News arrives that an elderly Briton living in Italy was finally successful in his long-term campaign to persuade the British Government to allow Brits living abroad the right to vote.
Each country has its own rules about this chestnut. The British either lose their vote after fifteen years abroad; or they don’t, because they never had it in the first place (being born abroad or leaving the UK as a minor). Most other nationalities do not lose this right.
The idea is that we Brits abroad should finally have representation in the World’s Greatest Democracy. What this means is unclear, since the Parliamentary Member for North Norfolk (for example) might have a few dozen supporters living across the world – all of them clueless about sugar-beet and the price of Norfolk wherries (it’s an obscure type of barge).
Much better we expatriate Brits, all thirteen million of us (Wiki) of which 1.2 million are estimated to be living in the EU (here) – that’s about the size of the city of Brussels by the way – get some useful representation where we live.
Just for comparison, the official number of Brits in Spain (even after Brexit) is around the same size as the city of Alicante, or ten times the size of the city of Teruel (here).
Having the vote – probably even swinging the vote – for the Brexit referendum would have been very useful, but it's not much use to us expatriates any more, unless Westminster allows foreign-based constituencies. The French have eleven of these, representing the French citizens who live outside of their motherland (Wiki). The MP (deputy) for the French diaspora in Spain, Portugal, Andorra and Monaco is called Samantha Cazebonne. I’m sure she is kept busy.
So, unless we have someone who solely represents us Brit expatriates in Westminster, there's not much point.
My constituency was North Norfolk, and I haven't been back there since I left the UK (via public school somewhere) at the age of 16. Would the different candidates write me glowing testimonials about their work with sugar beet futures? After careful consideration, which one would I chose to represent me (or rather, not represent me) in Westminster? Hmm, tricky.
In general terms, having the vote – or rather representation – here in Europe would be much more useful and fair. So thank you Beacon of Democracy, but I’ll not be bothering to vote.
Inspections and fines for illegal builds have doubled in the past year in Andalucía according to El Mundo here. Some builders, faced with massive fines, have decided to demolish their structures. Cases like this have been reported, says the article, in Oria (Almería); in El Palmar in Vejer de la Frontera, Cádiz; in Seville’s Alcolea del Río; in Ibros (Jaén); Iznájar in Córdoba and Algatocín in Málaga.
Part of the problem, or part of the solution? From Spanish Property Insight here: ‘Balearic government to requisition 56 empty homes from ‘major owners’’. ‘…Empty homes are defined as properties that have been empty for two years or more ‘without justification’. The government claims it has identified 700 homes in the possession of ‘major owners’ in the region that fall into this category, out of a total of 6,000 homes belonging to banks, investment funds, developers, and private individuals who own ten or more properties…’.
One in every three dwellings registered since 2015 in Spain belongs to ‘large property owners’ (defined as anyone, person or company, who owns more than five residential homes). The figure is far higher in Madrid and Barcelona (over 50%) and far lower is quieter provinces like Segovia, Zamora or Soria… More on this here. Of course, a humble owner of a apartment or a store will be looking to rent or sell, even at a deal, while a wealthy businessman might consider an empty house to be worth more, at least on paper, than a full one on a bargain lease.
Seven regions - Aragón, the Canaries, Catalonia, Galicia, the País Vasco, Valencia and Navarra - now have a full list of all the empty homes within their borders. The list was originally compiled for tax purposes, but the government is now looking at ways of providing housing to the dispossessed and the spectre of expropriations in drawing closer says El Economista here.
At 66.5%, more Spaniards live in apartments than any other nationality in Europe. France, for example, is 30% and the UK is just 14.4%. El Mundo looks at the reason why.
From The Mallorca Daily Bulletin here. ‘Spain's tourism industry is ruling out there being activity at Easter in order to guarantee a good summer season and a "lifeline" for the industry. Last week, the executive vice-president of the Exceltur alliance for tourism excellence, José Luis Zoreda, said that for there to be a summer with "appropriate conditions", vaccination programmes need to be accelerated, a European health certificate needs to be approved, the ERTE (furlough scheme) must be extended, and there has to be more direct and indirect aid…’.
From El País in English here: ‘Spain extends restrictions on travel from UK, Brazil and South Africa until March 30. The Spanish Cabinet says the measure is aimed at containing the spread of new coronavirus variants first detected in those countries’.
El Huff Post wonders how tourism will be, after the pandemic has passed. Cleanliness seems to figure largely in their essay.
A four-day symposium organised by El Español and its director Pedro J Ramírez, will take place from April 12th. It will be called ‘Wake up Spain’ (sic) and will argue ‘the Recovery, Transformation and Resilience Plan of the Government and the projects of the Autonomous Communities, City Councils and companies of all kinds for the application of European Funds’: a kind of ‘Spanish Davos’ as El Español says with satisfaction. There is ‘an already confirmed participation of members of the Government, regional presidents, mayors, major businessmen, social leaders, and eminent professors from international universities’.
‘Iberdrola and Seat have teamed up with the Government to build the first electric battery plant in Spain’. The Corner reports here that: ‘Iberdrola has agreed a public-private partnership with Seat and the Spanish government to build a battery factory for the electric car in Catalonia. This will be located in the city of Martorell, where the automaker has its factory. The sources quoted in some media suggest that the investment would be around 6,800 million euros. The Minister of Industry, Trade and Tourism, Reyes Maroto, commented that the alliance will be open to other partners and will be part of the Strategic Projects for the Economic Recovery and Transformation (PERTE). So it is likely to receive part of the resources from the European recovery fund.
From International Adviser here: ‘How does the Spanish budget impact expats? Higher tax bands and a permanent wealth tax could significantly dent people’s finances’.
From VisualPolitik on YouTube here: ‘The Collapse of Pensions in Spain: A new financial crisis for Europe?’. A twelve minute video which notes that ‘Spain is one of the countries facing the most problems related to demographic aging in the world. It is expected that by the middle of the century, the percentage of the population over 65 years of age will increase from 19% to 30%. This means that in just three decades the population over 65 will increase by more than six million people…’ (Thanks to Jairo).
A virus called Ryuk has attacked the SEPE – the unemployment office ‘…delaying hundreds of thousands of procedures and although it does not jeopardize payments, officials say that it aggravates the high workload they already suffer thanks to the Covid. Cyber-security experts warn that it will be difficult for the SEPE to recover its normal activity before next week’ says elDiario.es reporting here. The unions say that this was a catastrophe waiting to happen, as the IT system at the SEPE is outdated and inefficient at the best of times. The computer equipment is thirty years old, apparently. Later: The SEPI has apparently managed to copy and paste an earlier edition from the Wayback Machine – they didn’t have a backup copy says Twitter here.
The new electricity bill, agreed in Parliament this week, puts more of the final charge on the power consumed (was 60% and now 75%) and less on the static charges.
The USA has temporarily dropped its tariffs on Spanish wine and olive oil says NIUS here.
Cadena Ser reports that Ciudadanos have presented a no-confidence motion together with the PSOE (together they have the majority) in the Murcia regional parliament, following tension between the C’s and the PP over the past few months. A second one follows in the Murcia town hall. The larger plan, says elDiario.es here, is to remove the PP from the two governments, with C’s taking the Region and the PSOE the ayuntamientos of Murcia, together with Caravaca de la Cruz, Ceutí, Fuente Álamo and Pliego (here). This will not play well in the crumbling court of Pablo Casado, as they wonder – could C’s do the same in other regions that they control in partnership with the PP (Madrid, Castilla y Léon and Andalucía)? The answer to this was not long in coming…
Following the political upheaval in Murcia, the President of the Region of Madrid Isabel Díaz Ayuso called for snap elections to be held on May 4th says El Independiente here. She says ‘Madrileños have the choice between socialism and liberty’ (here). The elections might not go ahead however, as two motions of confidence (from PSOE and Más País) in the region may need to be addressed first (let the magistrates decide!). A further moción de censura has been tabled in Castilla y León against the PP/C’s government there by the PSOE standing alone (here). On Wednesday afternoon, El Español quoted Andalusian leaders as saying that the PP alliance with Ciudadanos in the region would hold fast.
Vox has called for early elections in Madrid, Castilla y León and Andalucía ‘to halt the spread of socialism’ says 20Minutos here.
Vox continues to rise in the surveys says El Mundo (paywall) here. The latest poll from Sigma Dos shows that while the other parties are foundering, Vox continues its remarkable advance. The poll puts the far-right party at 17.4% of the vote. The PP in this survey is standing at 22.9% which is just 5.5 points ahead of Vox. Will they try to bleed off support from Vox by heading right-wards? The leading PSOE scores 27.2% in this canvass. The story is also reviewed by VozPópuli here. A possible solution to the doldrums of the PP is to find a more attractive leader. José María Aznar, says an opinion piece at El Huff Post, tells Casado to ‘find a cogent plan, recommend it and become the centre of attention’. At the moment (as happens with many centre-right parties elsewhere) the far-right is drawing support. A senior (unidentified) advisor of Mariano Rajoy says ‘he has about six months left to sort out the party’s future, not more’. In a paywall-protected article at El Español, it seems that an increasing number of PP and Cs (including Andalucía’s leader Juanma Moreno) are supporting the idea of a merger to form an alliance against the Voxers. But, as events mentioned above appear to show – they may have left it too late.
While the PP is split between moderates and rightists (for example Núñez Feijóo and Moreno Bonilla on the one hand and Madrid’s Isabel Díaz Ayuso on the other) the same can be said for Podemos. This is partly down to the progressive ideas of the Minister of Equality Irene Montero who is also Pablo Iglesias’ wife – which naturally gives her an edge within the party hierarchy. From El Plural comes ‘Public officials, organizations and militants of Podemos launch a manifesto against the ‘trans law’ promoted by Irene Montero’. The article says that ‘They demand a debate, public and internal, on the implications of gender self-determination policies’. The cosignatories are also worried about the lack of debate on other disturbing topics such as prostitution, pornography and surrogate motherhood.
The disturbing advance of the far-right is considered in an article at RT here. The article includes the video remarks of the young Nazi racist (video) and another very powerful video which says that the politicians are useless and that Spain now needs ‘a captain’ (for which we can read, un caudillo). The article is titled ‘It's not anti-politics, it's the uncertainty: viral videos and opportunism by the ultra-right’.
Control of the Andalusian PP is an issue between the national leader Pablo Casado and his more moderate colleague, the president of the Junta de Andalucía Juanma Moreno. elDiario.es reports here. This is similar, in short, to the ideological struggle in the PSOE between Pedro Sánchez and the ex-President of the Junta de Andalucía Susana Díaz (In Fuengirola, Málaga, the Díaz faction has changed the locks of the party offices to keep the Sánchez supporters out).
‘The president of the Valencia Business Association CEV, Salvador Navarro, says that "it gives me the feeling that lately in Madrid there’s a worrying kind of emerging nationalism, which concerns me as much as the independence movement of Catalonia"’. This is to do with the Madrid leader Isabel Díaz Ayuso allowing the Madrid Region – unlike anywhere else in Spain – to stay open for business during the Easter celebrations. La Vanguardia has the story here.
‘A penitentiary court in Catalonia has removed the day-leave permits of the seven male jailed pro-independence leaders, who will now have to return to prison. They had been enjoying the 'low category' status as inmates, with an obligation to only spend the nights between Monday and Thursday behind bars – yet now, they will only have leave permits for 36 days a year…’. An item from Catalan News here.
‘The European Parliament voted this Monday in favour of lifting the immunity of the three independence MEPs sought by the Spanish justice: Carles Puigdemont, former president of the Generalitat, and his two 'former councillors', Toni Comín and Clara Ponsatí…’. An item from El Confidencial here. From the news-letter Mientras Dormías from El Español (subscribe here) we read: ‘The former president Carles Puigdemont considers that a possible separation of Scotland from the United Kingdom "would help" the process of independence of Catalonia, and says on French TV that, if he had wanted to flee from Justice, he would have copied Juan Carlos I and moved to a country like the United Arab Emirates (Ouch!). "If there is Scottish independence following a referendum, even if London does not authorize it, we will be very attentive", he says’. The Catalonian interest in a Scottish referendum is discussed at SwissInfo here.
How are the talks going towards a new government in Catalonia? Badly, it seems. From Catalan News here: ‘Coalition talks far from smooth due to lack of united approach towards independence’.
'Spanish Dream turns into nightmare as Britons faces post-Brexit reality’. A short video from an Indian channel called The World is One News here. ‘…before, I had the right to live here, and now I only have permission to stay…’ says one British businesswoman.
(Without going on too much about Brexit, we hope, this one is well-written): ‘Stop using the ‘B’ word? Not me’. A piece written by ‘a mother’ found at West Country Bylines here.
From The Mallorca Daily Bulletin here: ‘Fighting to resolve the 3-6 month trap for Britons in Spain. Bilateral agreements can be made, providing the will is there’.
From Spanish Property Insight here: ‘EU-Family Regrouping (Marriage Visa). Lawyer Raymundo Larrain explains to us one of four ways to legally bypass the pesky 90/180-day rule that now affects all UK nationals post-Brexit’.
From The Guardian here: ‘Exodus of foreign workers is a threat to UK recovery. Construction, care and hospitality industries all at risk from major shortage of employees, say business leaders’.
A map shows the number of deaths by Covid in each municipality up to the end of January.
The Government has a page here with questions answered about the vaccines. This includes one about the availability of vaccines for foreigners living in Spain here.
From El País (partial paywall) here: ‘It is not the place, but what happens inside: why bars and restaurants pose a risk of contagion. Closed premises where guests must take off their masks to consume can cause outbreaks, although some political and judicial authorities doubt the scientific evidence. The Minister of Economy for the Madrid Region, Manuel Jiménez, referring to the supposed dangers and the closure of the hotel industry: "All I can say is that there is no useful scientific evidence"…’. Meanwhile, the European Centre for Disease Control classifies bars and restaurants as "high risk" scenarios and proposes their closure among the various recommendations to deal with the most contagious variants of the virus. Fifteen independent studies show the dangers.
Russia says it will allow its Sputnik V vaccine to be made in Spain says RTVE here.
Writer Nick Corbishley has just spent a year in Barcelona with his mother in law as a guest. The story is at Wolf Street here
The appalling Luis Bárcenas story rumbles on. The one-time party treasurer says (on video) that he gave envelopes filled with cash to various senior PP members, including Mariano Rajoy, Álvarez Cascos, Javier Arenas, María Dolores de Cospedal, Jaime Mayor Oreja and Federico Trillo… Bárcenas also reveals that he was offered 500,000€ to mess-up the accounts, rendering them impossible to judicial review. More at La Voz del Tajo here. Bárcenas further reveals on Cadena Ser radio that the Madrid regional PP has financed itself illegally ‘since time began’.
The ex-commissar José Manuel Villarejo is now out of jail. It appears that no one can be kept in jail here for more than four years without trial (!). The question rises – why hasn’t he had his trial yet? It’s very complicated, says La Información, which offers this explanation: ‘Investigators are working against the clock on one of the most complex and voluminous cases in memory. The procedure, which began with an anonymous complaint in Anti-Corruption in mid-2017, has become an ungovernable cause. Part of the reason lies in all the material that the commissioner kept at his home and in his office in the Torre Picasso which Internal Affairs agents have been piecing through for years. Firstly because they found that it was encrypted (although Villarejo denies this) and secondly because many of the documents and material found are connected to major Ibex companies, the Police, important bankers and businessmen and even the Royal Household. Thus, maximum care is called for…’. The indignant Villarejo, says El Español here, intends to spill the beans ‘on one of the largest cases of political corruption to be seen in Spain in recent times’.
The Galician author Suso de Toro (Wiki) says in an interview with El Salto Diario here: "There is no Spanish democracy because there is an unleashed judicial power that has an ideological continuity with Francoism". Amongst other alarming remarks…
‘Forty senior members of past governments of the PP and PSOE have found places in the big privatized companies. Places on the boards of companies that passed into private hands through the efforts of politicians between 1984 and 2014, such as Telefónica, Endesa, Repsol, Enagás or Red Eléctrica, became the target of the political elite after passing through the ministries’ says Público here.
Xataca brings us news that the solar-panels from Ikea have now arrived – and their prices, fully installed included (with videos).
Princess Cristina, who recently got a vaccine in Abu Dhabi together with her sister Elena, is the president of ISGlobal, the Barcelona-based Institute for Global Health (here), an agency which advises the Government on Covid (here).
A department within the Government has been responsible for paying out money to the various lovers of the ex-King, says Diario16 here. It says: ‘Different sources affirm that the number of lovers or liaisons of Juan Carlos I could be counted in the thousands. The problem is when these affairs have been covered with public money, because then private life becomes a matter of State, especially when it makes public resources available to the king to silence his "little friends". It’s one thing for the monarch to use his own money in such a way as this, but public money should be destined for what is truly a matter of State: the welfare of the people…’.
elDiario.es wonders here how long the Monarchy can last in Spain.
‘What's the deal with Securitas Direct? With their advertising bombardment, their great hiring capacity, commercial pressure and low prices, they have broken billing records in the last two years. But at the bottom they maintain a "predatory model" with high customer turnover and a notable volume of complaints that frequently end up in court…’. An investigation from Atlántico here.
The European Commission initiates a preliminary investigation into the living conditions of migrant workers in Almería and Huelva following an outbreak of fires in their shanty-homes says The Olive Press here.
From the addictive daily report at Colin Davies’ Thoughts from Galicia here: ‘Click here* for an example of post-Brexit problems for foreigners who want to work here - long faced by both Northern and Southern Americans, of course. Tasters: 1. The amount of stamping and embossing and 'apostilling' makes the 18th century look high-tech. 2. The people are sweet; the system is sour. It rather reminds me of my regular comment that - especially when it comes to notaries - in Spain one moves constantly between the 18th and 21st centuries. One result, of course, is that notaries are invariably rich. A terrible job but very profitable. Spaniards simply recoil in disbelief when told they hardly exist in the Anglo world. They dominate one's official life here’. *The entertaining Times article linked to above is called ‘Dominic Dromgoole: My post-Brexit fight to work in Spain. The British theatre director on the expense and hoops he had to jump through to take a job in Madrid’.
La Voz de Galicia (paywall) says that around 45% of all vehicles circulating (or parked) in Spain have their ITV out of date.
Xataca introduces the reader to a snappy-looking electric motorcycle with an autonomy of 100kms and a top speed of 110KPH called OX One, while ECM features an electric scooter from NIU here.
Last week, we looked at some useful business slogans in English. El Confidencial tells us here why Spanish will never overtake English as the leading language in the professions. ‘Despite the triumphant speeches about the glories of the Spanish language, English continues to be the lingua franca in science, business and technology. An issue that is more complicated than we think’ says the title.
Language can be and is manipulated to suit one’s ends, says CTXT here. It analyses words as passed through the filter of the LEDP – Extreme-right populist idiom – used by Vox today, where unity, progressive, liberty, democracy, censorship, and even España have different meanings.
From the American far-left Jacobin here: ‘The data is clear. Workers in the Basque Country, in the north of Spain, strike more than anywhere else in Europe. From 1990 to 2017, there were 366 working days lost from industrial action per thousand employees in the Basque Country. Second highest in Europe was the rest of Spain, at 181, less than half the Basque figure. Only four other European states — Cyprus, Italy, Denmark, and France — have over a hundred workdays lost per thousand employees. Figures only from the previous decade, from 2010–17, show the Basque Country joint top with France for strike days lost…’.
BoT has mentioned in the past the agony of the planned AVE arrival into Murcia, dividing a barrio into two. Now, after endless demonstrations lasting thirty years, the protestors have won. From Cadena Ser here: ‘What began as something local, ended up being a fight for everyone": Murcia tunnels the train tracks’.
Planetarium Málaga will be opened in 2022. It will be the world’s fourth largest planetarium says Cadena Ser here.
My gardening experience is at Eye on Spain here.
From Piccavey here: ‘A Guide to Writing an Essay about Spain’ (I wish I’d read this yesterday)
Madrid was not the first capital of Spain, no. There were many others over the centuries say El Español here in an interesting article with lots of photographs.
Travelling back into time – this was Galicia in 1929 (100 minute video)
Mataveneno is a community in El Bierzo (León) which was an abandoned village until it was repopulated by hippies in 1989. There are now some 70 residents there from various countries. Traveler visits the ecoaldea here. Nice (hippyish) photos. There’s a Casa Rural not too far away for visitors.
Fascinating Spain brings us the spectacular yet little-known town squares of Aínsa (Huesca), Peñaranda de Duero (Burgos), Monells (Girona), Peñafiel (Valladolid) and La Alberca (Salamanca) with pictures.
‘With the return to nature that tourism is experiencing, the campsites have experienced a small rebirth. Now they are as cool as ever. There are also those that offer innovative tree houses, mini cabins for children and even luxury safari tents…’. From Eye on Spain here: ‘Spain's Best Campsites’.
The Cuban government have banned this example of Reggaeton: Gente de Zona with a few others perform the powerful Patria y Vida on YouTube here. The back-story is here.