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Weekly Report

Business over Tapas (Nbr 385)

Business over Tapas (Nbr 385)

  • A digest of this week's Spanish financial, political and social news aimed primarily at Foreign Property Owners: Prepared by Lenox Napier. Consultant: José Antonio Sierra

jueves 11 de febrero de 2021, 16:46h

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Editorial:

In Spain, we all live in the city. The laws are written for and by the city-folk. The services and the offices and the bureaucrats are all in the city.

Dash it, it’s just so convenient to live there.

Those of us who live in the country are looked after by those who are wiser and better than we – those who, by definition, live in the city.

Here in the country, there’s no bus stop or taxi rank outside our homes, and we may not have fast Internet or a bank within walking distance, but we manage anyway. Our concerns are to do with not paying too much tax, making sure all our sheep are registered and chipped, and hoping that the kids, when they grow up, will take over the business, such as it is, rather than moving to the city where all the fun can be found.

For the city-folk, the countryside is an amusement park, where nothing bad must ever happen. That’s why they’ve now banned the hunting of wolves. That’s why the story of a pack of wild dogs killing 220 sheep has shocked the nation.

We are fondly watched over both by the ecologists (most of whom live on the seventh floor of an apartment block and have never in their lives stayed up late to help an animal give birth) and by the tax-men, who are convinced we are either overcharging the city-folk, or employing ‘illegals’ and pocketing the difference (there may be some truth in this).

While selling tomatoes to the supermarket chain for eighteen cents a kilo.

We are visited, just around election time, by indulgent politicians, who otherwise have forgotten or ignored us.

They often arrive on a tractor wearing a waterproof jacket and rubber boots. The swarm of photographers usually gives them away. But, we know that when they talk about public services, it’s more metro lines or bike-lanes they mean, not fixing the potholes or bringing fibre-optic or reopening the local school. We need local trains, because what use is a high-speed train when it doesn’t stop in the nearby market town (making it, needless to say, a low-speed train)?

For politicians, ‘Building houses’ means building apartment blocks, not eradicating the shacks where the immigrants live in favour of proper housing. In short, they want to protect ‘the countryside’ without knowing much about it. The wolves and the pheasants are more important to them than we are (once the voting booths are closed).

No wonder Vox, which is very much a huntin’, fishin’ and bullfightin’ party (albeit, a racist one), is doing well in the campo.

Some ideas are suggested by an article called ‘En el campo no se puede votar a Podemos’ here.

Housing:

From Spanish Property Insight here: ‘Moody’s warns that eviction ban will exacerbate housing problems’. The article begins: ‘Housing is always a delicate subject, but in Spain today it’s a minefield. For a start, it’s the focus of a political battle between the left-wing parties in Government, with the hard left pursuing populist policies to invalidate property rights, whilst the moderate left try to strike a balance between property rights, and the constitutional right to ‘dignified housing’ for all. The Covid pandemic has made the situation worse, and resulted in new and frequently changing regulations that increasingly undermine property rights…’.

From El Confidencial here: ‘Getting out of Madrid and reviving the smaller towns of the interior is possible and we meet people who have already done just that, with the help of la Fundación Madrina which relocates families from Madrid hit by the crisis to towns throughout Spain. There are 500 petitions on the waiting list, many on the verge of eviction and without any income…’. It adds, ‘…In ten years, we have re-housed some 300 families, says the president of the foundation, Conrado Giménez…’. The Fundación Madrina webpage can be found here.

There’s an apartment offer in Madrid that’s raising eyebrows. For just 500€ a month you can rent a micro-studio by the Puerta del Sol. It’s only 18m2, and the bed is wedged above the extractor fan over the cooking unit. Handy though…

‘Restoring a 17th century manor in Spain’ Berkeley News tells of an American who is restoring a home in a moribund village in Zaragoza. An enjoyable read with great photos.

If you work from home, then Málaga’s the place to live, says Xataca here, as the city hall opens a service called Málaga Work-Bay. The promotion is in Spanish, English or German.

An article from A. Lawyer at Spanish Property Insight is titled ‘The Spanish Golden Visa is retroactive, so British owners can take advantage of it’. Briefly, if your home cost over half a million to buy, then you could be in on the Golden Visa.

*The full ‘Mission Impossible’ article from 20Minutos is at the bottom of this bulletin, translated into English.

Tourism:

Spain extends the ban for travellers from the UK (excepting residents) until March 2nd.

From The Mallorca Daily Bulletin here: ‘No more than 150 cases per 100,000 to enable Easter tourism says Fernando Simón, the director of the Centre for the Coordination of Health Alerts and Emergencies’. This seems unlikely, and La Voz de Galicia says ‘The tourism sector has given up on Holy Week. Travel reservations on this holiday have plummeted, barely reaching an average of 2%’.

The Financial Times (Paywall) runs a story called Can Spanish tourism survive a second Covid summer? El Huff Post is evidently a subscriber: ‘…the FT wonders if Spanish tourism could survive a second summer with a pandemic where 500 hotels have closed and "many more would be affected by the loss of a second season." The newspaper includes the statements of Gabriel Escarrer, executive director of Meliá Hotels International, who says that "if we lose this summer, we would be talking about practically no activity since October 2019". "It would be devastating for the fabric of the tourism industry," he warns…’.

From El País in English here: ‘Spain’s tourism industry is feeling the loss of British visitors. The number of tourists from the United Kingdom fell 82% in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, with the Balearic Islands hardest hit by the drop’.

The Real Instituto Elcano (a Spanish conservative think-tank) has produced a seventy-page document on the future of Spanish tourism.

Finance:

The Spanish billionaire Amancio Ortega is buying up hotels now. VozPópuli reports that he has just picked up the Hotel Senator Playaballena in Rota for 25 million euros ‘…A figure that sources in the hotel sector estimate is well below the value of the asset a year ago…’.

From El Economista here: ‘More than 11,000 companies face fines of up to 600,000 euros for not having a free customer service phone number’. The companies in question are those that operate in general basic services, such as transport, private health, messenger services, financial services, insurance or utilities. Already denounced (by Facua), we read of Seur (here), IAG and Línea Directa.

If you are paying your cleaning lady in ‘black’, or less than the minimum wage, from April, you could get a fine of up to 6,200€.

Politics:

‘Genova (a way of saying, the Partido Popular) will veto government agreements with Vox in municipalities and autonomous communities. The PP remains firm in marking distances with Vox, more than three months after the public break-up of Casado with Abascal’. The item comes from El Español here. Are we slowly seeing the return to two-party politics?

Ciudadanos seems to be on the way out (like the UPD and sundry others before it). elDiario.es says in an opinion piece ‘Ciudadanos: the rise and fall of a party designed in the offices of power. Its leader Inés Arrimadas tries to avoid the disaster predicted by the polls which could lead to the end of the party’. Reader Jake says ‘It’s a shame about Ciudadanos. I had high hopes at one time. They won… and then took the very next train for Madrid’.

Íñigo Errejón takes on Vox in el Congreso. Video at Daily Motion here.

Huh. Right on cue (see editorial): ‘Spanish right woos farmers to shore up southern takeover’. From Politico here.

Catalonia:

The ‘final survey’ from El Español for next Sunday’s regional elections appears to give the lead to the PSC with the two main independentista parties Junts and ERC just behind. Far behind them is the Cs and Vox, Podem and CUP and, lying at the back of the race, the PP. The PP say that the ‘manipulation’ of the ongoing Bárcenas corruption trial in Madrid is hurting them. Although, in the last Catalan elections, they came last with four seats (Wiki).

No doubt a large number of citizens, fearful of the pandemic, will decide not to go out and vote this Sunday.

The Tuesday Catalonia TV3 debate, as seen by Catalan News here: ‘Covid-19 handling, health system and independence heat up TV3 Catalan election debate’. One of the candidates particularly struck the attention of the TV channel: ‘…For the far-right Vox's presidential hopeful, Ignacio Garriga, more public money needs to be spent on the pandemic and for that aim, he pledged to shut the Catalan broadcaster TV3…’.

While Vox rallies in Catalonia aren’t going well (!), the party is evidently playing to another audience… Spain. They know that, like Donald Trump before them, the message is in the amount of news-coverage they receive.

Europe:

Opinion from The Irish Times here: ‘Brexit is done but the rows have only just begun. Convulsions of the past weeks suggest that forces unleashed by the 2016 vote still shape the continent’s affairs’.

As exports from the UK fell January over January by 68% (The Guardian here – a figure disputed by the pro-Brexit media here), we read in another article from The Guardian that ‘UK importers brace for “disaster” as new Brexit customs checks loom. Exporters are badly hit already but KPMG says “biggest headaches” have yet to come’, saying that ‘…British firms are warning of an escalation in Brexit red tape as the government prepares to introduce a long list of new controls on imports from the European Union in April and July…’.

From BBC News here: ‘Brexit effect: No custard creams for Brits in Europe’ (video).

…and someone sent me this: from The Byline Times here: ‘…A 6% tariff has now been imposed on the Loligo squid and tariffs of up to 18% on bigger fish caught in the south-Atlantic (i.e. the Falkland Islands). The squid accounts for more than half of the island’s exports, which are caught by state-of-the-art fishing boats in a joint enterprise with Spain and processed in Vigo, before being distributed across the Mediterranean…’.

‘Post-Brexit and Covid, is the toughest transition still to come for Brits on the Costas?’- An article from Spain in English. It begins ‘Covid travel restrictions explain the current eerie atmosphere in towns on the Costas of southern Spain, but will the impact of Brexit prolong the ghost town conditions…?’

From UK in a Changing Europe: ‘Understanding the messiness of Brexit’.

The Czech Republic’s GDP per inhabitant has overtaken Spain says El País (partial paywall) here. ‘The Spanish economy has not managed to reduce the gap that separates it from Germany after almost 20 years of the euro and the countries of the East like Estonia, Lithuania and Slovenia are now not far behind’.

The Coronavirus:

‘Spain exceeds three million infections and adds 766 new deaths, the highest daily figure since the first wave. The Health Ministry has registered 16,402 new infections and the incidence falls to 630 cases per 100,000 inhabitants’. Tuesday title from elDiario.es here.

From El País (partial paywall) here: ‘The AstraZeneca vaccine will only be given to people between the ages of 18 and 55. Spain is aligned with the most conservative European countries…’. The article says that more clinical tests are needed. El Huff Post disagrees: ‘The World Health Organisation contradicts Spain and other countries and recommends the AstraZeneca vaccine for people over 65 years of age’.

Infections in the residencias have fallen by 38% since January following the vaccination program says elDiario.es here.

An unexpected side effect is found in one out of ten patients who have overcome a serious contagion of Covid: they become diabetic’ says 20Minutos here.

‘The Health Ministry admits "a real possibility" that the British variant is more lethal. So far Spain has reported 449 cases of this strain of coronavirus’ says elDiario.es here.

Corruption:

From El País in English here: ‘The new trial puts spotlight on the Partido Popular’s illegal funding scandal. Ex-party treasurer Luis Bárcenas, convicted in 2018 in a sweeping graft case known as Gürtel, is back on the stand and promises to make new revelations that implicate a former prime minister (i.e. Mariano Rajoy)’. Bárcenas has recently turned prosecution’s witness – sending a lengthy document from prison with the true facts – as he claims. This ‘confession’ is listed here and include, as elDiario.es says ‘the bonuses in black, the real party accounts, the pressure on the judges, the bribes received over public works, corruption within the police, the kidnapping of the Bárcenas family and the manipulation of the largest terrorist attack of the history of Spain (i.e. the 2004 Madrid train bombings Wiki)’. Público says ‘Podemos believes that the revelation of Bárcenas explains "the derailment of the CGPJ" and the PSOE links the PP with corruption. The Partido Popular attributes the confessions of the former treasurer to the strategy of a "prisoner" and maintains that it does not care "at all what he may say", because he is "part of the past." …’. El Mundo says that everyone is currently against the PP following these declarations ‘…like a hailstorm…’. elDiario.es wonders ‘how much longer can Pablo Casado last as PP leader?’. The case continues…

Around ‘20 building companies’ are in the sights of the Bárcenas case says infoLibre here.

Media:

The ABC says it is not worried by a call from the Vox spokesperson Iván Espinosa de los Monteros to their readers to cancel subscriptions with the right-wing newspaper after if published a certain item about the Vox campaign in Catalonia. The story is at ECD here.

A joke on Facebook: ‘If you are not experts in biology, you may have wondered why the okupas have disappeared from the TV news. We can tell you that, when the cold hits, the okupas fly to a warmer climate and they don’t return here until a fresh campaign begins from Securitas Direct’. (Why it’s not funny, here).

Various:

‘The Spanish Govt issues a document to show officials that the green residency card is perfectly valid! The government has uploaded a document to their website to clarify which residency documents can be used to demonstrate your rights under the Withdrawal Agreement and your residency status in Spain (A4 and credit-card size green certificates as well as the new TIE card). If you encounter any problems when completing administrative processes you may wish to refer to this page’. Via Brexpats in Spain on Facebook.

‘The Senate Justice Commission has approved a motion asking the Government to promote the paperwork and procedure for the "substantial modification and, where appropriate, repeal" of article 525 of the Penal Code, that is, to eliminate the crime of offending religious feelings’. Público reports on this here.

The candidate from En Comú Podem (Podemos) in the Catalonian elections has suggested that a public company is set up to directly compete with Amazon and Alibaba.

The mayor of Madrid has set aside a modest sum to allow those who display the Spanish flag from their terrace to have them replaced, when tatty, by a new one. El Mundo says it’s just an art project that’s been misrepresented in the media. Flag-waving is a sensitive subject these days, since it often equates to nationalism or far-right activity.

El Español interviews some Spanish residents in Andorra. The low tax-rate country has gained a large number of new residents recently, coming from Spain, France and elsewhere.

In the past nine months, hunting with guns in Spain has caused the loss of life of no less than 51 people while a further six hundred were wounded.

From El Confidencial comes ‘Has football ceased to interest you? You are not the only one, and it’s not all the fault of the pandemic. Five personalities linked to football analyze the drop in audiences, the structural changes, the fans detachment and the difficult coexistence with new generations’. Now, if they could just get it off the TV news…

The ‘running of the bulls’ in Pamplona is a famous Spanish spectacle which happens each year (Covid permitting) in Pamplona during the San Fermín festival on and around July 7th. The bulls are herded from the pens, through the streets of the old town, to the bullring where, that afternoon, they participate in the toreo. The morning run (with some steers to make up a pack) is joined by any number of runners, drunk or sober, from Pamplona, Navarra, Spain and the rest of the world (particularly French and American enthusiasts). We watch it on the telly. It is far more amusing than the later bullfight. Now, the PETA – an animal association – has made an offer that is difficult to refuse. They will give the town hall of Pamplona a mighty 298,000€ to stop, once and for ever, los encierros – the bull runs. The Diario de Navarra has the item here. El Mundo says (in 2015) that Pamplona generally takes in, thanks to the festival, some 74 million euros, leaving the PETA proposal a fraction short.

Mere is a cheap no-frills Russian supermarket chain that is planning to open forty of its stores in Spain this year.

The church-clock in Jávea (Alicante) has been replaced by something that is ‘anachronistic, anti-historic and ridiculous’. The story and pictures of the gothic church tower here.

Palomares (Almería) is not just known for its brush with death in January 1966 when a USAF B52 bomber fell from the sky with four nuclear bombs on board (Wiki), it’s also known – at least by archaeologists, as the site of Baria, a Phoenician/Roman town now buried under the sands. A local builder has just started work on erecting a number of homes on the site (it has great sea-views) but now we read that the Junta de Andalucía has moved to stop the project.

Websegura has analysed the security of 398 public web-pages. It says that just five of them are completely secure. These sites (and many more) senado.es; renfe.com; guardiacivil.es: hacienda.gob.es; agenciatributaria.es and the ine.es all get rock-bottom scores for security.

Those readers who are bothered by cookie-warnings each time they open a page might find this article useful, as it tells us how to get rid of them once and forever.

Some friends shot a short cowboy movie at Lenox’ family home in Mojácar this winter. It’s called ‘La leyenda de Henry Weston y sus cuatreros’ (English Subtitles) on YouTube here.

‘Chris Takes his Medicine’ – a story from a long time ago…

See Spain:

A pedestrian bridge is to be built over the Río Miño to link Galicia and Portugal.

‘The Alhambra Palace is the only medieval palace in the world which has arrived intact to the present day. After visiting many times, one of the things which fascinates me are the intricate decorations and inscriptions on the walls. As you step into the Nasrid Palaces it is like walking into an elaborate poetry book. Covered in beautiful filigrees, endless words and poetic phrases…’. Molly from Piccavey tells us of the ‘Secrets behind the Writing on the Walls of the Alhambra’ here.

James Blick walks us through Spain’s capital city with his list of ‘Seven Things not to do in Madrid’, on YouTube here.

What to see in Peñiscola (Castellón) from Fascinating Spain here.

Letters:

(On this week’s editorial)

I agree. Either we're treated as the peasants who are there to take care of their haciendas while they make their money in the city, or like the caretakers of a theme park.

Maria.

Finally:

From 20Minutos here:

Settling in Spain, "mission impossible" for the British after Brexit

As of December 31, they have to abide by the immigration regulations like other non-EU citizens.

Settling in Spain becomes an arduous and complicated task for the British after the United Kingdom's departure from the European Union, effective since December 31, since with it they have seen most of their privileges as community citizens disappear, such as receiving public health care, coming without having a job offer or moving without crediting financial resources to support themselves.

This is an issue in which experts in Immigration and British associations such as Brexpats in Spain coincide, which brings together more than 20,000 citizens of the United Kingdom who live on Spanish soil and who have been "fighting" to avoid the materialization of Brexit for the last four years.

Although it is already a fact, there are those who have not yet assimilated the situation, say the Marbella lawyer and specialist in Immigration Ricardo Bocanegra, and many are upset at the procedures that they are now forced to do.

Accustomed to being citizens of the European Union, they have begun to feel like "foreigners in our country", says the Marbella lawyer, who considers that the real problem is not for those who are already here, but for those who want to come to live here in the future.

Abide by the immigration rules like other non-EU

From January 1, the British who are thinking of settling in Spain must abide by the provisions of el Régimen General de Extranjería, the General Immigration Scheme, whose conditions are "very strict," says Bocanegra, and they will be required the same as any other non-EU citizen.

This means that they will have to prove, among other issues, that they have accommodation to stay, financial resources to support themselves if they do not work and medical insurance that provides them with health coverage equivalent to that provided by Social Security itself.

Their newly acquired status also affects every day issues such as driving vehicles, since there is no reciprocal recognition agreement between the two countries, British people who want to drive a car must obtain a valid driving license in Spain for what they will have to take the necessary tests and pass an exam.

This issue generates great discomfort, especially among those who already live here, since previously, they drove with a British EU licence; and while, since the announcement of Brexit and until the end of last year, the British driver's license could be exchanged for the Spanish one, but now those who move here will have no other option but to take the exam, adds Ricardo Bocanegra.

"No more coming to Spain to find a life"

For the youngest, "coming to Spain to find a life, like I did, is finished" said Brexpats in Spain treasurer, Sharon Hitchcock, who has lived on Malaga's Costa del Sol for more than thirty years.

When she moved, she did not need to get permissions or credit resources that were "higher than the amount established each year by the General State Budget to generate the right to receive a non-contributory benefit "in order not to become a burden for the social assistance of Spain", as the website of the Ministry of the Interior says; if not, it becomes complicated, according to the experts.

According to Hitchcock, the position in which Brexit has left them represents a change "for the worse" and a throwback to the 80s that is "very sad" and insists that as things stand at the moment, only those who have significant financial backing will be able to move to Spain.

This new situation -with demands that are difficult to assume- does not favour British retirees who wish to retire in Spain, a large percentage of those who to date used to settle in areas of Málaga, Alicante, Mallorca or the Canary Islands, says the president of this entity, Anne Hernández.

The elderly have their pensions and many also have some savings, explains Hernández, who, like Hitchcock, has lived in Spain for many years, something, which before the United Kingdom left the European Union, was reason enough to live here.

However, now they have to adapt to this new condition and meet the strict requirements established by Spanish law, some very difficult to assume, she notes, such as taking out medical insurance with coverage that, due to age and pathologies, is "almost impossible" for them to pay or to justify an amount of money in the bank that the majority simply do not have.

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