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Business Over Tapas (09th october, 14)

By Lenox Napier and Andrew Brociner

miércoles 22 de octubre de 2014, 11:21h

A digest of this week's Spanish financial, political and social news aimed primarily at Foreign Property Owners:  with Lenox Napier and Andrew Brociner.  For subscriptions and other information about this site, go to businessovertapas.com - email:  [email protected] - ***Now with Facebook Page (Like!)*** Note: Underlined words or phrases are links to the Internet. Right click and press 'Control' on your keyboard to access.

Seriously. Are they mad? A nurse who attended the missionary who died of Ebola in Madrid recently... showed the symptoms of the disease for SIX days before she was diagnosed on Monday. Story at El Mundo here.  'The Spanish health minister has confirmed that a nurse who treated a victim of Ebola in Madrid has tested positive for the disease. The nurse is said to be the first person in the current outbreak known to have contracted Ebola outside Africa. Health Minister Ana Mato said the woman was part of the team that treated Spanish priest Manuel Garcia Viejo, who died of the virus on 25 September...'. From the BBC.  'They've put the entire population at risk', says the nurses association here.  El País in English reports that: 'The European Commission has called for “explanations” from Spain about the circumstances and possible mistakes made by the healthcare system that led to a nurse’s assistant contracting the Ebola virus, a spokesperson from Brussels said on Tuesday...'.  Reactions from the foreign press here. Keep up with the Ebola Crisis here.

Editorial:

As we can appreciate from the exciting news that the Junta de Andalucía has now agreed to modify its planning laws, sustained pressure on our masters and rulers can work wonders. The mixture of hostile articles in the Foreign Media, the steady vexation from the British Embassy and, above all, the tremendous and relentless energy from those home-owners associations and their lawyers is now paying off. ¡Perro que ladra, perro que come!

Housing:

El País reports that the junior member of the Junta de Andalucía, the Izquierda Unida, has eventually agreed with its larger partner the PSOE that homes (but not businesses) built on countryside plots will now be regularized, and that the planning law will be modified. The article acknowledges, in a roundabout way, that the efforts of the AUAN and SOHA have been effective in bringing about this process.

(Sunday note from the AUAN): 'It appears that PSOE and IU have reached agreement on our proposed change to the LOUA. Provisional approval is to be given on Tuesday 7th October. Congratulations to the members of Soha Axarquia and Auan Almanzora. Your efforts have paid off. The change will help hundreds of home owners of every nationality. This is a first important step'. (Press Release from SOHA and AUAN at bottom of page). The Tuesday news from Ideal follows with: 'The Junta de Andalucía has approved the amendment of the law on urban planning of Andalucía (LOUA), allowing the regularization of between 20,000 and 25,000 homes built on undeveloped land in this community...'.

The Superior Court of Justice for Almería has ruled on appeal that the demolition of Len and Helen Prior's house, knocked flat in Vera (for no very good reason) in January 2008 was lawful and thus the family will not be paid compensation from the local town hall. 

'The urbanization of Camposol, in the town of Mazarrón, inhabited mostly by English, seen as some of the streets and parts of dwellings have collapsed. A few years ago, VMP published a report in which the English community considered themselves "cheated and deceived" over the state of their homes. They came to retire in the sun and the seaside, but instead encountered some wretched construction. It's been a while now and three mayors have come and gone. Has anything changed? Not at all...'. From VegaMediaPress.

A simple five-point guide to buying property in Spain, from Senior Spanish lawyer Alejandro Collantes, who is a managing partner at Iuris Online, here.

Tourism:

Fears over Ebola have already made some impact on tourist related companies, with sharp falls in the values of several hotel chains on the Madrid stock exchange. If the Ebola crisis worsens, then Spain's tourist industry will be sorely hit.

Finance:

The International Labour Organisation considers that Spanish employment will not return to pre-crisis levels until 2023.

Spain will have to pay off or re-finance a massive amount of short-term debt in 2015, El Mundo puts the figure at 155,000 million euros.

The Ministry of Public Works plans to privatise the AVE line from Madrid to Valencia to Murcia (and, when they build it one fine day, on to Almería). But who, having done their sums, would want to take it on? Here's David Jackson... Original at La Voz de Almería.

Corruption:

Readers may remember the banker who (so briefly) went to jail twice last year at the orders of Judge Elpidio Díaz, who was himself soon to be 'put to one side' by the senior anti-corruption state prosecutor. After all, Banker Miguel Blesa was a member of 'la casta', for whom the rules are evidently different. Now it turns out that a number of people, 86 of them to be precise (El Diario lists them here), held complimentary bank cards (with a free 60,000€ annual limit) from the failed and bailed Caja Madrid and Bankia banks, and that they made use of them – racking up, as El País in English says, 'personal expenses totalling €15.5 million over 10 years using undeclared company credit cards'. The bank auditors are said to have lost this particular information in some 'muddle'. The information eventually came to light after Miguel Blesa's private e-mails were analysed by the Public Prosecutor. Card-holders, according to another report, included 27 board-members connected to the Partido Popular, fifteen from the PSOE, five from Izquierda Unida and eleven connected to Spain's leading unions. A senior official from the Royal Palace is also listed as is ex-Minister Rodrigo Rato. Several resignations have followed, including a senior figure from Hacienda, who appears to have spent sixty three thousand with his magic card over the years. Then, it seems, at least 34 of those 86 were also extended special credits which apparently totalled another 62 million euros between 2004 and 2011. One must remember that Caja Madrid and Bankia had received a €4,465 million bailout from the Spanish government via the FROB in March 2011. How did the judge find out? From the alternative press, of course! We wonder what Ex-judge Elpidio Díaz thinks about all this...?

Meanwhile, Elpidio Díaz has just been handed a 17.5 year 'inhabilitation' sentence for sending the disgraced banker Blesa (briefly, twice) to prison last year.

An oil painting of Miguel Blesa, which cost the Caja Madrid 159,000 euros, has been found languishing in the cellar of what used to be the Fundación Caja Madrid.

According to El Huff Post: 'Checking out the 'Black Cards'. The Ministry of Finance and Public Administration will investigate to see if the use of Black Cards (hidden to the Treasury) are being used in Ibex-35 companies as has been uncovered in the case of Caja Madrid...'.

'We laugh so as not to cry. The discrediting of our justice system is moving to such an extent that we must make a big effort not to laugh (or cry) when we hear of clearly politicized and unfair judicial decisions, made to the obvious detriment of the vast majority of citizens who are amazed as, once again, the judiciary merrily skip their own regulations for the sake of an exaggerated partisanship. In the great mafioso plot known as Gürtel in the Valencian Community, only private entrepreneurs are charged with prison sentences, while all the high PP politicians involved get a slap on the wrist. In the end a few tiddlers will fall, but not the Barons of the Camps Era, politicians active not only in Regional Government departments but also in county councils (diputaciones), large municipalities, etc. At least a couple of dozen of them should spend a long time 'in the shade', but their mates at Justice say that they don't feel like it. Thus is the corruption in this country.' The preamble at Urbanismo Patas Arriba to a report in Levante titled 'The Prosecution asks for gaol for the leaders of the Gürtel but only disqualification for the politicians involved'.

Meanwhile, in Almería, 'An experimental bio fuel plant that turns seaweed into oil is to be shut down. The Carboneras Ecofield project, owned by Bio Fuel Systems (BFS), has been abandoned following the trial of the company’s president and his family in Alicante...'. From The Olive Press.

'Public prosecutors say that between 2002 and 2005, a 45-strong network of tour guides, hoteliers, travel agents, and monument employees made around €3.5 million from selling entrance tickets to the Alhambra palace in Granada. The alleged scam involved hoteliers and travel agents taking the money for entry tickets from groups of tourists, and then cutting a deal with staff at the Moorish complex, one of Spain’s most-visited historical sites, who would let them in, either without tickets or using forgeries...'. From El País in English.

White Elephants:

'Spain's government said Friday it will pay €1.35 billion in compensation to a Spanish firm which was forced to stopped work on a vast underwater gas-storage project that was suspected of causing minor quakes. Known as Project Castor, the scheme aimed to store gas in a depleted oil reservoir 1.7 kilometres under the Mediterranean Sea in the Gulf of Valencia and send it via a pipeline to Spain's national grid. The government halted operations at the facility in September 2013 after more than 200 minor earthquakes were detected in the area which geologists and environmentalists blamed on gas injections...'. Story at The Local.

The EXPO 2008, held in Zaragoza, has cost that city, so far, 700 million euros, according to the ABC.

Catalonia:

'The leader of Catalonia has set up a panel to supervise a contested independence referendum next month, defying Spain's central government which has gone to the courts to block the vote. The president of the wealthy north-east region, Artur Mas, appointed a seven-strong committee to oversee the ballot on Thursday evening, the local government said in a statement...'. From Reuters.

'...Given that Spain’s current finances are already on a preposterously unsustainable path – the country’s public debt has exploded from around 40% of GDP six years ago to its current level of just over 100% and shows no sign of receding – losing its richest region would not bode well for the country’s economy. Before you could say “hijo de puta” large-scale international investors (i.e. banks, hedge funds and the like) would have withdrawn their funding of the nation’s debt, resulting in the collapse of bond prices and sky-rocketing yields...'. A piece on the choice of  'Chaotic Divorce or Loveless Marriage' at Wolf Street.

'International investors seek protection in case of Catalan independence. Foreign fund managers are demanding clauses in contracts amid tense climate'. From El País in English.

'Many Catalans are fighting hard for the right to decide on whether to split from the rest of Spain. But what would an independent Catalonia actually look like? The Local gazes into the crystal ball. It remains to be seen whether Catalans will go to the polls on November 9th in a vote that will test levels of popular support for the idea of an independent Catalonia.
Even if the non-binding vote does go ahead, an independent country is a long way off...'. A light-hearted look at a future changes in an independent Catalonia.

According to El Huff Post, the Catalonian Government will decide once and for all by October 15th, over whether to hold a vote/referendum/survey (or call fresh and immediate elections) regarding independence on November 9th.

Politics:

'Support for Spain's centre People's Party (PP) has sunk to its lowest level since its general election victory in 2011, while support for new leftist party Podemos has risen, a poll showed on Sunday...'. ('Centre'?). The article is from Reuters.

Strong stuff:  'Following the next General Elections, the leader of the PSOE Pedro Sánchez will be obliged to chose between a Government led by the Partido Popular or by one led by Podemos'. So says the leader of Podemos, Pablo Iglesias.

Various:

The difference between Spain's reality and its reputation abroad is discussed by the El Cano Royal Institute in a far-reaching and interesting article in English. A quote from the article: 'It is not easy for Spain to change its image and improve the perception of the nation brand. The country is viewed in surveys as ‘hot’ (creative, passionate and not very serious), as opposed to ‘cold’ (efficient, rigorous and serious) like Germany and the UK. The ‘hot’ image benefits the flourishing tourism industry, but not many other parts of the economy, and the way the country is perceived abroad'.

'The Remunerated Statutory Limitation for News Aggregation and Search Engines Proposed by the Spanish Government: Its Compliance with International and EU Law'. At Infojustice, a lawyer comments on the infamous 'Google Tax' (in English). The proposal amounts to an attempt to subsidize an industry at the expense of another and it does so by distorting copyright law rules and infringing EU law and international obligations. A similar situation in Germany is addressed here: '...Most newspapers face a worsening problem: after years of failing to adapt to the web and losing money hand over fist, they now want somebody else to pick up the tab. With the aid of irresponsible or corrupt governments able in many cases (Spain, for example) to oblige newspapers to replace editors in return for institutional advertising, they have set up a lobby that wants to change how the web works, redefining the concept of a link, and to decide who pays who and why, based on concepts that have nothing to do with the subject in hand...'.

In the UK – things are going in the opposite direction: 'From October 1st, UK citizens are free to copy MP3s, CDs and DVDs for personal use. After an unexpected delay, UK copyright law was amended to legalize this common form of copying. In addition, the changes also broaden other forms of fair use, including parody and quotation rights...'.

Namibia, it seems, has more press freedom than Spain (so says Reporters Without Frontiers). Finland is Nº 1, while Spain is at 35 (and Namibia at 22).

'Where have all the Spaniards gone?' asks the BBC: 'Twenty-five percent unemployment, a dismal economic outlook and faith in the government at an all-time low. If it sounds like a recipe for failure for anyone with aspirations of building a career and a life, for Spaniards, that’s exactly what it is. But rather than grit their teeth and hope to stretch their money and career prospects until the crisis wanes, some are taking matters into their own hands, leaving Spain and heading not just to Europe, but to Latin America, where language barriers are few and opportunities are plenty...'.

Multinationals don't pay tax if they can avoid it. A program on Spanish RTVE called 'La Noche Temática' shows how they do it (video available until October 19th).

'Archaeologists in southern Spain believe they have discovered the exact place where Christopher Columbus set sail for the New World in 1492. After two months of arduous work, a team of archaeologists from Huelva University have unearthed the remains of a port in the southern Spanish town of Palos de la Frontera...'. From The Local.

Moving to Spain? The Department of Health and the British Embassy in Madrid have posted a (rather terrible) healthcare video on YouTube here.

'The British Ambassador Simon Manley has welcomed the efforts of English speaking charities in the Murcia region for their close working with local authorities, and has highlighted the importance of Murcia as a location for British tourism and for its agricultural exports to the UK'. Gov UK press release.

Finally:

The Almería Western Film Festival, October 10th to 12th, in Tabernas – Promotion Video here. Organised by the Ayuntamiento of Tabernas in the province of Almería, Spain, the Almería Western Film Festival's main objective is the diffusion and promotion of Western genre films that contribute to the knowledge of world cinema (they shot most of the 'spaghetti westerns' in the sixties and seventies in Tabernas). Information about the festival and the program, in English, here.

Press Release: 

Contact: [email protected] or [email protected]
Maura Hillen: 661329919 or Mario Balncke 687964097
Responding to yesterday's announcement of the initiation of a parliamentary bill to amend the Planning Laws of Andalucía (LOUA) to deal with illegal land divisions, thus allowing more houses to be regularized.......
SOHA and AUAN are pleased with the agreement reached between PSOE and IU in relation to this initiative.
But at the same time we are impatient for this change to be made law as soon as possible.
The members of AUAN and SOHA are the victims, not the authors, of planning crimes. They have suffered years of legal uncertainty and stress as a consequence of their decision to live in Spain and to buy a house in good faith.
We need to see the text but as we understand it the proposed change permits the regularisation, not the legalisation, of houses that meet all of the criteria established in the Regularisation Decree of 2012, except for the fact that the houses share the same parcel of non urbanizable land. It is not an amnesty.
In an ideal world the guilty would already have been punished and the victims would already have been compensated.
But we do not live in an ideal world and we are obliged to compromise.
We hope that with dialogue and common sense this bill will progress as quickly as possible.
The demolition of all the irregular houses would be economic suicide for Andalucía and for Spain.

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