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Editorial:

The worry now is about the Catalonians. Will they be able to secede from Spain? If Barcelona was to celebrate a democratic referendum and the ‘leavers’ won (perhaps unlikely), then would Spain let them ‘go’? A strong government would send in the tanks, but this would not play well either in Catalonia or in most of the rest of Spain.

A chance to mollify the Catalonians by sharing the burdens of a capital city between Madrid and Barcelona has been lost, so now there remains the threat of the judiciary, or the Constitution, or of military force or a police action. The current situation is a vote planned for September, or a unilateral declaration of independence sometime before this if Madrid seeks to block the process (see El País in English here), with the assumption on the part of the plotters that Catalonia would stay as a part of the EU. Plotters? Madrid is now talking about a ‘coup d’état’ (here). Certainly, the plan is a breach of La Constitución Española (Section 2. ‘The Constitution is based on the indissoluble unity of the Spanish Nation, the common and indivisible homeland of all Spaniards; it recognizes and guarantees the right to self-government of the nationalities and regions of which it is composed and the solidarity among them all’. Wiki). The loss of Catalonia ‘...would mean the loss of 25-30% of Spain’s gross domestic product (GDP), says Spain’s Minister of the Economy, Luis de Guindos. And that’s something the government “will never let happen.”...’. (Wolf Street here).

The next worry for a president of Spain - to be remembered by History as the man who lost part of his country – would be the possible departure by the Basque provinces of Euzkadi.

Within a properly federated Europe, a Union of Regions, all this would not be such a threat. So who needs to move forward on this issue – Madrid, Barcelona or Brussels?

...

Housing:

Rather than building noddy houses – small apartments which make money for the builder but are used sparingly by the owner – it would be better to build luxury homes which bring better earnings to the locality. A recent congress of builders, planners, architects and politicians, called II Foro Estratégico DOM3, held in Marbella, makes this and other important conclusions for the industry. More at La Opinión de Málaga here.

Brexit dims British dream of owning a home in the Spanish sun. UK buyers made up 14.5% of Spanish home purchases in Q1 2017 versus 38% in 2008’. Irish Times headline. An item on the same topic from Mark Stücklin’s Spanish Property Insight is a little less dramatic: ‘Foreign demand strong in Q1, British demand down but surprisingly resilient’.

Spain is in the grip of a property boom. Whereas the last bubble was driven largely by the rampant construction and sale of new homes, with the country at one point accounting for more housing starts than Germany, France, Britain and Italy combined, the focal point of the new boom is the smaller but fast-growing rental apartment market. Spain has traditionally been a country of home-owners, with an average ownership rate of 78.5%, 10 percentage points above the EU average. But things are changing...’. From Wolf Street here.

An interesting rental in Madrid – 30 square metres between floors with four staircases included. It looks like something from an Escher drawing. The rental is 670€ per month.

La Voz De Almería says that ‘The crisis of the ‘alegal’ (neither legal nor illegal) homes in Albox, Almería, continues’. In fact, the situation is being slowly resolved, although some home-owners, living in an unregistered house, still have no water or electricity. The Town Hall has recently managed to ‘regularise’ some fifty more homes in the past few months, joining a further 200 which were dealt with previously. Around another 2,000 homes in the municipality are still without papers – so much still remains to be done.

The Constitutional Court has finally issued its anxiously-awaited ruling about the ‘plusvalía’ tax, applied by all councils in Spain, finding in favour of the taxpayer: it says it is unconstitutional for the tax, based on hypothetical changes in land value, to be charged where a property is sold for less than it was purchased. The court decision, which was unanimous, has opened the way for an avalanche of similar claims by people who have had to pay this tax in the past four years...’. Sur in English has the story here.

A warning from Mark Stücklin: ‘Reputable local agents warn that a fraudster is offering bargain properties on the Costa Blanca to ... trick victims into handing over deposits that will never be seen again. The fraudster is someone who used to work for a local real estate agent, then legged it to Thailand with the client database, and is now hammering the mailing list with astounding bargains that don’t exist. “So far we have found three clients who have paid him (directly to his account) approximately €22,000 in deposits,” an email says. Once he has got his hands on the money, the fraudster no longer responds...’. Ah! Ah!

...

Seniors:

According to La Organización Médica Colegial, there are at least 100 websites that routinely publish false medical information, sometimes backed up with spurious advertising sites. They consider these ‘pseudoscientific sites to be dangerous to the public health’. The organisation has reported sites they have found to the Prosecutor’s Office says El País here.

...

Finance:

The Spanish built AVE between Mecca and Medina will be in operation later this year, says El País here.

The United Kingdom is not only Spain’s biggest investment destination and the country that provides it with the largest number of tourists; it is also the main customer of the Spanish defence industry. In 2016, Spain sold Britain arms to the tune of €1,300 million, equivalent to 33.2% of total military sales, according to a report by the Spanish Secretary of State for Trade...’. From El País in English here.

...

Politics:

In the election to the socialist Party Secretary on Sunday, Pedro Sánchez won with just over 50% of the vote from the militants. Susana Díaz, who was around 10 points behind him, couldn’t even mention his name in her brief speech following the count.

El Pais, the newspaper of the institutional PSOE so to speak, has a lively anti-Sánchez position. Here is its by-now famous editorial just after the Sunday count:El ‘Brexit’ del PSOE’. In the translation over at El País in English, the piece begins, ‘Pedro Sánchez’s victory at the Spanish Socialist Party primaries places the PSOE in one of the most difficult situations in its long history. The return of a secretary general with such a legacy of electoral defeat, internal division and ideological swings cannot but be cause for deep concern...’. It goes downhill from there, later on likening Sánchez to Donald Trump! El Mundo worries that Sánchez won’t be able to unify the PSOE, pointing out that Susana Díaz avoided congratulating Sánchez in public, even though she was in the same building. The tough PP leader from Catalonia, Xavier García Albiol, says that the victory of Sánchez is a ‘disgrace for Spain’. Other sources are rather more optimistic, including El Diario, who says that the party-members have defeated the barons of the party, and El Huff Post which begins an article with ‘ "They failed to understand the scale of the political change we are in," said Pedro Sánchez this week about Felipe González, Rubalcaba, Zapatero and certain territorial leaders who were against him. The primaries have shown that they did not understand the political change, or, what is more serious, the change in their own party: it was of such a magnitude that the militancy has made a mockery of its establishment and is prepared to face a time without popes, nor barons, nor sultanas, nor guardians, nor flappers. The Chinese vases of the PSOE have been shattered...’. An editorial at El Diario says that ‘Sánchez has been reborn from the ashes and returns to lead the PSOE with an unquestionable victory and more power than he ever had before’. And, commenting on the opinion piece in El PaísPúblico has its own: ‘Madre Mía, the reaction on the Internet to the editorial from Prisa’...

There is no risk of a snap national election in Spain, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said on Monday, playing down any threat to his minority-led government from a change of leadership in the opposition Socialist party...’. From Reuters here.

How could Susana Díaz have had more party endorsements than votes? It’s the system where your endorsement (aval) is public knowledge (but your vote is private). In Andalucía, according to Paralelo 36, the PSOE-A, together with the Catholic Church, is present in every town and village in the region. Everyone, in a sense, eats from the hand of the PSOE. You mess with them at your peril. It’s an interesting read.

We have to support our new General Secretary Pedro Sánchez’, says Felipe Gonzalez here.

El Mundo lists Sánchez’ ten main points of action in the coming weeks. These include a strong opposition to the government of the Partido Popular and, at the same time, to control the PSOE barones who were largely against his candidature. On the first point. Sánchez agrees with the leader of Unidos Podemos, Pablo Iglesias, that Rajoy’s government needs to be brought down. A Moción de Censura (vote of confidence), tabled by Podemos for June 13th, could be revised, says Inglesias, if Sánchez wished to participate or take over as the alternative candidate for president. VozPópuli considers the situation here. Rajoy says he will not participate in the Podemos vote of confidence debate, but will allow the party spokesperson Rafael Hernando and the vice-president Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría to speak for the Government.

Susana Díaz has brought forward the Andalucía PSOE-A congress to July 29th and 30th with primaries from June 19th. This is because ‘...They know how to play with the times because they are veterans trained in a thousand battles within the party and the current Andalusian leaders do not think to give the least opportunity to the critical sector to organize or establish alliances...’. Excerpt from Diario 16 here.

The tough ex Minister of the Interior for the PSOE, José Luis ‘Kick in the Doors’ Corcuera, has resigned from the party following the Pedro Sánchez result. Adíos compañero!

......

Comment from Per Svensson:

PSOE – change in course

Last Sunday the socialist party of Spain - PSOE – decided to change its course and its captain, or rather, to go back to its previous course – a firm opposition against the corruption-infested PP and its leader Mariano Rajoy. The change came in a membership vote on a new general secretary, after the old guard in the party deposed the general secretary last year and installed a gestora - a caretaker leadership until a new general secretary had been elected.

But the old guard – including Felipe González, Alfonso Guerra, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero and Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba miscalculated the mood of the party. They launched Suzana Díaz, the president of the beleagered Andalucia regional government, as their candidate. Two other members presented sufficient declarations of support to stand for election: the previous leader of the Basque government, Patxi López, and surprise, surprise!: the deposed general secretary, the young and dynamic Pedro Sánchez.

The result of the elections was that Sánchez won with more than 50% of the vote. Díaz managed only to win in her home region of Andalucía, while López took his Basque Country. Sánchez swept up all other regions and is back at the helm of the PSOE, a 187.000 member strong party with a 138 -year history and 84 deputies in the present parliament.

No is no!

The start of the fuss was the party’s relation to the PP-government of Mariano Rajoy. The PP collected the most votes and deputies in the last parliamentary elections, but no majority. Since no other party wanted to join the PP in government, Rajoy presented a minority cabinet. Podemos refused to accept this government, but the PSOE became jittery. They had promised before the elections that they would under no circumstances vote for a manifestedly corrupt PP-government. But since it became clear that their no-vote would result in new elections with losses for PSOE, the old guard imposed a position of abstention for their parliamentary group and Rajoy could continue in government. A handful of PSOE-deputies around general secretary Sánchez stuck to their program, voting no.

At this point the federal committee in PSOE started their coup, ousting Sánchez as general secretary, appointing the gestora to manage the party until a congress could be called. The congress will take place in the middle of next month, but with a very different agenda from that foreseen by the gestora.

What is the program of Pedro Sánchez and PSOE now? The main points seems to be:

  • A resolute opposition against the PP and Mariano Rajoy, demanding that the President appears in Parliament to explain the continous wave of corruption engulfing all parts of life in the country, presenting a vote of no-confidence in him.

  • Hold discussions with other parties on forming a government coalition. Podemos, that has already launched their own initiative for a motion against Rajoy, is certainly ready to join, Ciudadanos may be forced to join by their own argumentation and some of the less radical nationalist parties may be tempted to vote for such an initiative.

  • Unite the PSOE around the general secretary elected by the members for the second time, reduce the powers of the federal committee and the barones, and permit more direct decisions by the members.

And what with the power-hungry Suzana Díaz of Andalucia? She is definitely finished as a national alternative in the PSOE. The members saw the intellectual and political shallowness behind the many phrases. She will have a hard job to hold on to her barony of Andalucía.

One question may upset the political discussion in Spain: The demand of Catalan nationalists for an immediate referendum in the region on national sovereignty of Catalunya, and their threat of a unilateral declaration of independance should the referendum be blocked by the national government. A potent time-bomb in the political machinery of the country!

...

Corruption:

From El Boletín: ‘“Spain has made progress in the fight against corruption, especially in the area of transparency, but it lacks strength to put a stop to the crooks themselves”. This is one of the points that the European Commission makes in its document regarding specific recommendations for our country - made public Monday - in which it also notes the legal lack of protection suffered by whistleblowers in reporting cases of corruption...’.

Transparency International has slammed Spain for its ‘systemic corruption’. In a statement released yesterday, the international corruption watchdog said ‘few aspects of public life in the country have remained exempt’ from corruption. Spain has seen one of the fastest declines on the body’s annual Corruption Perceptions Index, sliding seven points since 2012, now scoring worse than most Western European democracies with 58. “Corruption in Spain distorts policy making and hurts people’s basic rights for the benefit of a few. Just looking at recent scandals like the Pujol case in Catalonia, the linkages between the ruling People’s Party and the construction group OHL, the Gürtel case, the Bankia fraud and Rodrigo Rato, gives a sense of the scale of the problem,” said José Ugaz, Chair of Transparency International...’. Found at The Olive Press here.

Cristiano Ronaldo, the soccer star, is in trouble with Hacienda after an investigation found he had cheated the taxman of eight million euros between 2011 and 2013, says El Mundo here. Another footballer, Leo Messi, has meanwhile been sentenced to 21 months for his tax avoidance of 4.1 million euros (here).

...

Catalonia:

From David Jackson: ‘Catalunya drafts independence law and Spain is on the brink of dissolution’.

PM calls secret Catalan plan for independence “intolerable blackmail”. In rare press conference at PP HQ, Mariano Rajoy challenges regional leader to appear in Congress’. Story from El País in English here.

The independence initiative for Catalonia is supported, we learn, by the Andalusian National Assembly which calls for ‘freedom for all peoples’. The slightly obscure ANA is a Catalonia-based group that seeks independence for Andalucía (ha ha). Story in English here.

...

Brexit:

EuroCitizens, an association of British citizens who live, work, and study in Spain and a member of the coalition British in Europe, told Spanish parliamentarians last week of the huge impact that Brexit could have on the lives of hundreds of thousands of people. Representatives of all of the political parties at the parliamentary committee hearing expressed their support for EuroCitizens' work and stressed that reciprocity should be to the benefit of people and that a "zero-sum game" of bargaining chips should be avoided at all costs...’. From EuroCitizens’ Blog here.

From The Prisma: ‘Approved primarily to limit the entry of foreigners into the United Kingdom, Brexit strongly affects the Britons that live throughout Europe. In Spain, thousands of British expatriates are willing to lose their British nationality in order to continue being European...’.

The Tories promised to give expats the vote last year. It was a whopper’. The story comes from The Guardian here.

The Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron has slammed the ‘utter unfairness’ of British expats being denied a vote in next month’s general election. Farron pledged the Lib Dems would grant MPs to expat constituencies to represent the 1.2 million British citizens living in the EU...’. More at The Olive Press. (Now, that’s a good proposal).

The departure of Britain from the European Union, following the referendum almost a year ago, will have tax consequences for British residents in Spain ( 300,000 registered, although about one million are here) and for the Spanish Resident in the United Kingdom (about 130,000 registered), in direct taxation...’. So says El País under the headline: ‘Expatriates in both countries will be affected by their taxation from the point of view of Personal Income Tax and Non-Resident Income Tax’.

From The Express: 'We are counting pennies. Retired expats in Spain face crisis over 'punishing Brexit' deal A growing number of elderly British expats living on the Costa del Sol in Spain are voicing concern all their rights will be "washed away" with Brexit, amid an uncertain future’. The comments, as always from this revolting newspaper, are fun.

The only Spanish MEP in the working group of the European Parliament concerned with Brexit, Beatriz Becerra, called on Tuesday for the EU anti-terrorist collaboration with the United Kingdom to "be made stronger as we approach the Brexit", saying that Jihadist terrorism is the "common enemy." The parliamentarian is part of a group created to guarantee the rights of European residents in the UK and of Brits living in the EU in the negotiation of the Brexit...’. Story at El Diario here.

...

Media:

The ‘Google Tax’, designed to charge aggregators for use of any quote with link to anywhere - with all funds collected going to the association of daily papers called the AEDE, was never going to work. Google News pulled out of Spain the same day. While the unworkable ‘tax’ has never been implemented (which is just as well for Meneame, Reddit and the BoT), it has supposed, at least in the case of the loss of Google News, both visitor ‘hits’ and the consequential income therefrom. Figures show that visitors have fallen by an average of 11% since Google News was pulled in September 2014, at a general loss of some nine million euros in additional income to the news sites. Information from Impacto sobre la Competencia y el Libre Mercado de la Tasa Google o Canon AEDE, commissioned by the AEDE itself, published by Kippel here. The Google News service exists in over 40 countries (Wiki).

The AEDE is changing its statutes and its name to the Asociación de Medios de Información (AMI) – even though it’s the same group – most of Spain’s daily newspapers: the idea is to seek fresh members from the digital world. PR Noticias has the story here.

...

Various:

Following on from the recent BoT editorial, we read in Radiocable that ‘Spain has the 8th best healthcare in the world, according to The Lancet’. The article begins: ‘With a score of 90 out of 100, care and access to healthcare in Spain have ranked eighth in the world ranking of health systems published by the prestigious British scientific journal. The data come from the Global Burden of Disease report that has studied mortality ratios for 32 diseases in 195 countries between 1990 and 2015 using them as an indicator of quality of care. And Spain stands out as one of the best sanitary systems in the EU and comfortably installed in the Top 10...’. Another article on this here.

Controls on the inspection test for vehicles, the ITV, will be much harsher from next year says El Mundo here.

Endesa plans to close down two of its most contaminating power stations – in Toledo and León – putting a thousand workers in the paro. The story at Público here.

From La Sexta TV: Portugal has no ‘sun tax’ or self-consumption charges: "We laugh at the Spaniards". In Portugal, installing solar panels is much easier than in Spain, and that is what Paulo Luz is doing. He explains that anyone can have them there and you just have to register on a website. In Portugal, the law helps, in Spain, it hinders’. Video here. Spain certainly has an odd approach to natural energy sources, ‘Solar investors line up against Spain at World Bank’, is the title of an article at Progressive Spain here.

Two Australian warships, built by a Spanish shipyard, appear to have serious ‘design flaws’, says the Sydney Morning Herald, concerned that the Aussies had paid ‘three billion dollars Australian’ for a couple of pups.

Antonio Banderas has abruptly pulled out of a major cultural project planned for Málaga. ‘In-fighting and jealousy have killed off the actor’s plans for an arts and entertainment centre in Málaga’, says El País in English.

We eat far too much sugar, says Nova Ciencia here. ‘Seventy-five percent of the products in a supermarket contain added sugars and we consume more than three times the sugar recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO). What consequences does it have on health? Several experts explain in a timely article why you should reduce the amount of sugar you eat per day...’.

An olive tree in Montsià, Catalonia, has been estimated at being 1,700 years old.

A young European woman finally gets her Spanish citizenship. It was all a slight let down from what she was expecting. Perhaps she should have known better... Story here.

Going to the San Fermines in Pamplona? A local expatriate answers your questions here.

The Spanish Tapas Tour in London is from the 12th to the 18th of June. More here.

...

See Spain:

Someone has painted the Osborne Toro in Santa Pola, Alicante, in homage to Picasso’s Guernica. It looks nice.

From The Guardian: ‘Europe’s hidden coasts: Costa Maresme, Spain. The coast just north of Barcelona is often overlooked by visitors. But with miles of sandy beach, great restaurants and a coast-hugging train, it’s a perfect escape’.

Where is the Costa Ballena? It is South from Sevilla, on the coastline of Cádiz province. Situated in the South Western corner of Spain, between Chipiona and Rota. Even though it may not be familiar, it does have 10 blue flag beaches in the Rota area alone. Many Spanish families spend their summers here each year. With 16 kms of beaches the main ones are La Costilla, El Rompidillo or Punta Candor. It is also well known for the American Naval base too. NAVSTA Rota is 6,100 acre site. Of course this has some impact on the area as US military families live in the area so you here quite a few American accents as you move around the area. The large ships are also clear to see on the horizon manoeuvring...’. From Molly’s Piccavey – a nice site to visit to read about the quieter and more genuine España.

...

Finally:

More than 20 years after the "Macarena" sensation, a Spanish-language song has again conquered the US singles chart - Puerto Rican singer Luis Fonsi's "Despacito." The song has soared to the top of the charts through an assist by pop celebrity Justin Bieber, who appears on a remix version with a breathy opening verse in English. "Despacito," which also features the Puerto Rican rapper Daddy Yankee, is a pop track driven by a reggaeton beat. The lyrics to the song, whose title means "slowly," are full of sexual innuendos...’. Article from The Local. The song Despacito on YouTube here.

 

Business over Tapas 25 May 2017 Nº 210

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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