Política, Brexit, turismo, actualidad, finanzas, Cataluña, ecologismo, medios o corrupción son algunos de los temas que trata este boletín informativo

24/10/22. Opinión. El periodista Lenox Napier repasa la actualidad española en su boletín semanal Business Over Tapas, al que puede suscribirse por 60 euros anuales. Puede obtener más información en su web (AQUÍ) o en su perfil (AQUÍ). EL OBSERVADOR / www.revistaelobservador.com ofrece este contenido tres días después de su lanzamiento...

Editorial:

Spain is a fascinating and beautiful country: indeed, someone once said that it is more like a miniature continent. We have high snowy ranges, deserts, savannahs, lakes, long empty beaches (well, in the winter anyway), cliffs, gorges, rivers, forests and some magnificent city centres.

Those cities are full of nineteenth century buildings: apartment blocks and mansions. They will be close to palaces, cathedrals and monuments to a glorious past. Surrounding them, at just a few stops down on the metro, will be ugly modernist buildings, with frumpy flats equipped with a tiny terrace. It is as if the architects were one day taken by surprise by the accountants.
Indeed, there doesn’t seem to be that many good Spanish architects these days, and while it is one thing to see an apartment block appear to be out of place to the ones next door – as if the designer never came by for a good look – there are some truly horrible creations peppered amongst them. The Corte Inglés in Pamplona plated with tin is a fine example; or the notorious Hotel Algarrobico, abandoned since 2006 (but still not demolished); or the unfinished shells of hotels and apartment blocks, like those in the Canaries; or the ten ugliest buildings in Spain thoughtfully put together by Civitatis, including that odd pyramid thing in down-town Alicante and Santander’s remarkable Festival Palace.  In Almería, the old 19th century building that is the Centro de Arquitectura is encased in glass. Franky, it doesn’t look at all comfy. Nearby, what could only be an architectural prank, we have the council building in Retamar, where the metal skeleton of the edifice is outside: standing a couple of metres out from the walls like scaffolding. I have to look away when I pass it.
A book called España Fea: El caos urbano, el mayor fracaso de la democracia by Andrés Rubio blames the Franco regime for the cheap housing and the cult of mediocrity which followed the uprising of 1936. Perhaps the better architects all moved abroad.
Spain then, is breathtakingly beautiful, but with some ugly addenda. The coast is all but cemented over with buildings, hotels and campsites. The Government says that it is aware that there are only a few bits left to be urbanised.
On the bright side, even the most humble village has seen some investment: some improvement. Perhaps those who moved to the cities for better or for worse sent some money to fix up the old homestead.
Still and all, it’s not the tower blocks, or the occasional exuberance of a middling architect, or a massive hotel… so much as the apparent indifference to the fate of the remaining Spanish countryside (outside and beyond the huge region of the España Vaciada), and above all, our coastline.
Yet, at the same time – 28% of our land is publicly owned and protected: even (apparently) the bit where the massive Hotel Algarrobico rots gently under the warm sun.

Housing:

From Spanish Property Insight here: ‘The number of Spanish property sales involving a foreign buyer in the first half of 2022 hit an all-time high as foreigner investors gave Spain a big vote of confidence with their money. There were 72,987 Spanish home sales involving a foreign buyer in the first half of the year, up 53% compared to the same period last year, according to the latest data published by the Spanish notaries’ association…’. It adds, ‘The biggest group of buyers by nationality came from the UK followed by Germany and France’.

Between foreign-owned holiday or retirement villas and Spanish-owned city apartments, there’s a gulf.  An item for the latter: El Economista reports that ‘The real estate sector is preparing for the imminent fall in the price of housing in Spain. Bankinter sees a 13% drop in transactions for next year.

Many of the apartment blocks in the cities have found their way into the portfolios of the ‘Vulture Funds’, who, as their nickname suggests, are rather more concerned by profits than by philanthropy. From Nius here: ‘A 70-year-old retired couple denounces that a vulture fund raised their rent in Valencia from 238 to 900 euros: "They’re going to throw us out", they say’. The couple say that the new owners of the building “have offered us money to leave”. Another vulture fund active in Valencia has warned their tenants not to go to the media with any complaints, says Levante here. It’s written right there in the contract. At elDiario.es, on the other hand, we read that the Valencian government plans to pass a rule allowing it to fine those landlords who abuse their tenants with threats or inducements to abandon their apartments, by anything up to a million euros.

El País says that ‘The rental market has gone "crazy" with inflation: "They want to raise the rent by 'only' 40%". Tenants who are not protected by the 2% limit on rent updates complain of having to face excessive increases’. Vulture funds again, this time in Madrid.

Tourism:

There’s no doubt but that Hacienda is tightening up its inspections. This time, as EPE reports here, it’s on the tourist rentals – as the tax people detected an extra 54,500 short-term rental homes in 2022. There are an estimated 300,000 tourist apartments in Spain. The industry (and who doesn’t think of renting out the spare bedroom?) was worth 5,000 million euros in rents in the past five years with data supplied by Airbnb, Booking and the others.

Finance:

‘The gap between the rich and the poor increased in Spain in 2021 more than the total of the previous 13 years combined. The pandemic has left the income gap widening, with the poor getting poorer while the wealthier population were barely impacted by the Covid crisis’. Item and details at elDiario.es here.

The recession that’s coming, is not coming for Spain according to the IMF as reported by Europa Press here. The Spanish economy will grow by 1.2% in 2023 claims Alfred Kammer, the director of the European department of the International Monetary Fund (with video).

With energy costs soaring, the Netherlands-based competitors to the Almería plastic farms have had to scale back their operations, giving the invernaderos a welcome boost according to El Economista here.

Politics:

Another week, another poll. This one from the CIS gives the PSOE 32.7%, the PP at 28.7%. Unidas Podemos stands at 12.7% and Vox tumbles to just 8.8%. The ABC, with ‘El CIS de Tezanos’ (while repeatedly reminding the reader of José Félix Tezanos’ allegiance to the PSOE) gives the same info.

The second debate in the Senate between Sánchez and Feijóo (the PP president isn’t a diputado and therefore can’t be active in the Cortes) was held on Tuesday, and was a muted affair, says El País in an editorial, without much in the way of insult or fireworks.

The conservative media made much of the European Commission’s announcement last week that is was going to freeze the funding for Spain until the Government detailed its spending plans. It was, of course, un bulo, an item of fake news which found its way into the ABC and from there to all corners of the right wing. Indeed, a spokesperson for the EC in Brussels ‘denies the news about the freezing of European funds as reported by several Spanish outlets’ said El Huff Post here. The ABC later rectified its title (slightly), but many others still haven’t. The comic Miguel Charisteas explains the story on YouTube here.

The popular ex-leader of Ciudadanos in Seville, he who ran tourism in the Junta de Andalucía, left politics after his party crashed in the elections last summer. However, he has now been rescued by Juanma Moreno, and Juan Marín is now working with the regional government once again as President of the Economic and Social Council of Andalucía.

Europe:

‘Morocco maintains before the Council of Human Rights at the UN that "it has no land borders" with Spain’ says Europa Press here. Defending the Moroccan version of the excessive force used by the police during the invasion into Melilla last summer by African migrants, Mohamed VI said that the Spanish enclave is “an occupied prison”. President Sánchez also spoke on the subject after a question in the Cortes from the PP: ‘Melilla and Ceuta are Spanish. Full stop!’.

From The Times here: ‘EU gets tough on maximum 90-day stay’. It says: ‘Expats and frequent travellers who overstay the European Union’s 90-day rule face a clampdown and possible bans from next year as the bloc’s borders go digital. So-called ‘wet stamping’ of passports will be replaced by a new biometric system in May, giving border officers an automatic countdown of how many days Brits have spent in Europe. Many European border officers currently admit to being lenient, especially for people who make frequent short trips to the EU — and end up with many pages of stamps in their passports. This will change in May, when the long-awaited Entry/Exit System (EES) is introduced. It will require all non-EU and non-resident arrivals to have four fingerprints scanned and a photograph taken on first entry into the bloc — biometrics that will be verified on each subsequent entry. Anyone who overstays or exceeds the 90-day rule could face a fine or ban on their future travel…’.
The EES has been in the pipeline for years. The EES and ETIAS proposals started before Brexit and the UK pushed for it and voted in favour.

Eurocitizens are looking back here on what rights the Brits in Europe (in Spain) have managed to hold on to following Brexit.

Corruption:

Judge Salvador Alba finally entered prison on Tuesday for having orchestrated a judicial probe against the current Government delegate against gender violence, Victoria Rosell. The former judge prepared false and damaging reports to torpedo Rosell, who had previously been a magistrate in his court, when she decided to jump into politics with Podemos in 2015. The judge had managed, through one ruse and another, to hold off beginning his six and a half-year sentence for over three years, but has now at last been incarcerated. He has six and a half years to contemplate his misdoings.

Courts:

Un fishing expedition’ is when a policeman or a judge is looking for some mischief. It’s against the law in Spain, but it happens, says Público here.  Of course, it will be against someone or something the representative of the law doesn’t like, and it has – on more than one occasion – been aimed at Podemos. Nothing came of the various trumped-up cases brought against the party, but the damage was done. Here’s a video en castellano on YouTube called ‘La Base: Portrait of a Judge without a Face’.

A calf was in distress after her mother died and was making a ruckus, as is understandable. The neighbours, city-folk who had just moved to the area, lodged a complaint over the noise and the small-holder, with six cows, has been fined for the excessive volume from his bellowing calf. ‘We’ve been farming here in Villar, Asturias (here) more than forty years and nothing like this has happened before’, says the astonished farmer. The story is here.

Ecology:

From The Guardian here: ‘Black vultures, lynx and wild horses are among the animals being reintroduced to eastern Spain with the launch of a rewilding project spanning 850,000 hectares in the Iberian highlands east of Madrid. Rewilding Europe’s 20-year landscape recovery scheme aims to make the land wilder and more nature-friendly. The protected area is the southern part of the Iberian Chain, a mountain range that stretches 500km (300 miles) from the north-west of the country to the Mediterranean in the south-east…’.


Media:

‘You’re a facha’, says this video (put out by ‘The Neos platform. Neos, a conservative agency that defends the unity of Spain, the traditional family and opposes abortion, has launched a striking campaign with a certain provocative tone’ as reported by ECM).


Various:

‘The big stores are carefully designed so that you get lost inside them. It's called the Gruen effect and that's how it works’ says Magnet here. El Corte Inglés and Ikea are a couple of examples. The psychological effect, says the article, encourages one to buy stuff. Of course.

Albert Solà claimed that he was a love-child of Juan Carlos I. No one took much notice until a TV show on Telecinco started a series called ‘Who is my Father’, following the stories of illegitimate kids with famous dads. Solà was due to be interviewed on the show this weekend but he dropped dead while enjoying a beer in his local bar just a week before the program. The odd thing is, that records of a DNI test were ‘lost’ and the video feed in the establishment ‘has been manipulated’. A storm in a tea-cup, no doubt.

It’s strange to see the Islamists and Vox getting together in Melilla, but what’s the deal? Apparently, both groups are working together against sexual rights in education. Meanwhile, a PSOE ex-minister for housing called María Antonia Trujillo has returned to public attention (at least in the ABC) for insisting once again that Melilla and Ceuta should become Moroccan territory as ‘"If Spain has changed its traditional position on the Sahara, why can't it change its position on Ceuta and Melilla and the islets and rocks?"’. Trujillo, now deemed persona non grata in Ceuta, lives in Morocco. The PSOE have understandably distanced themselves from her.

From elDiario.es here: ‘The nightmare of homologating foreign university degrees: "We are asking for the law to be complied with". Professionals in psychology, medicine and dentistry highlight the repercussions that the delays in the homologation of their university degrees and the lack of responses from the Ministry of Universities have on their lives’. Indeed, getting one’s foreign qualifications recognised in Spain has always been both tricky and slow.

The Olive Press reports that the centre of Málaga has turned, say the neighbours, into a kind of mini-Las Vegas ‘as complaints about noise level and disorderly behaviour surge’.

‘From an artists' paradise to urban unruliness: the tourist evolution of Mallorca and Ibiza. Intellectuals and bohemians settled on the two islands between the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th. The landscape that they captured in their paintings and books has nothing to do with the current image of the Balearic Islands, hit by overcrowding, overbuilding and the degradation of the environment’ says elDiario.es here with pictures.

A slightly rude portrait of Mojácar is on similar lines at Spanish Shilling here.

BoT collaborator José Antonio Sierra remembers his hitch-hike adventure from Ávila to Frankfurt back in 1961, and the laudable reason why he went, at La Opinión de Málaga here.

See Spain:

Not that every pueblo necessarily wants to join the list of ‘The Most Beautiful Pueblos of Spain’ (here). One such contender, Siurana in Tarragona (Wiki) says they have quite enough visitors already. The story here.

‘The twelve best places to retire and live in Andalucía’ says somebody on YouTube here.

Leftbanker is a long-running blog (20 years) written by an American who lives in Valencia.

Finally:

Here’s Manu Chao with El Contragolpe at YouTube.