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Weekly Report

Business over Tapas (Nº 228)
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Business over Tapas (Nº 228)

By Lenox Napier and Andrew Brociner – Sent by José Antonio Sierra (CCLAM)

12OCT17.- A digest of this week's Spanish financial, political and social news aimed primarily at Foreign Property Owners: With Lenox Napier and Andrew Brociner. Consultant: José Antonio Sierra. For subscriptions and other information about this site, go to businessovertapas.com

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Editorial:

People power seems to have worked, for once. Well, a bit, anyway. In Murcia, ADIF, the company that is building the infrastructure for the AVE high speed train, has agreed to a climb down over its plans. The company had built an impassable – if ‘temporary’ – wall to bring the new line into safe harbour at the Murcia train station. The wall, though, cut off a considerable chunk of Murcia – the poorer bit as it happens– from the rest of the city. Twenty days of riots ensued. ADIF then spent money on promoting themselves in the local media (good idea!). The line should be built underground anyway, as the crossings are dangerous enough. Some protestors have taken to demolishing bits of the wall, and delivering the large concrete bricks, by shopping trolley, to the ayuntamiento. Others have damaged the tracks from the regular trains, leaving the city without service recently for four days. Others still, merely sitting on the rails of the local network, are receiving ‘dozens of fines’ in the post of 601€ a pop (Ay, España). A video of the regular nightly protests is here.

By Tuesday this week, ADIF had become nervous, and had announced that it would redouble its work on the line to complete it in the shortest time possible, including in its promise a guarantee to start on the tunnelling right away.

Well, soon, anyway.

Housing:

‘Residential property investment in Spain has returned to a normal level as a percentage of GDP, says the Bank of Spain. The Bank of Spain has forecast that residential property investment will top 4.5% of Spain’s GDP by the end of the year. “This is similar to the average in neighbouring countries, but far below the 12% registered in 2007,” writes the bank in a recent report...’. Taken from Marc Stücklin’s Spanish Property Insight here.

Hiring some thugs from the leading ‘get the squatters out’ company will cost you around 2,500€ apparently. ‘We just ask them nicely to leave’, says a very large and dangerous looking fellow. The story at La Información.

‘Am investment company has bought my block of flats and now I live in what’s little more than a ‘hotel’’, says Luís. ‘When a company buys a building, they start to talk about the residents as bichos – bugs’, he explains. The report is at El Confidencial here.

A useful piece from Valencia Property: The costs of Selling a Spanish Property.

Tourism:

The main enemies of the hotels, we find in Hosteltur here, are the seasonal dips and, of course, the illegal offers. ‘If there were eighty million tourists in Spain this year’, says Joan Molas, the president of the CEHAT hotel association, ‘then why did we only get sixty million of them?’ The rapacious hoteliers are seeking to get more help from the politicians to increase their share of the pie.

‘The German airline Air Berlin, declared insolvent in mid-August after its main shareholder, Eithad Airways, decided to withdraw its support, will be closed down on 28 October. This being the deadline mentioned in a letter to the workers of the airline's management. "It is unlikely that we will be able to operate with the AB code for more than another three weeks," reads the letter, signed by Air Berlin president Thomas Winkelman and the general proxy in the insolvency proceedings, Frank Kebkus. At the end of the missive, there is more bad news, this time for consumers. All tickets purchased after that date will become invalid and the right to a refund will be forfeited. It's estimated to be over 200,000 travellers affected...’. Story at El Mundo here.

Hosteltur discusses the possible threats to the Catalonian tourist industry here.

Seniors:

‘Whatever we are called, Baby Boomers, Golden Agers, or just plain “Old Fogies”, I would not be surprised if you were simply tired of the seemingly never-ending attempts by companies to either get your attention or to sell you some product or service that you don’t really need’. From a webpage called The Silver Life here.

Finance:

‘The debt of the football clubs with Hacienda has fallen to 256.8 million euros, according to data from the Tax Agency last July. Compared to the end of 2011, when the amount reached a record high of 752 million, the fall in almost six years has been 65%...’. From El País.

Politics:

Following the situation in Catalonia, a number of high profile companies and banks are moving their head office to more agreeable climes. Such is the case of Gas Natural which has moved from Barcelona to Madrid. The Government has rushed through a law making a change of address, without the formality of a board meeting, as simple as possible. Both stories come from La Ser. From El País in English – a fuller list of those companies moving from Barcelona. Wolf Street has something to say on this: ‘Spain Teaches Catalonia a Lesson about the Power of Money’.

Pedro Sánchez, the PSOE leader, has broadly given his support to Rajoy over the Catalonian issue, but in return, he has got the presidential agreement to open a debate within six months on reforming the Spanish Constitution. The story at El Diario here.

From Público: ‘...Article 155 deals with the ways in which the national government can control the activity of the autonomous communities. According to the Spanish Constitution, "if an Autonomous Community does not comply with the obligations imposed on it by the Constitution or other laws, or acts in a manner that seriously infringes the general interest of Spain, the Government (...) may adopt the necessary measures to oblige it to comply with those obligations or to protect the aforementioned general interest"...’.

Two marches held in Valencia on Sunday – one in favour of Valencian culture and the other supporting Catalonian independence, were joined by a third – Yomus: the Valencian Nazis. Things did not go well. The story and video here.

Teresa Rodríguez, the Podemos leader in the Andalusian government, has become popular with the public following her recent parliamentary speech attacking the high wages and privileges taken by the Junta’s politicians. El Observador has the story and the video here. In short, the proposal was voted down by the PP, PSOE and Ciudadanos.

‘Mayors, deputies, senators or authorities of any kind... Any one of them might receive a VIP card from Aena. Free of charge and without fulfilling any requirement other than to take advantage of the services of VIP lounges in airports. Almost 400 cards per year from a public company, with tax-payers money, given to their friends...’. Marca2 disapproves here.

Corruption:

‘The ‘Oligarch’ Special Operation: What’s going on in Spain? Parliament members, employees of AFK Sistema and a football club – how are they related to the criminal case of a "laundering" OCG?’. Russian mafiya in Spain. The story at Russiangate here.

Catalonia:

The Catalonian leader in his parliamentary address on Tuesday night said that he was declaring UDI – n independent republican State. After this shock announcement, he then turned his statement around saying that he was postponing the independence ‘for a few weeks’ to see whether dialogue was possible. No one seems at all clear as to what this actually means...

‘If the government of Spain goes ahead with the Article 155 (the removal of autonomous standing for a region), then we shall know that there is no chance of dialogue and we shall continue with our state of UDI’, says the spokesperson for the Catalonian government Jordi Turull on Wednesday. Video and text at La Sexta here. The Government of Spain, meanwhile, says the opposite: ‘If you declare independence then we will initiate article 155’ (be sure to turn your sound off when visiting El País to avoid distracting and loud advertisment). Later, the Government gave Puigdemont until Monday to explain whether he had declared independence or not (here).

A few days ago, a spokesman for the PP said that Carles Puigdemont could end up like the father of the Catalonian independence Lluis Companys back in 1934 (here: it’s an old story). Companys declared the region’s independence and was later arrested and incarcerated and no doubt that is what the PP was referring to (and not that he was shot by Franco in 1940). The report is at El Mundo here.

Thousands of Catalonians have moved their bank accounts to neighbouring Aragón, says Público here.

Hundreds of Catalonian town halls are open today, Thursday – the Día de la Hispanidad and Virgen del Pilar – officially Spain’s national fiesta: La Fiesta Nacional de España.

From Truthout on the rise of authoritarianism: ‘...The Spanish government's violent crackdown during the Catalonia referendum on Oct. 1 is the latest crisis to challenge EU institutions. Several member states are facing serious questions about territorial sovereignty. Just look to the Scottish referendum to leave the UK and questions opened up by the Brexit vote over the Irish border...’.

Who are the CUP? An article at PRI about Catalonian feminism explains: ‘...Spearheading this drive for a free and feminist Catalan state is the Candidatura d’Unitat Popular (Popular Unity Candidacy), or CUP — an extreme left, separatist party reviled by Spanish unionists and often viewed wearily by more moderate Catalans. The CUP has seen a meteoric rise to power over the last decade, from grass-roots activism to securing 10 Catalan Parliament seats in 2015. It vows to build a “socialist, feminist and ecologically sustainable Catalan republic.” The face of the party is firebrand Anna Gabriel, who last year publicly denounced the sexist language often levelled at female CUP politicians in a now-famous video...’.

The CUP, the minority support party in Puigdemont’s government, has given him one month to come through with independence, says El Español here.

The Bulgarian honorary consul in Barcelona, the ex-footballer Hristo Stoichkov, has been sacked by his government for saying that Vice-president of Spain Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría is a ‘Francoist’.

That photo: five seconds of bliss...

More on Catalonian Independence

by Andrew Brociner

Puigdemont made a much awaited statement on Tuesday, having indicated after the referendum that he would declare independence. During the speech, he at first seemed to do this, to applause by the Catalan parliament, but then stated that he will leave a period for discussions with the central government. In other words, he has now stalled for more time. By holding the referendum vote and now all but declaring independence, he has raised the ante, giving the central government the opportunity for dialogue, and using the threat of independence for more bargaining power. However, if the government continues to act as it has up to now, ignoring any demands categorically, Puigdemont has now placed himself in the position of having to go through with independence or back down.

After the vote, many Catalans took to the streets to protest against the injustices perpetrated by the Spanish government, denying them a democratic right to vote, sending in troops and using violence against defenceless people, including elderly women. It was something anachronistic in 21st century Europe. The Catalans were indignant. Not long after this, however, anti-independence demonstrations also took place, with those against also wanting to be heard, and it became clear that the region remains divided on the issue. The majority of people who live in Catalonia are not Catalan native speakers. In fact, about 50% use Spanish habitually, while only about 36% use Catalan. And while in the southern most part of Tarragona, in the Terres d'Ebre, more than 70% speak Catalan habitually, in the rest of that same province, less than 40% do. And in the province of Barcelona, it is less than 30%. It is far from true to say that Catalan is the language of all the people in Catalonia. There are, of course, Catalan native speakers who are against independence as well. So while some of the vote in favour was a protest against the unjust methods and heavy-handedness of the Spanish government, the divide began to be more apparent afterwards. Perhaps, for this reason also, to take into account the recent demonstrations against independence, Puigdemont is taking time for a more decisive moment, rather than having to appear too single minded by going against what has become a more fragmented society and declare independence unilaterally.

By taking more time, the situation is still more or less like before, only the stakes are being raised: on the one side, Puigdemont is very near to going through with independence and on the other, Rajoy is now threatening to revoke Catalan autonomy. If Puigdemont intended to leave a door open to de-escalate tensions, as he said, by dialogue, the effect is more likely be the opposite, given that both sides are obstinate and the central government refuses to discuss. Running out of options, Rajoy will have to invoke article 155 or retreat, and Puigdemont will have to go through with secession, or renege. Also, if article 155 is invoked, it would likely lead to independence as a reaction. Rajoy has a major issue to deal with and so far, he has handled it appallingly. And, waiting in the wings is the socialist leader, Pedro Sanchez, who has a much more reconciliatory tone. Also, Puigdemont will have his pro-independent supporters from his party to contend with if he backs down. Therefore, this drama will also likely bring about the downfall of at least one of them.

Courts:

‘The Partido Popular begins to worry about the vengeance of Luis Bárcenas, as the Courts refuse to pardon his wife’. Story at El Confidenciál here.

Brexit:

This story rather puts the wind up for EU citizens living in the UK and, of course, British citizens living in Europe: around 4.2 million people, apparently. ‘Theresa May Refuses To Guarantee Rights Of EU Citizens If There Is No Brexit Deal’. From The Huff Post here.

Which brings us to Europe Street News and ‘British in Europe and the loss of EU citizenship’. An excerpt: ‘...Brexit is opening up a wider discussion on what EU citizenship means in practice. Many of us were young children when the UK joined the European Union. I am a “EU native”, I know nothing else than being part of the EU. Other members, who are older, also fear leaving as they know how it used to be before. Everything we had taken for granted has been taken out from under us, so this has made us think about our rights and what we are losing and join forces to defend what we have. This is a common theme for us and EU citizens in the UK...’.

Media:

With newspaper sales down, and people annoyed by intrusive advertising on the web editions, it looks like radio is having a good time with advertising revenues ‘up’, according to PR Noticias here.

Perusing a business article on the El País webpage on Wednesday, Your Editor was shouted at, bombarded and bemused by a wrap-around advertisement for a feature cartoon at the cinema called Operación Cacahuete II. The chances of someone reading an article in what purports to be a serious newspaper, on their financial page, yet, at the same time, being interested in attending the aforementioned show, are at best, slight.

Various:

2017 was the year with the most heat waves recorded since 1975, says El Mundo here.

‘Some new environmental laws in far-off China means that the two companies that bought used plastic - 15,000 tons of it a year - from the Almería invernaderos for recycling in the Orient, will no longer do so. That's a lot of used plastic to dispose of...’. Story from Lenox’ blog here.

The Mar Menor, Murcia’s inland sea, is really becoming an inland sea as the single canal connected to the Mediterranean is clogging up. More at El País here.

The scandal of the ‘millions of litres of untreated water’ pumped from the sewage plant Adeje-Arona in Tenerife into the Atlantic is discussed in the Diario de Avisos here.

From The Olive Press: ‘More than 1,000 tonnes of non-biodegradable waste blocking Palma de Mallorca sewers’. Uggh!

The bottled water association is concerned because Granada claims the quality of its tap-water to be the best in Europe, making it unnecessary to spend anything on bottled water.

Both the president of Granada’s municipal water company and the mayor of the city have recently received letters in which the bottled water companies of Spain formally protest against the City’s dissemination of the quality of its water, which makes it unnecessary to purchase bottled water, at least in this geographical area. This has been confirmed to Radio Granada by municipal sources...’. The Cadena Ser has the story here.

From BBC News ‘...When they built the station at Canfranc, it was on a grand scale and with no expense spared. It had to be bold and modern - an architect's dream come true, built in iron and glass, complete with a hospital, restaurant and living quarters for customs officers from both France and Spain. At the time it was nicknamed the "Titanic of the Mountains". To give you an idea of its size - there are 365 windows, one for each day of the year; hundreds of doors; and the platforms are more than 200m long. The question is, how did such an extravagant station, high up on a mountainside in a village with a population of just 500 people, ever see the light of day?...’. Is Europe's ghostliest train station about to rise again?

‘Residents on the Canary islands fear a volcanic eruption after the Spanish archipelago was hit by more than 40 earthquake tremors in just 48 hours. La Palma was rocked by more than 40 seismic movements of low magnitude and intensity between 1.5 and 2.7 on the Richter scale, according to the data of the National Geographic Institute...’. The story is at The Olive Press here.

Cutting the tail or ears of a domestic animal, or offering it as a prize, will be illegal in Spain from next year. Europa Press has the story (it will remain perfectly legal, of course - because we can only consider the animal’s rights so far - to castrate them).

How to make a great tortilla (a Spanish omelette), here.

Andalusian food at My Country: Europe. ‘Try to imagine Native American, British, French and Arabic tastes all in one cuisine. Tasting a Spanish dish is often like having a trip somewhere just sitting at the table. During the years, in fact, invasions and conquests of new territories have made up and modified traditions...’.

Letters

Hi Lenox,

You say the YES vote won?? (editorial last week)

But it seems that 4+ times the number that voted abstained which makes a complete nonsense of the whole fiasco!!

We will never know how many voted NO - or how many abstained but it was certainly one

hellofa lot more than voted YES ??

If they held a proper referendum right now the NOs may win due to peoples' disgust at the way they have ALL behaved.

Such anarchy. Such immaturity.

Not very clever people, I'm afraid.

JD

(I think that the same could be said about the Brexit!!)

ello,

I have been here since the end of March and have only just become an official resident! Soooo happy! Wanted to thank all the ladies and gentlemen whom I met in various offices throughout this process and who were nothing but helpful and kind to me. Contrary to what I have heard before about Spanish officials, this whole thing was a breeze!

Yes, there were steps to follow and stamps and documents to be collected and copied and it took few visits in various places to accomplish, but (!) even though I don't speak Spanish (yet) I have managed to follow the procedure with the help of super lovely people along the way!

I have so far lived in 5 different countries across 3 continents and I gotta say, Spain is a little corner of paradise. I am in the south and it feels like I get all the perks of being in Europe with the bonus of awesome weather and chilled attitudes. And... this is kind of silly but, the avocados here are amazing!!! The best I ever had! And the olives! I have probably consumed more olives this past 6 months than I had in my entire live previously.

Love you Spain!!! Thank you for being so chilled! I am off to learn Spanish now.

So happy to be here!

Maga

Finally:

Ana Vidovic plays Asturias by Isaac Albéniz on YouTube here.

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