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Editorial:

Easter is the first major festival, or holiday, of what in Spain can safely be called ‘the summer season’ (at least down here on the costa). The bars, beach bars, restaurants and nick-nack shops are all open once again, freshly painted and ready to work the cash registers. A headline says ‘Málaga to rake in €120 million during Semana Santa as celebrations to bring 1.4 million tourists’ (here). Easter outdoes itself in these days of tourism with more of a spectacle than ever, with longer processions and larger crowds, yet with more commercialism and less faith and fervour than in earlier times. A pointed cartoon from a newspaper a few years back shows female sunbathers spread on their beach-towels at the feet of the Holy Crucifixion. Only in Spain.

 

Spain has moved from a Catholic country (does anyone remember when Franco was in power?) to – at just 9% of Spaniards now viewing Christianity as defining; making Spain one of the least religious nations in Europe (here). Not that things are much better elsewhere. An article here quotes a study which sums up European religion thus: ‘...if it depends on the young – as depend upon them it must – then post-Christian Europe has arrived’.

While religion is now downplayed – from the school to the street – one must still be careful not to offend religious sensibilities, and a few actors, rappers and tweeters are currently on their way to court or even jail for overlooking this important point.

Catholicism may well be on the wane among the ordinary citizens, but the Opus Dei (Wiki), a powerful and slightly eccentric group within the catholic faith, has major influence within the political system (the last Interior Minister - and Opus member - Jorge Fernández Díaz, even awarding the Virgen María Santísima del Amor with a gold medal back in 2014). Other senior PP figures who are connected to the Opus Dei include the new Minister for the Economy Román Escolano (here), Ana Mato (ex-Minister of Health), Luis de Guindos (ex-Minister of the Economy and future Vice-president of the Central European Bank), Cristobal Montoro (Minister for Hacienda), José Manuel García Magallo (previous Foreign Minister), the ex-Defence minister Federico Trillo, the Ex-Education Minister José Ignacio Wert and so on (here and here).

While declaring one’s taxes, one can sign a box for a minute portion to go to The Church. While not many do these days, the church seems to manage well enough, receiving 256 million euros from The State last year (here). Some suggest it does considerably better, with black money, money laundering, ticket-sales, tax relief, charity, rents and so on forming other types of regular income (here).

When it comes to marriage within The Church, an article this week from El País says that, these days, you get funny looks if you want a church wedding. Now just one in every five marriages is hallowed...

The Church has its own agenda, but the churches, cathedrals and other sacred buildings in Spain are still most worthy of both respect and repair – even if, sometimes, they are treated as little more than obligatory tourist destinations, at fifteen euros per visitor...

But at least during the Easter season – all is forgiven.

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Housing:

An article from Bloomberg called ‘Madrid is learning from its property crash’ takes us to Seseña – the town outside Madrid that built tens of thousands of apartments in the early part of the century and managed to sell almost none of them. Indeed, it’s now building thousands more...

The bullish cycle of the real estate sector consolidated in 2017, as shown by more than 460,000 homes being sold in Spain, up by 14.6% on the previous year. Will house purchases continue to rise at such a considerable rate? “According to Google search data, the outlook is promising,”...’. Found at The Corner here.

The Olive Press runs an amusing opinion piece titled ‘Holiday lets? It will never pay’. Well, sometimes it can...

The taxman is after those property-owners who advertise on Airbnb and similar platforms. (They know, you know). More here.

Spain’s highest court has ruled a long-standing and controversial Spanish practice of charging non-residents of Spain a higher rate of inheritance tax to be discriminatory and therefore unlawful, potentially setting the stage for those who have paid the higher rate to file claims for refunds, according to reports. The practice isn’t acceptable even if the non-residents of Spain live in a third country that isn’t part of the European Union, according to the ruling, by the Spanish Supreme Court, last month. As a result of this landmark case, non-EEA citizens who have paid Spanish inheritance tax in the last four years are expected to now be able to apply for a refund...’. Found at International Investment here.

From El País in English: ‘Meet the muscle men charging €2,000 to remove squatters from your home. Property owners are turning to extreme measures to protect their properties, and avoid lengthy legal battles that can take months to go through the Spanish courts’.

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Seniors:

The good news is that we Spaniards will live longer than ever. The bad news is that as we become seniors, we shall live worse and worse. Behind the first premise is the fall in the mortality rate, linked to social and health advances. Behind the latter emerges the crisis of the pension system, unable to face a future with more retirees and fewer (and worse) contributors. The West is doomed to be filled with old people: and Spain is even more so. Since 1960, life expectancy has been increasing by an average of almost two years per decade. At the beginning of this century, the over-60s represented 10% of the world's population, and in our country, 22%. By 2050, 21% of the total population will have crossed that age; this percentage will be much higher in Spain (33.6%)...’. El Independiente gloomily looks at the future of pensions in Spain.

From Sur in English: ‘...Support in Spain (www.supportinspain.info ) is aimed at people over 50 who may need advice following a sudden change in personal circumstances, or on where to get information and help with caring for family members or friends with disabilities. It includes links to organisations working in the Axarquía, as well as elsewhere on the Costa del Sol, and is in English and Spanish...’.

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Finance:

Working in Spain - Is it easy to start a business in Spain?’ A ‘Vlog’ (video blog) from SpainSpeaks explains on YouTube here.

The self-employed (‘autónomos’) are not to use WhatsApp when communicating with their clients. The data protection people don’t think it’s safe and you could be fined. No, this is not a joke.

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Tax:

As of April 4, some 19 million taxpayers are called to file their 2017 tax returns. Pensioners, landlords, self-employed and employed persons and, in general, anyone who earned income in 2017 must file a tax return. With certain limits; not everyone has to present it, although some who are not obliged to do so may see fit to report to the Treasury, for which it will be useful to consult the rules. It should be remembered that consultation of the outline from Hacienda does not require the submission of a declaration. In addition, this year the declaration can be requested via an application on one’s mobile phone, which facilitates the process.

All employees who earn more than 22,000 euros per annum are required to submit and sign an income tax return. Below that figure, no one is forbidden to make the declaration if they wish, but they are not obliged to do so...’. The nitty-gritty is at Cinco Días here.

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Politics:

The Partido Popular take a leaf from the British Conservatives, by portraying themselves as a tree... (here).

From El Diario: ‘The PP congratulates itself on its new internal anti-corruption controls and calls on other parties to follow suit’.

(Just to make the point that there will be no splitting off from national states) ‘Spain won't go to any summit where there are representatives from Kosovo. Indeed, Rajoy will not be attending the informal session that the Bulgarian government is organising in Sofia in May on the occasion of its European presidency’. Item from El País here.

An opinion piece in VozPópuli by a British writer resident in Spain on the subject of Brexit: ‘Somebody seems to have noticed that the votes of hundreds of thousands of Britons resident in Spain could have a major impact on the next local elections’. The comments following the piece are, as ever when ‘los piratas ingleses’ are mentioned, mostly idiotic.

A scandal has broken out on the announcement that Cristina Cifuentes, the president of the Madrid Region (PP), falsified her law degree at the University of Rey Juan Carlos. A secretary says she was obliged to change ‘not present’ to ‘notable’ in some exam results. The story is at El Diario here. On the bright side, the same university has allegedly and ‘improperly’ hired Ms Cifuentes’ sister as a teacher (here). The university said on Wednesday that ‘there was no irregularity in Ms Cifuentes’ paperwork’ (here), a view also taken by the TVE evening news and Cifuentes herself (here).

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Catalonia:

The Speaker of the Catalonian parliament, Roger Torrent, said on Wednesday evening that the regional government would invest Jordi Turull as President today, Thursday. Turull is under threat from the Spanish justice, but has not yet been charged with anything...

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Gibraltar:

The Foreign Ministry will not fight Brussels and will allow the Rock to fit under the transitional period granted by the EU to the UK until 2020. The plan of the ministry led by Alfonso Dastis is to continue bilateral negotiations with London for progressive co-sovereignty, the first space of which could be the famous airport between El Peñón and La Línea. More from El Español here.

From The Guardian, a less sanguine view: ‘Gibraltar warns it could rescind citizens’ rights if Spain uses veto on Brexit deal. Minister says Gibraltar will review rights of EU nationals on Rock if Madrid invokes ‘illegal’ veto’.

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Courts:

The Government has pardoned six people condemned by the courts for corruption. They will now avoid prison. Indultos are published in the State Bulletin BOE. The story comes from Público here.

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Brexit:

A ‘decisive’ step has been taken in sealing a Brexit transition deal. That’s the story from the UK’s Brexit secretary David Davis and top EU negotiator Michel Barnier, who shook hands today following talks in Brussels, declaring a ‘breakthrough’. The new terms declare the transition period will end in December 2020, while the UK has also given ground on free movement rights and fishing quota rules...’. From The Olive Press, following the deal struck on Monday.

Cheesed Off. As things stand, English cheddar will have more free movement rights than citizens after Brexit says our coalition of groups, British in Europe. According to the coalition's legal experts, today's release of the revised draft Withdrawal agreement takes us no further forward. They say that contrary to what David Davis and Michel Barnier are saying, this document provides no more certainty for the 1.2mn British people living in the EU 27, EEA and Switzerland than they had this morning...’ From Expatrights here.

From The Independent: ‘Brexit: Confusion as Article 32 regulating free movement for British citizens vanishes from latest agreement’. The article begins: ‘The draft Brexit agreement struck between Britain and the EU on Monday leaves Brits who have made their lives on the continent with “no more certainty” about what will happen to them after the UK leaves, MEPs and citizens’ groups have warned. Chief amongst the mysteries of the deal is the disappearance of the so-called “Article 32”, which in previous drafts regulated the free movement of British citizens living in Europe after Brexit. The entire article is missing from the text, which goes straight from Article 31 to Article 33...’.

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Media:

The Junta de Andalucía and the regional press have agreed to put an immediate end to ‘contact’ (prostitution) adverts in the press. The Junta has also said that it would not allow juicy ‘institutional advertising’ in any media that continued with the practice. Have the local English-language newspapers joined the crusade?

Press manipulation? Here’s a video called ‘All the manipulation, in nine minutes’. It makes some good points.

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Various:

A cunning little radar trap – too small to see properly – that’s the new Velolaser. Here.

There was once a four-wheel-drive 2CV. The little Citröen had two small motors - one in the front, another in the back. Each would run just one axle. Thus, you could drive in front or rear drive, or in 4X4. The car was not perhaps a great success, but it was popular in North Africa and also with the traffic police in Spain. The Citröen 2CV Sahara, with two 435cc motors, was built from 1960 through 1967. These days, they are worth a fortune!

While nobody has any idea about how many European foreigners live in Spain (the number is based exclusively on the town hall registries), the number of Spaniards living abroad is also something of a guess. That said – there are apparently 2,482,808 Spaniards resident outside Spain (according to the bean-counters at the INE), 3.2% up over a year ago (numbers for January 1st). One has to ask – how much does the Spanish National Statistics Institute cost the tax-payer? Anyhow, El Huff Post has the information here. The reality is that a number of these ‘Spaniards’ are in reality children or even grandchildren of Spanish settlers abroad – and many of these have never set foot in Spain. 20 Minutos on the same subject (and clearly not admirers of the INE), says there are one million more españoles living outside Spain than there were before the ‘crisis’ began. *The number of Spaniards living in the UK ‘has grown despite Brexit fears’ by (we are told) 10.5% over the past year to anywhere between 75,500 and double this figure says El Ibérico here – or even to some 200,000 if you prefer El País here). As always, no one has a clue.

A popular weekly TV program on Spaniards who live in out-of-the-way foreign places is called Españoles en el Mundo. You can find it here.

Three hours of Spanish TV adverts from 1990. Yours to watch on YouTube.

Guerra Eternal looks at the activities of Cambridge Analytics and other political manipulation here (some videos in English).

The Local gives you the lowdown on how to celebrate Semana Santa like a Spaniard. This year Easter Sunday falls on April 1st but celebrations of the biggest religious festival of the year will begin a week earlier’. Here.

The Spanish have what is for foreigners an incomprehensible confusion over the difference between the letters ‘b’ and ‘v’. They say ‘Is that ‘b’ for Barcelona or ‘v’ for vaca (cow)?’ One can often see words written with the most alarming spellings like ‘Prohivido! Or even ‘Bendo coche’. However, as the Blog de Lengua tells us – there are five Spanish words that are acceptable spelling with either letter.

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See Spain:

Let’s go eating in Córdoba with Molly from Piccavey!

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Finally:

Nine protest songs that, these days, would get the performer into trouble. Público has a list here. The songs include Jesucristo García from Extremoduro (YouTube here) and Desobedencia (‘kill a cop’) from Cicatríz (YouTube here).

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