And we are back.
The month of November may be remembered in Spain as being full of - as the Chinese curse goes – interesting times.
Spain finally received a new government with the return of Pedro Sánchez and his coalition on November 16th following the agony for the PP and Vox groups being unable to find enough support back in September. The new ministers have all been taken from the PSOE and the Sumar parties (but without anyone from the reduced Podemos contingent following an offer from the socialists which was foolishly turned down – as it didn’t apparently suit).
Over on the opposition benches, ‘I’m not president because I don’t want to be’ said Feijóo after the vote went against the PP and Vox alliance. The PP having taken the most votes back in August. Instead, we have been apparently issued with a Frankenstein government says the PP leader and his supporters, who showed themselves to be bad losers by spending the following couple of weeks bitterly protesting outside the PSOE headquarters in the Calle Ferraz in Madrid. The demonstrators were enthusiastically supported by Vox and various elements of the even-further-right. Espana ha despertado, shouts one of the protestors - Spain has awoken. (‘Who are we protesting against’, asks his mother in the video clip, evidently trying to keep up).
Back in the Cortes, ‘He says he isn’t president because he doesn’t want to be’, repeated Pedro Sánchez in his victory speech, followed by some understandable guffaws. Feijóo says he is now looking for a shrink to support his view that Sánchez’s unseemly laughter is a sign of ‘some pathology’ or other.
And perhaps Sánchez is pushing the envelope a bit: his first international visit as president was to Israel and Palestine, where he protested strongly to Netanyahu about the ongoing invasion into the Palestinian territory and informed the Israeli leader of his intention to recognise Palestine as a state. Israel promptly recalled its ambassador to Spain for ‘consultations’ (a bad sign in diplomatic-speak).
Spain is neatly divided between the two sides. It would be easy if they were both reasonably temperate, but temperatures are running high.
According to the INE, as reported by the RTVE here, 14% (3.8 million) of all homes in Spain stand empty and a further 10% have only sporadic use. Further details are here.
From As here: ‘Madrid is building a city larger than Marbella or Vitoria with more than 120,000 homes. El Cañaveral, Valdecarros, Los Ahijones, Los Berrocales and Los Cerros will be the new districts under construction that will occupy more than 43 million m²’.
From El Economista here: ‘The luxury real estate market in Spain is experiencing a golden age. Proof of this is that it is the fourth country in the world, and the first in continental Europe, where the ‘ultra-rich’ (people with wealth greater than 30 million euros) invest the most. The main foreign buyers of luxury homes come from the UK, Germany, France, Latin America, Russia and China in that order, who are looking for a "safe investment or alternatively a second residence where they can live for a few months of the year…’
From The European Council here: ‘Third-country nationals: EU updates rules for long-term resident status’.
Opinion from InfoBae here: ‘The myth of squatters (‘okupas’) is a profitable business: and we endlessly talk about them instead of the real problems of housing in Spain. The illegal occupation of homes is at historic lows, but home insurance contracts against these practices are increasing, when the real problem is rental prices or access to purchasing properties’.
An article at El Blog Salmón notes the changing appetites of the tourists. ‘Andalucía, due to its climate, gastronomy and cultural offer, has always been the preferred destination for foreign tourists during the summer period. But that trend is now beginning to change, and given the noticeable increase in temperatures as a consequence of global warming, national and foreign tourists are opting for new destinations in the northern part of the peninsula, until now relatively left alone. The article says that Galicia, Asturias and Cantabria between them saw a 47% increase in tourism this August over 2022.
An opinion piece at elDiario.es here: ‘The locals against the visitors: battle in the city. The new confrontation over urban space aims to determine who will be able to enjoy the best places and towards whom the infrastructure is oriented’. ‘It’s easier to buy a knock-off watch these days that some simple underclothes’ says the piece caustically.
In our tourist town, we have fifty souvenir shops and no clothing stores. Residents don’t frequent souvenir shops and tourists don’t buy blazers.
My own experience of galloping through the Madrid airport with my wheelie-suitcase last week, with eighty minutes to disembark at the international end of the huge installation, go through immigration (as a non-EU foreigner), take the underground train-link, the security inspection and then the race for the local flight at the other end just in time to join the back of the boarding queue, makes me anything other than a fan of that dreadful airport. It seems that I’m not the only one: From El Español here: ‘How Barajas is no longer the best airport in Europe in just one year: it has dropped 30 places’.
From The Independent here: ‘Eleven of the best things to do in Spain. An infectious culture, whacky festivals and wonderful natural sites – Spain is much more than just a beach holiday destination’.
The Brit who wanted to see his girlfriend in Barcelona more often that the Schengen rules allow. The Manchester Evening News says that the 90 days in any 180 is the problem. “It essentially meant that I could only see Alex for half the year, and who wants to only see their partner for half the year?” France is now aware of this issue and is pressing for a change says the Majorca Daily Bulletin here – can Spain be far behind? As for the couple in the Manchester Evening News report – they eventually decided the only way forward was to get married.
From Euronews here: ‘Trouble in paradise: The loneliness and isolation of Brits in Spain’. It says, ‘A central issue is that many British ex-pats do not speak Spanish, meaning they can struggle to access support services when needed. “Spain’s a big country, there are lots of organisations helping people, but people can sometimes get a bit lost," adds Neil Hesketh of Support in Spain, a non-profit website helping British expats inside the country. Another issue he points to is that Spain’s social care system is not as big as Britain's, with Spanish families expected to provide more support for sick or elderly relatives, compared to a “more individualistic” UK…’
The Spanish group Ferrovial recently moved its headquarters to the Netherlands and a few days ago, it sold its share in London Heathrow. Spain, in consequence of its move, has lost 35 million euros in tax says El Confidencial here.
From La Vanguardia here: ‘Spain is the country in the European Union where the price of electricity fell the most in the first half of 2023, with a cut of 44% compared to the same period in 2022, according to data published last week by the community statistics office, Eurostat’.
How many companies keep a second set of accounts? From Cinco Días here: ‘The Government prohibits companies from using software for black bookkeeping. The Council of Ministers has approved the regulations that detail what these computer programs should be like. Producers and marketers will have nine months to adapt to the new rules’.
Consumidor Global notes that ‘Correos applies unnecessary and excessive management costs to carry out customs procedures. ADT Postales (the post office has a ‘temporary warehouse’) 'offers' a service that customers describe as a "mafia and a scam" due to its high price and because it can be done for free (apparently) on the Tax Agency website’.
‘It’s been a horrible week for the Government’ says 20minutos here with ‘The crisis with Israel, the Díaz-Calviño clash, the judicial setbacks, Repsol... Briefly – Repsol is threatening to take its investment plans elsewhere as ‘Spain lacks fiscal and judicial security’ (the Government is seeking ways to get around the PP-backed CGPJ – the ultimate judicial authority – currently five years overdue for revision). The CGPJ, the Supreme Court and the Partido Popular are seeking ways to stymie the current plan to bring an amnesty to the Catalonian politicians, police and others caught up in the 2017 illegal referendum there. An undertaking by the Government which is, nevertheless, legal under The Constitution.
The Israel issue comes from remarks by Pedro Sánchez while visiting Tel Aviv saying that Spain intends to unilaterally recognise a Palestinian state and that the Israeli forces are ‘acting outside the international rules of engagement’ and must scale back their attacks on civilians in the current war. Israel promptly recalled its ambassador to Spain in protest (the PP has come out as pro-Israeli in the conflict). La Vanguardia meanwhile reveals that ‘The Rajoy Government once threatened Israel with recognizing Palestine to cut off Tel Aviv’s sympathies with the Catalonian independence movement in the build-up to the illegal November 2017 referendum. The diplomatic episode was treated discreetly by both parties but remains part of the tension between Madrid and Tel Aviv’.
The clash between the two ministers mentioned in the title (Nadia Calviño is the Minister of the Economy, and Yolanda Díaz is the Minister for Employment) is over unemployment benefits.
Talking of ‘Lawfare’, 20Minutos here brings us ‘Álvaro Cuesta, member of the CGPJ: "The greatest example of 'lawfare' is what the PP does by blocking the Council"’. He says that the blockage by the PP ‘makes Spain look like a banana republic’. Álvaro Cuesta is part of the progressive minority within the CGPJ. Elsewhere, The president of the CGPJ, the conservative Vicente Guilarte, calls "to rebellion" if a judge is summoned to testify in a parliamentary commission’. On Monday this week, the renewal of the PP-dominated CGPJ (the ultimate judicial authority) was marked as five years out of date. Feijóo insists that he won’t be calling on a renovation during the current legislation. This, despite an order from the EU to refresh the body before any changes might be considered to the system.
El País: Pedro Sánchez explains the slow drift of politics - “We went from agreeing with Podemos to doing so with Sumar, while the PP went from Ciudadanos to Vox”.
On Tuesday, the five deputies of Podemos left the Sumar coalition to join the Grupo Mixto (wiki) – an amalgamation of the smaller parties of the UPN, the BNG and the CC. The problem stems from the refusal of both the PSOE and Sumar to return Irene Montero (she of the flawed only yes means yes law) back as Minister of Equality. The post went instead to Ana Redondo from the PSOE. More on the squabble between Pablo Iglesias and Yolanda Díaz is here. On the same day, the Podemos regional leader in Madrid resigned from the party in protest.
All the ministers in the current government are listed at La Moncloa, here. NB, The four vice-presidents are all women.
Elements of the PP talk of the government tyranny. Miguel Tellado, the new government spokesman (Cuca Gamarra has been side-lined) recently opined that ‘Sánchez should leave Spain: preferably in the boot of a car’. Adding extra noise to el Congreso, two other pistoleros of the PP return as vice-spokespeople for the party: Cayetana Álvarez de Toledo and Rafael Hernando. In short: the PP is planning once again a raucous opposition.
The mediator in the issue between the Government and the Junts per Catalunya (or ‘between Sánchez and Puigdemont’, as El Mundo prefers) is the El Salvador diplomat in the FARC/Columbian conflict and others Francisco Galindo. The PP once again took to the streets of Madrid on Sunday over ‘the insupportable humiliation’ of the situation.
President Sánchez is concerned – says ECD – about the release of any damaging information taken from his mobile by the Israelis with their Pegasus phone-spy last summer.
The Vox leader Santiago Abascal was in Tel Aviv on Tuesday to offer his support for the Israeli Government says the ABC. His next planned trip is to Argentina to the inauguration of the new president Javier Milei.
From The Guardian here: ‘Spain is ready to sign a deal on the post-Brexit status of Gibraltar as early as this week, the country’s foreign minister, José Manuel Albares, said before a meeting in Brussels with his British counterpart, David Cameron. The deal will centre on trade, immigration and the movement of workers to and from Spain. According to Spain’s Efe news agency, it will include plans to turn the Campo de Gibraltar – the Spanish area around Gibraltar – into a “zone of shared prosperity” that would eliminate the border fence so as to allow the movement of people and goods between the territory and the EU…’
The Portuguese menace: From The Huff Post (USA) here: ‘This Country Seemed Immune To Far-Right Politics. Then Came A Corruption Scandal. The right-wing party called Chega openly targets Roma people and could be the big winner in Portugal’s political crisis’. Portugal’s general election will be held in March 2024.
From The Times here: ‘The 90-day visa rebels breaking the rules for their Euro dream
Brexit means Britons are allowed only three months in the EU. They’re supposed to be fined or deported, but expats in Portugal say officials often turn a blind eye’.
The Nolotil issue has now reached The Guardian here: ‘‘It’s not worth risking your life’: fears over painkiller Nolotil grow for Brits in Spain. Links between the deaths of UK patients and the popular drug have spurred on action among expats in Jávea and beyond’.
‘The "excessive" procedures to access euthanasia: almost half of the applicants died before receiving it’. The story is at La Voz de Asturias here.
There is one particular judge who appears to be an unashamed fan of the Partido Popular. This is Manuel García Castellón who, says El Plural here, has so far dismissed 275 cases linked to the PP.
From The San Diego Union-Tribune here: ‘A Spanish association representing more than 80 newspapers has filed a lawsuit against Facebook parent Meta accusing it of unfair competition in online advertising by allegedly ignoring European Union rules on data protection. In a statement, the Information Media Association said it is demanding 550 million euros from the social media giant. The association represents dozens of newspapers including Spain’s principal dailies El País, El Mundo, ABC and La Vanguardia…’
There’s a piece of mine on the bane of advertisers here.
A joke (?) On Facebook: ‘Spain is the only country that sells more newspapermen than newspapers’.
Sometimes, I get enquiries from obscure agencies for the price to run copy. Here’s one: Please provide us with the rates for the following:
a) Normal sponsored post.
b) CBD, Casino, Adult, Crypto or Forex links
c) Link insertions in previously posted articles
d) Do you have any specific sponsored post requirements?
I tell them ‘no’, or ignore them. Do other publishers do the same?
El Mundo published news this Monday that appears to have bent the truth. Their headline: ‘Eight districts of Madrid already cost over 2,000 euros in rent per month. The Housing Law has had a devastating opposite effect’. (Unfortunately, la Ley de Vivienda, despite its approval last April, has not yet been applied in Madrid). Menéame has the story here.
From MeteoRed here: ‘The Mediterranean has never been so cold off parts of the Spanish coastline while never being so warm in general for this time of the year: how is this possible? The Mediterranean is once again in the news due to its high temperatures. The exception falls on the peninsular coasts where the upwelling of cold waters has broken records’.
A nasty story from the past appeared in The Guardian in November. ‘Spanish clergy sexually abused more than 200,000 children, inquiry estimates’.
An article about the Spanish patriotas, draped in their Made-in-China flags, here.
Arturo Pérez-Reverte is a good writer (I’ve just read his latest book: El Problema Final). However, his politics are strongly on the right. In a TV interview at El Hormiguero he says ‘Pedro Sánchez is Machiavellian and he would sell his mother to stay in power’. There’s more of the same at 20Minutos here (with video).
From El Español here: ‘Valpuesta (Burgos) is the town in Spain where Castilian Spanish was born while today it only has fourteen inhabitants. It’s the birthplace of the Spanish language. This is down to some recently discovered ninth century local monastic documents with Spanish words interspaced with the Latin.
20Minutos brings us a couple of anecdotes on the places with the most foreigners: In Torre del Burgo (Guadalajara) they make up 90% of the population – mostly coming from Bulgaria. Two pueblos in Almería – Partaloa and Arboleas, both count with 67% foreigners (Brits, mostly). In total, says the article in summation, there are 42 million Spaniards and 6,300,000 foreigners resident in Spain.
From The Collector here: ‘The Rise of Francisco Franco & the Effects of the Spanish Civil War. Francisco Franco rose through the ranks of the Spanish Army on his way to becoming the dictator of Spain. Franco maintained total power over Spain until his life’s end’.
Fifteen Spanish words with no English translation.
The words in Spanish that begin with the letter w.
Flamenco appears to have travelled more widely than is generally thought. An interesting article at Art of Life here is titled ‘Uyghu