A digest of this week’s Spanish financial, political and social news aimed primarily at Foreign Property Owners:

Prepared by Lenox Napier.  Consultant: José Antonio Sierra

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May 16 2019            Nº 303

Editorial:

The media is on high-manipulation now (for example) as we approach the municipal, regional (except in Andalucía, Galicia, Euskadi, Valencia and Catalonia) and European elections. In local elections, which occupy us most, manipulation at arm’s length is harder, since we (often) know the candidates themselves and look on them as characters rather than party officials.

The following remarks are aimed at Spain’s foreign residents.  470,000 Europeans and a few other countries with bilateral agreements, including, for some reason, New Zealand and Trinidad and Tobago, have the right to vote in the municipal elections, a few less – 366,000 – in the European ones. 97,585 Brits can vote in the local elections, being both on the padrón and having duly claimed their right to suffrage.

You can vote in local elections if you are on the voting list (which many of us aren’t – well done that man!). In the smaller municipalities where most foreigners live, our vote does make a difference. A town hall can be won or lost on just a few votes… maybe even just the one.

Of course, there are those who can vote but won’t because ‘it’s not our country’, or ‘we are guests here’ (Oh yeah? Where’s your invitation?) or ‘we don’t know the issues’. Normally, the voters do know the candidates, or at least some people on their list; and in small communities, it’s not about party politics so much as personality politics. There are good socialist mayors; there are good conservative mayors too.

Some local politicians are there for the opportunities. Madrid has long attempted to curtail their powers, but local mayors and their senior councillors often leave politics far richer than when they arrived. They are active in preparing the local urban plan (which will often feature land they have recently acquired, or land that receives a favourable consideration following a short but intense talk with the owner). There are commissions to be won for putting up new street furniture or proving jobs or choosing one supplier over another. Sometimes this activity doesn’t matter so much in the Great Scheme of things, other times it does.

Not all local politics is about the monetary opportunities. Some others want to climb from their municipality into provincial, regional or even national politics. That’s ambition.

Other local politicians are genuine hard-working people who sometimes even forego their salary. They may have given their time and energy to help their communities. Feel proud of them, as many will cross the street to avoid them, or sometimes plot their downfall by buying one of their councillors and calling for a Vote of No Confidence.

Voting is important, because it makes it your responsibility too when the town does well.

As for the European elections, where many of us can vote as well, the question boils down to ‘for who?’ We know none of the candidates (and they most certainly will never speak for us in Brussels). While EU parties remain mono-national, this will be the case. An exception to this state of affairs is Volt Europa which wants ‘to create the first transnational party in the European Parliament’. One day.

Meanwhile, an article here says that the European Parliament is controlled by the lobbies rather than the 400 million voters. Who knew?

Remember also, that four years down the line and following the implosion of the UK thanks to Brexit, the chances are good that we Brits could lose our vote in local elections in Spain (to say nothing of the European vote), despite the recently signed bilateral agreement between Madrid and London, guaranteeing the voting rights of British nationals in Spain and Spanish nationals in the UK to be protected and written into law by both countries.

……

Housing:

‘A property investment fund called Albirana, a partner of the Blackstone vulture funds, anticipates that rents will rise this year above 10%’ says ElDiario.es here. Albirana rents out 9,833 dwellings according to the news-site.

 

From Mark Stücklin’s Spanish Property Insight we read ‘Some Spanish real estate investment opportunities are going to get riskier as left-wing parties negotiate the next Government with policies to reduce returns and boost taxes. The Spanish socialist party won the largest number of seats in the recent General Election but will likely need the support of the Podemos hard-left party to form the next Government. Higher public-spending priorities, and a visceral dislike of capitalism on the hard-left suggest that tax breaks for real estate investors will come under fire, and make Spanish property investment a riskier proposition. The Socialists have already indicated they plan to review tax breaks for landlords who rent to long-term residents as one of several ways to increase Government revenues…’.

‘Want a return on your property investment? Look no further than Spain … The growth has been strong but stable and seems to be avoiding the fatal boom and bust cycle which lead to the meltdown some 12 years ago’. Story from The Olive Press here.

From El País in English comes: ‘Why wealthy Spanish seniors are selling their homes, but not moving out. Growing numbers of pensioners struggling to make ends meet are putting their properties on the market at lower prices, on the condition they may continue to live there until they die’. Similar to ‘Asset Management’, but with a usufruct clause added?

The AUAN are not the first to discover that politics is made up of broken promises. Commenting on a story in La Voz de Almería here, They say: The Junta appeals the sentence and pursues the demolition of the house of Noel and Christine Payne. This goes directly against statements made by the new government of the Partido Popular and Ciudadanos that, on repeated occasions, has announced its intention to regularize such houses’.

……

Tourism:

‘Comisiones Obreras has admitted that it views with «concern» the future of seniors’ Imserso holidays as a result of the opposing positions of hoteliers and the Administration regarding the conditions of the vacation program. The union calls on the different parties to sit down to negotiate to resolve the differences…’.  An item from Hosteltur here.

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Finance:

The Banco de Santander, which reported profits of 7,810 million euros in 2018 (here), has just announced lay-offs of 3,700 staffers and the closing of 1,150 branch offices. The bank says the adjustments come after its acquisition of the Banco Popular and the tendency towards online banking. Público has the story here.

From El País in English: ‘Why Spanish employees may have to start clocking in and out once more. From this week, a new law will force all companies in Spain to track the number of hours their employees work, in a bid to clamp down on the widespread practice of unpaid overtime’. From Factorial here: ‘Everything about the new Time and Attendance Tracking Law in Spain. Last week the BOE published the order regulating a mandatory time and attendance tracking in companies. The Royal Decree-Law now states that it will be mandatory to do so in every company by May 12th. Let’s go over what the decree says and which steps you need to carry it out…’. From La Información, we read that there will be many inspections to check that companies have installed the new meters. It says ‘From the private sector it is noticed that the measure is designed only for the industrial sector and to «give more power to the unions»’.

The mayor of Cádiz, the left-wing independent from Adelante Cádiz, José María González (known as ‘Kichi’), has wrestled the city debt to suppliers down in four years from 45 to 5 million euros, says Portal de Cádiz here.

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Politics:

European, local and (most) regional elections: May 26th.

PSOE veteran Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba died just as the campaigning began last Friday, so, with the exception of Vox, stumping was halted until Sunday. Crocodile tears in some cases (he was vehemently opposed to the candidature of Pedro Sánchez for party secretary). He is remembered by the foreigners when, as a senior minister under Felipe Gonzalez, he stopped the municipal (but not the European) vote for EU citizens in 1995.  He was also the minister who, under Zapatero, removed our handy NIE ID cards (in favour of the passport / police letter combo we now enjoy). Público puts him in his place here.

From Forbes here on Spain’s influence in Europe: ‘In less than two weeks the EU will hold its most important elections in history. Between the 23 and the 26 of May, European citizens will be called to the polls to elect the new members of the European Parliament (MEPs) for the next five years. Many challenges await this term. Outside its borders, Europe is facing an increasing environment of global instabilities and greater commercial tensions. At the same time, the EU has its own battles to fight within its borders, from the Brexit, to cope with the rise of euro-sceptic, populist, and far-right parties that question the values and sense of the Union itself. In this context of uncertainty, Spain may have found its window of opportunity to become a leading country when setting the agenda and addressing the challenges of the future of the EU. The political instability in the United Kingdom and Italy, the influence that the Spanish parties will have in the European Parliament after the elections, and the fact that most of the Spanish population is strongly pro-European, can be key to boost the role of Spain in the EU in the coming years…’.

El Mundo looks on the bright side: ‘Pablo Casado: «The campaign was a success and I have a mandate for four years … The mistake I made was not to see that the PP is the true rival of Vox and Ciudadanos, and not Sanchez, that’s what I did not realize until the electoral night,» says the leader of the PP’.

Regional elections: The latest poll from El País says that ‘The PSOE will win in ten of the twelve voting autonomies while the PP crisis deepens, according to the CIS’. The CIS poll is usually decried by the right-wing, but it was spot on for the general elections last month.

‘Ricardo Díez, mayor for 55 years: «If I do not command I’m nothing». Ricardo Díez Pascual is 89 years old and has been mayor for more than half a century. Nobody in Spain has had more time glued to the balcony. He has been the boss in Castillejo de Mesleón (Segovia) during the last twelve years of the Franco régime and a further 43 years of democracy. And now it’s time to go back to the polls…’. Item found at El Mundo here.

‘Vallada, 3,030 people (Valencia pueblo between Xàtiva and Almansa) is the most indebted municipality in Spain per capita. The exact total amount will depend on how the execution of the last judgment on the local coffers takes place, but it is somewhere between 25.5 and 37 million euros. Each vecino owes something between 8,444 and 12,239 euros. The ratio of debt to current revenues of the City Council is close to 1,000%, which has forced the people to impose a Spartan frugality, keeping two out of three street lamps switched off and even minimizing the fiesta budget (Nooo!). The debt has its origin in the land at the foot of the Tortosa hills, where the previous mayor, Fernando Giner, had the vision of building a large nautical polygon to be called La mar de dins (the inland sea) despite the municipality being 70 kilometres from the nearest port…’. Item from El País here.

Some local PP candidates are so worried about their party reputation, says El Español here, that they are downplaying or even removing reference to the Partido Popular in their campaign material.

The tall half-Argentinean judge from Vox has his opinion about abortion:  ‘The candidate of Vox to the Mayorship of Madrid, Javier Ortega Smith, insisted this Tuesday that «women have the right to eat more or less, to cut the hair or their nails», but not to «end the life of a child» that they carry inside them…’. From ElDiario.es here (with video).

 

The withdrawal of the Spanish frigate Méndez Núñez from the US combat group steaming towards a confrontation with Iran opens a crisis, as the Spanish shipyards aspire to sell their ships to the US Navy. However, the decision has been taken with reports from the Armed Forces Intelligence Centre (CIFAS) and the National Intelligence Centre (CNI) on the table. They contend that Donald Trump’s order to send the fleet to the Persian Gulf to put pressure on Tehran is high risk: «an incident» would be enough to explode into a war. Spain thus ‘closes ranks with the EU before the unpredictable US foreign policy and brings its naval vessel home’ says El Mundo in an editorial here.

Wikileaks drags some old political secrets from its archives. El Independiente looks at conversations between Fraga and Gerald Ford and other secretive political material.

……

Catalonia:

‘Spanish court lets newly elected Catalan MPs leave jail to take office. But all five, who are on trial for the 2017 secession bid, must return to prison after the opening sessions of parliament on May 21’. Headline from El País in English here. The site also assures us that a ‘New survey shows more Catalans reject independence movement than support it. A poll by the regional Opinion Studies Centre has found that 48.6% of respondents in Catalonia are against the separatist drive, up four points from March’.

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Brexit: 

From The Local: ‘The chances of Brexit being cancelled and the UK staying in the EU are as high as 30 percent, said EU chief Donald Tusk on Friday. He believes Brexit has awoken a pro-EU movement in Britain. Tusk, the president of the European Council said the chances of Brexit being called off were rising due in the main to the fact that in his view the British public would reject leaving the EU in a second referendum…’.

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Media: 

Paywalls… subscriptions…? ‘The leading Spanish media have marked 2019 as a challenge: moving to online payment and charging the reader for what they now get for free’. Xataca explains here. So, even if BoT coughs up and links to them, BoT subscribers won’t be able to follow the link to their source. However, as the article notes ‘when there is free beer at the bar, who is going to order a brand they have to pay for?’

Notice how there are never any Hispanic heroes in Hollywood films? El País in English writes of ‘Hollywood’s role in spreading the Spanish black legend’. A new book called ‘La imagen de la presencia de España en América (1492-1898) en el cine británico y estadounidense’ explores how movies have emphasized negative aspects of Spain’s imperial past while playing down Anglo-American wrongdoing, often to support a political cause…’

One of the few media-sites born of the 15-M movement that is still going strong is Spanish Revolution (here). El Confidencial looks at the site eight years on…

Vox has banned any interviews or invitations to a number of newspapers, including El País, which turns out ‘is a communist mouthpiece’.

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Ecology: 

ElDiario.es looks at the desertification of Spain. ‘Erosion loses more than 500 million tons of top-soil per year’.

Diesel isn’t so bad, really, is it? Diario Motor says that, yes, it is.

……

Various:

‘The BOE (State Bulletin) publishes a royal decree granting the State the ownership of the pantheon where Franco will be buried (set for June 10th). A royal decree approved by the Government grants the Administration the ownership of the cemetery of El Pardo where Franco will be re-buried and which until now has belonged to Patrimonio Nacional. Now, the State can sell it or give it away, for example, to the Franco family’. From Público here.

Spain’s first commercial soft-drink was KAS. An article on the bubbly beverage features in El Retro Nostálgico here. They also introduced Bitter Kas. Good stuff. KAS – Spain’s competitor to Fanta, was eventually bought by Pepsi, which also produced soft-drinks under its local Miranda banner. Currently, Miranda is not marketed in Spain, but is sold elsewhere in the world.

From El Comidista comes ‘The plague of the so-called energy drinks’. It says, ‘Drinks with added caffeine and sugar are an unreported health hazard. 68% of teenagers drink them in alarming amounts, and the leading soft drink company – Coca Cola – has now launched its own brand called Energy (to compete with Red Bull, Monster and Burn)…’.

Some statistics. Spain has the third lowest murder rate in Europe (behind Germany and France) and Central and Eastern Europeans are more inclined than Western Europeans to say their culture is superior. Across Europe, Spain is the second most likely to think that climate change is caused mainly or entirely by human activity, is the least frightened by homosexual marriages (just 7%), and has the World’s highest opinion regarding the capabilities of their womenfolk. Spain is also the healthiest country in the world and the fifth largest exporter per capita. Some more useful stats at Xataka here.

The mayor of Estepona (Málaga), when not building (and closing) slides, has some other eccentric ideas, says Digital Sevilla here. The under-used Mercado Gourmet, the briefly open Mirador de la Playa del Cristo, the hugely expensive and now abandoned Estadio de Atletismo, the largely empty 10 million euro Orquidario de Estepona and the closed-down pedestrian route to the faro.

Some trabajos de mierda at Publico’s ‘Shit Jobs: a creepy compilation of shitty jobs’ here.

The Guardian looks at prostitution ‘It’s staggeringly big business in Spain, where demand is being met by traffickers. Can a groundbreaking team turn the tide?’.

Cowboys are Spanish? Oh, yes siree Bob. ABC explains (with video) here.

El Periodico explains what to do if a policeman arrests a transsexual. ‘The police policy towards treating with sensitivity those with unconventional sexual identities is laid out. A report of the Basque Government orders to their ertzainas that, if in doubt of the chosen gender of a detainee, to ask for clarification «in a subtle and educated way» before searching said person. Generally, internal regulations order national police, guardias civiles and Mossos d’Esquadra not to cross sexes between the agent and the citizen in a pat-down, even though street patrols are not equally represented’.

A film called Hellboy, due to be released in Spain this Friday, is a censored version, removing the depictions of violence ‘to make it more accessible to a wider audience’. WTF?

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See Spain:

Mike Arkus is back in Spain. Here he visits Bilbao with his usual spirited text and great photos: ‘Bilbao – it’s the Guggenheim, but it’s also more’.

Spain’s top ten art museums with Eye on Spain here. ‘Spain boasts an extensive art collection, envied the world over. Just visiting one of the ten art centres in this top ten would be enough. You might not experience dizziness, palpitations and trembling, as French writer Stendhal did on his visit to the Italian city, but you will without a doubt leave with another perspective on art. Here are Spain’s ten best museums…’.

La Vanguardia is sure that it has identified Spain’s best place for rural tourism. It’s Santillana del Mar, Cantabria (with video) here.

The photographer Jesús Chacón has a show in Marbella called ‘73 ways to see Marbella’ here.

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Letters:

Another good read this morning Lenox

Your «Opinion» was so to the point, thank you.

Abrazo Inga.

Great stuff on the intro…you need to pour it out! All are correct, but as for noise, I was in a restaurant in Teruel, the only person, and in come a bunch of French, they matched our Spanish friends easily for noise….we’re English aren’t we after all – and not the same ha ha! Richard

You answer to what not liking about Spain is 100% right, and brilliantly exposed

Per Svensson

I hope it has dawned on many of you British readers that the Spanish municipal elections on 26 May and the EU elections (in the UK on 23 May and in Spain on 26 May) might be our last chance to ever vote again!

If you have lived here for more than 15 years and we still do not have that promised vote for life – it isn’t even on their agenda yet – and, as a non EU citizen after/if we Brexit, we shall become personae non gratae. As well as everything else we stand to lose, we are also losing a basic human right!

Please do NOT waste your vote – it really is important!

Anne Hernandez

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Finally:

Reader John sends us this (from The Sunday Telegraph):

It’s time to silence noisy restaurants once and for all

We’re very busy fretting about what we put in our mouths – will it upset our stomach, provoke an intolerance, make us feel bloated or worse, contravene some set of dietary ethics? But when it comes to what we put in our ears – a lot of extremely loud ambient noise – we seem less bothered.

Restaurants are now brilliant at catering to the gluten-free, vegan, dairy and sugar-free needs of the health-conscious, but they’re actually damaging our health more than ever when it comes to the old ears

A new app, Soundprint (here) a restaurant review service for noise, found that the average sound level in UK restaurants, measured between 6pm and 9pm, is 79 decibels, in many places getting beyond 85, the noise level of city traffic heard inside a car.

It’s not just trendy restaurants that have become dangerously cacophonous. In 2017, the UK charity Action on Hearing Loss (AoHL) found that noise levels at the likes of Patisserie Valerie exceeded 90dB at busy times – the equivalent of eating your croissant next to a lawnmower.

The results rather defeat the point of going out for a nice dinner: 8 out of 10 people, even those without hearing problems, reported not being able to actually hear their companion while eating out.

In a sense, it’s not surprising that in a social world increasingly skewed towards interaction with personal screens rather than the person sitting opposite, creating the right conditions for conversation isn’t a priority. Still, as someone who often struggles to make out what people are saying in noisy places, my hope is that the new trend will be away from the exposed brick and marble expanses of current eateries and towards cosier, carpeted tea-room style places.

I envision plenty of floral print, cushioned seats and the kind of hush that means you can finally sit back and relax, at last able to converse in civil and restrained tones with your companion – that is, if you still remember how.

 

Enviado por José Antonio Sierra