When I look into the eyes of those affected by illegal houses, the vast majority nearly in their 80s, I think that enough is enough, that this useless suffering must be brought to an end. I also think it´s time to get rid of byzantine, cumbersome laws that do not work, and the sooner the better.
It is evident that urban planning in Andalucía has failed. Proof of this is the 300,000 illegal houses that exist across the region, a problem that probably affects around a million people, and could represent an investment of tens of thousands of millions of Euros. For any sensible person it is also evident that it serves no purpose to demolish these houses, as well as useless and unjust to knock down just a few, except in cases of obvious risk. Prevention is what is required and it is obvious that prevention has failed. That it has failed is not the fault of those affected, it is the fault of the administration. And what cannot be allowed is to keep these poor pensioners as a type of planning hostage until the planning system does its job – a planning system that clearly does not do its job.
The 16,000 people affected in Chiclana in Cádiz have spent 30 years waiting for the planners to resolve their problem, as have those in Carmona in Seville. And those on asentamientos in the Valley of Almanzora in Almería have waited for more than a decade. Enough is enough. Many of those affected in Chiclana and Carmona have running water just outside their plot or urbanisation and again, as if they were hostages, they are not allowed to connect, purely for reasons of planning dogma, in order not to “reward them” they are told. The truth is that the “rewarded” are sunning themselves on the beach whilst those affected live in inadequate conditions and without legal security.
It´s unfortunate that urban planning has been converted into an orthodoxy and this simply cannot be. What is required is a new philosophy in urban planning, one that walks hand in hand with citizens and their needs; a new philosophy that resolves problems and that doesn’t criticise the errors of others without being prepared to be self-critical at the same time.
For this reason, the announcement from the new government of Andalucía that they are going to take rapid measures is a breath of fresh air for thousands of people. These are statements of intent that give hope to those affected. They are no longer told “it’s very complicated” and “it must be studied”. They are told “we are going to resolve it”, “we are going to take action” and “we are going to work with the citizens”.
Those affected are not only hopeful, but also hope that this new “can do” spirit will spread, not only to the other political parties, but also to other branches of the Administration and the State. I believe that enough is enough with the demolition of houses, putting ordinary families into the street, and enough is enough of people not having basic services and legal certainty. In fact, enough is enough of damaging the environment because there is an unwillingness to regularise these houses, as enough is enough of trying to resolve a problem through planning, sometimes as an excuse for building more houses.
Therefore, we thank the Junta de Andalucía for their promise to deliver and I am sure that they will start to take steps rapidly. We hope that they can count on social and political support. Certainly, I will campaign for this resolution both personally and as President of AUAN. I will campaign in a constructive and conciliatory way, because people deserve politicians that concentrate on resolving their problems instead of wasting time fighting among themselves. Whilst I still have the energy you will find me campaigning to advance on the path of sensible planning, a path that I am happy to see is beginning to become clearer.
Maura Hillen, President of AUAN
Meanwhile, enjoy the irony of a large demonstration in Madrid on Sunday in the ‘revolt of the Spanish interior’. From El Mundo comes ‘Tens of thousands of people have demonstrated this Sunday in Madrid to demand an urgent solution against depopulation. The Government Delegation estimates that some 50,000 people demonstrated in the capital, while the organizers, ¡Soria Ya! and Teruel Existe, claim 100,000 people...’.
‘For the first time since before the financial crisis, annual house sales in Spain have broken the half-a-million barrier, say the latest figures, with a 10.1% hike in residential property changing hands in 2018...’. Think Spain reports here.
From Spanish Property Insight here: ‘...Last year was a record year for German buyers in Spain, with 4,902 homes purchased in 2018, up 3% on the previous year, and more than 100% up on 2013. That said, the growth in German demand last year was by far the lowest of the last five years, and the first time it dropped below double digits, mainly because of an annualised decline in demand in the last two quarters of 2018...’.
Rent prices are up in the cities, with eleven capital cities showing the highest prices ever says El Economista with a useful map here.
on Spain’s empty villages is at Think Spain here.
From La Ser comes ‘The least densely populated area of Europe is not in Siberia (sic), it is in Guadalajara, where there are only 1.63 inhabitants per square kilometre. The Eurostat data places 22 Spanish provinces among the least densely populated of the entire continent...’. Some surprising maps at Público show the demographics of Spain here.
International tourist numbers for the first two months of 2019 were up by 3% over 2018 at 8.6 million foreign tourists, with the UK leading at almost 1.7 million visitors to Spain says Hosteltur here.
From El País in English here: ‘Madrid adopts rules that will shut down over 10,000 holiday apartments. City officials say regulation is required to stop the centre from becoming a tourist theme park’.
‘European Union lawmakers approved a law Wednesday that will allow Britons visa-free visits even after a "no deal" Brexit, despite a furious dispute over the status of Gibraltar. The European Parliament's justice committee approved the text of the law that already had the backing of member states and should now be formally confirmed. Britain is due to leave the European Union perhaps as early as next week, but The law allows British visitors 90-day trips to the Schengen passport-free zone. Implementation will depend on Britain according EU citizens reciprocal rights, but it has said it will do so and the principle of the law has broad support...’. From The Local here.
From the ABC we read ‘Andalucía, one of the leaders in European unemployment at 25.5%, failed to spend 3,696 million euros in job creation during the mandate of Susana Díaz (2013-2018). 63% of the money for programs against unemployment was never used’.
General elections: April 28th. European, local and (most) regional elections: May 26th.
ElDiario.es provides this week’s poll. They say, ‘The three right-wing parties won’t be enough to govern following the fall in Ciudadanos support and the brake on Vox’.
The PP has asked the other right-wing parties to desist from offering candidates in a number of smaller provinces ‘to not divide the vote and allow the PSOE to benefit’. Understandably, neither of their rivals is disposed to take this improbable step and as ElDiario.es says, ‘The PP prepares for defeat in 20 provinces and blames Ciudadanos and Vox’.
Spanish Revolution says ‘The banks finance the campaigns of the parties that forgive them for their public debt’. The article begins ‘The Spanish political parties, with the exception of United Podemos, are run by elite financial institutions. The Popular Party led by Pablo Casado is financed, and therefore controlled, by 51% by the Banco Popular and by 36% by the Banco Santander. The same happens with the PSOE, which gets its revenues from the Banco Popular, the BBVA and La Caixa by 33, 29 and 10 percent respectively. The PP and PSOE have recently asked for an advance of 60 million euros to the banks to finance their election campaign for these elections...’.
While the PP is currently running in second place behind the PSOE, in Catalonia, its fortunes are not going well. For the municipal vote, it has been obliged in some circumscriptions to seek volunteers to fill the local lists. El Español has the story here.
From El País: ‘The false report that tried to overthrow Podemos’. It begins: ‘They were days of wine and roses for Podemos: maybe that's why the establishment tried to knock them down. Back in 2016, in full electoral triumph and just 23 days after the party broke into the Congress with 69 seats, the digital newspaper OKDiario threw the first stone. The newspaper directed by Eduardo Inda published a story about a supposed police document that affirmed that the Government of Iran had financed the leader of the party and his circle to help launch the political career of Podemos...’. Now, three years later, these lies, rumours and accusations have been found to have been created by the then Ministry of the Interior using the disgraced José Manuel Villarejos as their ‘agent’. . More on this below under ‘Corruption’.
Pablo Iglesias asks why Villarejos hasn’t been asked to explain his activities to Congress here at La Vanguardia.
‘How fair are the trials of Catalan pro-independence politicians? Tim Sebastian put this question to Spain's Foreign Minister, Josep Borrell. During the heated discussion, the politician walked off the set, but came back to finish the interview after speaking to his aides’. Video on YouTube here.
‘A UK MEP has been hounded out of a key role on post-Brexit legislation for visa-free travel after standing up to Spanish “bullying” in a row over Gibraltar. Labour MEP Claude Moraes was removed as the European Parliament’s spokesman on the file following sustained pressure from Spain. Mr Moraes had represented the views of the parliament and opposed a move by Spain to introduce a footnote in the legislation describing Gibraltar as “a colony”...’. Found at The Gibraltar Chronicle here.
The spying on Podemos affair by the ‘policía patriótica’ (sic) is very important. It was allegedly authorised by the Minister of the Interior for the PP back in 2016, a mobile phone with data was apparently stolen under his orders and the far-right muckspreading news-site, OKDiario, was financed with 500,000€ of public funds. The Venezuela and Iran connections were created by them. How much damage did this do to the alleged Podemos threat? Probably a lot. A recording of a senior Spanish policeman offering a deal to a minister of Hugo Chávez’ government to obtain material against Pablo Iglesias is at Moncloa here, the site says that both the Minister of the Interior Jorge Fernández Díaz and Mariano Rajoy were aware of the plot. The story, which is now being unravelled by the Courts, receives some coverage from El País in English here: ‘Court probes involvement of ex-police chief in plot to discredit Podemos. In 2016, the PP-run Interior Ministry granted legal residency status to a Venezuelan national who provided unverified information about the left-wing party’s leader, Pablo Iglesias’. Eldiario.es reports on Wednesday afternoon that the inquiry points for the first time to Mariano Rajoy at the height of the police manoeuvres against Podemos.
‘Jorge Fernández Díaz, the then Minister of the Interior for the PP, concerning the espionage against Pablo Iglesias: "I know that I have acted within the law" The former minister defends the legality of his administration and says his "conscience is calm" while the National Court is investigating whether the former interior ministry spied on the leader of Podemos. "It is being used due to the proximity of the elections” says Díaz’. The story is at El Independiente. In another story in El Español, Fernández Díaz loyally says that the Government of Mariano Rajoy was totally unconnected ‘to any improper action’.
‘The construction giant OHL is under investigation for allegedly paying 40 million in bribes for public works throughout Spain. Two ex-directives of the company are accused of having paid various commissions to different public employees and those in high positions of different administrations to obtain deals’. The story is at El Confidencial here.
Brussels calls an emergency summit on April 10 after the third rejection of May's plan
"In principle, we only work with the Hard Brexit hypothesis," said the European Commission last Friday’. An item from El País here.
El País meets some English expats in Madrid. ‘"Brexit is breaking my heart ...". English veterans in Spain consider their future here with anguish, uncertainty and bewilderment’.
From The Guardian comes: ‘Spain’s prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, warns that “engaging in campaigns or political projects based on lies eventually leads societies down a blind alley”. “Maybe – he says – the question that should have been asked was, ‘Do you want to stay in a better Europe?’, because there are certainly lots of things that need to change in Europe.” Renewing his appeal for the UK to accept the EU’s withdrawal deal, Sánchez said he saw clear parallels between the rhetoric that drove the Brexit debate and the arguments used in the Catalonian regional independence campaign that plunged Spain into its worst crisis in four decades...’.
From The Alliance of International Property Owners comes ‘EU Advice to UK Travellers if there is a No Deal Brexit’.
Público considers the silence over the Government spying of Podemos scandal. ‘In Spain, Watergate would not have even earned a footnote: the great media silence over the latest scandal of the “Sewers of the Interior Ministry”’.
A book called El Director by David Jiménez makes for some harrowing reading. Jiménez was director of El Mundo. An article in El Confidencial titled ‘You can’t buy a journalist, but you can always rent one’ says that David Jiménez has narrated in almost 300 pages his controversial experience as director of El Mundo. An excerpt: ‘We journalists could not even accept the excuse of necessity: it all began when corporate gifts collapsed the courier services of newsrooms each Christmas. Hams, wine boxes, Montecristo cigars, gift cards from El Corte Inglés and baskets with caviar included were accumulated next to the tables of the chief editors and in the offices of the staff. Free meals at the best restaurants, cars borrowed indefinitely and bank-credits at rates unimaginable to ordinary mortals were the order of the day. A former Banco Popular adviser told me that the company's policy was "to keep financial journalists happy" with mortgages below the market, to ensure a benevolent news coverage. That particular bank ended up going bust after having maintained for decades the image of being the best managed bank in the country...’.
El Salto Diario also considers whether newspapers can be ‘bought’. ‘...According to the Annual Report of the Press Association of Madrid, 80% of journalists say they are sometimes put under pressure to change their information as a result of business interests. In the same survey it is indicated that up to 94% of the journalists consider that the news-media sometimes yield to pressures in their independence in order to get advertising. The press association also says that more than 65% of professionals claim that a serious problem is the lack of political or economic independence of the media, along with unemployment and job insecurity, which prevents the development of producing quality information. Furthermore - the report itself is sponsored by El Corte Inglés!’. Pablo Iglesias has proposed that media finance should be examined in the same way as party finance to avoid business manipulation.
‘The European Parliament’s approval of the Copyright Directive last week is the end of the internet as we know it. This new regulation creates substantial new controls on what we can share online which threaten freedom of expression, undermine creativity, and cement the dominance of technology giants. The Copyright Directive will create two internets: the first, a heavily censored version for European users, including filters to prevent you from uploading content. The second, a free internet where creativity is encouraged, for everyone else...’. Item from CapX here.
From El País: Of the thirty highest polluting commercial agencies in Europe, three are in Spain - all three are power-stations, located in As Pontes (La Coruña), Aboño (Gijón) and Carboneras (Almería). An airline has joined the European list of thirty: Ryanair is now the ninth most polluting company in Europe. Another item from El País lists Spain’s fifty most contaminating industries here. Four out of the top ten belong to Endesa.
It’s a worry that many people take more medicines than they should: pills in particular. An article at El País looks at beta-blocker use. ‘A study analyzes if one and a half million Spaniards are taking a drug they do not need. Fifty-five hospitals will analyze the effectiveness of beta-blockers that are prescribed for life after a heart attack’.
‘Spain is more concerned about emigration than immigration, a new poll by a European think tank has found. The European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) found that Spanish respondents also rated corruption and unemployment as higher concerns than the arrival on foreigners in their country...’. Item from The Olive Press here.
One can catch up on European contrasts at Magnet with the headline ‘Higher ownership, less social spending and less immigration: this is Spain versus Europe in 14 maps’. Worth a look, with the map explanations in English.
El Mundo Today is a tongue-in-cheek site which here looks at an important subject (with a few good jokes). ‘What is fascism, the new fashion that is sweeping through millennials?’
How times are changing! From El País in English we find ‘The battle to legalize cannabis in Spain. The country has some of the world’s most active research teams looking into the drug, but it is still illegal for medicinal and recreational purposes. The value of the global industry is set to grow to around €50 billion – is there a risk that Spanish players could miss out?’. There’s certainly plenty of it about, as we see from daily news reports of plantations discovered, ‘mules’ arrested and, er, fecal matter found in most of Madrid’s hashish supply (don’t ask!). From El País comes ‘Granada, marijuana capital of Spain. The Guardia Civil discovers across the province almost one plantation per day’. From The Olive Press we read ‘British men have been arrested for their part in smuggling three tonnes of hash to Spain, along with six others...’. Imagine the tax-revenues, the fall in the prison population, the quality control (no feces!) and the better use of police forces with legalisation... and yet, would the use, misuse and the move to more dangerous drugs increase?
‘How a group of homeless people found a place to live in Madrid airport. Posing as travellers who have been robbed or lost their documents, many of these “ghost travellers” have been living in Barajas’ terminals for years’. From El País in English here.
‘Watch out when making the purchase: ‘pollo de corral' (translated as 'free-range chicken') does not exist. It’s a label invented by the marketing people, the more yellowish colour of the breast indicates nothing beyond that the chicken was fed on corn. El Español explains the trick here.
From Colin Davies’ daily Thoughts from Galicia here: ‘There's a Spanish web page called Napflix. 'Nap' of course means siesta and this is from their Home Page:- Welcome to Napflix. We all know the feeling of insomnia. Your body wants to sleep but your mind is still awake and active. So how can we steady up our mind? Napflix is a parody video platform where you can find the most silent and sleepy content selection to relax your brain and easily fall asleep. Taking siesta to the next level. Check it out here. And note that the one of rain falling lasts for over 2 hours’.
You can’t always please everyone, says El País, looking at criticism by Tripadvisor clients over Spain’s leading monuments.
Eye on Spain takes us for ‘A spectacular walk in Teruel’ here.
How to plan a trip in Southern Spain: an article with beautiful photos from Molly at Piccavey here.
The countdown for the ten highest villages in Spain is at Meteorológia en Red here.
Video by Sebastián Yatra performing Cristina on YouTube here.