will be backing Macron, the perception is that they will not be getting someone who represents something very different from the mainstream. Also, his policies, being pro-Europe and for a reduction in the budget, which implies pro-austerity, does not present anything very much different either. This election shows very much that people want someone outside the traditional two-party system, someone anti-establishment and someone who will bring significant change to the country. The people on the street think that with Macron as the likely winner, they will get none of that.

The final round of the French General Election will be held this Sunday May 7th.

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Various:

Bullfighting is increasingly popular in a few provinces in the south of France, says El País in a feature. Meanwhile, an antitaurino demonstration organised by PACMA on April 23 in Seville was, says ABC, a washout, with ‘a thousand animalistas shouting, and, at the same time 22,700 aficionados settling into their seats in various fights across Andalucía that weekend’. Pros and cons. The reality is, most people stayed home and watched the football.

Palm oil is the latest in a line of devils, says an article in El Mundo, but it’s not the only one. The article warns readers of other low quality fats, large amounts of sugar and so on that are regular in our diet. There’s a graphic of the main supermarket uses for palm oil here. One brand of margarine is 29% palm oil...

Nobody seems to be aware that we pay 10,000 million euros a year to maintain gas-fired power plants that would be ruined if we did not subsidize them economically. No one seems to care that we are fuelling the gas bubble, which is a much more expensive energy than the renewable ones, nor that ordinary people are the ones who pay for the maintenance of those ruinous businesses. Nor does it appear to bother us that we have the most expensive electricity in Europe...’. Opinion piece at Diario de Avisos here.

From the Royal Institute El Cano (Spanish think tank) comes a pdf study called Possible impacts of Brexit on EU development and humanitarian policies’. It begins ‘Brexit could have a major impact on EU development and humanitarian policies. However, although Brexit is highly likely to happen, there are still uncertainties about the UK’s new foreign policy approach and its repercussions on aid. The UK may act under three different scenarios (nationalist, realist, cosmopolitan) with different consequences for EU aid. The UK’s leaving would challenge the EU’s role as the world’s leading donor: EU aid may decrease by up to 3% and it could lose between 10% and 13% of its world aid share...’.

The Picasso Museum of Malaga museum is displaying 90 works by a dozen artists from the Tate Gallery including Freud and Bacon. ‘Bacon, Freud and the London School’ is the first exhibition to come out of an agreement between the Picasso Museum and London’s Tate Gallery. The 90 works from the British institution can be seen at the Picasso Museum until 17 September, and they reflect one of the most vibrant chapters in the history of western art in the past century. The works cover eight decades and the exhibition is an important step forward in the museum’s international presence...’. From Sur in English here.

The socialist utopia that never quite made it. El País looks at the phalanstery (Wiki) imagined by the French visionary Charles Fourier back in 1841 to be built in ‘Tempul’ near Jérez de la Frontera. Despite adequate funding and plans, it never came to anything, but the plans themselves have recently been uncovered by an investigator at the University of Seville. Hippies and their communes are nothing new...

From France 24: ‘It's dark and surprisingly warm in a cave in western Spain that hides our most intimate connection to the prehistoric past -- hand silhouettes painted tens of thousands of years ago. Archeologist Hipolito Collado and his team had not entered the Maltravieso Cave in the city of Caceres for close to a year to avoid damaging the 57 faded hands that adorn the walls, precious remnants of a far-flung piece of history we know little about. Why did our ancestors or distant relatives paint hands in caves? Was it merely to make their mark, or part of a ritual to commune with spirits?...’.

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See Spain:

In pictures: Seville celebrates sumptuous April Fair with The Local here.

In Castellón Province, Spain, you’ll see evidence of Roman life everywhere. Stretches of the ancient Vía Augusta, which was the longest thoroughfare through the Iberian Peninsula during Roman rule, still survive in the region, linking remnants of bridges, arches and villas. But it’s not the excavated mansions, the mills or even the mile markers along the historic route that are most remarkable. It’s the 2,000-year-old olive trees. ... The oil produced from olive trees in Spain’s Castellón Province was once consumed by Roman soldiers...’. An article at BBC Travel here.

O Espiño. ‘A Town in the far north-western region of Galicia holds the national record for the most Roman ruins per household with practically every inhabitant owning at least one.

And their collections are not technically illegal, since the parts of the collapsed settlement in their area have never been officially recognised. Still, many of them who spoke of their hoard of treasures to the regional newspaper, La Voz de Galicia, did not want to give their names as they were afraid national or local heritage departments would take them away – or worse, fine them for plundering...’. From Eye on Spain here.

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Letters

Lenox is doing an excellent job of drawing attention to the pros and cons of BREXIT and how expats living in Spain will be affected.

Andrew Brociner is also doing a fine job on the ramifications of the French election however he would do better to confine his comments to the situation in Europe.

He said the following:

The US, is now pulling out all the stops, plainly declaring an end to immigration.

Whereas she, (Marine Le Pen) just like the US President, wants protectionism, closed borders and priority for its citizens, he is trying to unify the left and the right through much the opposite: globalization, open borders and free trade.

Both of the foregoing is totally false.

The US admits 1.1 million legal immigrants per year not counting refugees.

The US is a country of laws; regrettably the Federal Government has failed to enforce the immigration laws resulting in an estimated 12 million illegal immigrants in the country 2 million of whom are drug dealers, gang members and convicted criminals etc.

The plan is to secure the border enforce the existing laws and deport the 2 million undesirables then deal with the remaining 10 million humanely by regularizing their status with an eventual path to citizenship.

Also Andrew is misinterpreting the US administration’s position on trade that is not based on protectionism. On the contrary it is based on free and FAIR trade.

There will no longer be trade treaties with groups of nations like the EU or the Trans Pacific Partnership. Instead trade agreements will be negotiated bilaterally.

It is no coincidence that British Prime Minister Mrs. May was the first foreign leader to visit Washington with a bilateral trade agreement between the US and Britain her top priority.

JAFO

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Finally:

A cricket league of their own. Spain’s only all-female cricket team. Video here. ’Owzat!

 

Business over Tapas 4 May 2017 Nº 207

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

With Lenox Napier and Andrew Brociner. Consultant: José Antonio Sierra

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