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Editorial:

How many Brits live in Spain, or Frenchmen, or Germans...? The official answer is the sum of the number inscribed on the Town Hall registries, the padrón. Some tourist towns – Marbella is one – will try and encourage foreigners to register. Others (Mojácar for example), most certainly won’t. The padrón is used in Spain to measure a town’s size and therefore to gauge how many licences and how much funding to send there. Tourist towns, such as the two mentioned above, fluctuate wildly during the summer season as visitors come and go. The system fails to address this unfortunately. Furthermore, with ‘residential tourism’ (the preferred Spanish identification for foreign home-owners and renters) measured in an illogical way, figures are understandably suspect. Some foreigners don’t want to be on the register and others that don’t make the grade. On the negative side, some are dead or have simply moved away. So the figures are inaccurate; but the Spanish system overseen by the Instituto Nacional de Estadísticas is complacent – as always.

The INE has a webpage available to the public, but it is frustratingly difficult to navigate (of course). So, to save time, we will accept the painfully exact number of Brits as 253,928 – quoted in an article from El Economista from last June. The foreign press currently prefers the almost rounded-out figure of 761,000 which comes from an out-of-date posting from the BBC on a page called Brits Abroad, which in turn is credited to a think tank called the Institute for Public Policy Research. We wonder what else they get wrong about Spain.

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Housing:

From Mark Stüklin’s Spanish Property Insight: ‘Within hours of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruling that abusive floor clauses could be reclaimed without any time limit, Spanish judges started implementing the decision. A judge in Barcelona ruled that a client of Banco Popular had not been adequately informed of “the existence and implications of a floor clause” based on the pre-contractual documentation and simulations provided, and that the floor clause did not meet the “transparency requirements” stipulated by the Supreme Court. In both Barcelona and Oviedo the judges found the floor clauses to be null and void for lack of transparency, entitling the borrowers to a full refund on mortgage interest overpayments going back over the lifetime of the loans, with no time-limit...’. The story is also covered at El País in English here. Unsurprisingly, while the Ministry of Justice likes the order from the European Court, the Ministry of the Economy doesn’t. Which department will draft the new legislation? Público explains here.

Opp.Today asks: ‘Why Swedish demand for Spanish property is rising’. The article begins – ‘Britons have long dominated overseas property sales in Spain, but demand from Swedish buyers is steadily rising. In summer 2016, demand was up 59.8% year-on-year in Quarter 2, according to data from leading Spanish second home specialist ‘Shario’ and the Property Registrars ‘Registradores’. Swedish sales rose 22.7% in Quarter 3 2016, while UK sales in Spain fell 16.3%...’.

The draft tourist law currently on the table in the Balearic Islands introduces a raft of new measures to clamp down on holiday rentals, according to Spanish press reports. The background to this is a chronic shortage of housing in the Balearics, where tourist demand for accommodation is one of the factors driving up rental prices and making housing unaffordable for locals, especially lower paid workers who do all the menial jobs without which the tourist business would suffer. The Balearic regional government, or Govern, currently run by a coalition of leftwing parties, has made housing affordability a key priority, which it plans to achieve in part by restricting the freedom of owners to rent their homes to tourists in Mallorca, Menorca, Ibiza and Formentera. No doubt the regional hotel lobby is pleased about this... From Spanish Property Insight here.

From Typically Spanish comes: ‘Corvera Golf – another real estate collapse into bankruptcy – Britons affected. A judge has declared a suspension of payments on the promoter who built the resort next to the never-opened Corvera airport in Murcia, Antonio Rizo and the administrator, Irene Torrano’.

Spanish Property Insight has asked a property lawyer to explain ‘Renting in Spain – the Landlord’s Taxation Guide’.

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Tourism:

FITUR, the international tourist fair held each year in Madrid, is next week: the 18th to 22nd January. There are an expected 9,600 exhibitors for this year. The official page for the fair is here.

More than 74 million foreign visitors came to Spain last year. The figure, released by the United Nations World Tourism Organisation, is thought to be 4% more than the previous year and breaks all previous records. “More than 74, probably 75 million international travellers have come to Spain in 2016”, the Madrid-based body’s secretary general, Taleb Rifai, told a news conference...’. From The Olive Press.

Tourism can be a nuisance, especially when there is too much of it and you don’t happen to own a souvenir shop, a bar or a hotel to help ease the bother. An opinion piece in Nueva Tribuna begins: ‘There is little doubt that 2016 has been a hot tourist year and not just because of the temperatures. Spain in general, and Barcelona in particular, have recorded new historical milestones in terms of tourist demand. At the same time, the city of Barcelona has witnessed a crescendo of malaise, if not antagonism, against the tourist phenomenon. In this sense it is worth noting the increase of a certain tourismophobic feeling, whose most visible and mediated manifestation is reflected, in more or less bellicose tones, painted on many of the walls of the Catalan capital...’.

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Seniors:

Age Concern España, a fully registered not for profit Spanish organisation, has been providing support and promoting the well being of the over 50s in Spain since 1994. Through our volunteers we provide a range of services to help with integration into Spanish life and to provide information, advice and support for common issues that affect the over 50s’. The webpage for the group is here.

The Minister for Health Dolors Monserrat said in a radio interview that 25% of all Spanish pensioners could expect to see a rise in their medical costs, the ‘copago farmacéutico’ or copayment scheme. The pensioners in question are those who receive over 18,000€ per year. The Minister later denied the story in a Twitter posting. Público has the story.

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Finance:

Non-Resident Beneficiaries Of Spanish Assets Have The Opportunity To Apply For A Tax Refund’. The headline from Mondaq. The article begins, ‘If you were a beneficiary of someone who left assets in Spain but you were not yourself a resident of Spain you may have paid a higher rate of inheritance tax and may be due a refund since a ruling in the European Court of Justice in September 2014 which decided that the difference applied between residents and non-residents with regard to the application of inheritance tax and gift tax was discriminatory. The Spanish legislator has therefore been obliged to amend the inheritance tax law. Tax refunds are allowed for individuals who paid the higher rate of inheritance and gift tax which was payable by non-resident beneficiaries between 1 January 2011 to 1 January 2015...’.

The bail-out of the banks cost some 122,000 million euros, says Postdigital, quoting the Tribunal de Cuentas audit courts, of which 60,718 million have already been written off. The figure could still rise. El País in English says that 41,800 million of the loss will be covered by the tax-payer. A quote from the article reminds us that: ‘In June 2012, when the Spanish government announced its rescue plan for the country’s crippled banking system, in part funded by the European Central Bank, Economy Minister Luis de Guindos told Congress: “Have no doubt that most of the money going to the nationalization of these banks will be recovered. The loan will not be paid for by society, on the contrary.” The same day, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy insisted: “This is a loan to the banks and the banks will pay it back.”’.

The Spanish banking sector looks set to have another problem on its hands: Facebook has obtained a license to manage money transfers between individuals in Spain. The social media giant has secured the authorization in Ireland, opening the door to the rest of the European market, according to a company release... Social media giant has registered with central bank, and is poised to challenge traditional lenders. From El País in English here.

During the first week of 2017, Spain’s “most Italian bank”, Banco Popular, got off to a flying start as its stock outperformed all other major Spanish banks. By Jan 5th its shares had even crossed the €1-line for the first time in nearly a month. But Popular’s New Year fairy tale was not made to last. Its upward momentum, if that’s the right term, was brought to a halt by a bombshell report from UBS that concludes that Popular’s stock, which already lost three-quarters of its value last year and is down over 90% since 2008, is still overvalued by 20%. In less than an hour, Popular’s shares were back under a euro. That’s life in the penny-stock lane...’. From Wolf Street here.

From The Olive Press: ‘Spain’s King Felipe VI will make an official visit to Saudi Arabia this week, with the sale of five military ships on the agenda. He will be accompanied on his January 14th-16th visit by Foreign Minister Alfonso Dastis and Public Works Minister Iñigo de la Serna, the Foreign Ministry said...’. Meanwhile, Queen Letizia says that she won’t be accompanying her husband to Saudi Arabia...

From The Corner: ‘The Supreme Court has ruled that town councils should charge the electricity and gas companies for using the public domain for their energy transport installations, at a rate of between 3,000 and 12,000 euros per linear metre a year. This is what the court has set down in five legal rulings, putting an end to a long dispute between the town councils and the companies which refused to pay these fees...’.

Italy and Spain: a tale of two countries’. An interesting report from the Real Instituto El Cano think-tank. Quote: ‘While Italy is still more economically powerful than Spain, it displays more structural imbalances and declining trends’.

Bureaucratic requirements are complicating the advance on the plans to build the new American-backed ‘Eurovegas’ in Madrid, says El Español. The 2,200 million investment by Cordish for its project titled ‘Live! Resorts Madrid Spain’ is now waiting for fresh planning information from the company before the final green light from the Madrid regional government. ‘Eurovegas’ is to be built on land located in Torres de la Alameda, near the Madrid airport.

We begin 2017 with excellent news: the Junta de Andalucía has increased the threshold of tax-free inheritance from 175,000 € to 250,000 € per heir and has also created a further reduction on legacies of up to 350,000 € per heir’. The note comes from a lawyer’s page – Rico Asesores – on Facebook here.

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Politics:

A recent survey shows the PP increasing its lead, with Unidos Podemos in second place. The PSOE continues to fall and Ciudadanos also loses way. The figures, quoted by Público, for ‘intention of vote’ are PP 34.8% (33% last elections in June), UP 22.5% (21.1%), PSOE 19.4% (22.7%) and Cs 12.6% (13.1%).

Why doesn’t Spain have a strong far-right party? Research from El Español suggests that a party led by José María Aznar would catch some four million voters worth around 51 seats in the Cortes. The fresh spread could be something like: PP 24%, UP 21%, PSOE 19%, Aznar 15% and Cs 12%. Well, it’s just science fiction...

The Government would veto any price reductions from the power companies, since the tax income would fall”, says Alberto Nadal, Budget Secretary. “It’s just incredible”, confirms Jorge Morales, the Vice-President of the Fundación Renovables, “they penalise any kind of saving, direct or indirect”. El Periódico de la Energía has the story.

The meeting last October at the PSOE headquarters where senior party members decided to drop their support for Pedro Sánchez has returned to the headlines after the President of the Junta de Extremadura, Guillermo Fernández Vara, revealed in a radio interview that he left the compound following the decision, smuggled inside the boot of a car to fool reporters...

A full list of Spain’s MEPs is here.

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Catalonia:

The Economist has a go at the proponents for Catalan independence with an article titled ‘In their search for independence, Catalans can resemble Brexiteers. But in a region plagued by corruption and unemployment, the nationalists may not win’.

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Gibraltar:

An interview with Spain’s new foreign minister Alfonso Dastis at El País in English: “If Gibraltar wants a relationship with the EU, it will have to go through us”.

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Brexit:

A British expat delegation is taking its Brexit battle to the heart of Westminster.

The five-strong group will give evidence before the Exiting EU Committee, chaired by Labour MP Hilary Benn, on January 18...’. The Olive Press has the story.

El Diario considers the possible issues for Spaniards resident in the UK. We need a better idea of how many there are (as always, nobody bothers to keep an accurate number of the EU foreigners or ex-pats, since our/their political weight is slight) and more help in the consulates and the embassies to help and advise these citizens, together with of course full consideration during the Brexit negotiations.

The European Liberal Party survey of concerns re Brexit, open to all UK citizens living in the EU 27.

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Courts:

The father of a virtual money called ‘unete’ is a young Spaniard called José Manuel Ramírez Marco. The cyber-currency was not all it seemed, however, and after a massive fraud across 78 countries during 18 months, worth at least 40 million euros, where Ramírez offered gullible investors 188% returns in an evident Ponzi scheme, the fraudster was briefly jailed in 2015. He is currently at liberty but facing fresh charges. See El País here.

A Spanish court on Monday sentenced the head of an animal shelter to three years and nine months in jail for killing hundreds of healthy dogs and cats in a way that provoked "prolonged agony". The court in the southern city of Malaga also slapped Carmen Marin Aguilar, 72, with a fine of €19,800 after finding her guilty of animal cruelty and document falsification...’. The story (and video) is at The Local and tells of thousands of healthy animals slaughtered at the Torremolinos rescue centre.

From The Olive Press: ‘An Andalusian politician has finally been locked up for fraud after four years on the run. Manuel Rodríguez de Castro, a high ranking ex Partido Popular official in José María Aznar’s Spanish government, has been incarcerated in a Madrid prison. The news comes nine months after he was caught in Mexico...’.

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Various:

Down in our local bar, the customers throw titbits to the sparrows. There are hundreds of them (sparrows, that is), all suffering gentle dyspepsia from the sugary buns. While our local sparrow population seems assured, nationally, the same is not the case: with a reported drop in 2016 of twelve million of these small birds. Article and video at CadenaSer here.

One of the more colourful of our ex-ministers is the Canarian José Manuel Soria, whose house in Las Palmas was burgled on Christmas Eve. The police are throwing all of their weight into the highly secretive investigation, says El Diario here prompting the question – what an earth could have gone missing?

An article and graphic about Spain’s drinking is at El País here. Hmmm. For example – 31% of adults smoke on a daily basis, and 10% have a drink. (By the way, 2% enjoy a daily spliff). Asturias has the heaviest drinkers, Cantabria the lightest (Melilla and Ceuta drink even less, but have a larger non-drinking Muslim population). The British (Europe’s heaviest drinkers) drink twice as much as the Spanish on average.

The RACE (Spain’s drivers’ club) wants cyclists to pay vehicle insurance, have a driving (cycling) licence with points and have a number plate nailed to the rear of their velocipede.

The proposed new digital canon to be introduced by the Government could increase the price of some items by as much as 10€ or more. The canon is designed to take over from a previous one – deemed illegal by the EU – and will provide extra funds for copyright owners (and of course create extra public employees to handle them). More here.

Inspectors from Hacienda spend their time chasing after house-maids, the young and the retired rather than going after bigger game, says the ex-president of the Organización Profesional de Inspectores de Hacienda del Estado, José María Peláez. The story here.

Not all news is true – some interesting and false headlines from the Spanish media in 2016, collected at El Observador here.

Somebody asked an American visitor what he thought were the oddest things about Spain, here’s his answer (en castellano) over at La Cabeza Llena. Includes an amusing recording of ‘brand names pronounced by a Spaniards and then by an American’.

The Surprisingly Practical History Behind Spain’s Running of the Bulls’ Time Magazine reports from June last year here.

Supermarket food, measured in sugar-lumps. El Comidista here.

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See Spain:

There are some really weird borders in the world, and Spain is probably the cause of some of the strangest... An amusing video on YouTube here.

Europe's first underwater museum opens off Lanzarote. The Museo Atlántico was inaugurated on 10 January as artist Jason deCaires Taylor completes his monumental underwater sculpture work, featuring more than 300 life-size human figures’. Photographs from The Guardian.

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Letters

An early comment on this week’s editorial regarding (British) population numbers and the padrón: ‘Every Expat resident in Spain should now register just to be safe. The future status of UK Expats will shortly be subject to negotiation between EU27 and UK. A starting point for granting future rights may well be 'Registration'. I understand that under Spanish Law you have to register, so those who have not 'could' not be covered by any new arrangement. I know that under the existing regime many Expats take the view, 'no one bothers' so why pay local & national taxes, but this may well change , some will say it will change. Here in UK we do not yet have a registration system for EU Expat but it is coming and it will be enforced!’ Brian.

...

Finally:

A press release from Sinn Féin (Northern Ireland) regarding Brexit:

Since the EU referendum I and my colleagues have been inundated with correspondence from a range of individuals and groups concerned about the impact the vote could have.

I share those concerns and am committed to working to ensure the democratic will of the people of the North is respected.

Sinn Féin recognises the problems that exist within the European Union but we believe that Ireland's place, north and south is in the EU.

The majority of voters in the North of Ireland shared our view and voted to remain in the EU. That vote must be respected and recognised.

This is not a done deal and it is still all to play for.

There is an onus on the British government to respect the democratic will of the people of the North of Ireland.

The Irish government too, have a responsibility to stand up for the democratic rights of Irish citizens in the North.

European citizenship is a vital concern for Sinn Féin as the British Government and the European Union enter negotiations on Brexit. European citizenship affords people with certain rights and protections, as well as access to EU-wide benefits and institutions of importance.

Sinn Féin has launched a comprehensive document setting out our vision for the future of the north of Ireland in the EU – here.

There is now a democratic imperative on the British government to acknowledge the vote of the people of the North and announce a referendum on Irish unity.

Our ministers and elected representatives have raised the potential impact of Brexit in the Assembly, Dáil, Seanad, and at local councils. I have also raised it directly at an extraordinary meeting of the European Parliament in Brussels and have called for urgent meetings with the heads of the European Institutions.

Sinn Féin called on the Irish government to set up a National Forum to discuss the impact of the referendum result for Ireland. We welcome the fact that the Taoiseach has established such a Forum. It should be a truly national Forum with the involvement of political parties and wider civic society, similar to the New Ireland Forum and the Peace and Reconciliation Forum.

We have also raised the potential impact of Brexit with government ministers from across Ireland at the North South Ministerial Forum.

We will continue to engage with all representatives and organisations in order to put the specific concerns of the people of Ireland on the negotiating table.

We will continue to support any initiative that limits the negative effects of Brexit and continue to pursue a special designated status for the north to remain in the European Union.

Sinn Féin is also holding a series of public meetings across the North to give people the opportunity to have their say and make sure their democratic voice is heard and respected.

I am asking you to join with us to stand up for your rights, stand up for your future and stand up for your vote.

Martina Anderson MEP.

 

Business Over Tapas 12 January 2017 Nº 191

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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