We are often guilty of putting ourselves in the imaginary position of the dogs and the cats here, or even the bulls. So many pious remarks about how they are mistreated, or tied up, or end up facing a matador in his suit of lights. It’s a rare community that doesn’t have an animal protection society staffed by volunteers and we even have an animalist political party, the PACMA, which currently enjoys the support of around 300,000 voters. Animals are without a voice and perhaps they need more protection, and a champion to defend them. Especially those poor superannuated hunting greyhounds.
Yes, maybe these are important points to raise, and perhaps it is true that the Spanish tend to have a different viewpoint from our own. We can even feel superior to our neighbours about our elevated care and love for our ‘four-footed friends’. We shall post something on Facebook about this, right away!
This generosity of spirit, however, is rarely extended to the African immigrants that walk among us, unseen. Most of them will have arrived here, in search of a (slightly) better life, having overcome the most terrible ordeals and threats. Many of them will never make it to the shores of this country, but will be drowned or murdered or incarcerated in the attempt, crossing first the countries of North Africa, and second, the Mediterranean sea.
Those who do manage to arrive in Spain may end up with a horrible job in the plastic farms of Almería and Murcia. Some others will be given trinkets to sell on the beach (the ‘looky-looky men’) or in the cities (the ‘manteros’) – with their produce lying on a sheet with string holding the four corners – ready for a quick getaway. They’ll sleep in squats, or in highly priced apartments, ten to a room. Maybe they can send a little money home to their families.
The police don’t like them much, and the shopkeepers don’t like them at all. However, a squab of hope, or at least dignity, comes from an association of these manteros in Barcelona, which has launched their own brand of clothes, called Top Manta, with ‘...the logo made up of two waves: one represents the materials used, the other the perilous maritime journeys many of the sellers undertook to reach Spain...’ (The Local here). We say: ‘Good for them’!
‘When it comes to embarking on a new life or buying a holiday home in the sun, Spain is king among Brits. That's according to a new analysis from Rightmove, which has Spain as the most popular country when it comes to property searches made on its site. Rightmove says 2.5 million searches are made about property in Spain on its site every month. Anyone looking to travel abroad to do a location recce of potential properties should arrange travel insurance first...’. From a commercial piece at World First here.
‘Spanish builders have doubled the rate of housing construction in three years: from the 40,000 units begun in 2014, when Spain already had 535,734 homes ready to be released, they were added more than 50,000 in 2015 and 64,038 in 2016, with the forecast of around 80,000 for 2017. In two years, while the sale of urban land increased and its price increased by 13% in 2017 after a 5% increase each in the previous two years, the construction of 148,184 houses has begun while another 90,476 have been completed according to data from the Ministry of Development...’. The report comes from Público here.
Mark Stücklin at Spanish Property Insight warns that ‘Most of Spain goes away on holiday in August, and many families take with them the nagging worry their homes will be broken into whilst they are away at the beach. This finding comes from a new survey commissioned by the private security company Securitas Direct. 60% of families are worried about their homes being broken into whilst they are away on holiday this summer, 41% say they know someone it has happened to, and 5% say it has already happened to them. It’s not a trivial concern. With so many families away at the same time, cities like Barcelona are left to tourists and burglars. Many apartment buildings are almost empty for the best part of a month, making it easier for thieves to break in...’.
From an opinion piece in El País in English about ‘Spanish tourism: A victim of its own success’ comes ‘...Spain needs to hold onto its tourism sector – after all, it contributes 11% of the country’s GDP – but it also needs to manage it properly if it is to be sustainable and of benefit to all. The occasional outbreaks of hostility toward tourists in some locations is a symptom of ill-feeling that needs to be nipped in the bud before it is too late...’. Another quote from the same news-site: ‘...As for tourism, Spain is Britons’ destination of choice. British tourists to Spain numbered 17.8 million last year, representing the largest foreign group by far. Every year, 35 million passengers fly to and from both countries, and Spain has the most air connections to Britain of any country...’.
Tourist figures are likely to increase in 2017, with foreign visitor numbers up an estimated 9% this summer and spending up by around 10%, says Hosteltur here.
From an article in El País in English: ‘...Under the EU umbrella, bilateral trade has grown to reach more than €30.2 billion (30,200 million) in 2016, with a €7.9 billion surplus for Spain. And Britain has become the main destination for Spanish investment, to the tune of €82.5 billion accumulated to 2015. Several studies show that Spanish investment accounts for around 140,000 direct jobs in Britain. And the United Kingdom was the second-largest foreign investor in Spain in 2015, with a contribution of €44.7 billion...’.
From J.L.M. Campuzano (Spanish Banking Association), writing for The Corner: ‘Spanish banks have made a big effort over the last few years to provide solutions for more than a million households experiencing difficulties in meeting their mortgages’ repayments, in line with our data. During this period, measures have been taken in collaboration with the Administration to ease the problems for many households. These include the Code of Good Practices in 2012 and the creation of the Social Housing Fund in 2013. When households have had a problem in making the payments, they have been given facilities which allow them to hold on to their homes and match the calendar of mortgage repayments to their financial capacity. We estimate that over 10% of current existing mortgages have been refinanced or restructured...’.
‘Catalonia and Spain to Push Each Other into Financial Abyss?’ wonders Wolf Street here.
How many funcionarios are there, by region and percentage of the workforce? El País has the answers here.
Spain has some cast-iron gremios, or guilds, that hold on to business against all-comers. One such is the stevedores, who have quietly managed, after some strikes and threats, to win a conflict with the Government. The deal is that exactly 100% of the workers will remain in employment. We say ‘quietly managed’, because the Media has rather ignored the issue, a blog called Vamos Tarragona says here.
The latest poll compares today’s voting intention with last December. It gives PP at 31.6% (was 33.3%), the PSOE at 24.4% (up from 22.8%), Unidos Podemos 18.8% (down from 21.3%) and Ciudadanos 15.1% (up from 13.2%). More at El Diario here.
The PP-run town hall of Almería is the ‘least transparent’ town hall in Spain, says Transparencia Internacional, putting Almería last out of 110 town halls analysed. The story at Teleprensa here. The second worst town hall, says El Boletín, who picks up the tale, is Mijas, run (of all people) by Ciudadanos.
The Guardian sets the scene here: ‘Spanish royals on state visit to UK, with Brexit issues unavoidable. The visit will play down issues on Gibraltar, the rights of British citizens living in Spain and Spanish nationals living in the UK’, they forecast. The Olive Press has the back story as well, with ‘Everything you need to know about King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia’s state visit to the UK’. Here’s the video of Boris Johnson’s welcome (bravely said). On Wednesday afternoon, the King of Spain spoke in Parliament – touching on Gibraltar and the question of expatriate Britons in Spain and Spaniards in the UK. He was given a cheer of ‘Viva el Rey’ after his half an hour speech, says El Mundo here (with video).
‘Catalonia plans to hold an independence vote whether Spain lets it or not. Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy says the vote is illegal and vows to block it’, headline at The Economist here (partial paywall).
While the Generalitat are choosing their ballot boxes for the upcoming referendum on independence to be held (perhaps) on October 1st, the Government in Madrid has announced that any mayor who allows this ‘illegal’ vote to take place in their municipality will incur a fine of up to 600,000€ if they provide the census information for ‘improper usage’. The story is at El Mundo here.
From The Olive Press: ‘Two former PP bigwigs and two leading union bosses have been added to Spain’s biggest-ever corruption case. The PP politicians Carmen de Miguel and Soledad Córdova and ex-union bosses Francisco Carbonero and Manuel Pastrana are set to join a list of 25 leading ex-politicians to be tried in the ERE case set to begin in December...’.
The Caso Poniente is the inquiry into political and financial misdoings in El Ejido, Almería with Juan Enciso as the ex-mayor fallen into disrepute. His case has finally risen to the top after a mere eight years and the Court is seeking 733 years of prison for Enciso plus 36 other local politicians, businessmen and funcionarios. The story at El País here. From La Voz de Almería, which also examines the case, we read that Hacienda was defrauded of 18 million euros by the plotters.
In another case heard in Almería, the ex-mayor of Zurgena, Cándido Trabalón, was handed down six years of prison-time for authorizing a large number of illegal homes in his municipality between 2003 and 2007. The homes, mainly belonging to Britons, will not be demolished, although they will continue as ‘alegal’ (a highly specialised judicial term which means ‘neither one thing nor the other’), and will not receive legal use of utilities. The story here. From Europa Press we read that the court rules that a former town planner and the town hall must pay 648,992.61 euros in compensation to seven British homeowners on the failed Lemon Tree Island Resort development, based in the same municipality.
‘The regional authorities on Spain’s Balearic Islands have fined Spanish airline Iberia €25,000 for demanding that women seeking cabin crew jobs undergo a pregnancy test as part of their application process...’. From El País in English.
Here’s something called Our Brexit Blog. It’s for British citizens living in the EU. Enjoy!
‘Boris Johnson accuses the EU of "extortion" against the United Kingdom with the bill of the 'Brexit'. The European Union demands that the United Kingdom takes over the costs of the divorce and fulfils its financial obligations’. Headline at El Español. The story begins: ‘The British Foreign Minister Boris Johnson has stated that the European Union "extorts" the UK with the bill that the British are required to pay to bear the costs of the divorce, according to Sky News. When asked before the House of Commons whether to tell Brussels to 'go whistle', an English expression used when you demand something but do not expect to get it, the Foreign Secretary said that "I think that the sums I have seen ... appear to be extortionate and I think that ‘go whistle’ is a totally appropriate expression."...’. The story also appears here in The Guardian.
From The Telegraph: ‘Britain promises EU citizens' rights will be irreversible and enshrined in international law’ (Paywall). From Cadena Ser, we are told the opposite: ‘The European Parliament threatens the UK with a hard Brexit "We will never endorse the retroactive withdrawal of rights", they affirm’. Furthermore: ‘The European Union has the mission of expanding, consolidating and extending rights, not reducing them. With this affirmation the European Parliament warns that "it reserves the right to reject any agreement that gives to the citizens of the EU, whatever its nationality, treatment less favourable than at present"...’. The Guardian quotes Guy Verhofstadt as saying ‘Improve the Brexit offer to EU citizens, or we’ll veto the deal’.
CEDRO, the collection arm of the association of daily newspapers the AEDE, has sent a letter to Meneame, a site which uses aggregators to link news items posted by readers (news items which – as a popular protest – do not include any items from AEDE sources) looking to claim payment from them for the ‘Google Tax’. According to the law, passed by the Government with a no-doubt quid pro quo from the Dailies, all links to any item, whether from a blog, a news-site, a foreign source and so on, must suffer a tax payable to the AEDE people. No one – not even CEDRO – knows how much to charge, so it remains as a future threat rather than a current one. It almost goes without saying that a link to another site, of course, draws traffic to that site. This interesting tax means that Meneame, Facebook, Google Search and indeed Business over Tapas will – one day – be expected to help keep the AEDE people in smoked salmon lunches. We wonder – can we join? El Diario has the story here. Meneame have written an editorial on this remarkable threat to free speech here.
From an opinion piece from Media-tics about the ‘unsustainability of the printed press’: ‘...A series of factors are converging to form a kind of perfect storm around the media sector, which may face a new and devastating wave of crisis. The overwhelming dominance of Google and Facebook over digital advertising, ad-blockers, the transition to a new type of non-invasive advertising and the enthronement of the mobile as the major support for advertising, make up the cardinal points of an unsustainable situation. It's time to do something...’. We see that all newspapers are losing readership and copies printed. Will the news itself survive in a pluralist way?
The National Police confirm that the Partido Popular that money from the ‘B accounts’ was used to buy shares in a right-wing news-site called Libertad Digital in 2004.Vozpópuli has more here. You can visit Libertad Digital here.
The poorest barrio in Spain is in Seville. It’s called Los Pajaritos. El País visits the slum.
‘...There are around 800,000 British nationals living in Spain, half of whom own property there, according to diplomatic sources (although only 300,000 of them are officially registered as having Spanish residency). Meanwhile, there are 130,000 Spaniards registered as residents in Britain, although the real figure could be closer to 260,000....’. From an article at El País in English. A report from Spanish Property Insight gives the official (and no doubt highly inaccurate) numbers here. Keeping to the subject, El Diario says ‘Spain is home to the largest British expatriate population in the European Union (EU) and one of the most vulnerable because of its high number of retirees, who fear losing free medical care and upgrading their pensions after Brexit. Their future began to be discussed in June, a year after the referendum that led a majority of the British people to approve their country’s departure from the Union. Spain is, since 2005, the favourite country for the British settled in another nation of the EU...’.
‘The parts of Spain’s coastline developers would most like to get their hands on. Greenpeace report identifies 53 unspoiled areas of Spanish coastline at risk of future development’. Headline to an interesting article in El País in English here.
Various items are appearing against swimming nude in Cuevas del Almanzora (here), or peeing in the sea in San Pedro del Pinatar, Murcia (here) or going shirtless in Marbella (here) or Mojácar (here). Fines, after all, will make up a goodly part of a municipal budget. The Olive Press has a piece on the new rules for the Costa del Sol beaches here.
An American woman writes of her time living in a small pueblo in Spain, here at El País.
A forthcoming unauthorised biography of Juan Carlos I is causing a stir. The author claims that the ex-king of Spain had over 5,000 lovers! The story at El Español here.
Five regions of Spain – Andalucía, Aragón, Baleares, Canarias and Extremadura – have agreed that students who failed certain subjects (with a limit of two) will not have to re-take them in September, and they will be given their ESO documents withal. This could be to manipulate the failure record in the regions, all controlled or in coalition with the PSOE. The story can be found at El Mundo here.
When is the Andalucía tsunami coming, asks El Ideal artlessly. All we need is a very large marine earthquake, apparently. You have to see the photograph!
The Region of Madrid is spending more on Los Toros this year, after some economies in 2016, says El Diario disapprovingly.
An editorial on the Sanfermines comes from El País in English. It begins: ‘A combination of ignorance (on the part of those who have never attended or don’t know anything about the fiestas), political correctness and moral crusading has led, in recent days, to many saying and writing a great deal of unjust drivel about the Sanfermines fiestas in Pamplona...’.
How many types of gazpacho are there? There are a number of recipes here at El Diario (Mrs BoT makes one based on honeydew melon).
Granada just edged out Córdoba as Spain’s most beautiful city, according to a tourist site called 'Sitios de España', as quoted by Ideal here.
‘Málaga’s growing reputation as an arts and culture hub is about to be boosted with the opening of a centre dedicated to the philosophical legacy of Spain’s Sephardic Jews. The Sephardic Cultural Centre in the Mediterranean port city will focus on the legacy of the flowering of Jewish thought in Spain in the 15th century and on the thinkers of the Sephardic diaspora following the expulsion of Spain’s non-Christians in 1492 under Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile, the first monarchs of unified Spain...’. From El País in English here.
How Spanish got its ñ - the story behind that "n with a tilde". On YouTube here.
**The next Business over Tapas will be published on August 3rd. There will be occasional items posted meantime on our Facebook page here.