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Editorial:

Perhaps it is time to know a little more about Ciudadanos (their webpage here) and their leader (and probably Spain’s next president) 38-year-old Albert Rivera (Wiki). As we have seen with the recent Women’s Strike, Albert is a fast learner. His party had said just before the event that they would not support the protest as ‘it was anti-Capitalist’.

Only a few days later, Ciudadanos billed itself as ‘delighted to lead the feminist debate’.

Like many modern Spanish politicians, Rivera speaks reasonable English (video here). In the video, shot during a meeting by the European liberals ALDE (Ciudadanos is a member), Rivera comes across as pro-European and he is supported by Emmanuel Macron. A recent piece from Spiegel reports that Macron ‘...has begun putting together a network of pro-European powers. En Marche!, for example, has established contact with Ciudadanos, the liberal party in Spain that is currently leading in the polls. And party leader Albert Rivera looks a lot like a Macron clone: a young and handsome economic liberal...’.

Albert Rivera is certainly (and demonstrably) a unionist in Spanish terms, despite being born and raised in Barcelona. Indeed, his anti-Independence stand is bringing him popularity across Spain (in Catalonia, the largest party in the recent regional elections is Ciudadanos). As to Ciudadanos being a liberal democrat party, it is generally seen as behaving rather more like a conservative one (Politico: ‘All-out war on the Spanish right’ here).

Whatever is happening, it’s working, with Ciudadanos now heading in the polls (the party leads with 28.3% with the PP lagging at 21.9% according to La Vanguardia here).

Alfonso Guerra, an old-guard PSOE leader, says in an interview here that ‘Ciudadanos, the party that acted with total coherence in Catalonia, is going to find itself rewarded across the whole of Spain."

Presidents of various Ibex 35 companies have quietly been meeting with Rivera according to El Confidencial here.

As Mariano Rajoy begins to unwind (a gloomy Conservative article here), the chances are that Spain’s next president will be Albert Rivera.

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Housing:

El Diario criticises the Government’s stingy housing allowances – the smallest percentage of national GDP (at 0.03%) of any EU state after Malta. The story here.

Caixa Bank sentenced to refund 330,000 Euros plus interest & costs to off-plan buyers at the Guadalupe Hills development in Manilva. The development was marketed by the bankrupt British Estate Agent company Ocean View through which hundreds of buyers, mostly British and Irish, lost millions of euros in off-plan purchases in Spain. Guadalupe Hills in Manilva was one of those developments that Ocean View sold like hot cakes to the British and Irish at the time of the real estate boom. Despite the difficulty of the case, mainly due to the presence of Ocean View as an intermediary who first bought the houses and then resold them to the individual clients; after years of effort and waiting, the case has obtained its First Instance Judgment in the Court of first instance number 17 of Málaga...’. Press release from Keith Rule and CostaLuz Lawyers Esta dirección de correo electrónico está siendo protegida contra los robots de spam. Necesita tener JavaScript habilitado para poder verlo.

An article in La Comarca considers the problems of ‘illegal homes’ (owned by Brits) in Cantoria (Almería). ‘...Maura Hillen, president of AUAN and councillor for the PSOE in the neighbouring municipality of Albox, attacks Cantoria City Council, which is also governed by the PSOE. Hillen states in her statement that "trying to obtain an AFO (asimilación fuera de ordenación – a recognition that allows services like water and electric) in this municipality is sometimes just as unpleasant as getting a tooth pulled"...’. There are over 2,000 ‘illegal buildings’ in Cantoria (built during a PP town hall a decade ago. Video here).

Los Canos, an abandoned village near Serón in Almería gets the YouTube (and lugubrious music) treatment.

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Tax:

Mark Stücklin’s Spanish Property Insight looks at the tax advantages of becoming a resident in Spain. ‘It’s not all bad news’, he says here. In a second article, however, he warns that ‘Owning Spanish property via an international company could be a tax problem waiting to explode’.

The snake in the Spanish grass is, of course, the Modelo 720 where you are expected to inform Hacienda of your worldwide assets. The Madrid Metropolitan clues you in here.

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Tourism:

Ryanair's CEO, Michael O'Leary, has warned the Spanish tourism sector that if Tunisia and Turkey have a good 2018, "Spain could suffer next year". The director was confirming the worries of the Spanish hotel sector (see this) regarding the summer of 2019 sales’. The story at Preferente here.

Travel firms 'fail' to give Brexit holiday clarity to customers. Holidaymakers are urged to check their refund rights in the event EU trips they have booked for after Brexit are disrupted’ From Sky News (thanks to Richard).

From El Economista: ‘Aena is stepping on the accelerator to resuscitate the ghost airport of Corvera (Murcia) and get her first commercial flight in early January 2019. The semi-public agency, who took over the operation of the new infrastructure at the end of last year, has decided that Corvera and (nearby) San Javier should not be operational at the same time, so it is expected that the day after closing the civilian area of the current airport, (which is also a military base) the lights of the runway of the new Murcia aerodrome at Corvera will be turned on...’.

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Finance:

Europe’s banking authorities are finally beginning to pile pressure on poorly performing banks to clean up their books, something that should have happened a long, long time ago. But as is often the case with European banking regulation, there’s an elevated risk of unintended consequences. If a bank with a deeply compromised balance sheet is forced to report its loans that have gone bad — the hidden piles of toxic “assets” — at prices that reflect their real value (rather than the illusory prices the bank arrived at with its mark-to-model formula), that bank could suddenly find that its capital has gone up in smoke...’ (as happened with the Banco Popular). Wolf Street worries about Spain’s fifth largest bank, the Banco Sabadell, here.

Despite having scored four years of solid growth in a row, Spain remains vulnerable to a sudden change in market sentiment or to a rise in interest rates due to its high level of unemployment and public and private debt. This is the main conclusion of the European Commission's comprehensive annual assessment of the state of the Spanish economy. The report also warns that Spain will be one of the EU countries where pensions are going to fall the most in the coming years, which puts the standard of living of pensioners at risk...’. The story comes from El Español’s ‘The 10 most urgent problems Brussels sees in the Spanish economy’ here.

One of the ways to bring the AVE to the centre of a city is to build an underground approach. Almería is keen on this while Murcia refuses to countenance the same (with corresponding daily protests). Bilbao has also gone for soterramento, with a massive budget of 720 million euros. The story at El Independiente here.

Vozpópuli asks – ‘why does it take four times longer to set up a company in Spain than, for example, France?’ It’s down to tricky rules and those useful funcionarios, apparently. As someone says ‘Last year alone, more than 700,000 regulatory pages were generated in the official regional gazettes and journals. This is unacceptable for the interests of making it easier for the self-employed to develop their businesses’.

Thanks to the price increases in the electric and phone bills, February’s cost of living rose by over a percentage point, says 20 Minutos here.

Whatever happened to those 500€ notes? Wolf Street answers here. ‘...The €500 banknote has lost much of its allure in Spain. Twelve years ago, the country was home to a staggering 26% of all the €500 notes that circulated in the Eurozone, then a 17-country currency bloc. As El País reported at the time, much of the money was being used in the thriving real estate sector, which is one of the main sources of black money as well as a popular conduit for laundering the proceeds of crime...’.

From El Mundo: ‘On Tuesday, Abertis raised pressure on the Government to extend the toll system in Spain due to the imminent expiration of some of the concessions tendered in the 1970s. The chairman of the company, Salvador Alemany, during the shareholders' meeting of the company held in Madrid, called for a "harmonious and equitable extension of the payment for use throughout the entire high-capacity network". The Catalan executive's request takes place in the midst of the takeover bid launched on the group by the Italian Atlantia and ACS. Spain is today Abertis' third largest market with 1,778 kilometres of toll motorway. However, this figure will be drastically reduced from next year if the government does not extend much of its concessions. The company could lose around 1,000 kilometres of tolls, equivalent to 64% of its current capacity...’.

Some 17,025 employees have been let go from the Junta de Andalucía over the last seven years. Official figures released by the Central Personnel Registry show a drop from 254,496 in January 2010 to 237, 471 in January 2017...’. From The Olive Press here.

Amancio Ortega, the wealthy Galician draper, is due to earn 1,256 million euros (3.8 million euros every day) in dividends from Inditex in 2018. His daughter Sandra will expect some 118 million during the year from her shares. El Español has the story here.

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Politics:

Last week’s women’s protests went well on Thursday. El País in English says ‘Spanish cities host historic marches to demand end to gender discrimination’. The Irish Journal says here: ‘Spain marked International Women’s Day today with an unprecedented strike in defence of their rights that saw hundreds of trains cancelled and countless protests held. Called by 10 unions to demand gender equality, particularly where salaries are concerned, the 24-hour strike dominated headlines with famous female presenters noticeably absent from radio or television shows. The Guardian wrote that ‘More than five million join Spain's 'feminist strike', unions say. The Mayors of Madrid and Barcelona were among supporters of walkout on International Women’s Day’.

An interview at El Diario with Javier Izquierdo, a senior PSOE member, leads with this headline: "We have to follow a coherent line and avoid political opportunism like Ciudadanos."

Even political opportunists dyed themselves violet’, says El Diario, with a dig against the Conservatives ‘...they bought the violet drapes from the same Chinese shop as sells the Spanish flags they normally decorate with...’, notes the article resignedly.

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Catalonia:

...Catalan Parliament speaker, Roger Torrent, announced that he’d signed a resolution to formally propose Jordi Sánchez, currently one of Spain’s political prisoners (yes, he is a political prisoner), for investiture as Catalan president – with the debate scheduled for 12th March. This came about after Carles Puigdemont’s announcement last week to ‘provisionally’ renounce his own candidacy as Catalan president – as well as his decision to take the Spanish state to the Committee of Human Rights of the United Nations. Jordi Sánchez petitioned to a Spanish judge to be released in order to attend the investiture debate … but you can guess the rest: Spain’s Constitutional Court ruled to keep him in prison. The investiture debate has been postponed whilst Sànchez appeals to the European Court of Human Rights. Spanish government members have cleverly observed that ‘you can’t run the Catalan government from prison’ … which is exactly why Sànchez is being kept in prison (and without any trial), so that he can’t run the Catalan government. It’s Catch 22. Or Catch 155...’. From Tim Parfitt here.

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Gibraltar:

An opinion piece from The Guardian: ‘For Gibraltar the EU was an escape hatch. No longer. As long as Britain remained in the European Union, questions of empire and identity could be fudged. Brexit changes everything’.

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Courts:

The mother of the murdered child Gabriel, Patricia, is a brave and worthy woman. She asks that people should forget their rage and to not speak of the killer. Story at Onda Cero here.

How to file a complaint against a lawyer in Spain’, at Spanish Property Insight here.

A senior Catalonian judge has been relieved of his duties by the ‘General Council of Judicial Power’, the CGPJ, for drafting a Catalonian Constitution. You can see why they are annoyed with him. The story at El Mundo here.

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Brexit:

The UK's ambassador to Spain Simon Manley will be on the Costa del Sol on 22 March to meet with local British residents and talk about the current status of the Brexit negotiations. The event is being organised by the Brexpats in Spain group and will be held at the Avanto Restaurant near La Cala de Mijas...’. From Sur in English here.

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Media:

El Ibérico is a website based in London for Spanish expatriates with useful local news.

Fake news is not shared across the Internet so much by fiendish Russian bots as it is by silly and irresponsible internauts. It seems we can’t resist a good story. So says El Diario here.

Indeed, the PP has been looking at a law to censor ‘fake news’ (but sometimes – what is fake can depend on one’s political views) here. Público says that the PP initiative has been rejected by Parliament.

The Gabriel Case (the poor child murdered in Nijar) has been treated with titillating and even grotesque commentaries from certain popular TV morning shows, which have stuck to the story like limpets while looking for prurient interest from their viewers. VerTele looks at the worst of them here.

In its latest report, the human rights group Amnesty International is calling for Spain’s “glorification of terrorism” law to be repealed on the grounds that it's silencing creativity and political satire through fear. Spain’s controversial gag law, the same one that has seen everyone from rappers to puppeteers go to jail for “glorifying terrorism”, is having its desired effect, Amnesty International writes in its latest report...’. From The Local here.

Business over Tapas – shameless self-promotion over at Spanish Shilling here.

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Ecology:

The biggest R&D centre for renewable energy in Spain currently finds itself in Kafkaesque circumstances. Although it has millions of euros in EU grants to spend, it is unable to do so due to spending restrictions imposed by the Spanish government in 2016, which are bringing what is considered a strategic centre for the EU to its knees. Almería’s Solar Platform (PSA) was set up in the 1970s in the Tabernas desert, just a few miles from where so many Spaghetti Western films were shot. Nowadays, it is the biggest research centre for solar thermal energy in Europe. “Spain has installed the equivalent of two nuclear power stations in solar thermal energy plants,” says Sixto Malato, a researcher at PSA. “If it occupied 1.5% of the world’s deserts, we could generate enough electricity for the entire planet.”... From El País in English here.

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Various:

The deal in Madrid for dog owners is that they have to spend 35€ on a DNA test so that they can be fined if a poop inspector finds something nasty stuck to his shoe. There are 281,339 dogs in Madrid (according to the municipal animal census). In reality, there are 281,339 registered and micro-chipped dogs in Madrid, if you see the difference. (I have two dogs. One is registered and has a microchip; the other is just a stray that showed up one day. How many dogs do I have?)

A few years old this, but BoT has a poor opinion of the money spent on fútbol. The average wages of first division footballers in Spain (Bolsamanía February 2015). ‘The astronomical salary earned on average by a First Division footballer. Without counting Real Madrid and Barcelona, a player receives an average of more than one million euros per year. Add in the League's two greatest teams and you can raise the figure to nine million euros per season’.

Crime Russia has another article on ‘the Spanish Laundromat of the Russian Mafiya’.

Video from Spiriman. ‘I’m a doctor at the emergency room in Granada. I work for the Sistema Andaluz de Salud (public health). This autonomous region (he says) is run by sinvergüenzas, crooks and thieves. The President of Andalucía, says Spiriman, is una verdadera hija de puta...’. He seems upset. See this, his latest video here.

First, learn the rhythms. From Thinking Spanglish: ‘I’ve always thought that listening to a new language is a little bit like listening to an unfamiliar form of music. Whether it’s Flamenco or Chinese Opera, it takes a little while to ‘tune into’...’.

Apparently, Spain has that TV show ‘Spain’s Got Talent’ (who knew?). Here’s a good clip.

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See Spain:

Eye on Spain visits the Wolf Park outside Antequera (Málaga). ‘The Lobo Park in Antequera is an unspoilt nature and wildlife park in the heart of Andalucía; where you may look at a wolf eye to eye for the first time in your life!...’.

Birdwatchers in Málaga can find the best places to visit with Birding Málaga here.

Ibiza in winter: unplugged but still on song. Off-season, Ibiza reverts to its beguiling, unhurried self and its history and culture resurface...’. The Guardian explores...

From The Olive Press: ‘The OD Port Portals hotel is very much THE place to stay for hipsters visiting the South West of Mallorca. With its roof terrace parties, fashion shows and regular gastro events, it’s no wonder many of the world’s top DJs, models and celebrities regularly stay at the stylish hotel...’.

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Letters

Hi Lenox

Re that piece in last week's BoT on conditions under ‘The Sea of Plastic’. If the writers had actually visited the invernaderos, as I have, they would probably have seen: Bumble bees happily buzzing around pollinating the tomato plants; dangly spiders (to catch the flies) and ladybirds contentedly munching away at the aphids. All very Bio. Customers, especially the Germans, demand residue-free fruit and veg, and controls are very strict. Inspectors lurk and I was assured that all workers today are dados de alta with the Social Security.

Doubtless in the past there were places where enslaved immigrants sloshed around ankle deep in toxic waste. But today things are all very much green and recycled.

Jake

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Finally:

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