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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June 18 2020            Nº 355

Editorial: 

Spain is a great place to live. Those from other countries who decide to live here are of course offered a wealth of choices. What do you want? To live in the country or the town or the city or are you looking for beach-front or off-plan. Would you like a farm-house or an apartment? Do you prefer the warm south, the dry central or the occasionally damp north-west? Do you want fellow-foreign neighbours and the ex-pat life, or to live in a Spanish barrio or village? Can you afford a house for 100,000€ in the middle of nowhere, or an apartment in Marbella for 300,000€? Some Spanish web-pages of use for home-buyers include Idealista, FotoCasa and the venerable Mil Anuncios

There are places for sale for small change (how about this one with 420m2 in the province of León at 54,000€?), homes that cost a fortune (a villa in Ibiza going for 3,000,000€), and many more in the middle (Mil Anuncios has no less than 36,500 properties listed at present). El Comercio says that prices are falling – new builds by up to 10% and private homes by anything up to 30% down. Sales have also fallen, thanks to the pandemic, with XinjuaNet saying ‘…the sale of houses and apartments fell by 39.2 percent in April year on year…’. 

Good news for buyers, not so good for vendors. 

Spanish Property Insight, a useful site to subscribe to, has an article saying that there is a surge in property-searches coming from the UK (we are not entirely surprised to read this) and – as the frontiers are opened – an expected upswing in sales.

Most of us living here in Spain are happy enough, although there are often links to one’s home-country – family, investments, friends and nostalgia. There are around five million foreigners living in Spain (of which 300,000 are Brits): many of them are home-owners. As to why, well, there are so many good reasons to live here.

International Living makes a case for Spain here. It says: ‘There are dozens of reasons why expats are attracted by the prospect of moving to Spain — a rich and ancient history, romantic castles, fabulous cities, beaches, mountains, fiestas beyond number, succulent cuisine… Spain has it all. Yes, some beach resorts are overbuilt with concrete high-rises, but you can still find pretty seaside villages…and Spain off the beaten track is a revelation: a gracious, fulfilling, and traditional way of life that survives despite modern inroads…’. 

To be comfortable living ‘off the beaten track’, you’ll need to speak Spanish, which is a hard task for many of us. However, more important than learning the language is to learn (or know) the culture. After all, who will listen to you if you have nothing to say? 

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Housing:

‘JuanMa Moreno has approved an urban reform that allows one to build anywhere where it is not expressly prohibited.  The president of the Andalusian Government thus reverses the rule that prevented building on rural undeveloped land and on specially protected land unless this is expressly included in an urban plan…’. The story is at Público here. On the same subject, from Cuarto Poder here: The Andalusian Government approved on March 9 the decree of improvement and simplification. In all, 21 laws and six decrees were amended and the Autonomous Parliament was brought to a state of alarm. Already, three appeals to the Constitutional Court have been brought, and 80 organizations have filed a joint complaint with the Public Ombudsman, while the decree has sparked outrage from environmentalists everywhere’. It is nevertheless the case that the laws needed amending (we remember the ‘300,000 illegal houses across Andalucía’), but perhaps this U-turn is a trifle more than we had bargained for. Will the Hotel Algarrobico in Carboneras now be legalised (and can it be repaired after a dozen years of abandon)? 

There are some controversial building projects going ahead in Andalucía ‘…from Chiclana to the Cabo de Gata, not forgetting Marbella…’, says El Mundo here. In another article from the same paper, we read ‘‘The Andalusian government is relying on construction to alleviate the huge losses in tourist income due to the pandemic’.

‘How lockdown life in Spain will change the look of new-build properties around the world’ Says The Olive Press here, quoting some suggestions from architects.  

To the question, what advice would you give someone thinking of buying in Spain, a Facebook reply from Brad says: 

‘I would never buy off plan again, what they promise is highly unlikely to be what you get.

If you’re buying on a community ask to see the minutes of the last AGM, by doing this you’ll find out how the finances are, who’s not paying and what grief is going on between the owners.

If you’re considering spending winter time make sure your property will get plenty of sunshine, ie south facing.

If you’re buying rural property check, check and treble check that everything is legal and all the property is on the deeds, no extensions without planning permission.

Don’t buy anywhere near a hotel or bars if you can’t handle lots of racket in the summer months.

Get a surveyor’s report on the property you’re interested in before considering an offer.

Consider what the fiscal consequences are, the Spanish have a harsh tax regime and they’ll happily take your hard earned cash.

Definitely do not buy until you’ve rented for a while and have a good feeling for both Spain and the area, you’ll need to spend time at different times of the year to get a true reading. Another concern is health of course; the system here is great if you speak Spanish.

I’m sure there’s more that I’ll think of later but that’s it for now good luck with your purchase’.

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Tourism:

‘Spain will reopen borders to EU states on June 21, Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez tells regional chiefs (except Portugal, which has asked to wait one extra week). Travellers from countries outside Schengen will be permitted to enter from July 1, providing there is a reciprocal agreement on travel and taking into account the epidemiological situation in the country of origin’. El País in English here. The RTVE fine-tunes: ‘…In addition, there are six other countries that, although they have not signed the Schengen agreement, belong to the European Union and the borders will also be opened to them on the same date (June 21): They are the United Kingdom, Ireland, Romania, Bulgaria, Cyprus and Croatia. The UK left the EU after ‘Brexit’ on January 31, but it is in a transitional period and until the end of the year the same Community rules apply…’.  As these things keep changing… La Vanguardia says that Spain will be watching to see if the UK drops its fourteen-day quarantine for visitors as there will necessarily be a quid pro quo if they don’t, and The Guardian says ‘Britons risk being shut out of Europe over quarantine and infection rate’ here. Perhaps some late good news from El Confidencial (Tuesday), saying ‘Spain agrees a corridor for British tourists that saves four million holiday-makers. They will be able to travel from June 29 without quarantine upon returning to the UK. The main destinations will be the Canary Islands, the Balearic Islands, Catalonia, the Costa Blanca and the Costa del Sol’. Any update on British tourists allowed into Spain will be posted on the BoT Facebook page here

«The Government in these months is showing that it does not know how to manage the tourism industry,» says Francisco Salado, president of the Diputación de Málaga and Turismo Costa del Sol, after asking for «certainty» regarding the opening of borders and the possible quarantine they are studying. for UK tourists…’. The item comes from HostelTur (Wednesday) here

‘Beaches that are accessed by booking a space, lines in the sand to avoid contact between people, ushers who accompany tourists to their square of sand … Thus Benidorm after a global pandemic. The city of Alicante is one of the great tourist attractions of Spain and its name is inevitably associated with that of a crowded beach with people from almost all parts of Spain and the world. In Benidorm there are about 70,000 residents, but the flow of people is so continuous that, in mid-June, taking the city’s water consumption as a reference, it reaches 125,000. Figure that can reach 400,000 in a ‘normal’ August…’. El Huff Post here

Getting their towels in first, The Guardian says that ‘Almost 11,000 German holiday-makers have arrived in the Balearic islands as part of a pilot scheme to help Spain reactivate its tourism sector, following the disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic’.

El País in English says ‘Thermal imaging and e-forms: How Spain will screen for Covid-19 when the travel ban is lifted’. 

El Mundo quotes a sector-spokesperson for the cruise-liners as saying ‘it’s bleak this year’. 

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Finance:

‘Large companies pressure the government not to repeal the labour reform laws or to raise taxes for banks or the wealthy’ says eldiario.es here. The CEOE (employers association) is holding a summit from this past Monday attended by the presidents of Inditex, the Banco de Santander and Mercadona (among other IBEX giants) ‘…to remind the government of their suggestions for a way out of the crisis…’. Of course, large companies pay less tax. As we read at Spanish Revolution here, ‘Finance technicians from Hacienda are asking for solutions: large companies pay three times less than small and medium enterprises’. 

The PSOE plans to introduce a debate in the Cortes regarding “the gradual elimination of payments in cash, with the end-game of its definitive disappearance”. Will we be pleased to pay for everything with our magic card in the future? Certainly, the coronavirus has helped us use the card in preference to notes and coins. The idea, of course, is to better control our spending and our taxes as this would stop the black market. Head or tails?

As to whether we can manage without leaving a trace of our purchases (today, I buy a can of paint, while tomorrow my computer offers me a discount on brushes), or perhaps a visit to a girly-club, or an evening out at the restaurant with ‘a friend’, who is to judge? The ‘submerged economy’ might be a bad thing for Hacienda, but its eradication might be a worse thing for Society. A cashless society means every purchase leaves a permanent record, with tax control and itemisation. A card supposes bank commissions on every single usage and, no doubt, future negative interest charged on accounts (where are you going to go?). Finally, whatever happened to those pre-paid bank-less debit cards? Ah. 

The Central European Bank (at least) is against the proposal, says TeleCinco here, making the point that European law states that cash is legal tender throughout the Union.  

The Government hopes to stimulate the auto industry by offering rebates on new cars says the ABC here. The Plan Renove has 1.050 million euros earmarked to encourage buyers. 

‘Spain’s government has been warned that up to 30% of catering businesses could be forced to permanently shut their doors due to the coronavirus crisis at the cost of 400,000 jobs. The grim forecast has come from trade body Hosteleria de España. Its president Jose Luis Yzuel revealed the stark figures to the Commission of Industry, Trade and Tourism…’. The article comes from The Olive Press here

Football. A Real Madrid player has just bought a new Bugatti. Now he has two. He also has two Lamborghinis and several other supercars. Lucky chap. Maybe he is overpaid? Nevertheless, Real Madrid and Barcelona FC are both a bit short of cash (thanks to the pandemic) and are asking the Government for a bailout of 200 million ‘to help pay their players’ wages’… The two stories are here and here

‘Fitch maintains Spain’s A- credit rating with a stable outlook despite the difficult situation due to Covid-19’, says The Corner here

Taxes are to be raised says a lawyer writing at Spanish Property Insight here.

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Politics:

The latest CIS intention-of-vote survey (a comparison with now and the elections of November 2019) finds the PSOE rising to 31.2%, a slight fall for the PP (to 20%); Vox and the UP slightly down and a gain for the Ciudadanos. The details are here

According to El Mundo here, ‘Pablo Casado has abandoned the dialectical escalation against the Government and has given Pedro Sánchez a break by voting in favour of the Minimum Vital Income that guarantees income to vulnerable families from between 462 euros to 1,015 euros per month. The PP leader does not want to portray himself standing with Vox and has returned to the path of understanding with the Government just as Spain is definitely entering the New Normal…’. Elsewhere, El Mundo has this: ‘The PP wants to depart from the image of destructive opposition that the PSOE accuses them of being, and is already working for voters to visualize it as a responsible party that is willing to negotiate with the Government for improvements in the lives of citizens…’.

Podemos believes that Felipe González and Juan Carlos I are working together in the shadows to weaken the Executive and, above all, to drive out the government’s far-left ally. Among the members of Podemos, there is a clear suspicion, declared on more than one occasion, that the two protagonists of the Transition have activated their channels and contacts to try to torpedo the red-purple coalition. The scheme that they would be promoting is a government with Pedro Sánchez in command, with the PP and Ciudadanos as allies in a large Spanish-style coalition, thus reassuring Brussels, together with plans for fresh elections…’ (where, presumably, the same mess would return). More from VozPópuli here

From eldiario.es comes the headline ‘To break the coalition government at any price’. The usual suspects are examined… 

The leader of the Podemos-clone Adelante Andalucía is resigning from her post as an opposition deputy in the Junta de Andalucía to prepare herself for fresh battles. Teresa Rodríguez says she is against any further alliance with the PSOE in an interview with eldiario.es here

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Gibraltar:

‘Official residents of Gibraltar and Spain are now able to cross the border again, following direct contact between the chief minister of Gibraltar, Fabian Picardo, and the Spanish Interior Minister, Fernando Grande-Marlaska, as announced by the Gibraltar government last week. Those crossing the border from either side will be asked to show an ID card or residence card to prove that they are officially resident. A passport is not sufficient without proof of residency…’. Item from Sur in English here

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Europe:

“People do not buy a new outfit to stay at home.” Sales at stores that have reopened languish while ecommerce is booming. McKinsey and Company: ‘up to a third of global fashion retailers will not survive the crisis’. Wolf Street reports on the flagging sales at stores (while online sales are soaring).

‘Challenges, achievement and shadows of the law in Spain and the United Kingdom: an Online Talk from the Instituto Cervantes Mánchester on Thursday June 18 from 6.00pm’. More here

El Huff Post asks: ‘The UK in 2020, and the tale of «when the road ends but the fool continues …». Does the United Kingdom want to make it to 2021 without any trade agreement with the EU and its citizens without being able to travel through Europe due to its high rates of coronavirus infection?’

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The Coronavirus:

From The Corner here: ‘Spain better ranked in terms of number of doctors than hospital beds. The number of doctors per 100,000 inhabitants (388) is higher than in the Netherlands (358), France (316) and the UK (281). But it falls well short of Germany (425), which also has almost 2.5 times more hospital beds per 100,000 inhabitants than Spain…’. .

The brief IFEMA hospital in Madrid (in operation for just 41 days) cost the regional government a whopping 59 million euros says El Boletín here

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Corruption:

‘Ending corruption would clear Spain of debt in 10 years’ says La Voz de Almería here. ‘The annual amount of corruption in our country is estimated at 90,000 million euros (2,000€ per citizen), but the means are not put in place to end it. The European Union approved a directive to do so that must be included in Spanish legislation before December 2021, and a group of jurists have prepared a project that it has already presented to the different groups in Congress’. Does this corruption include the ravages of ‘the black economy’? The article doesn’t say. 

A video and article from LaSexta here: ‘Tax engineering for millionaires: how they use the law to evade taxes and get even richer’. It says: ‘While in Spain families contribute 91.52% of the tax collection, large companies only contribute 1.98% thanks to tax engineering, a set of practices that consists of using the law to pay as little as possible’.

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Courts:

The conservative sector of the Constitutional Court asks to study a complaint by Vox against 29 deputies who should be sacked for their way of taking their parliamentary vows. A group of six magistrates has submitted a brief requesting that the debate be held in full and address the possibility of leaving everything approved in this legislature up in the air: from the appointment of President Sánchez to the States of Alarm’. Eldiario.es has the story here.

‘A first sentence (no doubt of many) concludes that the regional governments and not Pablo Iglesias are responsible for the tragedy that occurred in the residences. The debate raised by the Popular Party that had directly indicated Pablo Iglesias as being responsible for the tragedy of the Madrid old-folks homes has suffered a twist due to the judgment of Judge Elena Alcalde’. The article is at JotaPov here.

From The Guardian here: ‘A Spanish archaeologist whose staggering discoveries included one of the earliest representations of the crucifixion and proof that the written Basque language was centuries older than previously thought has been found guilty of faking the finds’. 

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Media: 

El Confidencial looks at modern censorship here, from Gone With the Wind to Little Britain, as it reviews a book called Neoinquisición by Alex Kaiser. 

What happens if someone comments on your site something rude or inappropriate? It’s easy enough. In the case of Meneame, the Supreme Court has fined them 1,200€ plus costs after a reader described a councillor from Marbella in 2015 as a ‘hijo de puta’ in a comment. 

Eldiario.es and InfoLibre are to be working together on some editorial and investigative material. 

Javier Monzón, the president of Prisa (El País, La Ser…) (wiki) and a senior figure from the Banco de Santander, has ousted the director of El País Soledad Gallego-Díaz in favour of Javier Moreno.  The largest shareholder at just under 30% is Amber Capital (prop. Joseph Oughourlian) and they (he) are against the changes says eldiario.es here. In the background is Felipe González, who is pitted strongly against the president of Spain (and fellow socialist) Pedro Sánchez and who is promoting an alliance (through the editor of El País) between the PSOE and the PP.  

The remarkable Altavoz de Sucesos says here that El País is losing both readers and advertisers. They may be losing readers, perhaps, due to the paywall (although there’s no limit on El País in English articles). The Altavoz de Sucesos puts it down, however, to the far-left poppycock printed by the El País (we paraphrase slightly), which has allowed both El Mundo and La Vanguardia to overtake it in readership.  

Conspiracy theories, says the eldiario.es jocularly, are everywhere. Bill Gates wants to put microchips in our vaccines, George Soros wants the world to turn socialist and the reason they killed Carrero Blanco in 1968 was to stop him spilling the beans about how Franco had bought the Eurovision that year so that Massiel could win. Mind you, the president of the UCAM (Catholic university in Murcia) is sure that the Covid-19 is the work of «the antichrist» and that abovementioned Bill Gates and Soros are «Slaves of Satan». El Plural wryly reports here and the video is here

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Various:

The ex-king Juan Carlos de Borbón, while now protected from any governmental inquiry (by the Government itself after the PSOE, PP and Vox shot down a motion from Podemos), remains in the news. Vanitatis takes a look at his gifts from powerful Middle Eastern associates and others, Expansión writes about the commissions from the AVE Medina to Mecca deal, now being investigated by the Prosecutor for the Supreme Court, and the Catalonian-based El Nacional looks at a program from the French national radio RTV which, after exploring his story, ends with «History does not even seem to serve as a lesson to the Bourbons of Spain: they lost the crown several times in the 19th and 20th centuries. Losing it again would not even be the exception, but rather the rule.»

A hard-line monarchist newspaper baron called Luis María Anson (long-time editor of the ABC and later founder of La Razón and El Imparciál), warns that Pedro Sánchez has a plan to become ‘the first president of the Third Republic’. He may be right…  

Santiago Abascal, the leader of Vox, has a gun permit. The ABC is concerned that ‘Leftist groups have asked that Abascal should lose his place as a deputy if he is found to be armed in Congress’ (he habitually carries a revolver). It seems like a plan to me. From El Español comes ‘Abascal calls for «arms and drug controls» in Congress «seeing the look of some of Sánchez’s partners». The president of Vox says he is not the least concerned about the «inconvenience of being frisked» when entering the chamber’.

Brussels disciplines the senior Spanish official who accused Sánchez of «mental alienation» in a letter sent to the ABC (here).

‘The president of the Community of Madrid, Isabel Díaz Ayuso, has proposed to hold a charity bullfight in tribute to the health workers who have worked during the pandemic at Hospital 12 de Octubre…’. Item from Los Replicantes here.

The GAL (Grupos Antiterroristas de Liberación) (wiki) was a secret mercenary force in the mid-eighties whose job was to eradicate ETA members. It was reputed to be created by the president at the time, Felipe González. La Razón says that the CIA has released documents and they include this quote dating from 1984 from the agency. «González has agreed to the formation of a group of mercenaries, controlled by the Army, to combat terrorists outside the law.»…’. 

Ángel Sanz Briz (28 September 1910 – 11 June 1980) was a Spanish diplomat who served under Francoist Spain during World War II. He saved the lives of some five thousand Hungarian Jews from deportation to Auschwitz. Sanz Briz is sometimes referred to as «the Angel of Budapest» (Wiki). An article on his life in Hungary is at Eye on Spain here

Agente Provocador looks at the life of Ramón Álvarez Escudero, ‘Rámper’ (Wiki), Spain’s most famous clown, who appeared in films during the twenties and thirties, and who also built the Hotel Palace in Madrid before dying a pauper in Seville in 1952. 

‘The remarkable story of how the captain on one of three Spanish Armada ships, wrecked off the coast of Sligo, survived and made his way back to Spain has been made into a film by a local voluntary community group. ‘Armada 1588: Shipwreck and Survival’, tells the story of Captain Francisco de Cuéllar…’. A feature with video from Ireland’s RTÉ.

The Prado presents the Cuaderno C de Francisco de Goya, with his cartoons here

Local Spanish words. I discover that garden peas, guisantes, are called présules in western Almería (to my slight confusion). 

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See Spain:

From Magnet here, ‘Japan has an amusement park which is dedicated to Spain. And it’s just as wonderful as it sounds’. The interesting presentation with photos begins ‘Every year 1.2 million tourists flock to Mie Prefecture in Japan to soak up some Spanish culture at the Shima Village, a theme park that has Don Quixote, Sancho Panza, and a bull as official mascots…’.

‘Madrid is one of the cheapest cities in Spain to go on vacation’ says Madrid Secreto here

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Letters:

Many thanks for this, Lenox. I quote your introductory piece, «It’s a truism that the poor could always do with some extra money but the rich never seem to have enough». This puts me in mind of a song you may know by the Pet Shop Boys, «Love, etc». There is a line which goes, «Too much of anything is never enough».

I suppose we’re lucky to have jobs at all.

More anon, Norman

I mentioned that I couldn’t open the hyperlinks on my Mac, here is the simple solution.

Hold down the command key and click on the link. ¿Fácil no?

John, in confused muddling England (who would have thought that the Spanish authorities could be far more logical than the UK when it came to Lockdown?).

Morning Lenox!

How lovely!

We have still lockdown so I thank the Lord for my dog and my large garden. Keep up your excellent work!

Kay 

We are Jordi Giner and Charles Betty, researchers looking for British people who live in Spain for all or most of the year to take part in our survey. The survey is about lifestyle, including any intentions of returning to the UK. This should take no more than 10 minutes to complete.

The questionnaire is non-profit making and non-commercial and is designed to help our research team to better understand the lifestyles and decisions made by British people living in Spain. We will not ask for any personal details and identities will remain anonymous. All data will also be treated in confidence and not shared with anyone outside of the research team.

This survey will be open until the end of July. It can be found at: https://go.uv.es/xFNkb51 

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Finally:

Gloria Estefan – Cuando Hay Amor on YouTube (Formulaic but jolly enough) here