The summer hols are upon us. We shall pack our bags (or our hand-luggage if we are travelling with one of the cheapies) and jet away to somewhere warm, where we shall get drunk, have a brief romance, buy a souvenir, punch someone and be sick in a flowerbed. Perhaps we shall look wistfully at a property if there’s a rainy day, or discover to our surprise that the holiday business has become an industry.
Spain is no exception.
Ludicrous newspapers like The Express are always full of stories about why readers shouldn’t be holidaying here for one reason or another: whether it’s a limit to six drinks a day in the all-inclusive hotel, the ignominy of having to queue in the Non-EU line at the airport or the bar-staff that can’t understand you when you ask for a bacon sarnie.
The Spanish probably couldn’t care less what The Express thinks, short of a few small hoteliers who are worried that anyone is going to change their mind because of some inflammatory article about Etias visas and decide to stay this year for two weeks in Southend instead.
Meanwhile, Easyjet and other airlines cancel large numbers of flights from the UK for some reason or other. More queues, more anger, less time around the pool.
There are several issues of slightly more weight that worry the Brit tourist, such as the 90 / 180 day deal in the Schengen Zone, and the agony of whether a resident can use a British driving licence (both subjects sublimely ignoring the self-inflicted punch of Brexit).
Some of Spain’s destinations are crashing out of the tourist stakes – such as La Manga, which overlooks the Mar Menor: now a dying lagoon. Under extreme threat too from illegal wells from the strawberry growers is El Parque Nacional de Doñana in Cádiz.
So, tourism changes: it diversifies and it evolves. Now we read that the second kind of tourism, what might be called city-visitors – is facing a crisis as China considers halting all Chinese holidays abroad. They may not be much for bucket and spade tourism, but they do appreciate a flying visit to Madrid, Granada and Barcelona to see the sights.
Better news comes from Germany, where the travel agencies are mooting the idea of sending their senior citizens en masse to Spain for the winter months to save on energy (a sensitive topic in Germany at the moment). If Spain tuned in, they could convert some of their abandoned villages into merrie North European retirement centres (and get some funding from abroad to pay for it).
From Mark Stücklin’s Spanish Property Insight here: ‘Experts forecast market slowdown in second half of this year’.
(There are two types of property that figure in certain analyses – city apartments for Spaniards, and coastal casas for foreigners. We generalise and we exaggerate). On the first type, this story: From Xataca here – ‘In the last five years, the price per square metre in the sale of homes has increased in Spain by 15.6%, while salaries have barely increased by 5.9% in the same period and, in fact, during 2021 they decreased 2.5%, according to a joint study carried out by the Infojobs employment platform and the real estate portal Fotocasa. For this report, both companies based their figures on the adverts published on their respective websites…’
Much is written of the abandonment of the forgotten pueblos – understandable as the local services (bus, bank and post office) diminish. No province has a higher loss of inhabitants than Burgos says the local paper, with no births recorded at all in the last twenty years in 37 municipalities there.
As potential buyers look in the display windows of the estate agents, here’s a place to consider at The Robb Report: ‘This 20 million euro Spanish estate outside of Seville has a bonkers 185 acres of gardens. Just an hour from Seville, the sprawling Andalusian estate borders a natural park, an UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and the Huéznar River’.
20Minutos is buoyant. ‘The tide of tourism in Spain: visits by foreigners skyrocket by 755% and visitor spending grows by 840%’. Over last year, understandably. A graphic shows that we are in fact somewhere between the 2016 and 2017 January to April figures in spending and considerably lower at 24.2 million than 2016 (29.3m) in visitor numbers....
Spanish News Today says (screams) that ‘Sun-seeking Brits To Splash Out More Than 10 Billion Pounds On Spanish Holidays This Year’. That’s 10,000 million pounds or a bit more in euros. British holidaymakers, says the article, spend an average of £630.78 during their holiday (how much of that stays with the airline?).
Southern Spain is of course poorer than the north. A map here shows the average income and the level of unemployment in cities of over 20,000 inhabitants across the country. It has also emerged that the State underspent in its budgets last year for Andalucía, Valencia, Asturias and Catalonia, while Madrid received almost double the projected budgetary investment. Both items are from elDiario.es. La Vanguardia says that the State investment in Madrid is three times that for Barcelona.
From Financial Post (copied from Bloomberg) here: ‘Rooftop solar takes off in Spain, aiding Europe's bid to shun Russian gas’. We read, ‘The rush for the rooftops comes amid soaring energy prices across Europe and a host of new financial incentives by the Spanish government to encourage homeowners to invest in cleaner technology…’ Meanwhile, ‘According to the solar energy cooperative Ecooo, it takes between seven and ten years for a single-family home to recover the investment in photovoltaic panels. A calculation that does not take into account incentives or subsidies and is, according to its coordinator Laura Feijóo García, as conservative as possible…’ Item from El País here.
Tax collections are up (thanks to the zeal of the Ministry of Hacienda). El Confidencial has the story here. ‘With an 11,000 million euros increase, tax collection shoots up 17% in the first four months of 2022 and leads the State to a surprise surplus. The IVA contributing 20% more than it did a year ago while personal income tax is also up by 13%. Expenditures remain contained despite a 4% increase in public salaries’.
From The Corner here, ‘The Social Security allocated a record 10,810 million euros to the payment of contributory pensions this May, 4.8% more than in the same month of 2021, the Ministry of Inclusion, Social Security and Migration said on Friday. The Department headed by José Luis Escrivá estimates that spending on pensions stood at 11.8% of GDP in the fifth month of the year…’ The average pension paid in Spain is 1,252€ monthly – as broken down by region and province by Bankinter here.
A large number of fines – said to be around 5,000 of them – originating from the 2012 rule of holding monies, properties or credits abroad to be declared in the Modelo 720 tax-form, ruled improper by the European Court, must now be re-assessed by the Supreme Court.
Celebrating Spain’s 40-year membership of NATO, Pedro Sánchez told the General Secretary of the organisation Jens Stoltenberg on Monday of the need to increase defence spending in these troubled times, led by the growing Russian threat, and that he was willing to raise the amount allocated to this matter to a full 2% of the Spanish GDP. The next summit for the NATO (OTAN in Spanish) will be held in Madrid at the end of June. The story here. Much to the President’s disappointment, the non-ministerial deputies of Unidas Podemos – there are 29 of them – say they will not be attending the NATO summit. However, the Minister of Labour Yolanda Díaz will be present (representing the ‘Loyal Left’, as ECD reports here).
President Sánchez is to review the rules under which the Spanish Secret Service may operate and to sign a new law on official secrets says El Huff Post here.
The PP plan (Pablo Casado’s plan) to sell the headquarters in the Calle Génova in Madrid following the problems of dirty money used in its refurbishment during the Rajoy years have been shelved. ‘It’s not the building’s fault’, says the party spokesman.
Andalucía Elections June 19:
Another day, another survey. From the Centro de Estudios Andaluces and posted at elDiario.es, we read that The PP is doing well, but will almost certainly need the Vox to govern. The numbers: PP: 39.2%; PSOE-A 24.2% and Vox 17.3%. Many observers are worried about the growth of the Vox vote (especially in areas where there are lots of foreign agricultural workers who of course can’t vote).
The official two week long campaign begins on June 3rd with candidates and their supporters putting up posters everywhere from midnight Friday. The elections (after a day of sober reflection) are on Sunday June 19th and the new Andalusian parliament will be inaugurated on July 14th. An item at Público here.
If Ciudadanos loses badly in Andalucía then it’s adiós, says elDiario.es here.
According to this, the first measure on Vox’ Andalucía shopping list is to suppress the Catalonian autonomy. From Andalucía. They also (it says in a comment) call for anyone living in Spain for less than ten years to have no public health coverage. Whatever Vox is or isn’t, Steve Bannon’s Iberian followers aren’t exactly a benevolent party of the people.
Only 4% of Andalusians resident outside Spain have bothered to register to vote in the 19J. It’s cumbersome to register abroad in the consulate (and then return there to place one’s vote), although a new simpler system will soon be in place.
From EuroNews here: ‘Can Barcelona shake off its reputation as the ‘bag-snatching capital’? Inside the city's new plan’. We read that ‘The Catalonian capital is notoriously rife with pickpockets. In 2018 there were an average of 12 robberies an hour, according to Spain’s interior ministry. The large drop-off in street robberies in 2021 - plummeting by 56 per cent compared to 2019 - suggests the ebb in tourists was a big contributor…’
The day the 21,000 cruise-ship passengers visited Barcelona. The Wonder of the Seas gives you ‘enough time ashore to see a couple of things, then it’s back to the ship’. Does Barcelona take much out of these visits (besides the contamination)?
From Sur in English here: ‘Spain is reportedly unhappy about the upcoming royal visit to Gibraltar on June 7th to 9th. The Spanish media are claiming that foreign minister José Manuel Albares has made an official complaint to the UK government, saying the visit by Prince Edward, the Earl of Wessex and his wife Countess Sophie is "inappropriate" at the moment’. More on the background to this issue is at El Confidencial here.
(To cheer up readers) The Express reports that ‘Brexiteers give Boris 2,000 ideas to obliterate EU rules. From allowing fracking to building super-powered vacuum cleaners, the British public has handed the Government 2,000 ideas on how to reap the benefits of Brexit and get rid of hated EU red tape’.
The ‘Sanchista inflation’ (as the PP would have it) currently suffered in Spain is, in fact, overtaken by a number of other EU countries says InfoLibre here. Including Germany (8.7%), the Netherlands (10.2%) and Belgium (9.9%). Spain is at 8.5% year-on-year.
‘Tourists from outside EU can now enter Spain with a negative Covid test. Rules altered to now no longer only require a certificate of vaccination’ says Catalan News here.
Just behind Murcia, and ahead of the Valencia Region, Andalucía has the second-worst health service in Spain says Diario de Sevilla here. One can certainly expect a long wait between the family doctor and the visit to the clinica… (The País Vasco is the best). NB, the scoring is between 32 and 130, so Andalucía’s 63 or Murcia’s 60 isn’t that great.
‘Spanish LGBTQ groups wary of monkey-pox stigma as Madrid Pride festival nears’ says The San Diego Union Tribune here.
The normally sober El Confidencial has a story that claims that ‘The Police have seized from the Russian mafia the audio of an operation to silence Luis Bárcenas (the corrupt party treasurer) and save the PP. A Russian mafia lieutenant arrested in 2020 had in his mail the recording of a meeting in which he negotiated to extort the former treasurer so that he would not provide more information about the famous black accounts held in the party headquarters in Madrid’.
‘Spain's Doñana National Park under threat as groundwater pumping continues’. An item with video from EuroNews here.
The Olive Press looks at the plight of the immigrant agricultural workers in Almería in a well-researched article here.
There is a third type of land beyond private and public, and that’s community land, or la propiedad colectiva. The Conversation (it’s in Spanish) looks at the advantages of collectively-owned land: which can’t be divided, sold off, embargoed or traded. New shared-owners are possible – as newcomers join the community, they can be attached to the Cooperative, and if people move away, then they will lose their ‘membership’. Galicia is the leader in this type of collective property, with around 20% of its extension held in this way. The communal land can be used – as voted upon by the ‘owners’ – for any agricultural or commercial use.
From ITV News here: ‘Spain's parliament has voted to approve a bill that's been heralded as making the country a "freer place for women" after years of campaigning.. The proposed law, known as "only yes means yes", makes consent a determining factor in rape cases…’
‘Tired of speaking to a machine when you call the bank or power company? Spain’s government wants to end those nerve-shattering, one-sided conversations with a computerized answering service by making it obligatory for companies to offer a real, flesh-and-blood customer service worker when so requested by a caller. That is one among a battery of measures included in a customer service bill presented by Spain’s left-wing coalition government on Tuesday. The bill will need the approval of Spain’s Parliament before it can become law…’ Item from The San Diego Union-Tribune here.
LaSexta is showing a six-week documentary on Los Borbones, from the coronation of Juan Carlos I forwards. It’s said to be hard-hitting. You can see it on their player here.
From El Español (paywall disabled) here: ‘Felipe González takes out Dominican nationality at 80: This is how he helps his wealthy friends on the island. Felipe, who began as 'Isidoro the Sevillian’, on the 40th anniversary of his ascension to the presidency of Spain in 1982, has taken out citizenship of the Dominican Republic. A book called Cap Cana: los osados aprendices de Donald Trump by Miguel Ángel Ordóñez reveals the business reasons behind the move. Cap Cana is a luxury resort in the Dominican Republic – ‘a sort of Caribbean Soto Grande’.
From 20Minutos here: ‘José Manuel Otero Novas, the Minister of the Presidency of Adolfo Suárez, narrates the ins and outs of how Spain's accession to the Atlantic Alliance was forged 40 years ago’. It’s a remarkable story. Felipe Gonzalez and other leaders of the PSOE (still in waiting in 1976) had been to Moscow to come to an agreement – the party would resist any union with NATO (very much in those days, an extension of the American military). The Russian ambassador then told Suárez in a private meeting in November 1976 (a year after Franco’s death) that the Warsaw Pact viewed any attempt by Spain to join NATO as a danger to world peace. A year later, a small terrorist independence group in the Canaries called the Canary Islands Independence Movement or MPAIAC (Wiki) came into view after the Americans told Suárez that they would support the group unless Spain joined NATO. ‘Either you join NATO or you lose the Canaries’ is the title of the article. Spain agreed that they were certainly in favour of joining the alliance and the leader of the Canary terror group was promptly severely injured by persons unknown and he duly retired from the armed struggle. The MPAIAC was never heard of again… When Felipe González, now president of Spain, called for a referendum on joining the alliance in May 1982, the PSOE inexplicably switched from recommending to vote against the proposal to calling for a ‘yes’ vote.
Feral cats can be a problem, and those kind souls who feed them only make things worse (Perhaps?). Anyhoo, the Councillor for Environmental Sustainability in Almería, Margarita Cobos, has issued (so far) 86 official cat-sitter cards to those Good Folks who tirelessly shovel food into these creatures. El Diario de Almería has the story.
An interesting subject here. Spain is the only country that prohibits the use of its place-names in Spanish where local versions/names occur. Mostly. Gerona or Girona? Sangenjo or Sanxenxo? Jávea or Xàbia? The local version often takes precedence, which is a bother if you don’t know that Iruña is another way of saying Pamplona (apparently it’s Pampeluna in English says Wiki) or Elx is really Elche. A few other cities have an English version (we use Seville over Sevilla and Majorca over Mallorca even if we have largely given up on The Corunna). Sometimes – in the Basque country at least, they just use both – like Vitoria-Gasteiz (well, officially anyway). Then there are the English-language newspapers that for some reason don’t have an ‘ñ’ on their keyboards, bringing us the joys of Logrono, Peniscola and Salobrena. And the seasonal Feliz Ano of course. Come to think of it, the Catalonians prefer Catalunya to Cataluña (they haven’t used the ñ since 1913).
Spain therefore bends over backwards (mostly) to accommodate regional variants – Lleida for Lérida, Eivissa for Ibiza (I mean, really!) and so on, whereas other countries just use the regular name (imagine the weather forecaster on British TV saying Caerdydd instead of Cardiff or Dùn Èideann for Edinburgh).
However, when they go abroad, it’s all Londres, Estocolmo, Nueva York and Pekín.
Finally, how about the Galician name for Xibraltar? (Spanish Shilling here)
The dioceses of Barcelona, headed by the powerful Cardenal Omella (Wiki), has proposed to the Vatican to allow both women priests and non-obligatory celibacy. Watch this space.
‘In these difficult economic times, money is short, so why not work for free? Joe King here. It could be an answer for people struggling to make ends meet. Joe has been working for free on and off for more than fifteen years and loves it. Is he nuts?’ Eye on Spain has the story here.
Over a Reddit, there’s a photo of the shortest frontier in the world. It’s the border between el Peñón de Vélez de la Gomera and Morocco.
From Think Spain here. ‘Spain gets ready to rock: Deluge of concerts, festivals and tours scheduled this summer. A mega music revival is set to hit Spain this summer as the backlog of live concerts the pandemic put paid to joins a list of those already scheduled for 2022…’
Pension Life scams are considered on their blog here.
A list of the International Schools in Madrid is here.
The British Benevolent Fund here ‘is a Spain-wide charity for when times are tough. We provide financial support to help Britons in Spain get back on their feet’.
A small rant: we have no fibre-optic here in our barrio and the service from the telephone provider is beyond hopeless. The Internet goes out many times a day. Grrr!
The Times brings us ‘The 20 prettiest villages in Spain’ with some nice photos here.
A remarkable item from The London Post (‘powered by the Moscow Media Group’) about ‘The Best Cities for Tapas’. Er, it’s always nice to be guided by an expert…
Chasing up last week’s recording led me to a piece from Celtas Cortos I hadn’t heard before, a cover of The Waterboys’ Fisherman’s Blues. Blues del Pescador on YouTube here.