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Editorial:

It is a surprise to outsiders that the endemic corruption in politics (and elsewhere) is met with a shrug of the shoulders by so many Spaniards. One might expect the Partido Popular to be in dire straits with public opinion and the newspapers themselves raised against it, but this is not particularly the case. In might look bad outside the country (‘The Gürtel Case degrades the image of ‘Marca España’ abroad’, reports the left-wing Público), but the ‘incondicionales’ – those who would never change their vote, regardless of circumstance – are, as they say, legion. As The Guardian reports, ‘... A poll conducted at the end of September suggested that the Partido Popular would again take the most votes and pick up a further 22 seats were a third election to be held, although an overall majority would once again elude it’.

Enormous amounts of funds – usually European money – have been filtered off, or misused or mismanaged, yet the political price seems negligible. As someone says (in consideration of the likely abstention by the PSOE to give the PP the government): “Menos mal que los ladrones de los ERE van a dar el gobierno a los ladrones de la Gürtel porque ir a tres elecciones sería un ridículo mundial” ‘Just as well that the crooks from the ERE are going to give the government to the crooks from the Gürtel, because having a third election would be just plain silly’. Quite!

...

Housing:

The number of home sales inscribed in the Spanish property register in August was 20% up on the same month last year, according to the National Institute of Statistics (INE), as the market recovery appeared to get back on track after an abrupt halt in July. However, a bounce-back in recorded sales was expected simply because the inscription of many previous sales was delayed in July due to a recent Supreme Court ruling on abusive clauses in mortgage contracts, which meant that property registrars suspended the inscription of sales tied to mortgages affected by the ruling. This has distorted the figures, though it’s reasonable to assume that recorded sales would have grown anyway in August, just not by so much...’. Story and graphs at Spanish Property Insight here.

Mark Stücklin has collected a number of house prices predictions and other forecasts for this year and beyond from the Spanish press. Here at his Spanish Property Insight.

...

Tourism:

The latest figures from Spain’s airports manager AENA, reflecting the importance of the tourism industry, support the estimations given by the Secretary of State for Tourism, which point to a total of 74 million international tourists by end-2016. If the predictions are confirmed, there will be eight million more international tourists visiting Spain in 2016 compared to a year earlier, when there was a record number of 68 million. But can Spain’s tourism regions survive this widespread growth?...’. From The Corner here.

...

Finance:

From the Canadian edition of The Huff Post: ‘Spain is about to pass 300 days without a government. But guess what? Few Spaniards seem bothered by that as the country's economy roars ahead. Spanish cities are boasting of packed cafes and restaurants, thriving fashion shops and art galleries, plenty of tourists. The overall impression is of a bustling, vibrant country. So who needs a government?...’.

Wolf Street talks of ‘the worst labour market on earth’ – beginning with ‘Since hitting a dizzying peak of 26.9% in the first quarter of 2013, Spain’s unemployment rate has declined steadily, though it’s still the second highest in Europe after Greece. At last count, in July 2016, it was hovering around the 20% mark. In other words, the proportion of the country’s labour force deemed to be actively looking for work has gone down from just over a quarter to one-fifth. What’s more, if recent developments are any indication, things could be about to take a turn for the worse, all over again...’.

Spain’s finance ministry has informed the European Commission that it will miss its deficit targets. The country has forecast its deficit to be 3.6% of GDP come the end of 2016, missing the goal of 3.1%. It noted the country’s ensuing political deadlock, which has seen two inconclusive elections inside a year and no government for over nine months...’. Found at The Olive Press here.

The pensions reserve fund appears to have reached a limit (as things stand now) – of December 2017. The social security had a huge shortfall in 2016 of over 18,000 million euros, and the fund is running dry. The story, graph and video are here at El Mundo. This panorama is discussed at Reddit here (some pearls among the dross).

More than a million Andalusians subsist on a monthly income of under 332€ says Ideal here. 43.2% of the regional population live in the ‘circle of poverty’, the report adds.

...

Politics:

The 290 members of the embattled Spanish Socialist Party’s (PSOE) federal committee will meet on Sunday to agree their official position at an upcoming investiture vote in Congress at which acting Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy of the Popular Party (PP) will make a final bid to form a government and avoid a third general election in a year, which would take place in late December...’. From El País in English. A second article from the same source is titled: ‘Socialist voters torn: allow a PP executive or risk defeat at new election’. Meanwhile, the PSC, the Catalonian version of the PSOE, has already stated that its seven deputies will vote 'no' in the session, as will around a dozen other socialist parliamentarians... The story at Público here.

The new PSOE is close to the PP and against Podemos, says El Mundo here.

Susana Díaz needs some public relations work done on her image, and a group of ‘soldiers’ is working on just this, says El Observador here. She will need some help if she is to become the next party secretary.

Everything is far from smooth at Podemos, where the party is riven with support between Pablo Iglesias and his lieutenant Iñigo Errejón (the one with the John Lennon glasses who looks to be about fifteen). El Huff Post here. Meanwhile, over at Ciudadanos, a MEP called Carolina Punset has resigned from the Executive Committee of the party citing differences. Story at El Huff Post here.

Following the likely Socialist abstention and the swearing in of Mariano Rajoy as president on October 29th, the radical left is planning a giant protest in Madrid against what they call a coup d’état.

...

Corruption:

Six Junta de Andalucía bosses stand accused of embezzling €2.6 million in ERE fraud case

Those benefiting included two relatives of the officials, who got paid while not even working for the company...’. The story at The Olive Press here.

...

Gibraltar:

The Spanish foreign minister José Manuel García-Margallo says that the frontier with Gibraltar will be considered, post Brexit, as marking ‘foreign exterior territory’. This will make life even harder for those who live on either side of the verja. However, there is an offer on hand – of co-sovereignty. From a report at El Economista here.

...

Catalonia:

Scotland, Catalonia and the EU (or the chance to have two referendums)’. "It could happen that both referendums are held without the agreement of their respective states, both would reply to a democratic logic that is difficult to contest and both would be essential for the future of the institutional architecture of the EU" – Headline from Vilaweb in English here.

...

Brexit:

No news is, uh, good news: The UK.Gov website produced this statement last Thursday: ‘PM Theresa May held a meeting with PM Rajoy in her first visit to Madrid since becoming Prime Minister’. One of the points says: ‘The PM took the opportunity to praise the contribution that the many Spanish citizens living in the UK make to our country. She made clear that she wants and expects to be able to protect the status of all EU nationals living in the UK and that the only circumstances in which that wouldn’t be possible would be if British citizens’ rights in European member states were not protected in return’.

A recent article from the Spanish think-tank Royal Institute El Cano here is titled ‘Beyond Brexit: the future of the Spanish-British relationship’. The article considers synergy, trade and military might.

Interesting news from Brussels, brought by Business for Scotland says that ‘...an independent Scotland could be part of the EU after Brexit without re-applying for membership if London and Edinburgh were to agree, EU officials have said...’.

...

Media:

Institutional advertising – studies show that the Government is placing more of these adverts in La Razón, the ABC and the webpage Libertad Digital than their readerships would merit. Story at El Diario here.

...

Economics:

More on Brexit and Europe

by Andrew Brociner

The EU is greatly divided over the issue of immigration and as such, the UK referendum vote is a reflection of a wider lack of agreement.

These divisions in turn reflect many ironies taking place beneath the surface. During the debt crisis, the southern European countries were pressured by northern ones and portrayed as being lazy and irresponsible. For years, however, they have dealt with a large-scale influx of migrants on its shores, without help from the others. Italy, with its enormous influx of migrants – over 150,000 this year alone – has asked for help in financing its coastal operations, but to no avail. As a result of being refused, it had to downscale its operations. The southern European countries have shown much humanity during these times, dealing with a disproportionate number of migrants, whether it be Italy with migrants from Africa, or Greece with refugees from Syria, in a context with low growth and high unemployment. Some of the reactions of northern countries, by contrast, have been: France sending back migrants who cross from Italy by train and planning to demolish a campsite near Calais; Denmark using tough border controls – hardly Schengen-like policy; Hungary and indeed, many countries, such as Austria, Bulgaria, Macedonia and Slovenia, building wire fences, effectively sealing off its entire borders with Serbia and Croatia, and holding a referendum which rejected the EU refugee allocation quotas, which would have implied accepting just over a thousand migrants; and disturbingly, the Czechs who almost unanimously want all refugees deported, notwithstanding, hardly ever having accepted many in the first place. The Czech Republic, along with Hungary, Slovakia and Poland, is strongly opposed to accepting refugees in the EU allocation to alleviate the burden in Greece and Italy, which would imply accepting only a handful of refugees in a country with a population of 10 million. But, as if this were not enough, the more shocking aspects of its position is the inhumane treatment of migrants, locking them up in prison-like detention centres for long periods of time and forcing them to pay for this involuntary detention, actions that have fortunately been denounced as a violation of human rights. This in turn led, unsurprisingly, to many refugees even unwilling to seek asylum in that country.

Notwithstanding this crisis, the far-right parties have not gained much ground in the southern European countries, with Italy actually showing a reduction in support, Greece as more or less stable, and Spain as non-existent for all intents and purposes. The percentage of support in these countries is nothing like in some others in the EU, as can be seen in the following chart.

And in most countries outside of Southern Europe, support is growing.

The move towards more cooperation in various forms, of which the EU is one, arose in the aftermath of WWII, but now with the issue of immigration, the traction gained by far-right parties in Europe can be considered a step going back to those times: instead of being more open, they are becoming more closed; instead of being more united, they are more divided; instead of showing more tolerance, they are showing racism; instead of cooperation, they are more isolationist. The EU is going in the very direction it tried many years ago to move away from and if this direction continues, it could undermine the whole European project.

...

Various:

So, the question is this. If I put in solar panels in my home, will I be fined or will I be liable for a public grant? First know whether you have ‘autoconsumo en red’ – where you generate your own energy and top it up with electricity from the power company, or ‘autoconsumo aislado’ – where there is no connection to the power company and any excess energy is stored in batteries. As El Ventano explains here, yes to the first, no to the second.

A court declares illegal a Galician Parador located within a castle built in the twelfth century. The court has annulled the hotel license which had been promoted by the regional government in the castle at Monterrei despite protests from both the local population and heritage experts’. The story can be found at El País here.

An odd piece of news from El País in English: ‘Spanish police inspectors to be trained by Catholic university. Academy cuts 28-year link with Salamanca University after accepting cheaper bid’. The Acting Minister of the Interior is, of course, a deeply religious man.

From Lenox’ Spanish Shilling: ‘Joining the list of local plant-pests, a list that includes mortal plagues on the chumbo cactus (cochineal bug), the palm tree (palm weevil), and lesser plagues on the olives (olive psylla), pine trees (processionary caterpillars), bougainvillea (ant-borne infections), eucalyptus (gall wasp) and so on, we are now host to the 'agave snout weevil' (here). This insect, similar in looks to the palm weevil (picudo rojo in Spanish) is about half the size of its more colourful cousin, and it attacks several different types of agave...’. There is a suggestion that the insect was introduced by the local ecologists. For a rather more scientific article, here from Nova Ciencia is one about how Murcia is working to remove all ‘invasive plant species’; even from people’s gardens! Whilst, at the same time, Almerian ‘agricultural engineers’ are campaigning to cure and replace the lost chumbo cactus in the province, says Almería Hoy here.

A small hotel to be built near the Playa de los Genoveses in the Cabo de Gata? Now, there’s a plan...

Zetta: The Spanish answer to the iPhone that was really made in China. Extremadura men suspected of passing off Asian phones as home-grown handsets’. El País in English has the story.

The Instituto Cervantes in Dublin is organising the 5th ISLA (Irish, Spanish and Latin American) Festival, held on 20th, 21st and 22nd October. The central theme for discussion this year will be Borders. More here.

The Irish President Michael D. Higgins recently opened the annual general meeting of the International Brigade Memorial Trust (IBMT) in Liberty Hall, Dublin (Saturday, 15th October, 2016).

The IBMT Ireland Secretary, Manus O’Riordan, whose father, Michael O’Riordan served in the International Brigade during the Spanish Civil War, said: “It was a great honour for the IBMT to have President Higgins formally open the proceedings of the annual general meeting.

Some 275 Irish men and women joined the International Brigades and associated medical services during the Spanish Civil War. Seventy-five of them were killed in the fight to try and stop General Franco’s fascist-backed rebels from toppling the elected government of the Spanish Republic.”

He added: “Ireland should rightly be proud of these volunteers who fought against fascism and for social justice. Acknowledgement of their sacrifice and inspirational role in the war in Spain was a long time coming, but in recent years it has been heartening to see greater public awareness and official recognition of the Irish volunteers.”

The London-based IBMT keeps alive the memory and spirit of the 2,500 volunteers from Britain and Ireland who fought fascism in the Spanish Civil War, of whom 526 died in Spain. (press release – thanks to J.A. Sierra)

...

See Spain:

Ponferrada: ‘El Bierzo: gateway into the 10th century. The autumn is the perfect time to discover this ancient land of Celts, Romans, Visigoths and Knights Templar’. Read about this beautiful area in El País in English here.

From El Huff Post – the ten best restaurants in Spain (Nº 1 is also considered the best restaurant in the world).

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Letters

Many thanks Lenox! Re the Housing bit, I've lived here for 30 years and have never met a Brit without horror stories of buying a place in Spain. Far better to rent. Then if you don't like it you can move on. Jake

A major part of the dissension within the PSoE® has to do with whether or not the major decisions should be taken by the rank and file "militantes" or members (easily influenced by the most radical members) or by the elected representatives of the party.

In a parliament, the members do NOT resort to asking the opinion of local assemblies every time an important decision has to be taken. (Well, perhaps in some Swiss Cantons). The "primaries" if they exist are to elect the leadership, and then let the leaders get on with leading. The decision makers who were most in favour of a "NO" vote to abstention invariably called for a vote from the "bases" or rank and file members. Most of these people have never voted in their lives for any party candidate or attended a meeting, so naturally the more radical element will tend to prevail.

But let's cut to the quick: Spain needs a government, the PSoE® is in no condition to provide one and has rejected a coalition, and after another election will be even less so. The solution can only be a technical abstention, with a limited number of Socialist deputies abstaining. For the rest of the party, HONOUR is saved, the Popular Party should then be allowed to try to govern, to sink or to swim, as it were. In democracy, the losers will always have a second chance. Charles P.M.

 

Business Over Tapas 20 October 2016 Nº 182

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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