Two weeks holiday in Portugal has made a pleasurable break from Paradise. Spain is a wonderful place to live, but a short time away can help put things in better perspective.
Certainly, our first day back in España (I went on vacation with my Spanish companion), we watched the Noticias de la Primera on the TV. A woman wearing an alarming-looking heavy gas mask and a protective suit spent the first ten minutes of the news reporting the referendum/power grab in Venezuela – a story that oddly hadn’t appeared of much interest to the Portuguese news channels. But here, we are subliminally reminded of the threat of Podemos each time the fiendish activities of the mad chauffeur from Caracas is featured on the telly. Don’t agree? Whither Turkey TV time with the equally unstable Erdogan?
Lisbon was full of tourists of course, and the Portuguese speak English, French, German... but never Spanish (much to my friend’s indignation). We ate well, took a trip around the city in a tuc tuc (Spain is missing a trick with these little three-wheeler cabs), listened to some Fado and bought endless fridge magnets and tee shirts.
And an obligatory bottle of port, of course.
Unemployment at 9% is relatively low in Portugal, and job-offers are often posted in the windows of shops and restaurants. In general, the government seems rather more on the ball than the one in Spain, with an offer of ten years tax-free to any foreigner who wants to buy a house and take out residency.
We met Colin Davies, who is a fellow blogger, in the dramatic city of Oporto, after taking a cheap local train ride up the coast from Aveiro where we had been staying. Colin writes about Spain from his home-base in Pontevedra, Galicia. He introduces his daily posts with a quote that I like: ‘Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable’. So true.
Coming back into Spain (no passport control, no customs... just a road-side sign saying ‘you are now in Spain’ - suck on that Brexiters!), we stopped for lunch in Antequera in a large restaurant tastefully decorated with a wax-statue of the bullfighter Jesulín and a toro. Oh, the noise! It’s good to be back, I shouted to my amiga, who was sat next to me happily stirring a decent cup of coffee.
Yes Darling, she bellowed in return, patting my hand absently.
‘Confidence in the Spanish property market is rising with the research division of Spanish bank BBVA forecasting that home sales this year will be 10% higher than last year.
The bank is also predicting that sales will break through the 500,000 barrier for the first time since the downturn in the nation’s housing market prompted by the economic downturn a decade ago...’. From Property Wire here.
‘The Spanish real estate sector may be recovering, but activity is still 80% lower than it was in 2004 finds a study by the appraisal company Euroval, based on an index incorporating all the key indicators of activity...’. Story at Mark Stücklin’s Spanish Property Insight here.
La Voz de Almería says here that homes in the city and province of Almería (less, perhaps, a few coastal resorts) are worth only around half of what they were ten years ago.
‘Can The Solid Recovery Of Spanish Property Market Be Sustainable?’ asks The Corner here.
From El País in English. ‘If you’re not a resident in Spain, what are your mortgage options? What Spaniards living abroad and foreigners looking to buy property here need to know’.
From The Olive Press: ‘A British expat couple who invested everything into Málaga home are given one month to demolish it’. The story here.
Getting into the rental business, a ‘gypsy clan’ (sic) in Reus can find you a nice apartment with all the trimmings for 1000€ a month. The three buildings themselves belong to the BBVA, but the new ‘owners’ have changed the locks... Story in catalán here.
‘As the economy improves, Spaniards are taking vacations again. Tourism industry is expecting record figures in a year when both domestic and foreign travel is up. Experts are forecasting a rise in the number of Spaniards going on summer vacation this year. Following several years of decline due to the economic crisis, the tourism sector is optimistic that the trend will be reversed in 2017...’. From El País in English here.
Around 8.5 million foreign tourists visited Spain in June says Nexotur here.
The war between Airbnb and the Barcelona authorities has prompted the home-sharing company to remove 1,000 apartments from its books in the Catalonian capital. The story at Hosteltur here. Indeed, Barcelona is the subject of a piece in Time Magazine which begins: ‘Barcelona is making it clear that tourists are no longer as welcome as they once were. Two days after it banned all new hotels from the city centre, Barcelona introduced a new plan, meant to curb tourism by 2020. Last year, Barcelona received 32 million visitors. And although tourism is a vital part of the city’s economy (it brings in 14 percent of yearly revenue), it is also driving up property prices, pushing out locals and mainstay shops in favour of hotels and tourist traps...’.
‘70% of holiday rentals in Mallorca are illegal claims anti-tourism group’. Headline found at Spanish Property Insight here. From The Local we read: ‘Anarchists are targeting tourists in Spain’s busiest resorts. This is why...’.
Indeed, tourism is going through a tricky period, if we look past the cash registers for a moment... ‘Spanish police have been accused of going too far after allegedly beating British holidaymakers ‘for singing’. Video footage has emerged of a policeman running towards clubbers before attacking them with a baton on Saturday night. The film, shot in a popular tourist resort, clearly shows the officer randomly attacking teenagers as they took part in a group sing-along...’. From The Olive Press here.
From The New York Times: ‘Spain’s Long Economic Nightmare Is Finally Over- After nearly a decade of economic crisis, Spain is finally growing again, underscoring hopes that the eurozone has reached a healthier place’. The article here. An excerpt: ‘...For most of the last decade, Spain has suffered as an extreme example of the economic carnage that has assailed the 19 nations sharing the common European currency. Its astonishing levels of unemployment, which peaked at 26 percent, stood as a prominent marker of the desperation inflicted by the implosion of its real estate investment bubble, combined with the global financial crisis. Now, Spain’s economy has returned to its pre-crisis size, according to data released by the government on Friday. This seemingly puts the finish to one of the worst economic catastrophes to play out in Europe in the years since World War II. It suggests that the continent, still grappling with formidable, even existential challenges, has finally achieved recovery...’.
The massive investment group Blackstone has bought 51% of the 30,000 million euros of ‘toxic’ property which was held in the defunct Banco Popular, now owned by the Banco Santander. The story at El Confidencial here.
‘Former Spanish banker Miguel Blesa, whose body was found on Wednesday with a shotgun wound to the chest, committed suicide, the regional government of Andalucía said.
An autopsy found Blesa, who ran the ill-fated Madrid-based savings bank Caja Madrid from 1996 to 2010, took his own life on a country estate in the southern province of Córdoba, the Andalusian authorities said in a statement on Thursday...’. From Reuters here. The death of the banker ‘puts his haul into safety’, says Público here. As El Confidencial points out here, Blesa had already put everything into his family’s name before he pulled the trigger.
The ‘rescue of the autopistas’, which the Taxpayer is kindly contributing towards, will cost 3,500 million euros, says the Government. The motorways, once the banks and building companies have been reimbursed for their losses, will be ‘re-privatised’ later on. More on this at El Plural here.
Spare a thought for Rodrigo Rato, whose British holding Vivaway Limited has been expropriated by the British authorities and the estimated 6.4 million euros value retained. Story at Vozpópuli here.
‘Political reaction to Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s court statements on Wednesday last week was swift and scathing. Soon after the Popular Party (PP) leader walked out of the courthouse where he had testified as a witness in the long-running Gürtel trial, involving widespread political graft, all the opposition parties issued their views on this unprecedented event...’. El País in English considers the remarkable court-appearance of the President of Spain in the inquiry into endemic political corruption. The Guardian also reports on the event here. The scandal that might have arisen from such a singular event has been avoided, says CTXT here, because the PP have a strong control over the main media in Spain (TVE was the only TV channel to refrain from featuring the rather benign interrogation of Rajoy at all). The campaign directors of six other parties – the PSOE, C´S, Podemos, IU, ERC and PDCat – all tell El Diario that Rajoy’s job in the earlier part of the century was precisely to control party funding.
Las puertas giratorias, ‘swinging doors’. These are the jobs that retired politicians often get: seats on the board of a public company and a good living. El Confidencial reports here that the latest council meeting of the Junta de Andalucía managed to find juicy situations for four of the outgoing politicians while a fifth one, ex-Justice Councillor Emilio de Llera, says he will return to his old position in the prosecution office in Seville.
The Spanish consul in Washington was having a go at Susana Diaz’ ’orrible Andalusian accent in an amusing post on Facebook the other day. Heh! Not so funny really. Ahem. Now the Spanish Foreign Minister has gone and sacked him for his poor judgement.
The anti-corruption office announced by the Partido Popular, called the ‘Oficina del Cargo Popular’ has quietly foundered two months later, says El Diario here.
Quote of the Week:
"Of course people are bothered by my glitter, insects attack the lamps that shine the brightest" Cristiano Ronaldo in El Mundo here.
The president of the Royal Spanish Football Federation Ángel María Villar (for 29 years) and his son Gorka were arrested and jailed two weeks ago for massive fraud, El País reports here. This Tuesday, for a modest bail, both of them were freed...
The Falciani Case: a very slow investigation into improper Swiss bank accounts of Spaniards (and others) dating back to 2010 (Wiki here) has now thrown up a second guilty party, a retired engineer from Repsol, who like the previous guilty businessman from December 2015... has abruptly fled the country.
‘Cristiano Ronaldo has denied hiding millions of euros from Spain’s tax authorities.
The Real Madrid star was appearing at a Spanish court where he has been charged with tax evasion. He is accused of not declaring €14.7 million earned from image rights. “I have never hidden anything, nor have I had the intention of evading taxes,” Ronaldo, 32, said...’. From The Olive Press here.
Any update on this? ‘Resident foreign assets reporting – EC infringement procedure against Spain for disproportionate penalties’, a February article from Janet Anscombe here.
From The Weenie: ‘Open letter to UK citizens living in Spain, from British Ambassador Simon Manley’.
From The Guardian: 'A bit of me is dying. But I can’t stay': the EU nationals exiting Britain. Feeling betrayed and bewildered after years in the UK, many EU citizens are leaving before Brexit. And some Britons are going too…’.
From Reuters: ‘The automatic right of European Union citizens to live and work in Britain will end in March 2019 with Brexit, Prime Minister Theresa May's spokesman said on Monday, after her ministers publicly differed over the shape of the divorce with the EU.
Since May's failed gamble on a snap election last month, the future of Brexit has been thrown into question with squabbling between her ministers over the pace, tone and terms of Britain's departure from the club it joined in 1973...’. The subject is also discussed in Vozpópuli here.
‘British expatriates considering returning home in the face of uncertainty over their status as EU residents following Brexit could be in for a nasty shock. Research by Retirement Advantage Equity Release shows that since 2010, the combination of sustained price rises in the UK housing market and falls in many popular EU destinations could leave them facing a substantial shortfall if they come back to the UK...’. Found at Money Observer here.
An alarming story: ‘Journalism Is Dying and Content Marketing Is Taking Its Place’ From Truthout. ‘...the newsroom is being taken over directly by corporations, with businesses boycotting traditional channels and creating their own “newsroom” as part of their corporate website. Meanwhile, traditional newsrooms are using their editorial teams, or setting up special native advertising teams, just to provide disguised content for companies...’.
El Confidencial rails against the banderas azules – the Blue Flags that adorn many of our beaches. ‘They’re just a business’, say mayors and others...
‘Spain is falling down’, says a report in El Español which considers the lack of funding for public monuments and ancient ruins. The story here.
‘Even the Guardia Civil are mobilized so that the olive ebola does not reach Andalucía’
Says La Información here. ‘...The appearance of a second case of xylella fastidiosa in Alicante has sounded all the alarms in Andalucía regarding the bacterium that has killed millions of olive trees in Italy. Seprona is intensifying its surveillance of illegal nurseries and marinas, but farmers in Jaén, where the olive grove accounts for 20% of GDP, are pessimistic: "it’s coming."...’
The Government is to close down Spain’s oldest nuclear power station at La Garoña (Burgos), says El País here.
‘The mysterious origins of Europe’s oldest language. When Francisco Franco banned the use of the ancient Euskara language, residents of the Basque Country fought to keep it alive’: A report from The BBC on the Basque language here.
Andalucía water bills have a 20% canon for the disposal of used water – money gone to pay for sewage plants across the region. Unfortunately, there are only a certain number of these in operation, says El Confidencial here.
A proper beach bar, a chiringuito, should have little more than cold beer, sardines and a bit of shade, in our modest opinion. The Guardian has their take on Spain’s (mostly rather more elaborate) ‘ten best beach bars’ here.
From The Positive Lexicography Project. Words that have no similar meaning in English.
After Granada, Almería is considered the best place for tapas in Spain. Its great food doesn’t stop there, of course. Fiona Dunlop writes in a leisurely article here on six of Almería’s best eateries.
Two hours of relaxing flamenco guitar here.