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The Parlament will proclaim the Independent Republic of Catalonia on Thursday. Parliamentary sources have confirmed that in the plenary session to be held this Thursday in the Catalonian parliament, the mandate from October 1st will be made official. However, Senate President Pío García-Escudero has offered Puigdemont to attend the Senate in Madrid on Friday, which could (once again) distort the agenda in Barcelona and, therefore, leave the declaration of independence in the air...’. From Público here. It was later reported from a Catalonian news-site that Puigdemont would not visit Madrid and that the plenary session in the Catalonian parliament to discuss independence would begin today at 4.00pm.

 

 

Editorial:

 

 

 

The recent kind words of the Spanish foreign minister in an interview with the BBC’s Andrew Marr have been picked up by the press as being the end of all doubts: the Brits can stay in Spain following Brexit and all is fine with the world. From The Guardian we read that:

 

'...Alfonso Dastis said his government would ensure that the lives of Britons in Spain were not disrupted in the event of a no-deal Brexit. Spain is host to the largest number of British citizens living in the EU (308,805) and just under a third (101,045) are aged 65 and over, according to the Office for National Statistics...'.

 

Two things here - firstly - many non-EU foreigners live in Spain quite happily, who doesn't have an American friend or a Norwegian neighbour? They just have a few more formalities to deal with than EU foreigners. Work-permits, visas and (short of a rare bi-lateral agreement) no vote, for example. But, sure, they can live here.

 

As for the ‘health’ issue, well, fingers crossed, eh?

 

The other thing, of course, is the numbers airily quoted as Gospel: One million Brits, 800,000 Brits, ‘three-quarters of a million’ (Andrew Marr), 610,000 and, here we are: 308,805. Depending, of course, on which authority strikes your fancy.

 

The ‘real number’ of Brits living in Spain, as of January 2017 and according to the National Institute of Statistics (INE), is just 236,669 Britons registered on the padrón (The Guardian figure is from 2014). Now, we know this number is highly inaccurate – as the Ministry of the Interior attempts to winnow it down by asking the town halls to check and remove ‘clutter’ (the small town of Mojácar for instance is aiming at removing around 1,400 foreigners from its current list). At the same time, many Britons don’t bother to register on the padrón in the first place, with the unhappy result that the only thing we know about the full-time population of Brits in Spain is that it most certainly does not add up to the improbable number supplied by the INE above.  

 

Unfortunately, the official number of Britons in Spain (by 2019) will be the number considered – and not the more likely figure of 750,000 – by the legislators as they decide what to do with us then... Since, the less we are, the less we shall matter.

 

 

 

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Housing:

 

 

 

Residential properties under construction in Spain being abandoned at half-mast were a common sight during the worst years of the financial crisis, but more are being finished off now than ever since the housing market began to recovery. Between January and July this year – the latest figures available at present – a total of 33,085 homes, mostly apartments, were completed, says the central government's ministry of public works. This represents a 39% hike on the same seven months in 2016, a year which saw the numbers of new builds finished off fall for the ninth consecutive 12-month period...’. Item from Think Spain here.

 

 

 

British expats living in Spain have been given a significant pre-Brexit boost by the Spanish Foreign Minister Alfonso Dastis, pledging homeowners will face “no disruption” once Britain leaves the European Union. Speaking on the Andrew Marr show on Sunday 22nd October 2017, Dastis also stated this will apply even if no official deal is reached by the time of leaving, and that the “relationship between the UK and Spain is a very close one in terms of economic and social exchanges”...’. From A Place in the Sun here.

 

 

 

A fancy development in Mijas... ‘Recent data analysis by Zoopla – one of the UK’s leading property portals – shows that by far the most searched-for terms used by Britons looking for a home overseas are “pool”, “sea view” and “beach”. Which, when you think about it, is pretty much what you’d expect. But it doesn’t only apply to the British because in our experience, it’s those same three attractions that come top of the wish-list for the overwhelming majority of our other northern European clients, too...’. Mark Stücklin writes in Spanish Property Insight here.

 

 

 

Also from Mark Stücklin: ‘How long does it take to evict non-paying tenants?’ here and ‘Landlords to get better protection from squatters and tenants who don’t pay the rent’ here.

 

 

 

From The Sur in English: ‘Five arrested for the fraudulent sale of luxury homes in Marbella worth four million euros. The police say two estate agents and a lawyer were involved in the scheme and the group had found buyers for all the properties...’.

 

 

 

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Tourism:

 

 

 

The political situation resulting from the Catalan independence challenge is of concern to companies which work in international tourism. With figures from the Spanish association Exceltur showing a decline in hotel reservations in Catalonia, Gloria Guevara Manzo, the new CEO of the World Travel & Tourism Council - which brings together large global tourism companies – describes the scenario as "very worrying". "What's happening is sending an international image of instability," she says...’ Story at El País here.

 

 

 

The British tour operator A1 Travel announces the definitive cessation of its activities. The company was unable to overcome the impact of the collapse of Monarch Airlines and the cancellations of Ryanair’. Title from Agent Travel here.

 

 

 

From The Olive Press: ‘Norwegian is scrapping all of its flights to Spain from one of the UK’s biggest airports. The budget airline announced it will cease operating routes from Birmingham to Spain from this weekend as ‘part of a review of its services’. Norwegian operates routes to five destinations in the country – Barcelona, Gran Canaria, Madrid, Málaga and Tenerife...’.

 

 

 

British Airways are opening a new twice-weekly route to Almería from Heathrow from March 27th. The item is at Hosteltur here.

 

 

 

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Seniors:

 

 

 

The newly retired can expect to see their pension buying power fall by thirty per cent during their remaining years, says El Mundo here.

 

 

 

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Finance:

 

 

 

The European Court of Justice has ruled that selling items at a loss in stores is legal. A Spanish law prohibiting ‘loss-leaders’ is therefore illegal. More at 20 Minutos here.

 

 

 

Catalonia’s Political Crisis Snowballs into an Economic Crisis. Independence would be “horrific” and amount to “financial suicide,” said Spain’s Economy Minister. But financial suicide for whom?’ From a Wolf Street article here.

 

 

 

The Government is taking another 4,000 million euros from the Pension Fund, however, says La Traka here, let’s talk about Catalonia...

 

 

 

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Politics:

 

 

 

Spain has activated Article 155 of the Constitution and Catalonia's regional president Carles Puigdemont is likely to lose his job in an unprecedented move that is likely to cause backlash in the north-eastern federal State. The Catalonia Left Republicans (ERC) calls the triggering of Article 155, which will strip the region of all its devolved powers, a "coup d'état". Rajoy has announced his intention to sack key members of the Catalonia regional government and to call a fresh regional election in under six months – in the meantime, its Parliament is likely to be dissolved and the roles of all its ministries will be taken over by the State. The Article 155 provisions have not been confirmed as the move has to be voted on in the Senate next Friday, October 27th...’. More at Think Spain here.

 

 

 

In the event of the Article 155 being implemented in Catalonia, where the State takes over the running of the rebel region, Rajoy says he will extend the period of control if there is civil unrest or signs of rebellion and will call for elections when the time is right, reports

 

El Español here.

 

 

 

The PP warns that Euskadi has the "ingredients" to reach the "same situation" as Catalonia

 

After the application of Article 155, the former Minister of Health and president of the PP of the Basque Country, Alfonso Alonso affirms that the responsibility of his party is to "prevent" that these "ingredients" become mixed together’. From Público here.

 

 

 

A conversation with Mónica Oltra: ‘when the flags come out, all other conversations – corruption. Social justice, the economy – are forgotten’. From El Diario here.

 

 

 

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Corruption:

 

 

 

The police have so far identified eight hundred British tourists that had participated in the hotel diarrhoea scam that was proving so popular. El País reports here.

 

 

 

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Catalonia:

 

 

 

From Truthout comes:Catalans did not take the news that Spanish Prime Minister will move to impose direct rule on their region quietly on Saturday. Nearly half a million people marched in Barcelona soon after the prime minister's press conference. Carles Puigdemont, president of Catalonia, joined the demonstration before a planned speech responding to Mariano Rajoy's statement that pending the approval of the senate, which his party controls, he would remove the Catalan government from power and call for a special election in the coming months. The protesters chanted, "Freedom!" and "Rajoy, Rajoy, so you know we are leaving!"...’.

 

 

 

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has revealed how the government proposes to use Article 155 of the Constitution to intervene in Catalonia to curb the regional government's independence drive. Measures, which first need to be authorised by the Senado (Spain's upper house), include the dismissal of the Catalan president Carles Puigdemont, his deputy and all the regional ministers. Their roles will be taken over by central government ministers. Rajoy has not dissolved the Catalan Parliament yet, but has given himself the power to do so and set a period of six months for regional elections to be called. However he hopes, he said, that this can be done "as soon as normality has been restored". The report comes from Sur in English here.

 

 

 

Both El Periódico and La Vanguardia agree (here and here): members of the ERC and PDeCAT governors press Carles Puigdemont to call for autonomous elections to derail Article 155, despite threats of rupture with the CUP. ‘Many in the Generalitat know that we are not in a position to make independence viable’ - said Andreu Mas-Colell on Tuesday.

 

 

 

If things go wrong, there’s always exile – with a strategic withdrawal to Perpignan...

 

 

 

Independentismo Catalán explained at Wiki here.

 

 

 

The English journalist John Carlin in an interview on TV3: ‘There is a danger of identifying Spain with the Partido Popular and with that sector of the establishment in Madrid so mediocre and outdated that it is leading the politics towards Catalonia. Spain is a great country, surely the best country in Western Europe for immigrants, a good country for homosexuals, for women, for children and for the elderly. There are many things that are progressive and modern in Spain. And these people are not going to be in power forever...’. In short, the video takes the Catalonian line. John Carlin, we remember, was recently fired from his post at El País following a pro-Catalonia article which appeared in The Times.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Update on Catalonian Independence

 

by Andrew Brociner

 

 

 

The political game continues between Puigdemont and Rajoy. The Catalan leader has taken time to allow for dialogue with the central government, but the latter is acting as it always has, in an intransigent way, refusing dialogue, and making more threats of removing Catalonian autonomy. Meanwhile, the two Jordi independence activists are still being detained. The Mossos chief was given a hero's welcome when he returned. The threat to dissolve parliament and do away with elected politicians in Catalonia is a blatant affront to democracy. All of these measures are resented by the Catalans, which only galvanize them to support independence. Puigdemont has given more time at every opportunity, but with more tension growing, independence looks increasingly as the only way forward, since the alternative would be to back out completely, accepting the revocation of autonomy and the dissolution of the Catalan parliament leading to new elections.

 

 

 

One does not have to be in favour of Catalan independence to take issue with the way the central government has handled this problem. There are, indeed, many arguments for independence which are spurious and which have been designed to serve the interests of a minority and even more so, of the personal interests of the governing body. One could name many things, such as the imposition of the Catalan language, when the majority are not Catalan mother-tongue speakers, the ideology which serves as propaganda, and the fabrication of history to suit their interests, such as the fact that Catalonia was never an independent nation, as Puigdemont himself has referred to it. But this is not about which is the right way to go for Catalans anymore. It started out as a vote on independence, but quickly became about the suppression of democratic rights, such as those of voting and self-determination, and then turned into something worse, through the repression by use of force, the threat of revoking autonomy, the detention of activists, the interrogation of regional police and the threat of removing from office democratically elected politicians. The escalation has created much more of a problem than it was. Had the vote been allowed in the first place, as it would have in most democratic societies, it would probably have ended there. The 43% turn out overwhelmingly represented those in favour of independence, since, if 90% of those who turned out were in favour, it implies that almost all of the anti-independence voters did not vote. And this is no surprise given the difficult conditions which prevented them from voting. If we assume that all the pro-independence voters did turn out, then it follows that only 39% of the population were actually for independence. We cannot know this for sure, but it would not be surprising if the actual number were not very much higher. If elections were legally allowed, this would then remain where it is, and a larger turn out would have ensured that the vote would have swayed against independence. Puigdemont then would not have anything to bargain with. The matter would have been settled, at least for now, and in the context of a democratic process. But Rajoy has only used counterproductive methods from the outset and has obtained the predictable reaction in response. That minor percentage of voters for independence has also grown since then as Catalans are increasingly indignant at their democratic rights being taken away from them.

 

 

 

The government's plans to dissolve the Catalan government should go through the Senate on Friday. But on Thursday, the Catalan parliament will meet to discuss what to do next. They are not likely to stand for the curtailing of their rights by the central government. With neither side likely to acquiesce, the following days should prove lively.

 

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Courts:

 

 

 

The prosecution insists that the PP’s black accounts in the Gürtel Investigation are "overwhelmingly evident". El Diario says that the ‘black accounts’ of Luis Bárcenas were real and that the monies were improperly spent. 37 people stand accused. More here. One particular headline from Público deserves comment. See this!

 

 

 

The president of an animal shelter in Torremolinos gets four years prison for unlawfully killing many animals (suggested as being around 2,200 of them) in her care. The report at 20 Minutos here.

 

 

 

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Brexit:

 

 

 

MEPs warn against UK government plans for EU nationals. MEPs have written a letter to UK interior minister Amber Rudd complaining about plans to force EU nationals to add their names to a register in the transition period immediately after Brexit...’. From an article in The Parliament Magazine here.

 

 

 

José María Aznar is to advise ‘The Institute for Free Trade’ – a pressure group that sees ‘Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union as a unique opportunity to revitalise the world trading system’. La Vanguardia reports here.

 

 

 

The Facebook page Españoles en Reino Unido - Surviving Brexit! is always interesting and a useful balance to what the Brits in Spain might experience. The page is here.

 

 

 

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Media:

 

 

 

Le Monde criticises the lack of ‘creativity’ of the Rajoy and the ‘simplistic and deceitful propaganda’ of the Catalonian TV3’. An article at Vozpópuli here.

 

 

 

Workers at Catalonian Radio say they won’t recognise editorial interference from Madrid’ says El Diario here.

 

 

 

News is something someone wants suppressed. Everything else is just advertising” – Lord Northcliff.

 

There are several ways of manipulating the news, if one has either the money or the power to do so. Government and Big Business, evidently, have both. This is why one should cast about to see different news sources and to keep a healthy dose of suspicion when reading something that appears improbable. For North American news, there’s Snopes (here) to help winnow out the silliness.

 

Unfortunately, as more people begin to distrust the mainstream news, they become attracted to news-sites that can guarantee to serve them the news that attracts their own particular prejudice (see Fox News, Breitbart or OKDiario for far-right examples, The Express for pro-Brexit, Rapture Ready for Christian end-of-times news and Mother Jones for the far-left).

 

Newspapers have the biggest problems today. They are losing readers. Together with the falling sales and the rising costs of production, they must take any income they can find. These days, it costs at least one euro per copy just in print bills. A hundred thousand copies, daily, plus distribution and returns, eats up a lot of money.

 

Free newspapers (we have a few in Spain) are even more sorely placed – the English or German language ones can’t even distribute by mail-box, so are obliged to add editorial in the hope of making them attractive to the reader to pick up a copy. But – who is paying the printing bill?

 

The Spanish government, which apparently spends 60 million euros a year in ‘institutional advertising’ (‘Eat Andalusian food’, ‘Visit Galicia’ etc), plus all the autonomous and local governments with a similarly vast sum (we wonder how much Catalonia spends?) expects one thing in return. Keep the editorial more or less treacly.

 

El País in English has an astonishing article flatly refuting this here. They deny calls ‘...to say that this newspaper is acting under the orders of the central government during this Catalan crisis. And that is a serious affront, because the independence of this newspaper and its professionals are completely protected from any interference from the powers-that-be by a charter that is an example among the European press...’. You should see the ‘comments’ that follow the article...

 

Only a week before, El País had fired John Carlin for writing a pro-Catalonian viewpoint in the Times of London.

 

A kind of media manipulation is called astroturfing in the USA. ‘Grass roots opinion’, if you like, but contrived yet sold as genuine. An article in Vozpópuli considers how the Government in Spain employs this technique: fake news items are placed in smaller outlets and are picked up on the social media (perhaps with a little help) to then become huge. Venezuela anyone? Esperanza Aguirre, the regional boss of the PP in 2009, had 45,000 Twitter accounts, apparently.

 

How much is a full page advert in El País? 50,000€. The Government with its regular campaigns will of course be getting it much cheaper (who, we wonder, gets the rápel – the cash kickback on all major media campaigns?).

 

Here’s a recent example. You can find these and similar adverts in any newspaper from La Voz de Almería to El Mundo.

 

Does this all make El País a bad newspaper? Of course not. Some of Spain's best columnists write for it and it is considered as the leading opinion maker. 

 

Which makes it all the more important that its opinions and information are accurate.

 

As for Government-owned media, like the national RTVE, things are even easier. Here’s ‘23 examples of Manipulation on the TVE news over Catalonia’ from VerTele (or, should we believe what we read here either?)

 

There’s another problem with today’s news: ‘...Real investigative journalism – the kind that blows the lid off criminal or unethical activity and goes deep in the trenches was done at a loss – as a public service, to establish credibility and fulfil its duty as the Fourth Estate. The monetary gains from this kind of journalism aren’t immediately apparent – the profits are intangible, and can’t easily be put on a spreadsheet. So, when the news outlets were bought by larger corporations, the value of this intangible was lost. The overseers are interested in the bottom line, and if it can’t be directly linked to dollars, they trim the fat. Bye-bye in-depth investigative reporting, hello gotcha journalism...’. From Flashback here.

 

And lastly:

 

'Censorship is not always committed by an individual in some secret totalitarian government room, editing uncomfortable truths out of reporting and books. In a democracy where the vast majority of the news is financed by advertising or corporate sponsorships, the subtle censor sits in the back of a journalist's, producer's, editor's or owner's mind.

 

Censorship in a corporatized democracy is a tacit understanding not to offend advertisers, which means that that the nation sees reality through the distorted lens of business or political interests' (no attribution).

 

 

 

Irene Montero (Podemos) has a good one on her Facebook page here. ‘Yesterday the anti-corruption prosecutor's office accredited that the Gürtel inquiry, and I quote, "was aimed at obtaining public contracts in exchange for bribes to officials and authorities of the Popular Party". And here are today’s front pages...’ and she shows the four front pages of La Razón, ABC, El Mundo and El País, all with Catalonia stories displayed as the item of the day. The point was not lost on Público either.

 

 

 

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Various:

 

 

 

Keeping their hand in, a group of protestors in Murcia sledge-hammered down an amazing 350 metres of wall in one night. Does the Guinness Book of Records know? The story here.

 

 

 

It’s no secret that those 901 and 902 phone numbers generate income for the company you are calling. These companies include all sorts of people who should know better, says Merca 2 including Línea Directa, Seur, Ryanair and over a hundred other major companies. ‘...Many of the companies that use this prefix when customers have a problem or a query earn money with every call they receive. That is why they are reluctant to replace it with numbers that do not represent extra income, says the consumer association Facua...’.

 

 

 

La Crónica del Pajarito is appalled to learn that the Murcian authorities plan to dredge the narrow channel that connects the Mar Menor with the Mediterranean.

 

 

 

Ideal remembers when Almería failed to vote to join the Andalusian Community back in the referendum of February 1980... but got shovelled in anyway.

 

 

 

The World’s first flying machine was built by a Spaniard. Well, according to this anyway.

 

 

 

The Junta de Andalucía has passed a plan to begin mining in the protected Sierra de la Utrera between Casares and Manilva (Málaga). The controversial move will allow the mining for precious metals in the northern part of the area despite it being in the process of being recognised as a cultural landmark. Story at The Olive Press here.

 

 

 

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See Spain:

 

 

 

The village of Simancas, 15 km from Valladolid, has a castle, which houses the second most important archive in Europe, after "the secrets of the Vatican". The so-called "General Archives of Simancas" (AGS) houses many documents from the History of Spain. This Archive was founded in 1540, making it the first official archive of the Crown of Castile. This Archive is one of the central axes, in the preservation and custody of documents, in Spain...’. From Eye on Spain here.

 

 

 

Lonely Planet has chosen Seville as ‘the best city to visit in 2018’, says El País here with pardonable pride. Oddly, the ‘second best city’ is Detroit.

 

 

 

Exploring the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao with Google. Video here.

 

 

 

On the 1st of November Spain celebrates Todos los Santos. In the past All Saints Day was also celebrated in England too. This festival coincided with the Celtic festival of the dead (Samhain) and was a notable date in the 8th century. In Spain this celebration has lasted through the centuries. Whereas in the UK after changes in the religious calendar in the Anglican church, it fell into disuse. Now Halloween celebrations on the 31st October have taken over...’. From Piccavey here.

 

 

 

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Finally:

 

Business over Tapas October 26 2017 Nº 230

 

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

 

For subscriptions and other information about this site, go to businessovertapas.com

 

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How about some – very speedyLola Flores? ‘Como me las maravillaría yo’ on YouTube.

 

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