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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January 7 2021 Nº 380
The leading story, as we wait for our Covid jab and the appalling Boss Trump to leave the stage, was the final agonising departure of the United Kingdom from the EU.
Commenting on the Brexit debacle, Ursula von der Leyen reputedly said ‘Britain has won nothing and has lost a continent’.
I think she’s letting them off lightly.
A small ray of sunshine nevertheless emerged, as – following some sensible political efforts – Gibraltar appeared on New Year’s Eve to have joined the Schengen Treaty.
Mark from Spanish Property Insight has a good introduction to the year (his site here): ‘Adiós 2020, and good riddance to a miserable year of suffering for many, in which the Spanish housing market cratered by something like 20%. We start the New Year still facing big challenges like the ongoing pandemic, the looming economic crisis, the reality of Brexit, and a growing squatter-mafia extortion racket facilitated by the State. But there will be opportunities too, as the pandemic and technology reshape the way we live and invest. So best of luck in 2021. We are all going to need it’.
From BBC News here: ‘Travel after Brexit: How will it affect my holidays to the EU?’.
Only around 1,700 hotels across Spain are currently open – that’s just 10% – says Hosteltur here, noting that 15,400 of them are currently closed.
‘Covid restrictions and Brexit confusion see UK nationals turned away from flights to Spain. A number of would-be travellers reported problems this weekend when trying to return to their adoptive country, after airlines refused to accept their green paper identity cards as proof of residency’. An item found at El País in English here.
La Vanguardia says that (on current expectations) ‘Tourism will not return to pre-Covid levels until after the summer of 2022’.
The Corner says: ‘Tourism in Spain Ends 2020 with Worst Figures in 25 Years’.
20Minutos looks at the minutiae of retirement for workers in Spain – age and rate.
Those with smaller savings accounts at the Banco Santander can expect an annual 240€ fee says Contrainformacion here. Arturo Pérez-Reverte (a famous novelist) writes of a disappointing recent visit to his local bank here…
‘Small non-profit banking is flourishing in the land of bank mergers’ says Público here. ‘Credit cooperatives and ethical banks are slowly increasing their market share to approach 9% of the business with a model of reinvestment of profits and credit with social criteria compared to the format of the large entities’. Some ethical banks operating in Spain are listed here.
2021 begins with higher taxes on soft drinks and high-worth individuals. La Vanguardia reports here.
‘Visa and Mastercard provide the Government with bank details of foreign tourists. This information helps the Government and companies to know the volume of transactions of travellers by zones and where they spend their money, in order to offer tailor-made tourism proposals’. The item comes from VozPópuli here.
It’s now generally accepted that there won’t be another general election in Spain before 2023. El Español analyses here the strategy of the PP to try and bleed support away from the C’s and Vox.
La Voz de Galicia reckons in an opinion piece that Pablo Casado’s endless opposition to all and everything done by the Government is finally having a negative effect on him and his party. It begins ‘Although he is called the leader of the opposition, the responsibility and mission of whoever holds that unofficial position is not to oppose everything, to rage against the regime in whatever it does while waiting for his turn to come due to exhaustion or implosion of the government…’.
El Huff Post places the Vox’ economy program under their microscope here. Their title is: ‘Vox’s economic proposals: raise taxes on those who earn the least and lower pensions. The ultra-rightist formation promises economic measures that are very difficult to fulfil’.
In a feel-good story at El País here, parliamentarians from five groups – PSOE, PP, UP, C’s and EH Bildu – propose a New Year free of tension. Roberto Uriarte (UP) tweets: ‘I wish you a happy new year with this video that I have recorded with several colleagues in the Congress coming from different parties, in which we claim that there is nothing as beautiful as knowing how to live and cooperate between people who think differently. For a 2021 free of tension!’. Ahh! As El Confidencial reveals just one day later, the bonhomie hadn’t lasted. Now we hear at ECD that the disappointed organiser of the ‘iniciativa anticrispación’ wants to bring his wounded beast to the public forums. We wish him luck.
From a Facebook post comes this interesting story: ‘The Spanish like to call us Catalans «Polacos«, that’s to say: Poles. In the mid-19th century, Poland became independent from Russia, and Catalonia also tried, but the rebellion was crushed, and then the Spanish press announced it like this: «Catalonia is the Poland of Spain». Hence they call us «Poles» (or, at least, they did until recently. Now of course, we are «Spaniards»). Wiki has a go at explaining the term here.
The likely date (the pandemic graciously allowing) for the regional elections to the Generalitat is February 14th. A few changes in party loyalties (below) are occurring as the news of the Spanish Minister for Health Salvador Illa stands as candidate for the PSC (the news here at the PSOE official page). This leaves Madrid with the mystery of who will take his ministerial place?
The Tarragona politician for Ciudadanos has left the party (‘which no longer represents my ideas’) and has joined the PSC as second on their provincial list. Lorena Roldán, the spokesperson for Ciudadanos in Catalonia has also left the party and has joined the PP as she thinks that the C’s leader Inés Arrimadas ‘is too light on those who want to break-up the country’ (i.e., the independents).
From Bloomberg (partial paywall) here: ‘Gibraltar Dodges Hard Brexit after Spain and UK Reach Accord. Spain and the UK struck a last-minute deal over Gibraltar that eases access to the territory and removes the threat of fresh restrictions at the border with the European Union following Britain’s departure from the bloc on January 1st. A preliminary agreement was reached that would help build “shared prosperity,” Spanish Foreign Minister Arancha Gonzalez Laya told reporters on Thursday. The territory will operate under passport-free Schengen terms, she said, adding that the final agreement is expected to come into force within six months…’. From HM Gov here comes a statement from the British Foreign Secretary. In short, as El País says here, it will now be Spain that controls who can visit Gibraltar, ‘…the frontier with Spain will no longer be the verja, but the airport and the docks…’. This is disputed by the Gibraltarians as we read here at The Teller Report: ‘Picardo warns that Spain «will not have any control» over the port or airport of Gibraltar’. However, ‘Spain says it will have last word on Gibraltar border entries’ says The Guardian here. From Guerra Eterna we read ‘Diplomacy wins over jingoist sabre-rattling for once’. El Mundo, helpfully, compares all of this upheaval to the fall of the Berlin Wall (!).
Our favourite title – as the area enters a strict lock-down from coronavirus – comes from elDiario.es here: ‘La Verja de Gibraltar: opened by Schengen and closed by Covid-19’.
El Español turns to an old project to link Gibraltar to Morocco with a tunnel. Maybe?
Melilla and Ceuta, Western Sahara and Morocco
Europa Press reports that ‘The Minister of Defence, Margarita Robles, rejects any discussion about the Spanishness of the two Spanish enclaves in North Africa: «Ceuta and Melilla are as Spanish as Madrid and Ciudad Real», she says’.
From El Faro de Ceuta here: ‘President Saadeddine Othmani of Morocco says that Ceuta and Melilla are both Moroccan, just like the Western Sahara’. The Madrid government immediately summoned the Moroccan ambassador to explain the remark.
“Effective immediately, we are inaugurating a virtual presence post for Western Sahara, with a focus on promoting economic and social development, to be followed soon by a fully functioning consulate,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement quoted here at Israel National News. Several other countries have already opened delegations in the city of Dakhla (the old colonial name was Villa Cisneros), the capital of the Moroccan administrative region of Dakhla-Oued Ed-Dahab (Wiki).
From Haaretz here: ‘Assassination, Bribes and Smuggling Jews: Inside the Israeli Mossad’s Long Secret Alliance with Morocco. From body bags to bugging summits, cosying up to Franco to counter-insurgency: This is how the Mossad built, and nearly destroyed, perhaps the most steadfast clandestine relationship between Israel and any Arab state’ (A digest of this article is in Spanish here).
From The Hill Times comes an article which argues that without the UK, the European Union will be stronger: ‘The United States may be back soon, but the world could certainly use a second powerful advocate for democracy and the rule of law. Brexit may be giving us just that by freeing the EU to move on, and we should be grateful…’.
From The New York Times here ‘…That loss is especially painful for Britain, which ran a surplus of £18 billion (19,900 million euros) on trade in financial and other services with the European Union in 2019, but a deficit of £97 billion (107,300 million euros) on trade in goods. “The result of the deal is that the European Union retains all of its current advantages in trading, particularly with goods, and the U.K. loses all of its current advantages in the trade for services,” said Tom Kibasi, the former director of the Institute for Public Policy Research, a research institute. “The outcome of this trade negotiation is precisely what happens with most trade deals: The larger party gets what it wants and the smaller party rolls over.”…’.
The Guardian here: ‘From tariffs to visas: here’s what’s in the Brexit deal. We take a look at the main agreements that make up the trade and security deal finalised on Christmas Eve’.
New Year’s Day titles: From The Guardian here: ‘View from the EU: Britain ‘taken over by gamblers, liars, clowns and their cheerleaders’’. A quote: ‘…“Populists depend on enemies, real or imagined, to legitimise their actions and deflect from their own shortcomings,” she said. If the EU has been the “enemy abroad” since 2016, it will steadily be replaced by “enemies within”: MPs, civil servants, judges, lawyers, experts, the BBC…’. And from one extreme to the other, we find at The Express here: ‘FREEDOM! Boris Johnson rejoices in ‘amazing moment’ as Brexit Britain cuts ties with EU’.
A reader sends me an opinion piece from one Melanie Phllips, found here at the JNS, which begins. ‘With the arrival of 2021, Britain regains its status as an independent, sovereign nation governed by laws passed by its own democratically elected parliament free of control by a foreign power. Brexit has finally been achieved…’. This is also true of Burundi.
Another reader sends me this: and comments ‘EU rules to stop insurance companies investing folks’ pension funds in risky stuff. UK will go its own way and you can imagine what will happen down the line. Watch for the glee from the IFAs that infest the free English-language press…
‘Spaniards residing in the United Kingdom: «We have become second-class citizens». The transition period is over, Brexit is already a reality and Spanish residents in the United Kingdom face this new stage with uncertainty’ says elDiario.es here.
‘Britons to keep free healthcare access across Europe after Brexit through UK Global Health Insurance Card’ says The Sunday Times here (paywall): ‘Millions of Britons will still have access to free healthcare across Europe after the Brexit transition period ends. The 27 million people with a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) issued before the end of 2020 can still use it after January 1 until its expiry date (they are good for five years). In 2021, Britain will begin issuing a replacement to be called the UK Global Health Insurance Card…’. ‘Apply now for a new UK European Health Insurance Card (EHIC)’ says the NHS webpage here.
The Irish Times here says ‘Erasmus exchanges another senseless casualty of Brexit. World View: At the root of British antipathy lies a fear it is a dark plot to indoctrinate the young in the ideology of Euro-superstatism’.
Opinion from The Guardian ‘Our view on the future of the union: Britain faces breakup’.
‘Leavers in Spain mocked after complaining Brexit leaves them without UK television’. Item from The New European here. Público has a similar story of Brexiteros without their serials titled ‘A Tragedy in Three Acts’.
El País (partial paywall) says: British uncertainty on the Costa del Sol. The vast Málaga colony from the United Kingdom is against Brexit and feels abandoned by its Government and fears future problems’. Lenox, interviewed on Onda Cero radio on Monday, explained that, if one doesn’t have a say in the democratic process, then one won’t have any defenders in the parliament – either in London or in Madrid.
From The Irish Times here: ‘Brexit: Scotland is the key to what happens with Northern Ireland. An EU alliance between Ireland, NI and Scotland could avert Brexit disaster’.
(Just for fun) From The Globalist here, ‘After Brexit: Will the UK Now Lose the Falkland Islands? Boris Johnson faces new challenges to British sovereignty, as global power shifts, tiny yet relevant, have returned in the aftermath of Brexit’.
‘81,000 UK-owned dot eu domains suspended as Brexit transition ends. The UK lost its right to a .eu website when it left the European bloc, leaving many domain name owners in limbo’. An item from ZD Net here. Those involved now have three months to re-register their pages elsewhere (such as the always faithful dot com).
‘All the indicators point to a possible third wave of the pandemic. Meanwhile, public euphoria over the vaccination drive is falling’, says elDiario.es here. ‘Epidemiologists are concerned about the current rate of Coronavirus patients and the occupancy of hospitals and ICUs in the face of a foreseeable rebound in cases and the relaxation associated with the start of immunization: «There is no compelling reason to think that we can neglect the measures of security»‘, they warn’. Certainly, the inoculations are going slowly, with just 18% of the doses held being used in the first week says La Ser here. The PP has (of course) converted the vaccination campaign into another attack against the Government says elDiario.es here (There’s an infuriating sticker on every box of vaccines that says ‘Government of Spain’)…
From El País in English (Tuesday) we read, ‘Coronavirus cases up by 23,700 in a single day in Spain, with hospital pressure rising’. The count is expected to have overtaken two million cases by Thursday.
The investigation into the ‘Falciani List’ (tax-evading funds held secretly in Switzerland Wiki) has been archived (El País, partial paywall) due to being prescribed. El Mundo (paywall) says that ‘60% of the hidden capital in Hervé Falciani’s Spanish list belonged to the Botín Dynasty’. It begins: ‘the Botín brothers and their children had 60% of the money hidden in the Spanish part of the so-called Falciani List, according to the report of the Anticorruption Prosecutor’s Office that had filed proceedings against the Banco Santander…’.
BoT has mentioned before about the problems that (mainly third-worlders) face with ‘Inmigración’, problems which are resolved with a small fee paid quietly to an agent. We read at La Vanguardia that ‘Citizens from all over the world come up against a wall that is difficult to overcome when it comes time to request immigration procedures online at police stations, especially those in the province of Barcelona. To verify the dimension of the problem, the Consell Municipal d’Immigració (CMIB), the Barcelona town hall’s consultative and participation body, has conducted a survey in seven languages (English, Arabic, Spanish, Catalan, French, Urdu and Mandarin Chinese) to 1,208 people, which shows data such as that only 37% have successfully made an appointment, that 62% have tried more than 50 times to do so and that 65% have been forced to pay third parties to access this free service…’.
From Público here: ‘The judicial ordeal that Pablo Casado will have to assume in 2021. A tight schedule of appointments in the National Court and other courts are scheduled this year for former leaders from the Popular Party, including the second part of the trial for the Gürtel plot and the reform of the headquarters of the PP with black money’. elDiario.es has an even stronger title: ‘The judiciary complicates Pablo Casado’s plans for 2021: Black accounts, Gürtel, Púnica and the party espionage on Bárcenas’.
From Spanish Revolution here: ‘Justice in Spain remains peculiar, when situations persevere like the one we have experienced these days in which an investigation continues without evidence against Podemos while a case for laundering against Banco Santander is filed away despite «serious irregularities» (‘Falciani List’ above)…’. Podemos, which was forged out of a reaction to the endemic political corruption of a few years back, must be not only whiter than white, but must be seen to be so. Aware of this, the powers-that-be are intent on throwing as much faeces as they can at the party in the hope that something will eventually stick.
‘Spanish police bust a Russian mafia network operating on the Mediterranean coast. More than 20 suspects, including city councillors and Guardia Civil officers, were arrested in Alicante province and Ibiza for their involvement with Alexei Sirokov’. El País in English has the details here. It notes that ‘Operacíon Testudo is said to be the most important operation against Eastern European and Russian crime organizations in the last 10 years’. The American site Homeland Security Today also runs the story, with extra details, here.
There’s good business in being a ‘negationist’ as the owner of the magazine DSalud (here) can aver. The magazine, which promotes idiosyncratic views of medicine – there’s no such thing as AIDS, or Covid-19, or that chemotherapy doesn’t work, or that it’s all a cunning plot – is doing great business. Indeed (to coin a phrase), El Confidencial says the mag is making a killing.
The over-exploitation of the aquifers is causing major subsidence across Spain, says elDiario.es here. While the problem is not exclusive to Spain, the article has this: ‘…In Spain, researchers have documented the effects of this overexploitation of aquifers in Catalonia (in the Llobregat delta and the Ebro delta); in Zaragoza (in the Ebro Basin); in the Madrid aquifer, in the plain of Granada, in Seville and in the Guadalentín-Segura basin in Murcia. In fact, scientists have verified that the most important «deformation» of the land found in Europe is the one that is being recorded in the Lorca basin (Murcia), where they have verified a subsidence of the land of up to 15 centimetres per year…’.
From Ecosia on YouTube, a video about regenerative agriculture: ‘Farmer Manuel is over 60 years old and fully retired, yet he continues to plant trees. Not for himself, but for future generations. He remembers how rich the landscapes of his home region once were — now he feels it’s his turn to give back to nature and to those coming after him’ (English version).
From El Periódico Mediterráneo here. ‘Clean energy consumption reaches a record 85%. On December 28, the electricity system achieved the highest share from sources without CO2 emissions. The boost from wind power helped set a renewable high at the end of the year’.
A meteorological station located in the Clot del Tuc de la Llança (Baqueira) reached a temperature of -34.1ºC at 05:19 on Wednesday morning, apparently the lowest temperature recorded in the Iberian Peninsula since records began. More at La Vanguardia here.
The traffic police have said that motorists must carry a small emergency light that one must stick on the roof of the vehicle – in substitution for the two emergency triangles which previously had to be carried on board. The good news is, we have until 2024 to make the switch. The light, called Help-Flash, can be bought, needless to say, at Amazon for 25€.
Segregated Spain. A look at the various neighbourhoods occupied by the different foreign groups resident in Spain. La Vanguardia begins this interesting study with ‘In the city of Almería, the Avenida Mare Nostrum separates two realities: on one side, half of the residents were born in Morocco and on the other, foreigners do not even reach 2% of the population. In the Murcian municipality of Mazarrón, life in the centre does not coexist with that of the urbanizations of single-family houses that spread out on the outskirts, where almost 60% of the population is British. The Madrid district of Usera has become the place of residence for 25% of the people born in China registered in the capital…’. There’re some maps of key zones where the foreigners live…
From ECD here: ‘Morocco and Spain spy on each other from space with satellites: two Moroccans, one Spanish. The launch of ‘PAZ’ in 2018 represented for the Armed Forces «the largest operational leap in intelligence in the last forty years.» Rabat has the ‘Mohamed VI-A’ and the ‘B’ and Madrid recently failed with the launch of the ‘Ingenio’’.
We meet the wealthiest people from 44 Spanish provinces with Business Insider here.
Vox wants to take away Spanish nationality from the recently naturalised James Rhodes says El Plural here. The site also provides us with Rhodes’ answer (in perfect Spanish). We read that ‘The musician did not take long to respond to the extreme right. «Ay, Santiago Abascal. No. I hate xenophobia, racism, homophobia, exploitation of the weak, sexism, sexual violence. Men like you, with inferiority complexes and a thirst for power, are boring stereotypes. You treat our (yes, our) country with disdain and contempt», he wrote.
Poor old Juan José from Orgiva (Granada) is dead, only he doesn’t know it. He received a letter back in September from the Junta de Andalucía informing him of his tragic passing, and in consequence, the end of his pension. A bureaucratic mistake, no doubt, says elDiario.es here. Meanwhile, can anyone spare a dime for poor old Juan José?
From Brian Lackey on YouTube here: ‘The Spain No One Sees: 10 Days of Solo Travel and Photography on the Wild Northern Coast’.
En El Mundo Perdido takes us to see the Roman gravity dam at Almonacid de la Cuba in Zaragoza here.
The history of Ceuta and its people is the topic of an article at Geográfia Infinita.
The Daily Beast (Paywall) introduces the reader to Caceres here.
‘The ten most beautiful pueblos of Spain 2021’. An item from El Confidencial here. (Regretfully, I’ve only visited one of them: Cudillero).
‘In 2021 it’s time to get out and discover Spain’, ten places to see from Eye on Spain.
A Spanish magician called Adrián Carratalá fools Penn and Teller on YouTube here.
Enviado por José Antonio Sierra