Way back in late 2012, Spain almost surreptitiously introduced a new tax law relating to the reporting of overseas assets held by residents here, both Spanish and foreign. In itself, there was nothing wrong with this law ('Modelo 720') but the penalties both for non-compliance and even the tiniest of errors were/are beyond humongous. It's hard now to avoid concluding it was a try-on by a tax authority which can be as unprincipled as some of its targets. Inevitably, claims of illegality were made against the level of the fines and these were upheld in early 2017, when the EU gave Spain a couple of months to respond to its prima facie verdict of illegality. But Spain didn't bother to reply and now - a mere two years later and almost seven years after the introduction of the law - the EU says it'll be taking Spain to court. At this rate, the forecast two years ago of ten years before resolution begin to look optimistic. Meanwhile, the uncertainty and arbitrariness of decisions continue and those of us who've been hit with 'illegal' fines for lateness continue to wonder if we'll ever get even some of our money back. Personally, I rather doubt it. One of the downsides of living in Spain. Which, incidentally, many thousands of Brits are reported to have ceased to do in the years after the promulgation and (confusingly arbitrary) implementation of this law. But tax advisers, gestores and asesores are not unhappy with this situation, of course. For them it's a gift from heaven. Especially when what you end up paying for advice which runs "On the one hand ... On the other, ... ". Anyway, see the EU's press statement on this here. It'll be interesting - and informative - to see what the Spanish government does next. Especially as Portugal is now offering huge financial incentives to foreign pensioners who move there.
‘The number of properties bought by foreigners, while still up, has shrunk to the slowest rate of increase since the second half of 2010. Figures for the last six months of 2018 show a 1.4% rise on the same period a year before but although it looks positive on paper, Spain’s General Council of Notaries has pointed to a slowdown in demand’. The Olive Press has the story here.
Rents of just 100€ per month are on offer in a small town in Cuenca: the idea being to reverse the slow death of Gascueña. An item found in El Mundo here.
From Sky News here: ‘Barcelona's Sagrada Familia (wiki) finally receives building permit after 137 years. Spanish authorities realised in 2016 that planning permission was never secured for Antoni Gaudi's famous unfinished church’.
ABC Andalucía looks at the new panorama of the region’s ‘illegal homes’ here. ‘Three hundred thousand homes in search of legality in Andalucía. The Junta de Andalucía finalizes a new Urbanism Law to give irregular homes a second chance’. The article begins: ‘It is not an amnesty. Those dwellings in undeveloped land that violate the law are not going to be regularized, among other things because their illegality does not prescribe. The aim here is to give a second chance to some 300,000 homes that, after several normative attempts, have not had their situation resolved. The Junta de Andalucía currently plans to expand the number of irregular housing that can access basic services, as one of the first measures in which it is already working to give a definitive answer...’.
From Andalucía Información we read ‘Illegal housing can be registered and have all normal services. These constructions are those made outside the urban legality for which it is not possible to adopt measures to protect legality’. So, some homes may remain illegal, but receive utilities...
Eight tips on buying a home in Spain by A Lawyer here.
Next-door Portugal limits home-rentals to 675€ for ordinary citizens. The idea is to fight against inflation, and to keep city-centres free from 'tourist apartments'. More (in Galego) at G24 here.
We have seen how much contamination can be caused by tourism (even if we ignore the data). From Interesting Engineering (May 2018) here: ‘Research Shows Pollution from Global Tourism is More Than What We Thought’. The article says: ‘...The researchers found out that the emissions from tourism are much higher than even international trade. Also, the newfound values point the greenhouse gases from tourism, accounting for one-tenth of the world’s total greenhouse gas emissions...’. Less flights would help ‘...because nothing that we do pumps carbon dioxide into the atmosphere faster than air travel...’ (here). ‘Over 4,000 million Passengers Flew In 2017 Setting New Travel Record’ (here). Of these, 1,400 million were international tourists (here). Cruise ships are dirty, too. Forbes reports that ‘Cruise Ship Pollution is Causing Serious Health and Environmental Problems’. Around 26 million customers took a cruise in 2017 (here). From Canary Imports we read that ‘Luxury mega-cruise ships emit 10 times more air pollution than all European cars put together’. From Hosteltur here (and staying with aggressive pollution) ‘From next year NASA will open the International Station to tourists’. From Responsible Travel, an essay called ‘Is travel a right? – The concept of right, & when it’s just wrong’.
Mass tourism can create other ills, too. From Hello BCN Hostel comes ‘The combination of cheap airfare, affordable lodging and social media has led to one of the biggest “trends” in our world today – tourism. It’s a beautiful thing, being able to travel and experience a culture so different from your own. However, there is a certain type of tourism, known as mass tourism, that is destroying culture in these beautiful areas, and driving out locals...’.
‘The World’s longest water slide opens in Benidorm. The Cyclon is 200 metres long and starts at the same height as a 12-storey building’. From The Olive Press here.
From El Mundo here: ‘Before the economic crisis, poverty was basically defined in terms of employment. He who did not have work or income was poor. Whoever had a job was doing fine. Now things have changed and everything has become complicated. Now there are people with jobs but who do not make ends meet. They collect a salary, but they are right on the limit. They live on the edge, with a precarious income. They are at the limit of exclusion. If there is an unforeseen expense, then they go over the edge to the place where nobody wants to be. There are six million people in Spain in these circumstances (13% of the population), which add to the 8.6 million individuals already excluded (18.4% of the total). Before employment conditioned everything, but now housing is the factor that causes greater social exclusion, even in front of unemployment. A citizen with a modest wage can find his status changing from one day to the next after a simple rent increase. Today, more than two million people live in Spain with the fear of losing their home...’.
From Público comes their regular ‘Mierdajobs’: featuring, ‘Three in one: administrative, cleaning and community manager full time for €685 per month’.
As the PSOE continues to discuss its government make-up, with support, deals, opposition, criticism and abstentions, the Organisation Secretary José Luis Ábalos makes the point that if the other parties really won’t play ball, then they may force another general election, which would do good to nobody (except, maybe, the PSOE). ‘The voters wouldn’t forget why they had to go through another costly election’, he says. Pedro Sánchez was given the job of forming a new government by Felipe VI last Thursday here. So far, both the Partido Popular and Ciudadanos (and of course Vox) won’t vote for the investiture of Sánchez in the first round, nor agree to abstain in the second (when a simple majority would be enough) – although they don’t seem to have an alternative proposal, while a rather weakened Pablo Iglesias, who had been angling for a ministerial position to bring Unidas Podemos behind Sánchez, is now agreeing to a ‘Government of Cooperation’ here (a political arrangement, says El País in English, which is somewhere short of a coalition).
While general elections can always be repeated (and to hell with the expense), neither regional nor local elections have this alternative. Thus, ‘politics make strange bedfellows’ as uncomfortable results force rivals to horse-trade.
In Navarra, the leader of Ciudadanos had an elegant solution – ‘let the majority party rule’, said Albert Rivera. ‘Why, Gosh, that’s us!’, he added. Público calls him a cynic.
Across Andalucía, says Canal Sur here, around thirty town halls have seen the PP ally themselves with Vox to take (or retain) power. Cities like Almería, Roquetas, Algeciras, Nerja and Ceuta...
In many towns across Spain – 1,114 of them – there was only one party seeking election, so even before this Saturday, we have some winners... A useful map and the article are here.
In Tolox, a town in Málaga, the even number of votes between the PSOE and the PP drew 603 for each party. A throw of a coin deemed the PP candidate the winner. Sur in English has the story here.
The previous mayor of Alcaucín (Málaga) is Mario Blancke, a Belgian. Mario is the Ciudadanos candidate and possible mayor (to be decided this Saturday), who stands neck and neck with the PSOE candidate with four council seats each. It’s down to the two-seat holding PP, who would normally support the C’s over the PSOE. But there’s a hitch. An anonymous message is being passed around the town by WhatsApp which says, in essence ‘Foreigner Go Home’. In the hope that this message is ignored and that Mario Blancke holds out (Mario also works tirelessly for SOHA (Salvemos Nuestras Casas en la Axarquía here, an association that helps lobby for full legalisation of homes built on parcelisations). More from Diario Sur here and here
One of the new deputies to Congress is the colourful representative from Huelva Juan José Cortés who, when filling out his patrimony, declared that he had an Audi A6 and just sixteen euros in the bank. Público ran some jokes and says that Spain may have at last found a wonderful Minister of the Economy. Juan José didn’t find ’em funny and is now suing various media-groups. His Audi, he says, is second hand. Another deputy, Marcos de Quinto, is doing much better says El País here, having owned up to a fortune of 47.7 million euros, two Porsches and a spread of homes in Spain, Portugal and the USA.
The Spanish think-tank Elcano Royal Institute says ‘Spain deserves a top job in the EU and Pedro Sánchez is determined to get it. For a country that is strongly pro-European and the fifth-largest (fourth, if Britain quits) economy in the Union, it is embarrassingly underrepresented...’.
The columnist at ElDiario.es is indignant: ‘What do Ciudadanos voters think about their party providing institutional power, presence in governments, and command in budgets and public policies to a party (i.e. Vox) that is easy with itself yet blithely reactionary, xenophobic, homophobic, macho and ersatz-Francoist? Do these "liberal" and "centrist" voters feel disgust, or just disgustillo?’.
The trial against the Catalonian process finished on Wednesday, with the summing up from the accusation and the final remarks from the accused. Now one must wait for the Supreme Court to make up its mind as to verdicts and sentencing. There could be jail-time of up to 25 years for the political ringleaders. El Huff Post reports here. As prisoner Raül Rovera says ‘We aren’t twelve people being judged – we are more than two million’.
Fifty years ago last Saturday, Franco abruptly closed the gate to Gibraltar. In those days, the British had a policy of allowing tourists to take out of the UK a maximum of 50 pounds a year in holiday money - which had to be recorded in the back of one's passport. Spain might have been cheap in the late sixties, but even so, eight thousand pesetas would only go so far... So my dad would drive down to Gibraltar now and then and go to the Lloyds bank in the High Street, take out a wad of British pounds, and bring them back to Spain in his pocket to change in the local bank. Then, with the frontier closed, he would have to go via Tangier (good fun!) to get to the bank on The Rock. Later he found a Gibraltarian Indian trader who would take a cheque and deliver the converted pesetas (less commission) to Jack's Bar in Estepona. The 'verja' remained closed for thirteen years (Lenox).
From La Vanguardia, we learn that 'The ravenous cancer of corruption worldwide each year engulfs about 1.2 trillion euros, which represents 1.25% of the world's wealth, or the equivalent, for example, of Spain's entire GDP, according to the latest study from the IMF. Money that could have gone to the general good that instead escapes to other destinations. In Spain, according to the same sources, corruption costs about 4.5% of GDP, reaching a total of 60,000 million euros annually...'.
“Unhappy is the land that needs a hero.”
From The Scotsman here (June 6): ‘Spain’s top diplomat in Scotland has declared clearly and unequivocally that the Spanish government will not block an independent Scotland’s entry into the European Union’. From El Nacional here (June 7): The acting-Minister of Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell has fired the Spanish Consul in Edinburgh, Miguel Ángel Vecino, for having stated in a note that Spain would not veto Scotland’s entry into the EU in case of independence...’. (The Spanish are worried about Catalonia feeling encouraged to do something similar).
The TV channel La Cuatro with ‘Todo es Mentira’. The full documentary about media manipulation in Spain is here.
The new Organisation Secretary (and Nº3) in Podemos is the Canary politician Alberto Rodríguez, the one with the dreadlocks. Several (‘serious’) media groups promptly referred to him as ‘El Rastas’. Público is indignant here. As someone duly tweeted: ‘...“The Rastas”? Does the Media also refer to Rafael Hernando as “Foot in the Mouth”, or Pablo Casado as “el Máster” or maybe Isabel Cifuentes is known as “la Cremita”?’
On a similar track. ElDiario.es has an article titled ‘If the media told us about the other political parties what they tell us about Podemos...’. The PP is going through its worst crisis ever; Ciudadanos has an identity crisis of centrism or far-rightism (‘Rivera, Naranjito o Falangito’)... Oh, it’s a fine article.
Right on cue, here’s El Mundo. ‘Pablo Iglesias and Irene Montero and the babysitter that takes care of their twins at night for 100 euros a pop’ (we are also treated to a photograph of their mansion).
A cautionary tale of an English-language newspaper can be found at Spanish Shilling here.
‘Iberdrola to build Europe’s largest photovoltaic plant in Cáceres. The company plans to invest 300 million in a plant of 590 megawatts of power’. From El País here.
From The Conversation (en castellano) here: ‘The abandonment of towns and crops opens the door to the resilvestration of the landscape. The concept of ‘rewilding’ is a promising strategy of ecological restoration that is gaining strength at present and that is part of the broader concept called recoverable land or ‘tierra recuperable’...’.
'...Abandoned plastic is found everywhere. And each time, there's more. The average number of plastic objects collected in Spain by Governmental study campaigns has gone from 172 to 286 per 100 meters of beach between 2013 and 2018 in an upward trend without breaks...'. Tourism is blamed as the prime motive for the extra plastic. ElDiario.es says that plastic beach-rubbish has increased by 65% in five years.
Road trip: from Barcelona to Seville in an electric car. It took thirteen hours and four charges, says El Confidencial here.
‘The role of media between expert and lay knowledge: A study of Iberian media coverage on climate change’. A paper at Science Direct here.
No dogs and no loud music for Almeria City beaches. Horses are banned from the beach and, ¡por su puesto!, from the sea. Furthermore, all dog-walkers in the City must carry a plastic bag for the dog-poop, and a bottle of water with vinegar for the dog-piss. Dogs over 20 kilos must have muzzles. One may not leave out food for feral cats (except in licenced areas!). Also, and this is quite surreal, you can't throw trash on the beach, no. More here.
The fondos reservados are secret unaccountable funds used by the Government for obscure ends. From VozPópuli here: ‘One of the best kept secrets of Spanish security has been uncovered. The investigation of the Villarejo Inquiry in the National Court has revealed the rules that regulate the expenditure of the fondos reservados of the Ministry of the Interior, a regular source of conflict and corruption. It is a norm established in 1995 by the Government of Felipe González that, once again is under suspicion because of the use that was given to these secret funds during the Executive of Mariano Rajoy...’. The article examines the (sometimes improper) use made of these funds, which include bribes.
The Health Ministry has a project to beef up the use of ‘generic medicines’ with the total opposition of Big Pharma, says ElDiario.es here. Generic medicine in Spain’s Public Health accounts for about 46% which is far lower than Germany at 80% or the UK at 83%.
‘Spain accepts more US troops at Cádiz naval base without redrafting defence pact. Government sources say this step was bypassed, given the difficulty involved with modifying the agreement in the current climate in Spain of political uncertainty’. Item from El País in English here.
Smart Cities. The perfect city to live in exists, and it’s in Spain, says La Vanguardia here.
From Eye on Spain here: ‘Spain suffers less traffic congestion than most of Europe and the world. Next time you're stuck in a traffic jam anywhere in Spain, count your blessings: none of the country's towns or cities are in the world's top 100 gridlocked locations, nor even in Europe's top 60. In fact, the Spanish city with the longest traffic queues – Barcelona – is only 118th in the world out of 403 metropolitan areas in 57 countries and 61st in Europe. Cádiz is the city with Europe's fewest traffic jams and, worldwide, is only beaten by Greensboro-High Point in the USA, which is at number 403...’.
Why are we smoking more than ever? The strategies of Big Tobacco are examined here.
El País reveals a genetic study of surprising results this week. ‘...After eight centuries of Muslim domination that began and ended in the south of the Iberian Peninsula, one would expect that the genes of Arab and North African origin would have left their mark on the current inhabitants of the south much more than those of the north. However, recent research from the University of Granada has not found the slightest evidence of it. The current Andalusians are so similar to the rest of the Spaniards, and in fact to the rest of Europeans, that a Martian geneticist who knew nothing of history would never have connected the Arab occupation of the peninsula...’.
The Americans who fought Fascism in Spain and stuck around for D-Day. From OZY here.
‘Queen Elizabeth II will knight King Felipe VI of Spain on June 17 with the Order of the Garter, the highest distinction a British monarch can bestow. A formal ceremony will be held at Windsor Castle, said to be the Queen's favourite residence, exactly two days before the fifth anniversary of Felipe VI's coronation, which followed his father Juan Carlos I's abdication on June 2, 2014...’. From Think Spain here.
Salamanca with travel writer Mike Arkus. Again, readers need to copy and paste to open this (it’s well worth the small effort). ‘The oldest university in Spain, arguably the finest town square in the country, a magnificent towering cathedral complex, grand churches, a 2,000-year-old Roman bridge, a history that goes way back behind that to the pre-Roman Iberians and the siege by Hannibal of Carthage, site of one of the most important battles of the Napoleonic wars... Salamanca has it all...’. https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/bolero-ing-round-spain-looney-front-part-7-salamanca-has-mike-arkus/?published=t
On the regularisation of ‘illegal homes’ in Andalucía. For the owners of illegal houses this will be a good and satisfactory solution, but unfortunately the proposal on the table will make at the same time many legal houses (irregular, but without even informing the owners, even though the houses are 15 or 20 years old , with writing, electricity and water) to become ILLEGAL. That law would not be fair and therefore should be modified to adapt to the situation of these owners as well. It cannot be that to look for a solution for illegal dwellings others that are in a situation of apparent legality and tacitly accepted by the authorities would be abruptly declared illegal.
On ‘The ravenous cancer of corruption’: The useless frustration one feels at this knews is really tough to handle. I feel so despondent with my country and its leaders I could gladly build a big fire and...
On the Ciudadanos, PP, Vox partnerships: Remember what Shakespeare said about politics making strange bedfellows? But I'm finding it hard to take Vox seriously as an "extreme right" party. They're provocative, and they plainly want to cash in on the Salvini-Orban-Steve Bannon wave, but they seem to lack conviction, and are now falling all over themselves to be socially acceptable.
On the plastic-covered beaches: So what is the ECO TASA for?
"A Song of Joy" ("Himno de la alegría") is the title of a popular rock song by the Spanish singer and actor Miguel Ríos. The song is set to the tune the Ninth Symphony by Ludwig van Beethoven, as arranged by Waldo de los Rios, who specialized in arranging classical music to contemporary rhythms (Wiki). The record was released 50 years ago this week. Here it is on YouTube.