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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December 17 2020            Nº 379

Editorial: 

What’s the deal with the Western Sahara? It was one of Spain’s possessions in northern Africa, and, following the peculiar Green March of November 1975 (Wiki) as Franco agonised on his death bed – when 350,000 Moroccans advanced several kilometres into the territory – the region was finally ceded, not to its inhabitants, but to two of the neighbouring countries: Morocco and Mauretania (which dropped its claims in 1989 – Wiki). 

Morocco occupied most of the territory, claiming it as a Moroccan province, but was faced with both the indigenous Sahrawi population, who wanted independence; neighbouring Algeria, who supported the armed Sahrawi Polisario movement; and certain international agencies that supported the indigenous peoples, culminating in the proposal of an UN-backed referendum (rumours had the Moroccans filling up the region with somewhat unwilling settlers to help along the eventual vote), which so far, has never been held.

While Morocco claims various bits of its territory held by the Spanish and known in Spain as ‘plazas de soberanía’ (Wiki) – off-lying islets like Perejil, the Chafarinas islands and the isthmus of La Peñón de Vélez de la Gomera (1.9 hectares in size, with a small military presence), and more importantly, Melilla and Ceuta and even the Canary Islands for future discord, the larger and easier prize of the rich-in-resources Western Sahara (it’s about half the size of Morocco) has kept that country distracted

The Spanish have quietly ignored the plight of the Sahrawi people, beyond inviting many of their children to stay in private homes in Spain during the summer, as the Americans were in support of the status quo. There are sound business reasons for doing so. 

Suddenly, last week, the outgoing president Donald Trump gave his nation’s official recognition of Morocco’s claim to the region (in exchange for Rabat recognizing Israel as a nation). Minutes later, the proposed meeting for Thursday December 17th between President Sánchez and King Mohammed VI to discuss illegal immigration was dropped.  

The Americans had been involved with the Western Sahara issue from the beginning, and it’s known that Henry Kissinger influenced Juan Carlos I to drop Spain’s claim on the region as ‘the Green March began and Franco slipped into a coma’ (Atalayar here). 

With Trump’s ‘surprise’ recognition of the Moroccan claim, the Spanish media went into a frenzy (here).  elDiario.es says that the USA has favoured Morocco for the past 45 years, while Ejercito warns of the ‘imminent regional military supremacy’ of the Moroccans as ‘a grave problem for Spain’. The Moroccan air force, for example, is equipped with ‘better fighters’

The British quickly backed the American view (‘to isolate Spain on the Sahara question’ says El Español), while Russia (and Sweden) just as quickly rejected the policy.  

De Verdad Digital explains here that the American master-plan is to ease tension between Israel and the Arab nations while trampling on the rights of the powerless (‘…the Sahrawis and the Palestinians are twinned in ignominy…’). 

In Morocco, ‘Jewish history and culture has returned to the school-books’ says Israel Hayom here, and the ‘great plan’ of Mohammed VI to bring fertile growth back to the dry desert with Israeli technology is the subject of an article in El Español here

The American ambassador to Rabat gave a framed map of the expanded Morocco to the Moroccan king last Saturday (here) and we end with an article from the Spanish-language Sahrawi newspaper EcSaharaui titled ‘Noam Chomsky: Trump makes the criminal occupation of Western Sahara by Morocco, official’. 

……

Housing:

El País in English reports of ‘The coronavirus exodus: Spaniards looking to buy larger homes outside the city. Demand for houses has skyrocketed as a result of the pandemic, with sales at record-high levels, according to the Notary General Council’

El Economista says that house prices are barely falling amid the biggest crisis in decades, and asks ‘Why?’ 

From Spanish Property Insight here: ‘As the pandemic keeps tourists away, owners of holiday rentals are told they must pay tax on their empty days’. That’s right; owners will be expected to pay tax on their rental homes based on an imputed income. 

From BBC News here: ‘Spain housing: Evictions and broken promises in a pandemic’. 

……

Tourism:

‘It was revealed that under current coronavirus restrictions, travellers from the UK would be barred from entering the EU and Norway in the New Year. Countries such as Spain will have to override the travel advice of the European Council if they want to receive Brits when the Brexit transition period ends on January 1. Alternatively a proposal could be put forward to add the UK to the ‘safe travel list’ but it would have to meet several criteria relating to its Covid-19 management’ From The Olive Press news-letter.

Stung by suggestions that Spain needs other industries than simple tourism, Juan Cierco, the corporate director of Iberia warns the Government: ‘»Without tourism Spain will not come out of the crisis»’. Preferente has the item here

It’s a bit early for the Día de los Santos Inocentes (28 December), but the always eccentric (and ambitiously titled) Global24/7News has the improbable story that ‘Expat bar owners in Spain fear having to remove English language signage after December 31st’. It begins: ‘British bar and restaurant owners across Spain’s holiday regions of both the Costa del Sol and the Costa Blanca have had a torrid year financially in 2020 due to this year’s pandemic. Now news is spreading along both coasts that extra large financial costs may burden them by having to remove all English language signage from outside their premises in the event of a No Deal Brexit…’. 

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Finance:

From El País (partial pay-wall) here:  ‘Spain loses 3,700 million a year due to tax evasion of the wealthy and the multinationals. Globally, tax evasion reaches around 360,000 million euros, according to a study by the Tax Justice Network’. The sum amounts to around 1.5% of Spain’s total tax income, or 5% of the spending on health. 

From elDiario.es here: ‘No Spanish bank is among the fifty most solvent entities in Europe.

The solvency of Spanish banks is at the bottom of the EU countries, surpassed even by the Greeks, despite having improved so far this year due to moratoria and stimuli measures in Spain and Europe’. The stats come from the European Banking Authority

Bad times are always good for some. As La Marea reports, ‘In the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, as the economy plunged around the world, Blackstone raised the largest real estate investment fund in Europe. The US vulture fund managed to raise 9,800 million euros to further strengthen its dominant position at a time when many businesses were temporarily (or permanently) lowering the shutters. In Spain, Blackstone is considered «the largest landlord», the main homeowner: speculation sublimated to its highest degree…’. The article later says: ‘…Certain sources put it at 30,000 properties while others speak of 55,000. The only certainty is that no one controls more bricks and mortar than Blackstone…’. 

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Politics:

A strong article from elDiario.es is titled ‘The PP and Vox: the battle for the story of a Spain without freedom. The PP and Vox and their media terminals promote the idea that Spain is a «communist social regime» in which there are no freedoms, while they accuse the Government of all kinds of crimes. Retired ex-soldiers, who Vox defines as «our people», try to involve the king against the left and to support executions and coups d’état’. Whether a real communist social regime would allow such, er, freedom to promote these claims is debatable and we are reminded once again of another similar case going on, this time in the USA: Donald Trump’s refusal to admit – the other side won fairly. 

El Español introduces us to a ringleader in the far-right: ‘General Juan Antonio Chicharro, cousin of Vox’s Ortega Smith and ideologue of the military manifesto against Sánchez. Retired a decade ago, in December 2018 he was elected president of the Francisco Franco National Foundation (FNFF) by the dictator’s family’.

Perhaps as a follow-on from the Western Sahara debacle, ‘Pablo Casado regrets that Spain continues to lose international weight with Sánchez in the Government’ says ABC here

An excision of Vox called ‘TúPatria’ has just got its first councillor, Fernando José Martínez Albor, into power in the Madrid town of Valdemoro, following the resignation of his predecessor. The president of the nascent TúPatria, Carmen Gomis, who feels that Vox has become too aggressive, is interviewed by El Español here.  Another excision from Vox – this time in Murcia – is reported by elDiario.es here. This one is called ‘Valores’. 

‘The Spanish congress renounces investigating the former king for illicit credit cards. Left-wing parties’ petitions rejected for fifth time this legislature’. Catalan News has the story

……

Gibraltar:

Headline from The Gibraltar Chronicle here: ‘Spain’s Foreign Minister says negotiators have ‘a duty’ to agree a deal on Gib frontier mobility’. 

Why won’t Spain play Gibraltar at football? It’s not like they’re gonna lose. 

……

Europe:

An article from The Huff Post that some of us can get behind: ‘Stop Blaming Remainers for the Brexit Disaster. It’s Not Our Fault’. 

As to ‘the latest’ on Brexit (ten seconds to midnight stuff) The Huff Post says (Wednesday evening, late) ‘Revealed: Last-Minute Plans for Parliament to Rush Through a Brexit Deal. MPs could sit as late as New Year’s Eve to clear legislation with just hours before the transition period ends’.

From Wolf Street here: ‘Bracing for Impact: My View as British Expat Just before Brexit’. A telling quote: ‘…navigating Spain’s labyrinthine bureaucracy is an ordeal at the best of times; in the midst of a global pandemic, with periodic lockdowns making it virtually impossible to even access government buildings, it is a logistical nightmare…’ (Heh!).

‘An EU travel ban for Britons brings home the sad reality of Brexit’ says The Guardian here. As we wait to see how things will turn out from the first of January, Giles Tremlett in Madrid writes ‘…The new reality is this: travel to France is not an absolute right. Nor are trips to Spain, Greece, most of Europe’s best resorts, or anywhere else British people love to go in the EU. Among many other things, that is what losing European citizenship means.

Tourism must now take place under different conditions. That does not make them impossible, or even difficult. But it does mean they can be stopped at any moment. Covid is one of those moments…’. The article is worth perusing in full. 

From Your Europe here: what can you bring with you from outside the EU when you visit? Of particular interest to camper-van owners… 

From Preferente here: ‘Sánchez blames tourism for Spain being the country with the most deaths from coronavirus’. The article waters this statement down  a bit with the subheading: ‘»The pandemic is the strongest in those countries that are international ‘hubs’ for travellers,» said President Sánchez in an interview’.

From Spanish Property Insight here: ‘With the transition period of the Withdrawal Agreement almost over, and the reality of Brexit just around the corner in the New Year, it doesn’t look like British residents in Spain will do badly out of Brexit, regardless of whether there is a deal or not at the last minute. The Withdrawal Agreement has already established that all Britons and their family members who were lawfully resident at the date of the UK’s withdrawal on the 31st of January 2020 can stay under the same conditions that existed before Brexit…’. 

From The London Economic here (plus video): ‘Spanish foreign minister brilliantly sums up why trade talks are failing. «Trade agreements are not made to assert one’s independence; they are made to manage our interdependence».’

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The Coronavirus:

Late news from El Huff Post here: ‘The Government maintains the Christmas Plan (here), but opens the door for the communities to take more measures. «You have to make decisions quickly and with the necessary forcefulness,» Salvador Illa has announced.

A real-time map of Spain from the Ministry of Health shows current restrictions here

From El País in English here: ‘The coronavirus vaccines are due to arrive in Spain from January 4, says health minister’. 

From Reuters here: ‘Spain should achieve herd immunity from Covid-19 by the end of summer 2021 if enough people are vaccinated by then, the health minister said in a recent interview. Salvador Illa said a vaccination programme will start in January and by the end of the summer more than two thirds of the population of 47 million should be vaccinated…’. 

From El País (partial pay-wall) here: ‘Covid will be the leading cause of death in Spain in 2020 according to the projections of the epidemiologist Joan B. Soriano. The new coronavirus this year will exceed the usual mortality from tumours and circulatory and respiratory diseases’. The article begins by saying that around 1,100 people die every day in Spain from one cause or another – 420,000 people in an average year. Deaths from Covid are expected to rise to above 60,000 this year. 

From elDiario.es here: ‘Andalucía rectifies and includes the «relatives» in the Christmas meetings by «imposition» of the Ministry of Health. The Junta de Andalucía wanted to distinguish between the term «legal family» and «de facto family», because it was less «ambiguous», but the department of Salvador Illa rejected it. In short, just the immediate circle (up to ten on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve, otherwise the limit is six…). The key word, which barely exists in Spanish usage, is ‘allegado’ or ‘close friends and family’.  

Fake certificates for negative Covid-19 tests. These convincing documents are available in the UK for travellers abroad, as The Olive Press finds out here.  

……

Courts:

‘Congress gives the green light to limit the powers of the CGPJ until such time as it is renewed’. VozPópuli says that Congress has agreed to limit the powers of the General Council of the Judiciary (Wiki) while it operates with its expired mandate, an initiative that was voted against by the PP, Vox and Ciudadanos. The ABC complains of the ‘rain of insults against the judges’ from the ‘more radical partners of the PSOE’ during the debate. El Mundo is even more excitable: ‘Congress admits between accusations of «coup» and «fascism» the law of the PSOE and Podemos to control the Judiciary’. The reform, limiting the powers of the CGPJ, will be presented for final voting in March says El Español here.  

The case against the current leader of EH Bildu Arnaldo Ortegi (and others) which resulted in six years in prison for him in 2012, known as the ‘Caso Bateragune’ (Wiki) and described as ‘unjust’ by the European Court of Human Rights in 2018, isn’t over – as the Spanish Supreme Court has just decided on a retrial. ‘The question is very simple. Can the Supreme Court, after the AN, the TS and the TC have all been convicted for lack of impartiality in their judgments on Otegi’s conduct in the Bateragune case, decide that the AN (National Audience Wiki) regains impartiality to rule again on the same conduct?’ asks elDiario.es here. Ortegi has taken the news well: ‘We must be doing something right to bring about this persecution from The State’, he quipped. 

Bildu has been in the news recently for its support of the national budget for 2021. 

Público looks at ‘The strategy of the ultraconservative lobby’ with ‘La Asociación Española de Abogados Cristianos accelerates its offensive in full ultra judicial escalation. This year the extreme-right Catholic association has opened a score of new fronts in the courts against everything that it considers offensive to its concept of family and religion, and against euthanasia and abortion’. Who are they? El Cierre Digital explains here

……

Media: 

In an article titled ‘Spain was ruled without a proper budget for more than two years, now it finally has one. Will Pedro Sánchez now be able to act more calmly?’ The German weekly Der Freitag labels Vox with a single phrase (here) and it is not by mistake: it says it twice. That phrase is ‘…der faschistischen Partei VOX’. El Huff Post seems pleased (here).

(As we wait for the Christmas Royal broadcast), El Plural says that ‘the foreign media are surprised by the ongoing «silence» of Felipe VI regarding the various coup messages from retired servicemen. They quote Neues Deutschland, which says ‘Felipe’s silence. Spain’s king, as commander in chief, does not react to coup calls from reservists and ex-generals’. 

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Ecology: 

From El Español here: ‘Pedro Sánchez: «In 2050, 97% of the energy produced in Spain will be renewable». The Prime Minister has said at the Climate Ambition Summit that in 2050 «25% of industrial consumption will be hydrogen.»

‘Voyage to the centre of the earth to heat the greenhouses of Almería’ says ABC a trifle melodramatically.  ‘A company promotes the first plant in Spain in Níjar that uses geothermal energy for agriculture’. We read that ‘In the heart of the Earth, two kilometres deep, is the probe developed by an Almeria company called Cardial Recursos Alternativos into the thermal reservoir designed to heat greenhouses. A geothermal prospect that is located on an area of 15 mining grids in the Almeria town of Níjar. This first plant, where more than four million euros have been invested, will generate its own engineering, construction, management and maintenance jobs that the installation entails, but will provide the crops with clean energy, without emissions, lengthening the productive cycle of the campaign and increasing the yields per square metre…’. Impressive!

……

Various:

A number of properties made their way to General Franco’s portfolio during the dictadura. One was recovered by the State just last week, the Pazo de Meirás (Wiki) in La Coruña. The patriarch of the family, Francis Franco, was on the LaSexta (with video) on Sunday here: «We are under a communist government and here everything goes against private property». 

A convoy of eighty trucks with humanitarian aid from Spain arrives at the Saharawi camps. The supplies, including medicine, food and clothing, arrived early this week via Alicante and Oran (Algeria) to reach the camps says ECSaharaui here

‘The ‘America First’ with which Donald Trump won the US elections four years ago has not only affected Andalusian olives and oils, whose tariffs have made these products almost impossible to compete in the North American country during the last two years. Now, shortly before leaving the White House, his Administration continues to take measures that negatively affect Spain, and specifically Andalucía. The latest of these decisions is to award the important maintenance contract for the US military naval base in Rota (Cádiz) to a US company to the detriment of the Spanish firm that had been carrying out this work for more than 32 years…’(and the loss of 180 jobs). El Confidencial reports here

From El Independiente here: ‘Euskadi officially requests the entry of the Basque soccer team into UEFA and FIFA’. We read that ‘Members of the regional government and the Basque Football Federation insist that it is an «absolutely legal» aspiration and give the Spanish Football Federation one year to close an agreement for its integration into international organizations’. 

Eye on Spain has an article from ‘Our Andalucian Paradise’ which is based in the pretty town of Ronda, regarding the weather. It’s called ‘…and then came the snow…’.  

An oddity here, could work for some: ‘25 Business Ideas to Start in Spain as an Expat’ which comes from a legal firm called Balcells

…and, from Piccavey here, ‘How to be a ‘Good’ Expat – Tips for a Successful Transition’.

Christmas and New Year celebrations in Spain with The Spain Scoop here (well, normally). 

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See Spain:

Lenox’ ‘Spain’s Frontier Towns – Near no Modern Borders’ is at Eye on Spain here.

Welcome to Gibraltar is here

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Letters:

Hi Lenox,

I cannot wait to get your Feedback on the Robinson System!

Cheers, Robin. 

The Listas Robinson gets rid of salespeople calling you on the phone. So far, it seems to be working a treat! 

Later experience shows you just have to mention ‘la lista Robinson’ to them and they hang up smartly!

Lenox

……

Finally:

One of the top ten songs that sold the most copies worldwide was Yes, Sir, I can Boogie by Baccara, a partnership between two Spanish singers, Mayte Mateos and María Mendiola. The song is on YouTube here (I’ve never heard of it).  La Cope has the story of this peculiar song here

Enviado por José Antonio Sierra