The British Foreign Office has warned that visitors to Spain could face a bill for thousands of pounds for medical treatment if they are taken ill or injured while staying in the country. All British visitors to Spain, also need a European Health Insurance Card. It’s free from the NHS website, and means that in an emergency, you can get state-provided healthcare at reduced cost or sometimes free. But you still need travel insurance to ensure you are fully covered for all eventualities, as the card doesn’t cover all medical costs, private treatment or repatriation to the UK.
The president of the Community of Madrid admitted yesterday that at the end of last year, he bought a luxury penthouse apartment in Marbella for seven hundred and seventy thousand euros. Until now, he had claimed that he was renting the property, the subject of an investigation opened by an Estepona judge. In other news, the provincial prosecutor in Cordoba has asked for a total of forty years in prison for José Bretón, who is accused of murdering his two children in October 2011. The prosecutor also asked for damages of six hundred thousand euros to be paid to his ex wife.
The full Constitutional Tribunal has admitted an appeal presented by the government against the charging of one euro per prescripttion approved by the Catalonia regional government last March, which implies the suspension of the measure for at least five months, while the Tribunal studies the case and makes a decision. According to the Constitution, the independent communities cannot, directly or indirectly, fix the prices of pharmaceutical products. The government announced last Friday that it would also go to the Tribunal over Madrid also charging a euro per prescription.
Following the decision in Castilla La Mancha to close twenty one emergency units in the region at night, the secretary of state for social services and equality, Juan Manuel Moreno, said that the same measure could well be adopted by other independent communities, and that the decision is the responsibility of the regional governments. In the case of Castilla La Mancha, he said that many of the centres are in rural locations, and that most of them have few visits. He emphasized that no-one would be left without protection, and that the vast emergency network is at their disposal.
The communications secretary of the workers’ commission, Fernando Lezcano, has told the government that it could be facing its third general strike since the beginning of the legislature, if it takes any extremely serious decisions regarding pensions, especially now that it is studying reforms to early and partial retirements in the Toledo pact. Lezcabo said that the unions are already working on a day of protests to take place during March, which could easily be converted into a general strike. So far, prime minister Mariano Rajoy hasn’t responded to calls from the unions for dialogue.
The electricity companies must send a letter with the next three electricity bills, to explain the new two-monthly billing method which has been approved by the government. The new system simply reverts to the previous method. The Royal decree, which was published on Monday, establishes that electricity bills will revert to being two-monthly, with effect from the 1st of April, unless customers expressly indicate that they want monthly bills. It also elevates the potency level of customers affected by the measure, from ten to fifteen kilowatts, and means the end of estimated bills.
Vodafone España intends to present an employment regulation to the ministry for employment this week, which would affect a thousand workers, twenty five per cent of its workforce in this country. Vodafone employs around four thousand three hundred people in Spain. The company has already explained to the unions on other occasions that they are worried about the fall in income which is affecting the Spanish subsidiary of the group, and the rest of the sector. Last March, Vodafone España and the unions agreed to sign a new convenio, and a ten per cent reduction in salaries.
A specialist financial adviser, Expat Pensions, is reassuring expats that the Spanish government’s crackdown on overseas assets only affects those who have opted to become tax-resident in Spain. The new rules came into effect on the 1st of January, and mean that by the 31st of March, expats who are tax-resident in Spain must report any overseas assets they hold, worth more than fifty thousand euros. Assets over this amount will be taxed at fifty two per cent, but if they fail to report them, they face a potential fine of a hundred and fifty two per cent of the tax payable.
The Facua consumers group says that the electricity companies are offering customers supposed discounts which, instead of reducing bills, are raising them by eleven per cent. The group slammed this practice, referring to the lies of the electricity companies, misleading advertising, and the fraudulent practices of their sales teams, who visit homes to offer discounts which don’t exist, or are offered on condition that additional services are contracted. Facua reached these conclusions after analysing offers by Endesa, Gas Natural Fenosa, HC Energia and E.ON.
The National Commission for Competitivity has begun proceedings for sanctions against Telefónica Móviles España for possible restrictive practices regarding competition, when supplying services to business clients. According to investigators, the company applies certain permanency conditions when agreeing to supply business clients, especially the self employed and small to medium sized businesses, which restrict, in an unjustified form, the possibility of them changing their mobile phone services provider. The Commission says this could contravene competitivity laws.
The unions representing flight and ground staff at Iberia, met yesterday regarding their negotiations with the airline, and have not ruled out new protests if no progress is seen. The meeting of the unions which signed a pre-agreement with Iberia, to which the pilots’ union Sepla has also been invited, will come a day after the airline has had a meeting with Sepla. There is growing nervousness amongst the airline’s employees, who haven’t seen any progress, with the time left for reaching an agreement running out. The objective is to reach a definitive agreement by the end of this month.
If you’re planning to go shopping during the winter sales, Spain’s general consumers association ASGECO, reminds customers that the conditions for returning goods to the shops must not be modified during the sales. You are recommended to read each store’s politics for returning goods, before you pay for your items, as the right to return goods only exists if they are defective. There is no legal obligation for shops to establish a time period for returns, for those who regret their purchases, or have bought the wrong size, and if this does exist, then it is purely done as a courtesy.
The minister for industry, energy and tourism, José Manuel Soria, has said that his department is working closely with the national energy commission, to make our electricity bills more legible and easy to understand. Soria added that his department had already taken a change to the Cabinet, to ensure that all bills will be based on real readings of what we have actually used, rather than estimates. Regarding the continual rises in the electricity tariff, Soria said that the government could only intervene with the toll charges, which has an effect of around fifty per cent on the final price.
The airports authority Aena has placed the security contracts for forty three airports in its network, out to tender for sixty million euros, for a period of a year, which can be extended. Of this amount, just over fifty six million euros corresponds to the twenty six airports which deal with over half a million passengers a year, including Malaga, Palma de Mallorca and the two in Tenerife. The other three point eight million euros is to cover the seventeen smaller airports. The tender will be closed on the 7th of February. Aena seeks a combination of security and comfort for passengers.
The mass resignations announced yesterday by roughly half of the health centre directors in Madrid, were presented at 2pm yesterday. A spokesman from the platform for the Madrid health centres, Paulino Cubero, also confirmed that the professionals at the centres have signed a document saying that they may resign if the health service is privatized. This includes a hundred and twenty directors, a hundred and eighteen staff nurses and ninety eight administration staff. They say that this clearly shows their determination not to collaborate in the dismantling of the system.
Despite the cold and foggy weather, thousands of health professionals took to the streets of Madrid at midday yesterday after a seasonal break in the demonstrations in defence of the public health system, and against the recent reforms promoted by the Community of Madrid, which culminated on the 27th of December with the approval of a law of fiscal measures which allows for the extension of the privatization of health management. The march, called by the specialists’ association in Madrid, began in the Plaza de Neptuno, and ended at la Puerta del Sol at around 2pm.
Fifty four people lost their lives in fifty traffic accidents between the afternoon of the 21st of December and midnight on the 7th of January, according to Trafico. They say that since the beginning of the Christmas holiday operation, the same number of people died as last year. Also, twenty three people were seriously injured, and seventeen slightly injured. In other news, the number of self employed workers fell by one point five per cent last year. Over forty seven thousand ceased their activities. This downwards trend was only resisted by the Canaries, Ceuta and Melilla.
Banco Santander expects to approve its fusion with Banesto this Wednesday. The operation will mean the closure of seven hundred branches, and with this, the bank headed by Emilio Botín expects to increase its profits. In December, Banco Santander announced that it would absorb its subsidiaries Banesto and Banif, and unify the brands to create a network of four thousand branches under the same corporate identity. Before beginning the process, Banesto created an independent fusion committee, and chose Barclays and Goldman Sachs as financial assessors.
The European Commission has once again confirmed that it will not ask Spain to make further adjustments to comply with the deficit reduction objectives agreed for 2012 and 2013, despite the risk that seven independent communities may not reach their targets this year. The spokesman for economic and monetary affairs, Simon O’Connor, said that the Commission considers that Spain has taken efficient action, and exceeded last year’s objective. Despite this, only thirteen per cent of the population believes that the economy will improve this year.
The Bank of Spain has confirmed that the Euribor, the main index on which Spanish mortgage interest rates are based, fell to 0.549 per cent in December, ending the year at a historic low. Over the last year, the Euribor has fallen by 1,455 points. In other news, the PSOE leader, Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba, has said his party’s main objective this year is to convince the government to prolong the monthly payment of four hundred euros to the jobless whose benefits have run out, saying that this is a question of dignity and justice.
Twenty people from nineteen provinces have been arrested by Guardia Civil officers, and another fifteen have been implicated, in the distribution of child pornography on the internet. Two police operations, Principales and Loba, were mounted in Madrid, Alicante, Barcelona, Cádiz, Guipuzcoa, Huelva, Mallorca, León, Málaga, Murcia, Navarra, Asturias, Salamanca, Seville, Tenerife, Valladolid, Las Palmas, Valencia and Zaragoza. They began after various child pornography websites were detected with specific search and downloading software.
2013 began with rises in the cost of several basic services, despite the fact that companies and the government have appealed for moderation and salary freezes as a solution to the crisis. Electricity rose by an average of three per cent, and new progressive charges could mean further rises of three to seven per cent. Road and rail transport also rose. The Telecommunications Market Commission has approved a resolution which allows Telefonica to raise prices in line with the inflation rate, and reforms raising the retirement age to 67 came into force.
The minister for energy, José Manuel Soria, has said the energy reforms will be complete in the first half of next year. It is planned that the regulated part of the electricity tariff will be maintained in January, but the future intention is to interfere with electricity bills as little as possible, with the deficit now under control. The Royal Household has launched a channel on YouTube which contains all the King’s Christmas speeches since 1975. On this channel, CasaRealTV, you can watch the King’s new message on the 24th, as it is being televised.
In response to questions in Congress on Wednesday, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said that there would be no reforms to the pension system before the end of this year, despite the fact that Brussels have asked him to continue putting back the retirement age, in line with the increase in life expectancy, to slow down the rising cost of pensions and guarantee the sustainability of long term public finances. The opposition groups in Congress have been warning for weeks that the government could be waiting for the end of the year to approve changes to the system by decree.
The Guardia Civil have detained thirty six people who are accused of belonging to a criminal gang which stole and cloned bank cards. Their activity, known as skimming, includes stealing or copying, in any part of the world, the information contained in the card’s magnetic band, at cash machines, shops or via the internet. Twenty eight were arrested in Huelva, four in Seville, one in Jaén, one in Barcelona, one in Rumania, and another in Istanbul. The operation began when transactions were detected, which had been made with cards cloned at a chain of supermarkets in Huelva, Seville and Cadiz.
The full Senate was set to vote yesterday on a modification to traffic laws to prohibit the temporary occupation of hard shoulders on roads or areas close to them, by prostitutes offering their services, and endangering the safety of road users. This modification, proposed by the CiU party, implies that the exercising of prostitution on the streets would become a serious infringement of traffic laws. In Catalonia, since June, the regional government has decided to fine not only prostitutes on roads, but also their clients, in an attempt to eradicate the practice on the streets.
Yesterday, the European Commission asked prime minister Mariano Rajoy to continue moving the retirement age back, in line with increased life expectancy, to slow down the cost of pensions and guarantee the sustainability of long term public finances. In its annual report on financial sustainability in the European Union, Brussels said that the pension reforms announced last year which established the retirement age at sixty seven, have had a positive impact. However, they warned that the cost of pensions in Spain would still continue well above the community average up to 2060.
The consumers group Facua, has said that it considers the new progressive electricity tariff which the ministry for industry intends to introduce from the 1st of January, to be illegal, and that it violates constitutional principles such as equality and judicial security. Facua added that in the past, tribunals have annulled these types of tariffs. According to the ministry for industry, the penalization would only apply when a consumer has exceeded, by ten per cent, their average consumption level. Facua sees this as nothing more than an undercover rise in prices.
The unions have reached a pre-agreement with Iberia, in which the airline agreed to use the employment regulations as a priority tool in dismissals and said it was willing to negotiate a four year growth plan. Further strikes have been ruled out. In other news, Banco Santander has announced the absorption of its subsidiaries, Banesto and Banif, and the unification of its commercial brands in Spain. The fusion will be completed next year, and forms part of the restructuring process of Spain’s financial sector. Santander will have four thousand branches with the same corporate identity.
National Police have split up a gang which swindled Spanish motorway tolls out of millions of euros. The organisation had a sales network, which offered lorry drivers false toll cards in packs of four, for five hundred euros. Thirty nine people were arrested in Barcelona, Tarragon, Valencia and Seville. According to the police, a seventy six year old Barcelona engineer took advantage of his training to attack the road toll system, and made the cards at his home. He made two types of cards, one for Spanish tolls, and the other for use in France, Germany and Italy.
The ministry for taxation and public administrations expects to make a first estimate today of the independent communities applying to the liquidity fund for next year, and how much money they need, although they say that at the moment, the picture looks very similar to this year’s. The ministry is still waiting for several communities to confirm their applications, including Andalusia, Catalonia and Valencia, which need the most money. They are also awaiting the Balearics, Cantabria, Asturias, Murcia, the Canaries and Castilla la Mancha, which all used the fund this year.
The Guardia Civil have arrested ninety seven people across Spain after confiscating over a hundred and fifty thousand kilos of R-22 gas, which is used on fishing boats for freezing fish, and which is prohibited in the European Union as it can damage the ozone layer. The operation was carried out in Las Palmas, Tenerife and Zaragoza, where the people arrested were in the business of selling the gases. Sixteen warehouses and seven ships of various nationalities were searched. Europe only permits the use of regenerated R-22 gas, which is more expensive.
The National Police have closed down a clandestine factory in Madrid where over 1.6 million false items were found. The employees were forced to live in a very small area, which could only be opened from the outside, so they were in conditions of slavery. The doors to the rooms were hidden behind strategically placed shelving in the factory. The workers made exact copies of well known brands of batteries, DVDs and lighters. The head of the organization, who was dedicated to large scale exports of the products, was arrested. Four storage warehouses were also found.
The lawyers representing the families of the victims of the Madrid Arena tragedy, and representatives of the syndicate Manos Limpias, have paid a two hour visit to the pavilion, and concluded that the premises lacks sufficient security measures for hosting parties such as the Halloween fiesta in question. They described it as unacceptable, a rat trap in which a series of terrible events took place. They wanted to see the size of the central floor, and the passageways, and where the security cameras were located. On the 26th, the prosecutor and Judge Eduardo López will make a new inspection.
According to the national federation of driving schools, a new practical driving test will start in the whole country, on the 21st of January. During the first ten minutes of the test, a new section has been introduced, which will test the pupil’s ability to drive, and reach a destination without instructions from the examiner. This independent driving section will apply to all licence applications, except those for motorbikes and cycles. The examiner will only ask the pupil to start moving, and drive to a predetermined location, or to drive freely. Pupils can use navigation systems if they wish.
The PSOE party has confirmed that it will be taking the decree which allows the government to avoid revaluing pensions in line with the retail price index, to the Constitutional Tribunal. At a press conference, spokesperson Soraya Rodríguez said that this decree is illegal and unconstitutional, and that the revaluation of pensions is a citizen’s right, which was guaranteed before this decree was issued. Rodríguez took the opportunity to criticize the government’s strategy of lies, with what she called, the disgusting prominence of Soraya Sáenz de Santa María.
The minister for industry, energy and tourism, José Manuel Soria, is already preparing changes to the Law of Hydrocarbons, in case the petrol companies fail to charge prices in accordance with what is desirable, for petrol and diesel at service stations. He said that they can’t be obliged by law to fix maximum prices for fuel, but if an improvement isn’t seen, the law will be modified. Soria said that the measures being considered by the government would affect wholesale and retail, and would be aimed at bringing profit margins in line with the European average.
The minister for taxation and public administrations, Cristobal Montoro, has described the government’s budget for next year as as good, politically and economically. He added that the reality of 2013 being the last year of recession is becoming closer. He said in Senate that Spain can reach the end of the recession with the knowledge that it has faced it with strength and changes, which open the door to a more secure future for the country. He reminded those present that the European Central Bank said last week that no Euro country will continue in recession after 2014.
Trafico has begun an intensive pre-Christmas campaign, concentrating on alcohol and drugs checks, which will run until the 23rd. It’s not only Guardia Civil Trafico officers that you need to look out for, but also Local Police officers, who will be joining the camp-aign. The aim is to carry out three thousand two hundred and fifty alcohol and drug tests on drivers throughout the country every day. These tests won’t just be done at night, but also around lunchtime, taking into account the number of company lunches and dinners taking place. So remember, no drinks or drugs if you’re driving.
Tomorrow, Spain is expected to receive the first part of the banking rescue, of just under forty thousand million euros, in exchange for profound restructuring and the creation of the bad bank. Spain has to pay the loan back at an interest rate of only half per cent. This finalises the process which began on the 28th of November. BFA-Bankia will get the lion’s share of seventeen thousand nine hundred and sixty million, Catalunya Bank just over nine thousand million, NCG Banco five thousand four hundred and twenty five million and Banco de Valencia four thousand five hundred million.
The airline Iberia and the syndicates have planned two meetings this week to try to avoid strikes in the days leading up to Christmas, in protest over the company’s restructuring plan which allows for the loss of four thousand five hundred jobs. After the failure to reach an agreement at last Friday’s meeting, the syndicates decided to maintain the strikes planned for the 14th, and the 17th to the 21st. Today, both sides have been called to a mediation meeting by the mediation and arbitration service, and later this week, Iberia has called a new meeting with the strike committee.
The government has decided to extend the deadline to the 17th, for the independent communities to apply to the ministry for taxation and public administrations, for finance from the liquidity fund for next year. The fund is intended to meet their financing needs in the absence of their ability to obtain credit from the financial markets. The government’s delegate commission for economic affairs will be responsible for establishing the distrib-ution of the finance. The initial amount put aside in next year’s budget for the fund is twenty three thousand million euros.
The coordinators of the 25S movement intend to call new demonstrations in Madrid, close to Congress, between the 18th and 20th, to coincide with the full meeting at which the Lower House is expected to give the green light to the State budgets for next year. They say that the government has failed to listen to the public, or other parliamentary groups, that this is creating more and more unemployment, and that the health and education systems are in the worst condition. The spokesman for the movement said that this demonstration will follow the lines of previous protests, circling Congress.
In response to various rumours which have been published by the press recently, a spokesman for the Royal Household has stated that the Royal Family have never asked the Infanta Cristina to divorce her husband, Iñaki Urdangarín, who is the first member of the Royal Family to be implicated in a corruption case, nor have they asked her to renounce her title of Infanta or pressurized her. The spokesman added that, the Royal Household, whose mission is to support the King in the exercising of his duties as head of State, does not wish to speak about the personal feelings of the Infanta.
The illegal sale of used cars on public roads has increased by twenty per cent since 2007, due to the economic crisis. It is now a lucrative business, for mafias and people who pass themselves off as professional car vendors. This black market is also generating massive losses for the vehicles sector, according to the National Association of Vehicle Vendors, who estimate that some ninety five thousand vehicles are sold on the streets each year. These cars come with no proof of history, or guarantees. The association wants a law to be approved to prohibit this activity.
The director of Trafico, María Seguí, has presented the new driver awareness campaign for the coming months, which consists of stressing the benefits of positive, constructive behaviour by drivers. This contrasts with previous campaigns, which have used strong images, and have been centred on showing the drastic results of poor driving habits. Seguí said that the change of strategy doesn’t mean that Trafico will no longer use strong images to create driver awareness, and that Trafico maintains its politics of fining drivers who break the law. The new campaign has begun on all forms of media.
In January, the ministry for industry, energy and tourism will be freezing the charges within the Tarifa de Ultima Recurso for electricity, which includes regulated charges for the power system. The secretary of state for energy had already announced last month that the government was committed to ensuring that these charges, which have a fifty per cent influence on the final price of electricity, don’t rise during next year. The minister for energy, José Manuel Soria, said that the government is also determined to ensure that the tariff deficit is zero next year.
The British Embassy has launched a new campaign aimed at helping British residents in Spain. Residents and tourists are urged to be on the lookout for motorway thieves, especially if they are using hire cars or British registered vehicles. They also talk about passport renewal, and a wealth of other facts, tips and information, on their website.
The National Police in Gran Canaria and Seville have arrested twenty seven people who formed part of a falsification network. They presumably acquired high quality replicas of top branded clothing and other items in Morocco, and distributed them in shops in the south of Gran Canaria, or through street sellers in the south of Spain. Thirty thousand items were confiscated, as well as a dossier with information and photos of bags from a well known accessories company, to help with making new false products. The police detected over forty affected companies.
Yesterday was the final day for the regional governments to apply for aid from the liquidity fund, to help them to refinance their debt and pay off outstanding bills. Nine regions have applied to the fund, and they will consume twelve thousand six hundred of the eighteen million euros available. They are Catalonia, Valencia, Murcia, the Canaries, Castilla La Mancha, Asturias, Cantabria, the Balearics and Andalusia. These regions have not yet received all of the payments, which are to be concluded this month. Once this year’s fund is closed, another will be created for next year.
King Juan Carlos was released from hospital in Madrid early yesterday evening, following his hip replacement operation eleven days ago, having completed the first phase of rehabilitation. His traumatologist said that the King had practically achieved complete independence for day to day mobility. In the coming weeks, the King must continue with post-operation checks, and the intensive recovery protocol. Although the King was expected to leave hospital last Wednesday, as his progress had been very good, his doctors persuaded him to stay for a few more days to continue with his sessions.
The government’s decision on Friday not to fully compensate pensioners for the rise in inflation has angered the opposition party. The PSOE secretary general for social politics, Trinidad Jiménez said that her party would study all the possibilities against this decision, and added that their interest is to protect the public. The government said that its decision was based on the poor economic situation, and the priority to continue moving forward with reducing the public deficit. Next year, pensions over a thousand euros will rise by one per cent, and those below by two per cent.
A new international initiative to prevent UK sex offenders travelling abroad and gaining access to children through teaching or voluntary roles was launched in Spain yesterday. Specialist Spanish officers tackling child sexual abuse have shared their expertise in combating this crime with staff from the UK’s Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre in a two-day workshop, which included the launch of the International Child Protection Certificate. This is a new police check for UK nationals who are travelling and working overseas and will help identify and screen out those who are unsuitable to be working with children.
In Madrid, the counting of the number of tickets that were sold for the Halloween Party at the Madrid Arena, has been completed. Four young women were killed in a stampede at the event, and another remains in hospital in a serious condition. Eight boxes of tickets were counted, which contained a total of sixteen thousand seven hundred and eighty one sold, which is fifty eight per cent more than the maximum capacity of the venue, which is ten thousand six hundred. This total figure does not include wrist bands issued, VIP lists, guests of the DJs, or the people who entered without tickets.
The minister for justice, Alberto Ruiz Gallardón, has announced in Congress that victims of terrorism, domestic violence, human trafficking, and child abuse, as well as disabled people will benefit from justice free of charge, and that they will be exempt from paying the taxes and lawyers costs. He said he found the petition created by the socialist delegate Carmen Montón insufficient as it only allowed maltreated women to be entitled to free justice in cases such as separation or divorce. These revisions will be passed by Cabinet within two weeks.
Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has stated that his government will work to exceed the predictions of the OECD regarding the Spanish economy, which pointed to a fall in gross domestic product of one point four per cent next year. He said that, although it isn’t going to be easy to survive the economic crisis, Spain will come out of it, and in 2014 we will see growth. Rajoy added that, no-one wants to see the OECD forecasts regarding growth and employment becoming a reality. He made these statements during a press conference with the Turkish prime minister, who was on an official visit to Spain.
Video recordings taken during the Halloween Party at the Madrid Arena, at which four young women were killed and another was seriously injured in a stampede, reveal that other risk situations had existed before the fatal stampede. They not only prove that the event was more than overcrowded, but that minutes before the star performance of the night by Steve Aoki began, the party organisers, the company Divertt, ordered the security company Kontrol 34, to divert those waiting to enter, from the usual second floor entrance to the first and ground floor entrances, which are both emergency exits.
The ministry for the interior’s directorate for civil protection and emergencies have issued a warning of an episode of very cold weather over Spain and the Balearics. This is the consequence of a flow of air from the North Pole, bringing northerly winds and a significant drop in temperatures. They say that this situation will continue at least until the weekend. The level at which snow will fall could be as low as six hundred metres. Protección Civil recommend drivers take extreme care on icy roads, and in windy weather, stay away from anything which could fall, such as trees, walls or cranes.
The tax agency has dismantled a contraband plot in the municipality of Durango in Vizcaya, involving the supply of machinery to Iran for the country’s nuclear programme. This violates the international embargo decreed by the United Nations. A company in Durango has sent seven machines which are for the manufacture of components for turbines used in nuclear energy plants, according to the ministry for taxation and public administration. The company used the cover of a company in Istanbul for the exports. Those responsible could face fines of up to six million euros and prison.
For the first time since the 12th of October last year, when the scandal surrounding the King’s son in law, Iñaki Urdangarin broke out, the whole Royal family was seen together at the weekend. The complete family, including Iñaki Urdangarin, visited King Juan Carlos in hospital in Madrid on Sunday, following the hip replacement operation he underwent on Friday night. Queen Sofia arrived with the Infantas Elena, and Cristina with her husband, and their son Juan Valentín. The Prince and Princess of Asturias arrived, with their daughters Leonor and Sofía. The King is due to leave hospital today.
Motivated by the International Day Against Domestic Violence on Saturday, the National Police want to remind all women who are victims of any type of maltreatment, be it physical or psychological, of the need to report any threats, abuses, attacks, insults, injuries or humiliation they are subjected to. They also ask people who are aware of the existence of any maltreatment affecting a woman they know, to break their silence and report it, by calling 091. There are over seventy one thousand officers working for public safety, and one thousand five hundred who are specially trained in this area.
In Congress, the Partido Popular group has presented a proposition that the government studies the current speed limits on Spain’s motorways, taking account of the fact that the characteristics of their design would allow for a higher limit, especially those with road tolls. This initiative, to be debated by the Commission for Road Safety and Sustainable Mobility, was presented by spokesman Francisco Vañó, who said that they are talking about raising the limit to a hundred and forty kilometres an hour, but that experts must decide what would be a prudent limit.
Spain’s minister for economy and competitivity, Luis de Guindos, has obtained the worst valuation amongst the nineteen European finance ministers, in a ranking undertaken by the Financial Times. The British city publication emphasized De Guindos’s fluency in English and his experience in the financial sector, but he got the worst valuation in the area of credibility, which it said was weighed down by the dual representation in the Spanish government’s economics area, which prejudices his capacity to communicate clearly and coherently, with investors.
The European Commission has started proceedings against Spain for raising the airport taxes to be paid by airlines at airports which are run by AENA, especially at Madrid and Barcelona, which entered into force in July. In a summons letter, which is the first stage of the proceedings, Brussels has requested formal explanations from Mariano Rajoy’s government, of the causes of these rises, so that they can determine whether they are justified by costs incurred by the airports. This is in response to various reports by airlines and other companies in the travel and aviation sector.
In the Noos Institute case, the sindicate Manos Limpias was expected to lodge a request yesterday, for a civil responsibility surety, for the same amount requested by the anti-corruption prosecution, of around eight million euros, for the Duke of Palma, Iñaki Urdangarin, his ex partner Diego Torres, and their numerous companies which they supposedly used to divert public and private funds, obtained via the Noos Institute. Manos Limpias claim that the Noos Institute was disguised as a non profit making entity for the purpose.
The minister for the economy, Luis de Guindos, has said that the urgent measures adopted to lessen the effects of evictions due to unpaid mortgages, will benefit over six hundred thousand families, and also said that he would be willing to introduce improvements during the decree’s passing through Parliament. The decree is to be ratified in Parliament on the 29th of November, and will be presented as a law project. He said that the objective of any reform would be to guarantee that in Spain, no-one loses their homes, and that the interest rate in the case of default, remains reduced, at three per cent.
The judge in charge of the investigation into the Madrid Arena case has now taken a declaration from the owner of the company which organized the Halloween party at which four young women died in a stampede. The prosecution didn’t request prison for Miguel Ángel Flores, who laid the blame on the police. Those who brought private charges including the Manos Limpias group, and the family of Katia Estebán, one of the victims, did request prison for Flores. The latter said they would ask that Flores be ordered to report to the court daily and have his passport removed if prison was refused.
Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has defended his government’s measures regarding evictions, and says that his is the first government which has had the sensitivity to take action, which he described as fair, reasonable and efficient, and which will not damage the Spanish economy. He said that the government’s obligation was to resolve the greatest number of problems possible, but to try and avoid the measures producing other bigger problems. He added that in his opinion, the decisions were based on humanitarian reasons, and will help many people in the short term.
The government is to allow residency in Spain for foreigners who buy a property for over a hundred and sixty thousand euros, according to the secretary of state for commerce, Jaime García-Legaz. He said that in the coming weeks, a reform to the foreignners law will be introduced, and added that a lower price would generate a massive demand for residency, and the home purchase would be an excuse to achieve this. The measure will apply mainly to the Russian and Chinese markets, where there is a significant demand, and is designed to reduce Spain’s excess property stock.
The limiting of cash payments between companies and professionals to a maximum of two thousand five hundred euros, entered into force yesterday. This new law, aims to combat fraud, limit the circulation of black money, and attack the underground economy. Time has been given to smaller businesses to adapt to this new measure. Failure to comply will attract fines of twenty five per cent of the amount involved. Those who admit to such payments, within three months of them being made, will be exonerated. The tax authority has placed a link on its website so that the public can report offenders.
The superior prosecutor in Madrid, Manuel Moix, has said that in the investigation into what happened on the 31st of October at Madrid Arena, everything points to the fact that the Madrid council could have a subsidiary civil responsibility. He added that during the judicial proceedings, if it’s necessary, more people within the council and the companies involved could be investigated. On the 22nd of November, Moix will be meeting the case prosecutor to decide the form which the investigations should take next. Several young people were killed in the stampede at the Halloween party.
Spain’s courts are expected to be inundated this morning, as people with court processes under way for failure to pay their mortgages present a written application for suspension of the proceedings. The document has been prepared by the Platform for those Affected by Mortgages. They have to submit them by 11am or 10am in the Canaries. The document, which has already been sent to all the Lawyers Colleges in the country, and circulated on social networks, says that the European Union Justice Tribunal is examining the Spanish system regarding minimum parameters required by Europe.
The report prepared by Madrid’s mayor, Ana Botella, on the 1st of November following the tragedy at Madrid Arena, was presented to the press yesterday. It says that at no time were the municipal police informed, either by the event organizers or those who attended it, of any incidents inside the venue, until after the tragedy. It says that the police were advised at 4am, and at the scene, they met a security officer who told them that he knew nothing of any incident. At a police request, he took the officers inside the exit tunnel, where they found several ambulances attending to three people.
The vice president of the European Commission and head of economic affairs, Olli Rehn, said on Wednesday that Mariano Rajoy’s government has now taken sufficient structural adjustment measures for this year and next, to correct the deficit, and that Europe would not be asking for any more cutbacks. Spain has complied with the conditions for the banking rescue. He also said that sanction proceedings against Spain would stop. Mr Rehn didn’t make it clear though, whether Spain would be given more time to reach the three per cent level agreed in the stability pact.
The leader of the opposition, Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba, was in total support of yesterday’s general strike, and took advantage of the occasion to ask the government to change its economic politics, to reduce social pressure, in the fight against the crisis. He said that they shouldn’t use the crisis as a cover for destroying our social state, and the basic social consensus which we have constructed during the years of democracy. According to Rubalcaba, the public had every reason to strike, because they have seen their lives and rights deteriorate during the last year of the government’s politics.
The government is now considering stopping evictions altogether as a short term measure, to be approved today by Cabinet, while work continues on determining a final solution. On Tuesday, the socialists said they are willing to reach an agreement with the government, but so far none of the proposals have been worth it. They want to see a full reform of the mortgage laws, rather than patches, or voluntary agreements by the banks, according to PSOE spokesperson Soraya Rodríguez. Government sources say they are optimistic that the opposition won’t walk away from an agreement.
The judge in charge of the Madrid Arena case visited the site of the tragedy yesterday, accompanied by others, including the Madrid prosecutor, representatives of the fiscal ministry, scientific police, members of the homicide brigade, national and local police officers, including one who was off duty and two others who attended the event in plain clothes, to gather information for a computer reconstruction of what happened, and to collect evidence for the judicial investigation. He particularly wanted the police who had prepared a report to explain their conclusions in situ.
The judge in charge of the Madrid Arena case, in which four people were killed and one was gravely injured in a stampede during a Halloween party, will shortly be taking a declaration from Miguel Ángel Flores, who is implicated. He is the manager of the company which organized the event, Diviertt, and also the legal rep-resentative of the security companies Kontrol 34 and Seguriber. The magistrate has additionally asked the Madrid council to specify which department is responsible for the ceding of municipal venues for this type of event, as he wants to call the person in charge to declare.
The Spanish Banks association announced yesterday that it accepts the government’s proposals to halt evictions in extreme cases, to reduce increasing social pressure, and reject the banks’ practices. Conscious of the intense debate that this has generated, the association said it had reached a compromise with all its members, that these actions would be halted for the next two years in cases of extreme need. It says this measure has been taken for humanitarian reasons. This decision came hours before government and opposition experts were due to meet to agree measures to stop evictions.
Yesterday, the Eurozone economy ministers verified that Spain was complying with the conditions demanded in exchange for the banking rescue of up to a hundred thousand million euros, approved in July. But they still haven’t unblocked the first phase of the aid as they are still waiting to approve restructuring plans for nationalised entities. A spokesman for the Euro-group said that the first impression is that all is going in the right direction. Yesterday they heard the first report on Spain from the Troika, formed by the EC, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund.
The foreign affairs minister, José Manuel Margallo has said that none of the European Union countries would accept the independence of Catalonia, as they feel that to break what is already united would be a bad move. He added that any independence would be a unilateral decision, and that if Catalonia did break away from Spain, it would be at the end of the queue as far as joining the European Union. He said that the region cannot have an illegal referendum, and that the government would respect the Constitution. He pointed out that Scotland is going ahead, but with Westminster’s agreement.
The minister for development has said that the ministry will be meeting with the directors of Iberia tomorrow, to analyse the company’s restructuring plan, and to guarantee what is seen as a very important area for the mobility of the public – air travel. She emphasized the importance of Spain’s air transport, as a sector which is closely connected to one of the country’s main sources of income, which is tourism. The International Airlines Group announced four thousand five hundred job cuts, a fifteen per cent reduction in capacity, and the suspension of unprofitable routes on Friday.
The cost of motor insurance for women drivers is likely to increase by twenty one per cent from the 21st of December, when new gender guidelines come into force, according to the insurance policy search website Rastreator dot com. The new guidelines will impede discrimination between men and women in establishing the amount they pay for motor, life and health policies. Currently, the parameters used for motor policies are age and the likelihood of having an accident, the type of vehicle, and sex. This means that women currently benefit from lower prices, as they have less accidents.
The deputy prime minister, Soraya Sáenz de Santa María, and the PSOE deputy secretary general, Elena Valenciano, have agreed to make a pact as soon as possible, for legal reforms against evictions. The aim will be to resolve the situations of people who are especially vulnerable, paying preferential attention to families with children or elderly dependents. During a two hour working lunch at Moncloa, both sides agreed to adopt measures quickly so that they could enter into force without any delay. Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has also expressed an interest in agreeing the measures.
The minister for the exterior, José García-Margallo, said in a radio interview that Spain has very good relations with the US, which would have been maintained if the republican, Mitt Romney had won. But he did say that our man had won. He said that his experience had been with Obama, and especially with the secretary for state, Hillary Clinton, with whom the relationship is close. He admitted that he had been worried about the posture of Romney regarding the fundamental subject of solving the world crisis. He added that while Romney favoured austerity, Obama has less strict views.
On Tuesday, the Constitutional Tribunal endorsed homosexual marriages by rejecting an appeal presented by the Partido Popular seven years ago, against the reforms to the civil code which regulates such marriages. Since reforms to the civil code entered into force in 2005, and up to last year, twenty two thousand one hundred and twenty four same sex marriages have been celebrated in Spain, of which eight hundred and ninety seven have ended in divorce or separation. The reform converted Spain into the fourth country in the world to legalise these unions.
Prime minister Mariano Rajoy said on Tuesday that this year the Spanish economy will fall less than predicted, and that as a result, there would be less jobs lost than initially calculated. He added that 2013 would be better than this year, and that there would be economic growth in 2014. He also said that this would allow him to consider reversing some of the deficit reduction measures earlier than predicted, especially tax rises, and added that he had no plans to introduce more tax rises, and admitted that he hadn’t yet decided whether to review pensions.
During an event in Barcelona, the vice president of the General Judicial Power Council, Fernando de Rosa, pledged his commitment to reform the mortgage law as, he says, the current law is creating a series of malfunctions, which are causing an increase in evictions. At the inauguration of the 22nd senior judges conference, those present reflected on the most worrying problems, which included mortgages, and proposed the appropriate reforms. They said that after three days’ deliberation, they will take their conclusions to the Ministry for Justice, Congress and the Senate.
The secretary general of the Partido Popular, María Dolores de Cospedal, has asked the banks to look at ways to avoid evictions due to non-payment of mortgages. She said that she wants the banks which have received State aid to act in a more flexible way. Yesterday, interrogations began in the National Court, of the thirty three ex members of the Bankia administration council who are implicated in the savings banks fusion case. Among those called to declare were the president of La Caja de Canarias, and the administration council secretary of BanCaja, who will appear today.
The government has admitted that the islands and rocks belonging to Spain which are in front of the north coast of Morocco, are being used by the mafias for people trafficking, mainly because it is easier for them to access them, than to jump over the barriers at Melilla and Ceuta. According to the Spanish government, these mafias are continually searching for new ways to access the Spanish territory, and have begun to use other more vulnerable points such as the Chafarinas and Alhucemas islands, where since May, a greater presence of these networks has been detected.
The councillor for the presidency and justice, and spokesman for the Madrid regional government, Salvador Victoria, has said that he hopes that the responsibilities of those who could have violated the strict requirements of the laws for live shows, will be ascertained, with regard to the tragedy at the Madrid Arena last week, in which four young people were killed in a stampede. He said that the law is very strict regarding maximum capacity, under age people, dangers, safety and control of exits. He has been told by the Madrid president, Ignacio González, to exercise all precaution with coming events.
According to the director general for employment, Xavier Thibault, the government has only suggested moving three bank holidays, from 2014, to reduce the number of long weekends and increase productivity. The sindicates reached an agreement with the government last January before the labour reforms were approved, to move the bank holidays of Assumption Day on the 15th of August, All Saints on the 1st of November, and Constitution Day on the 6th of December to Mondays if they fall mid-week. The working calendar, published on Saturday, includes eight national holidays for next year.
The prime minister of Gibraltar, Fabian Picardo, has said that his government is not going to reach any agreement with the fishermen from La Linea and Algeciras who want to continue fishing in the waters surrounding the Rock, although they will open the door to fishing with prior permission, which would be given by the Gibraltar authorities, as long as the law is respected. He was referring to a 1991 law which prohibits certain types of fishing methods, which the Spanish fishermen use. Picardo did say that he is prepared to seek a solution, even if it means changing that law.
New European Community safety regulations entered into force yesterday, for new types of vehicles, making it obligatory for them to have audio or visual alert systems for the driver’s seatbelt, and at least two simple Isofix anchoring points in the rear, for child safety seats. The regulations also require that stickers must be fixed in the car which advise against placing a child seat in the front on the passenger side, if it’s protected by an active airbag. The new regulations also introduce strict safety norms for electric vehicles to ensure that users don’t suffer from electric shocks.
Public entities and companies can now make mass sackings for economic reasons, paying damages to those affected of twenty days’ pay for each year worked, if the public administration or ministry that they form part of, had a budget deficit in the previous year. There is much small print, but they can also suspend contracts or reduce the length of the working day. This new regulation was approved last Friday by the government, and entered into force yesterday. The regulation also describes how private companies can make mass dismissals or other reductions.
The vice president of the European Commission, Viviane Reding, has confirmed in a letter to the Secretary of State for European Affairs, that the official position of the Community is that if Catalonia becomes an independent state, it will be out of the European Union. In other news, two consumers federations have recommended that if you are buying fancy dress outfits for Halloween, especially if they are for children, that you check the labels to ensure that they don’t contain flammable materials, that they comply with European regulations and don’t contain small pieces that could be swallowed.
US president Barack Obama has said in a radio interview that Spain cannot be allowed to fall, and that he is working to ensure that all EU countries, including Germany, support the efforts that Spain is making to reform its economy. He denied that he only spoke of Spain when referring to the Eurozone crisis, and said that his government is working hard to ensure that all the European Union countries recognize that they have to work together to solve the problem. He added that this would also make a great difference to the US, because Europe is their largest business partner.
The Euribor, the index on which most mortgage interest rates are based in Spain, has fallen again and reached a historic minimum. With only one day of October left, this leaves the monthly rate for Euribor, at 0.653 per cent. This indicator has continued on a downwards track which started at the beginning of this year, to reach a level which is 1.457 points lower than a year ago. At this level, monthly payments on an average mortgage of a hundred and twenty thousand euros over twenty five years, would fall by 87 euros 35.
Catalonia’s president, and candidate for re-election, Artur Mas has said that he wants to turn Catalonia into an independent State, linked to Europe, which he recognizes would mean that he would have to be committed to complying with European Union obligations. On Sunday, when Mas presented the election programme, Catalonia 2020, in Barcelona, he added that if the Spanish State wasn’t going to be Catalonia’s ally, an independent state has to be created. He confirmed that if he is re-elected, there would be a referendum on the subject in the next legislature.
Hundreds of National Police officers from all over Spain demonstrated in front of the Ministry for the Interior on Saturday to claim higher salaries. Also, representatives of the Spanish police federation and two unions read out a manifest which they later handed in to the Ministry. They say that they are not happy with the treatent the force is receiving, although they understand that these are hard times for everyone, and even the police are suffering from cutbacks. One union representative claimed that their conditions had changed, and from the third day that they are off sick, their salaries are reduced.
In a speech in Barcelona on Saturday, prime minister Mariano Rajoy launched a message of confidence, saying that next year will be better than this one, and that within a short time, Spain will come out of the crisis. He added that he was sure that we are going in the right direction. According to Rajoy, there are various indications which are favourable: a reduction in the deficit, exports are increasing, and for the first time, the commercial balance relative to the Eurozone is positive. All this, he said, is how to recover economic growth and employment soon, although the situation is still difficult.
During an official visit to India, King Juan Carlos told Spanish residents that he was convinced that Spain will come out of the crisis strongly. He attended a reception for nearly a thousand people in the Spanish colony, mainly businesspeople, missionaries, civil servants, teachers and artists. The King was accompanied by four ministers and a significant business delegation. A 54 year old man committed suicide in Granada yesterday morning, hours before he was to have been evicted. His body was found in a fruit shop owned by his brother.
Opposition PSOE party leader, Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba, has stated at a press conference that he intends to complete his term as leader, until 2016, and that at no time has he considered resigning, even after the disastrous results in the Basque Country and Galician elections last weekend. He added that no-one had asked him to. He said it is not the time to discuss who will or won’t be a candidate in the next elections, and that to recover the confidence of the public, the party needs to be an alternative. He is awaiting a deep analysis of the two election results.
Congress has rejected, with a hundred and seventy nine votes by the Partido Popular and UPN parties, and the abstention of the FAC, the eleven amendments to next year’s budgets, proposed by the other parliamentary groups. After an eight hour debate in the lower house, the PP failed to convince any of the other groups to retire their amendments, and was only successful with the Union de Pueblo Navarro. The other parties supported all the amendments, saying that the budgets would deepen the recession, increase the destruction of jobs, and the deficit targets would not be reached.
The National Court has rejected an appeal for damages by Dolores Vázquez for the time she spent in prison charged with the murder of Rocio Wanninkhov at Mijas in Malaga. Vázquez was in jail for five hundred and nineteen days between September 2000 and February 2002. She was sent to prison for fifteen years, but was later acquitted when the Briton, Tony King was finally condemned for the crime. Vázquez had asked for four million euros, which was for the amount of salary that she would have earned, the mortgage payments on her property, and moral damages.
The National Police have recovered eighty six stolen vehicles valued at over 1.3 million euros, and fourteen people have been arrested in Murcia, Andalusia, the Balearics and Catalonia, as part of a European Union operation against the illicit trafficking of vehicles. Various security forces, including Europol, Interpol, Syrene and Frontex, also took part. Since the operation began, over eight thousand one hundred vehicles have been checked in Spain. In many cases, the stolen vehicles, were offered for sale by internet.
The National Police have recovered eighty six stolen vehicles valued at over 1.3 million euros, and fourteen people have been arrested in Murcia, Andalusia, the Balearics and Catalonia, as part of a European Union operation against the illicit trafficking of vehicles. Various security forces, including Europol, Interpol, Syrene and Frontex, also took part. Since the operation began, over eight thousand one hundred vehicles have been checked in Spain. In many cases, the stolen vehicles, were offered for sale by internet.
The judge at the National Court, Fernando Abreu, has charged a National Police inspector and a Guardia Civil sergeant with bribery. The two were arrested during the Operation Emperor investigation into the money laundering plot operated by Chinese citizens. Inspector Miguel Ángel Gómez Gordo, who was chief of the foreigners brigade in Madrid, declared in court for twenty minutes, and was allowed to leave without restrictions. A businessman who was arrested on Friday as he tried to cross the frontier at Lérida, is charged with money laundering and has been sent to prison.
Scientists studying the fault beneath Lorca in Murcia say that groundwater removal may be implicated in last year’s deadly 5.1 magnitude earthquake. Detailed surface maps from satellite studies showed them which parts of the ground moved where. Scientists from the Western Ontario University reported that those shifts correspond to areas where water has been drained for years. The study revealed that the water table in the adjacent Alto Guadalentin basin had dropped by some two hundred and fifty metres over the last fifty years as water was drained for irrigation in the region.
Between today and tomorrow, Congress will debate the eleven amendments which political parties other than the Partido Popular have presented to the proposed budget for next year. The budget, to be presented today from 12 noon, by the minister for taxation, Cristobal Montoro, is rejected with almost the same arguments which marked a debate six months ago, when this year’s budget was agreed. The other political parties reject the government’s insistence on austerity and the payment of illegitimate debts, while cutting public spending, and not creating jobs or growth.
Following the deaths of two people on Saturday in El Salobral, Albacete, Guardia Civil helicopters were drafted in yesterday to join the search for their killer. On Saturday evening, the suspect shot a young girl, killing her, then went to her home where he shot two more people, one of whom was killed, and the other injured. It was the suspect himself who reported the incident. He has various firearms licences, and doesn’t have either a mental illness or a previous criminal record. It appears that he had had a relationship with the young girl, and that this had provoked differences within her family.
On Saturday afternoon, the National Court judge finished taking declarations from the ten people who formed part of the money laundering network controlled by Chinese citizens, and sent them to prison. The last to appear was the supposed head of the plot, businessman and art promoter Gao Ping, who refused to declare. The judge also interrogated his wife, another couple, the presumed head of extortion in the plot and his closest colleagues. This week, a national police officer from the Madrid foreigners department and a Guardia Civil officer will also be interrogated.
German chancellor, Angela Merkel, said yesterday that Spain and Greece are moving well in the right direction with their reforms, and emphasized that it will be Mariano Rajoy alone, who will decide if and when to ask for a rescue to reduce the costs of finan-cing Spain’s economy. Yesterday, Rajoy informed the European leaders at the Brussels summit of the country’s current economic situation. Merkel said that she was aware of the efforts being made by the Spanish and Greek people, and insisted that the first results are becoming apparent in reduced labour costs and the recovery of production.
The two main unions, CC.OO and UGT are expected to call a new general strike to protest against the government cutbacks, on the 14th of November. This date is expected to be confirmed at a meeting later today. It has been especially chosen to coincide with a general strike in Portugal, and a series of protests on a European scale by countries most affected by the cutbacks imposed by the European Union. If the strike goes ahead, this will be the first time in Spain that two general strikes have been called in the same year, and the seventh twenty four hour strike in democracy.
In Operation Emperor, in which police and customs officials raided numerous premises run by Chinese groups all over the country, ten million euros have now been confiscated. The cash is to be credited to judicial accounts pending the outcome of the case. Undeclared goods were brought into the country, money was laundered and eventually taken out of Spain. Twenty of those arrested appeared at the National Court yesterday. The court has ordered a total of a hundred and ten arrests. This is one of the biggest money laundering and fiscal crime cases ever handled by the National Court.
The court case over the Prestige catastrophe ten years ago on the Galician coast, began on Monday with requests for suspension, by the lawyer acting for the ship’s captain. The prosecution asked for a valuation report to be admitted, which goes beyond environmental damage and includes all aspects, and estimates damages at over four million euros. Three of the four Greeks accused were present at ExpoCoruña, which is being used as the HQ for the proceedings. The fourth person, the first officer, is missing. The first day attracted two hundred reporters, but little public interest.
The European Court of Human Rights has ordered Spain to pay damages of twenty four thousand euros to the director of a news-paper, after admitting his appeal against the filing of his case against the Guardia Civil, for maltreatment he suffered during his detention, when the paper was closed by order of the National Court. He and four others were eventually acquitted of being members of the terrorist group ETA. Strasburg said that, in his case, Spain had violated article 3 of the European Human Rights agreement, which prohibits degrading or inhuman treatment.
The number of Spanish people who have taken the option of emigrating in the first nine months of this year has increased by 21.6 per cent, compared with the same period last year, according to the National Statistics Institute. Since January last year, almost a million people have emigrated, most probably due to the economic crisis. Between January and September this year, over four hundred and twenty thousand have abandoned the country, an increase of 9.8 per cent. Of these, nearly fifty five thousand were Spaniards, and over three hundred and sixty five thousand were foreigners.
In Galicia, from today, the Expo-Coruña fairs precinct has become the headquarters of the macro court case of the Prestige, and will remain so for eight months. The main protagonists of the catastrophe that provoked an oil slick which affected the whole Galician coastline, as well as Asturias, Cantabria and France, will meet again. A sentence is not expected until September next year. Those accused will not declare until November, and these include the captain of the Prestige, the ship’s chief engineer and the ex director general of Marina Mercante. There will also be over a hundred witnesses called.
Employees at the cinema complex chain Yelmo, have been on strike as a protest against cutbacks in the workforce. Over the weekend, various workers formed a concentration at the doors of a Madrid cinema. A union spokesman said that this move would, at the moment, affect two hundred and sixty five people on a national level, which is twenty six per cent of the nine hundred and fifty two workers. He added that the company’s plans include the total closure of a cinema complex in Alcorcón, Madrid. Also included in the plan is that the workers who remain with the company would suffer a salary cut.
In an interview with the newspaper La Gaceta, the minister for industry, José Manuel Soria, has assured that pensions will be reviewed, in line with the retail price index in November, as the government has promised. Soria also confirmed that he could not foresee any more tax increases in the coming months, at the same time emphasising that this is a decision for the tax ministry. He added that his department was worried about the impact on the retail price index of the rises in fuel costs, and that they have had conversations with the main suppliers regarding their margins.
The economy minister, Luis de Guindos, said on Saturday, at the annual International Monetary Fund and World Bank meeting in Tokyo, that he senses a slight reduction in international pressure on Spain to accept a rescue, and improved valuations of the country’s situation. He said that the feeling is much more positive than before the summer. He added that there was now some interest in buying Spanish debt, fundamental to reduce volatility in the bond markets, and which would attract additional investors. De Guindos has recently held meetings with investors in Tokyo and London.
Vweling airlines are set to recruit some 500 new staff in Spain due to the airlines continued expansion over the summer. It will base its increased operations in Barcelona airport. The news comes as Airport taxes are set to rise by 7% in 2013, and means an extra 1.40 € on each ticket. It will only partial cover the Spanish Airport Authority debt of 15 billion €.
The Government has revealed it is offering 1,000 € extra a month to judges in a bid to help unclog the Social Courts. So far a dozen judges have expressed an interest, but the General Council for Judicial Power says that the payment is ‘absolutely insufficient to compensate for the effort required’. Currently a normal court case can take up to 2 years in Spain to be dealt with.
The department of Industry from the European Commission in Brussels has said the autonomous fragmentation in Spain will continue to threaten companies in Spain. The current regulations in the regions both nationally and locally pose a real risk to productivity. The time it takes to start a business in Spain is double that in other parts of the EU, with costly regulatory framework and ‘heavy bureaucracy.
A 65 year old British tourist has died in the waters of Menorca while on holiday. The tragedy happened on the north coast of the island, on Tuesday evening when the man became entangled on a buoyancy aid rope in the sea. His family had raised the alarm when the man failed to return after a swim.
Despite the huge forest fires over Spain this summer, which led to 11 deaths, and millions of euros of damage, Spain is set to lose its rural EU development funds due to cuts. The Ministry for the Environment will have 448 million € less from the EU, leaving the total for 2013 at 902 million € which will come from the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development.
A meeting in Congress yesterday discussed how to change working hours in Spain. The Spanish workers are officially the second country in the E.U to work most hours in Europe followed by Germany and Holland, but Spain is also the most unproductive. Spaniards worked 277 hours more than Germans in 2011. Even so the working average wage in Spain is lower than OECD average. Surprisingly in the Eurozone it is the Greeks who work the most hours.
The European Central Bank has warned that the recovery in the Eurozone will be ‘very gradual’. The Chairman has warned that there are risks which get worse if the economy sinks further. House sales rose in August after 17 months of falls according to data from the National Statistics Institute. It was a 3% increase, of which nearly half were resale properties, with the remainder new constructions. Land prices have however fallen for the fourth consecutive year.
A Guardia Civil speed trap has caught a funeral car at a speed of 187km/h on the Autovía (A66) in Salamanca. It’s not known if there was a body in the back. A radar trap was activated on the stretch of road with a 120 km/h speed limit. According to the Highway Code in spain the driver could face between three and six months in prison.
Iberia is expected to carry out large scale staff cuts as it continues to balance huge drops in income. The company is understood to be ready to present an ERE document for as many as 6,000 layoffs. It is understood to take place in November to compensate for the airline’s losses.
Under new plans, Santander, BBVA and Caixa are expected to be the largest investors in the bad bank which is being prepared by the Government to accumulate the toxic assets from the real estate sector. Without it Spain could not receive the 100 billion € of European aid. Reports from indicate the three banks are expected to invest between 600 million and 700 million €.
Spain is now not expected to need a rescue as the German government insists Spain only needs help with bank restructuring. El País reports that the Government now rests importance on the direct recapitalisation of the banks. ‘The Economist’ has warned that Spain could enter into a ‘Spiral of Death’ similar to Greece, with an elevated deficit, unemployment over 25% and constant protests in the streets.
Nation wide strike across the country could take place as soon as next month as Unions across Spain are understood to be planning the move which is taking place on November 14th. Following an earlier meeting of The Union Social Summit, a forum which integrates UGT, CCOO unions and smaller unions, the group continues to demand a referendum on the economic measures the Government has put in place. The union organisers say ‘There is no doubt that we are facing an electoral fraud’.
A holidaymaker has become the latest Briton to die after falling from a hotel balcony in Spain. The 41 year old man is understood to have been on a stag party when he fell from a hotel balcony on Spain's Balearic Islands. A Foreign and Commonwealth Office spokeswoman said: "We can confirm the hospitalisation and subsequent death of a British national following a balcony fall in Menorca." His death follows those of several Britons on the islands alone this summer.
An 11 year boy who was kidnapped in Barcelona last week, has been reunited with his mother following a failed ransom bid for five million €. The boy and his mother were understood to have travelled from Valencia to regularise their documents when Four armed and masked men abducted the child, from the family who are understood to be of Columbian decent. The hide out was discovered after 2 days when the GEI Special Intervention Group was called to urgently liberate the child. Two of the captors were arrested and the police operation, which remains open, have confirmed they have identified another member of the kidnappers with a search and capture order issued.
Protest marches have taken place on Sunday in 57 Spanish cities in protest at the economic reforms and the State Budget. The organisation claimed some 60,000 people attended in Madrid while the Police say the number was closer to 5,000 with some 50 streets in Madrid blocked to traffic. Madrid is now said to be the main European city, along with Berlin, where most demonstrations are being held. According to the Government Delegation Madrid has seen some 1,750 demonstrations so for this year.
A 38 year old Briton has been detained by Police in Benalmádena, following the murder of a man in Tenerife in 2004. The incident happened at the doors of a discotheque when a brawl broke out in which several people were injured. The Provincial Commissioner in Málaga said that one person involved in the brawl died four days later. The Briton had initially been detained just after the fight for causing injuries, but he was released before the victim died. He had been on the run ever since. The man is now being held in prison pending trial.
Yesterday, the European Justice Tribunal condemned Spain for delays in providing management plans for its water sources, which Brussels consider essential to reach the European objective of guaranteeing good quality community water between now and 2015. The tribunal said that Spain only adopted and published one hydraulic plan, for Catalonia, before the required date of the 22nd of March 2010. Brussels also says that Spain has failed to comply with the process of supplying information and public consultations regarding the draft plans. Spain said this was due to its complicated judicial and institutional system.
In Barcelona, the Cerdanyola del Vallés council has suspended two local policemen, without pay, after they recorded a video of themselves in their patrol car, dancing and driving erratically. Since Monday, the video has been on YouTube, and has had over thirty thousand visits. The deputy mayor, Montserrat Montiel, said that they will remain suspended without pay until disciplinary proceedings are complete. The council has also denounced them for reckless driving. The video shows them driving with their eyes closed, not holding the steering wheel, dancing and making gestures.
The ministry for agriculture, food and the environment will have a budget of nearly nine and a half million euros for next year, which is a reduction of 9.7 per cent on this year. This adjustment, which falls within the average level of cuts to other ministries, affects most areas, except for forest fires. This is considered a priority area, and has been given an increase of twenty three per cent, reaching a hundred and four million euros. Despite the cuts to other areas, Arias Cañete’s department has said that next year’s figure will allow it to guarantee the maintenance of current projects.
Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has strongly denied that Spain is about to apply for European aid to reduce tension over the debt situation. He made this statement at a press round following the independent presidents’ conference on Tuesday. Rajoy wanted to quash the speculation that Spain would ask for a second rescue as soon as this coming weekend, and added that he hadn’t allowed any filtration of information, and had no intention to do so in the future. He said, there are two possibilities: that you are right, and you have more information than I do, that it’s possible or not.
In response to complaints from several regional leaders at yesterday’s independent presidents’ conference, the government is to suggest activating a working group to evaluate the financing system for the communities. They said that this system must be revised next year, as the existing prevision is for its review every five years. Andalusian president Antonio Griñan had already planned to ask that the technical evaluation committee meets to tackle this problem. Those present were presented with a three page document prepared by the government which detailed the result required from the meeting.
At least five police unions have announced demonstrations against the government, who they accuse of hiding behind police actions to avoid giving explanations to the public. The police also say that it is the institution which has suffered the most from cutbacks, the government’s failure to fulfil promises, and the inequality of salaries. Two unions have announced that they will hold a protest outside the ministry for the interior on the Day of the Police, while elsewhere they will protest outside government headquarters. A third union has announced a large protest on the 17th in Madrid.
The third strike yesterday by Madrid’s municipal transport company, involving both the Metro and buses, caused chaos during the rush hours. Minimum services were fixed of between forty and fifty per cent for the buses, and on the Metro, fifty three per cent of trains ran in the morning rush hours, and forty two per cent in the evening. The strike is in protest at the government’s labour reforms. Last week, the syndicates called further partial strikes in Madrid, for the 22nd, 26th and 29th of October, during which the transport company will strike for two hours on each of these days.
From yesterday, the electricity tariff, called the Tarifa de Último Recurso, went down by 2.29 per cent, for more than seventeen million consumers, and the price of butane gas bottles also fell by 4.6 per cent, while the gas tariff stayed the same, and will not change until January. The fall in electricity prices is the result of the auctions, and the government’s decision to freeze the regulated part of the tariff. In the case of gas bottles, this fall leaves the price per average bottle of twelve and a half kilos at 16 euros and 10 cents, a fall of seventy seven cents.
Pensions, unemployment benefit and public debt will eat up six of every ten euros of the spending budget proposed by the government for next year. These three areas are expected to account for over a hundred and eighty seven million euros, which is 4.9 per cent more than this year. The government expects to raise pensions by one per cent in the middle of next year. In the new budget, social spending will form sixty three point six per cent of the budget. Spending is being reduced in areas including military research and development, justice, and transport subsidies.
The torrential rain which hit the south and south east of Spain caused at least ten deaths, following the discovery of a man’s body who had disappeared after being carried away by the torrents. He was found at El Esparragal, Puerto Lumbreras, and could be the grandfather of a nine year old girl who was travelling in a car which was also carried away. The intense rain which hit the south of the country on Friday has left five dead in Murcia, in Puerto Lumbreras, Lorca and Sangonera, three in Almeria, at Cuevas de Almanzora and the Vera beach, and two in Malaga, in Archidona and Álora.
According to the police in Madrid, the more than thirty people who were arrested during Tuesday’s protest outside Congress, faced the courts yesterday. They say that they form two groups. One of these groups, accused of public order offences, appeared in the court in Plaza de Castilla. A second group, who are accused of offences against state organizations such as the police, were taken to the National Court. The police say that the second group was the most violent. They were arrested during police charges after a group of radicals attempted to remove the barriers protecting the building.
The Valencia mercantile court has condemned the low cost airline Ryanair to paying nine hundred and thirty euros to a family for refusing to allow their six year old child to board a flight with them because he didn’t have a national identity document. The child, of Spanish nationality, was refused access to the flight from Valencia to Seville, despite the fact that he was with his parents, who used their ID cards and their family book to identify themselves. This sentence, against which there can be no appeal, allows a payment of six hundred euros for moral damages, plus the flight costs.
In his first speech at the United Nations General Assembly in New York, prime minister Mariano Rajoy urged the UK to resume the bilateral dialogue with Spain over the sovereignty of Gibraltar. He suggested opening direct and sincere talks over the decolonisation of the Rock. He said there have been no talks since 2002 when they were opposed by Gibraltar. He also said that Spain deserves to enter the Security Council for the two year period 2015 and 2016 as a non permanent member for its contributions towards peace and world security.
The minister for industry, José Manuel Soria, has confirmed that the electricity tariff will go down – by 2.1 to 2.2 per cent in October. The government decided to freeze electricity costs after Tuesday’s electricity auction which closed with a fall of 4.9 per cent. Soria made it clear that the government is not taking a backward step by making this move, by saying, we have said that the cost of electricity in Spain will rise or fall, according to what the market says. In the auction, the market said the cost of electricity, which forms half of the price consumers pay, had fallen.
Vice president and government spokesperson, Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría, guaranteed on Tuesday that pensions will rise next year, and that they will be adjusted in line with the cost of living. She insisted that pensions only missed out on a revaluation under the previous government of José Luis Zapatero, who took the decision to freeze them. She added that when Mariano Rajoy took over as prime minister, the first decision he took was to review pensions, despite the economic situation. She said this is one thing we must do, and our politics must not touch pensions, the law says so.
During his visit to New York, King Juan Carlos has had a private meeting with the editorial council of the New York Times, during which he explained to them the reality of Spain in the current context of the crisis. Coinciding with the publication of a photo-graphic report by the paper, which draws an image of the con-sequences of the economic crisis in Spain, with black and white photos by Samuel Aranda, winner of the World Press Photo 2011, the King spoke about the political, economic and social situation. The Zarzuela initiative is not directly related to this photo-report.
The minister for external affairs, José Manuel García Margallo has accompanied prime minister Mariano Rajoy on a visit to New York this week, to revitalize the Spanish brand. For Margallo, the attendance of a hundred and ninety three countries, and over two hundred exterior ministers, at the United Nations General Assembly, posed the ideal opportunity to explain that Spain wants to play a major part on the international scene. King Juan Carlos is also in New York. The King and Rajoy will explain that Spain is a great place for international investors, who can also help to finance our economy.
In an interview with the ABC newspaper, the minister for education, José Ignacio Wert insisted that one of the main objectives of the education reforms announced last Friday by the government, is to avoid having seventeen different educational systems in the country. He added that the ministry has been respectful of the current legislation. He also said that it is perfectly legitimate that there should be a national element to evaluation, and to external and standard exams. He said that currently there are excessive differences between the independent communities, both in resources and results.
According to a spokesman for the national met agency, Aemet, Alejandro Lomas, this summer was the driest in the last sixty years, with rainfall only reaching fifty per cent of average levels. Water supply levels are as a result, low. The only areas which had above average rainfall levels were in the west and south of Galicia, and levels were around normal in the north of Arágón. Rain has been scarce in the south of the country and most of the Balearics and the Canaries. Autumn began on Saturday, and Aemet predicts normal weather, with a rainy period in November and December.
In Madrid, at least sixty people were injured and eleven arrested for attacking police officers in the early hours of Saturday morning, near the Puente del Rey, where the weekend MTV Beach festival was taking place. The police say that around a thousand were involved in the disturbance. Of the sixty injured, twenty were police officers. Although the majority of the injuries weren’t serious, two police officers were taken to hospital with bruises, sprains, cuts, and in one case, an asthmatic crisis. The arguments began when a group of youths tried to get in to the festival, which was already at full capacity.
Telefónica and Inditex are the only two Spanish brands included in this year’s international ranking by Eurobrand, as the highest valued companies in the world. At the top was Apple, whose value exceeded a hundred thousand million euros for the first time. Telefónica is in the twenty eighth position, five places lower than last year, after its value fell by five per cent to just under twenty two thousand million euros. The textiles giant Inditext climbed up the list this year, rising by four places, to number ninety, with a rise in its value of 7.3 per cent, to ten thousand six hundred and twenty million euros.
The Madrid Provincial Court has, as expected, filed the penal investigation into the Spanair tragedy at Barajas Airport of August 2008. A hundred and fifty four people died and eighteen were injured in the accident. The implications were lifted from the two aircraft technicians who were accused of these deaths by care-lessness and injuries. The judge understands that the two pilots, who were killed, were responsible. The victims can now take out a civil case to obtain damages. The insurance policy taken out by the now non-existent Spanair, will apparently be able to totally cover these claims.
The minister for development, Ana Pastor, is in favour of member states of the European Union moving towards increased powers to inspect foreign airlines, in the face of changes in air traffic in the last few years, from mainly national airlines from each country, to more foreign airlines. She made this statement to the press following a full Congress meeting, at a time which coincided with a meeting held in Ireland between the heads of the air safety authorities, due to the various incidents involving the low cost airline Ryanair over the last few weeks. She feels governments need to share safety control.
King Juan Carlos has called on all Spaniards to work together against the crisis, as a way to survive this difficult economic, political and social situation. He said we need to act and walk together and row in the same direction. He also warned that the worst that could be done now, would be to divide our strengths, create disagreements, follow pipedreams, and make the situation worse. The King’s message came a week after the massive protest of La Diada in Barcelona, when independence for Catalonia was demanded, with the support of the region’s president Arturo Mas.
Following the announcement by the president of the community of Madrid on Monday, yesterday Esperanza Aguirre handed in her official letter of resignation. She has suffered from cancer for some time, and said that she wanted to spend more time with her family. The procedure now begins for the official naming of the new president, José Ignacio Echeverría, and this must be formalised within fifteen days. Esperanza Aguirre will now join the Spanish Tourism Institute, Turespaña, a move which has been welcomed by the minister for industry, energy and tourism, José Manuel Soria.
Yesterday, the international organisation, Save the Children Fund, presented an award to Spain’s national football team trainer, Vicente del Bosque, for his humanitarian commitment as ambassador of the Downs Syndrome Foundation, and as a collaborator with various other children’s charities. The ceremony took place in Madrid during the seventh edition of the Save the Children prizes, which this year also awarded Yemeni journalist Tawakal Karman, Unesco photo journalist Gervasio Sánchez, and actor and Greenpeace collaborator, Ricardo Darín amongst others.
The secretary of state for economy and company support, Fernando Jiménez Latorre, says he is beginning to see positive aspects in the evolution of economic activity, especially in the correction of house prices, which he added, have now reached rock bottom. At the inauguration of a forum with small and medium sized companies organised by Madrid Network, he argued that house prices are in line with other countries which suffered from the property boom. They fell by 14.4 per cent in the second quarter, compared with the same period last year, the biggest fall since 2008.
According to the British publication, The Economist, the Spanish economy will contract by 1.7 per cent this year, and 1.2 per cent next year. These figures are even more pessimistic than the government’s, which point to a contraction of 1.5 per cent this year and half a per cent next year. The Economist is also more pessimistic over unemployment, estimating a rate of 25.1 per cent this year, against the government’s forecast of 24.6 per cent. The Economist’s figures are actually closer to those of the International Monetary Fund.
Tomorrow, the Madrid court will begin to take statements from various doctors and medical staff from the Clinica Santa Cristina, in the investigation into the stolen babies case. The main person thought to be involved is a nun, Sister María. The case revolves around a large number of babies, presumed to have been stolen from their mothers shortly after their birth in various Spanish hos-pitals in the seventies and eighties, and sold. The mothers were told that their babies had died. The investigation began when the first case was revealed, and a mother was reunited with her daughter thirty years later.
Reforms to the penal code proposed last Friday by the minister for justice, Alberto Ruiz Gallardón, would strengthen penalties for those who deliberately start forest fires. Sentences could reach as much as nine years in prison, depending on the time of the year, the weather and type of area affected by the fire. The current penalties range from three to five years, and in serious cases can reach six years. Those who start fires which affect natural protected spaces would be punished for offences against the environment, and those close to populated areas would also be treated as serious.
The Supreme Tribunal has revoked the order which fixed the sentence on the former National Court judge Baltasar Garzon. The order prevents him acting in a judicial function for eleven years, until the 3rd of April 2022. The Tribunal has ordered that this per-iod be recalculated, as the original order failed to take account of the time when he was suspended, during investigations. Garzon was condemned for recording conversations in a prison between the ringleaders in the Gürtel case and their lawyers. He was acquitted of charges of investigating disappearances during the Franco era.
The economy minister, Luis de Guindos, has said in Congress that, if the economic situation of the last five years is not rectified soon, it will be impossible to maintain social benefits. He added that it was the lack of economic growth, and employment, which was putting the welfare state at risk, not government measures. This was his response to a comment made by a spokesman for the Izquierda Plural party, who demanded a rescue for the public instead of the banking sector, and said the government was socializing the losses of the crisis in the same way that it privatised gains during the property boom.
Petrol and diesel prices have fallen by 0.2 per cent this week, although they continue to remain at an historical high. This follows the impact of this month’s purchase tax rise. On the mainland, a litre of petrol now costs on average, 1.518 euros. Diesel, used by eighty per cent of transport companies, now sells for 1.441 euros a litre, both only slightly lower than the levels reached for the first time at the end of August. The minister for industry met the presidents of the main operators yesterday afternoon to discuss reducing their margins.
According to Moncloa sources, the government considers that it will not be necessary to apply for a rescue if the current situation continues, with the risk premium falling, and admitted that it would not be ideal to apply for European aid. Mariano Rajoy said that since the president of the European Central Bank, Mario Draghi, stated that the bank would purchase debt if the country applied for a rescue, the Spanish risk premium has fallen considerably, and it is now easier for Spain to reasonably finance itself. He added that the government is still studying the conditions of the ECB programme.
The government says it will not interfere with the composition of October’s electricity bills, and that the next review will depend completely on the markets, according to the minister for industry, energy and tourism, José Manuel Soria. He says the Ultimate Resources Tariff could rise, fall, or stay the same. Around half of this tariff consists of the regulated costs of the electricity system, and is reviewed by the government. The other half is fixed according to auctions between the supply companies. The government has to ensure that the system’s income is sufficient to cover costs.
The Guardia Civil’s Trafico department has begun another awareness campaign, which will continue until Sunday the 16th. Officers will be checking that all occupants of a vehicle are making adequate use of seatbelts, and they will also be checking that child retention systems are being used, and that they are correct for the weight, age and height of the child. This campaign is being carried out simultaneously in twenty five European countries, and has been launched to coincide with the return to school. The objective is to ensure that no child loses his life due to inadequate retention systems.
The minister for industry, energy and tourism, José Manuel Soria, has called meetings with Spain’s petrol industry bosses during this week. He wants to express the government’s concern over the increases in fuel prices. In an interview with Television Española, he said that the rises in recent weeks were disproportionate, and added that the petrol sector could not remain on the sidelines regarding the sacrifices being made by the rest of the sectors in the country. Far from adjusting their prices, they are increasing them. At the meetings, he will ask them to reduce their profit margins.
Opposition PSOE leader Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba has survived his first Federal Committee meeting, with parliamentary members, and achieved ample support for the strategies he plans to use in opposition to the measures imposed by Mariano Rajoy’s government. The meeting went ahead in a relaxed manner, with no clashes. Going against tradition, Rubalcaba held the meeting behind closed doors, to make it easier to hold an internal debate. His speech, which included suggestions of alternative ways of governing, with proposals for stimulating employment and the economy, was applauded.
The National Police have arrested an 18 year old youth in Asturias, who is thought to have been related to Nazi groups, and a member of the ‘ultras’ in a sports club, and presumed to be responsible for making a number of serious threats to a Granada councillor via Twitter. The Izquierda Unida councillor, Maite Molina, reported the threats to the police in Granada, who confirmed that the threats were repeated using various different profiles after the Twitter administrator closed the previous ones. This arrest followed two months of investigations by technology experts.
Hours after Catalonia decided that it would opt for its own macroproject, Barcelona World, Las Vegas Sands, the American magnate Sheldon Adelson’s project, announced that it had chosen Madrid. The Catalonia project will be a resort consisting of six themed tourist complexes, each with a large hotel and numerous facilities including casinos, next to Port Aventura. This will require an investment of six thousand million dollars, according to the driving forces behind the project, La Caixa, and the company Veremonte. It is expected to open in 2016.
The National Police have dismantled a criminal gang which was transporting cocaine in refrigerated vehicles. In the operation, four people were arrested and sixty kilos of cocaine were confiscated from a warehouse, on the Las Dehesillas industrial estate at Manilva in Malaga. This was the point where the gang received and despatched consignments. Heavy equipment was needed to find the drugs, which were hidden beneath the Dutch registered lorry. The group consisted of three members from Holland and one from the UK, who lived in the provinces of Malaga and Cadiz.
Illegal immigrants or those without documents will continue to be attended to by the national health system, despite the fact that they no longer have a health card, according to the Ministry for Health, Social services and Equality. But if the doctor prescribes medication, the patient will have to pay part, or all of its cost, depending on the illness they are suffering from. The law guarantees assistance to those with infectious diseases, pregnant women, and under 18s, and they will have to pay forty per cent of the cost of their medicines. In other cases, patients will have to pay the full cost.
The judge in charge of the case of Ruth and José, the two children who disappeared from Cordoba last October, has dictated a new committal against their father, José Breton. He will now be processed by the court for the supposed offences of premeditated murder, and the aggravating circumstances of being a parent. This follows three reports which concluded that the bones found at the finca at Las Quemadillas were human. The secrecy order on this case has now been partially lifted. The judge has also dictated a new date for Breton to declare, and postponed other declarations.
A group of syndicates and professional associations consisting of twenty three public employees’ organizations, are preparing a day of protest against the cutbacks, at State level, on the 12th. They haven’t ruled out calling a general strike in the sector, according to the secretary general of the nurses’ syndicate, Alejandro Laguna. Accompanied by representatives of the associations, Laguna explained that on the day after this protest, they would meet to coordinate new actions. Their objective is to reserve one day of the week to protests in specific sectors, and Fridays for joint protests.
The Guardia Civil and officers from the Tax Agency have seized twenty two thousand two hundred and seventy two detonating pistols, which are capable of being transformed into firearms, and worth two million euros, in an operation at Algeciras port in Cádiz. This was the conclusion at the first inspection. A detailed report from Guardia Civil specialists is being awaited. The arms were hidden with thirteen thousand five hundred chargers in a container which was transporting clothing from Istanbul destined for Djibouti. The operation took place last week, but was only published yesterday.
It has been revealed that another one hundred and sixty immigrants from the sub-Sahara managed to climb over the barrier which separates Melilla with Morocco in the early hours of Monday. They made two attempts, at two different points of the frontier, and the majority were repelled by the police on both sides. They were spotted by a Guardia Civil helicopter crew which monitors the nine kilometre barrier each night. According to a government delegation spokesman, it is estimated that five or six of the immigrants managed to get into the Spanish city situated in the north of Africa.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel is coming to Madrid this Thursday for a bilateral meeting with Mariano Rajoy at Moncloa. Following the main meeting, the two will take part in a meeting of directors or high ranking representatives of over a hundred Spanish and German companies, also in Moncloa. This meeting has been organized by the business associations and chambers of commerce from the two countries, and the ministry for economy and competitivity. They will discuss intensifying cooperation between the two countries’ businesses, increased productivity, research and development.
Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has said in interviews with the ABC and three other European newspapers, that he is convinced that if he completes his duties, he would win the elections again. This was the first interview Rajoy has given to the press since he was elected. He added that the Spanish people would choose him for governing against the wind. This was his way of defending his tough measures, such as removing the extra payment for civil servants, and rises in IVA and income tax. He said he had applied them in a fair manner, and that those who had the most would pay the most.
So far this year, without including this week’s fires in Robledo de Chavela in Madrid, or this weekend’s fires in Malaga and Cáceres, forest fires in Spain have burned over a hundred and fifty three thousand hectares of land. This is more than three times the amount burned in fires during the same period last year, which reached just over forty seven thousand hectares, according to the ministry for agriculture, food and the environment. There have been twelve thousand and forty six incidents, of which thirty one were major fires, compared with six last year. Many of these were started deliberately.
Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, has recognized that the rise in purchase tax, IVA, which began on Saturday, is a painful measure, which requires a sacrifice for everyone, at an already difficult time. But he did emphasise that this is not for nothing, as it will help confront the crisis, and the fall in money coming into the public authorities, and also enable the government to finance public services and maintain the welfare state. He said that the government would not have raised purchase tax if it hadn’t been necessary, and that it was an exceptional measure in an exceptional situation.
The latest figures published by the Spanish association for family and community medicine show that one thousand seven hundred and thirty one health professionals from all over the country, mostly family doctors, have said they intend to object to the ministry for health’s instructions regarding illegal or undocumented immigrants from the 1st of September. On this date, this group of people will lose their right to a health card, which entitles them to free health care. Other groups of specialists have also objected. They say that this measure is contrary to the loyalty they have towards their patients.
The Euribor, the main economic indicator on which Spanish mortgage interest rates are based, will close August at around 0.8 per cent. This will be the lowest level it has reached since its creation. Economists who have been watching the futures market predict that this downwards trend will continue, and that new historical lows will be reached in the coming months. This is extremely good news for those with mortgages which are due for a review, and could mean savings of almost eight hundred and fifty euros a year on an average twenty year mortgage of a hundred and twenty thousand euros.
The minister for health, social services and equality, Ana Mato, said on Wednesday that, following the health service reforms, no foreigner will be left without healthcare, but those who don’t have a health card must pay. Mato made this statement at an informal meeting with the health councillors from nine independent communities, at which they discussed matters related to human resources in local governments. In a review of the reforms, she said that this is a move towards universality. For the first time, all Spaniards and foreigners with legal residence, are guaranteed rights to healthcare.
Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has denied that Spain is negotiating the conditions of a rescue from Europe, and said that the government still hadn’t decided whether or not to ask for help to relieve the pressure of the country’s debt situation. He made these comments after his meeting with EC president Herman Van Rompuy in Madrid. He refused to reveal any information on the subject, and simply said that the government would do what was right for Spain. Van Rompuy said that Spain had been hit hard because of private debt caused by the property boom, combined with errors in European design.
The visit to the finca at Las Quemadillas in Cordoba yesterday ended early. Samples were taken and tests made of elements found close to the site of the bonfire, after reports by two independent experts suggested the bones found there were human. They were burnt at around eight hundred degrees, making it difficult to obtain any DNA proof. The children’s father, José Breton, was not in the end interrogated. His lawyer hopes to have access to the results next week. Until now police have been working on other lines of investigation, which include an American adoption agency.
José Breton, the father of Ruth and José, alleges that it is completely false and impossible that the remains of his two children could have been on the bonfire at the finca in Cordoba. The remains were analysed by forensic experts and another investtigator, confirming that they were of a child aged under six years. Yesterday, Bretón was taken to the finca at Las Quemadillas, where he witnessed new tests designed to prove whether or not a metal table was in contact with the fire. An empty petrol container was found nearby. Bretón stated that he had been burning cats and dogs.
Yesterday it was revealed that experts had determined that remains of bones found at the site of a bonfire on the finca at Las Quemadillas in Cordoba, pertained to the two children, Ruth and José, who disappeared last October. Previous scientific tests had suggested that they were animal remains. Despite this, the judge has requested that two new morphological tests be undertaken to prove that the bones are human, and declared a secrecy order on the case. The children’s father, José Breton, has been ordered to go to the finca today to be interrogated regarding the bonfire.
The government is to increase the powers of the Bank of Spain, so that it can impose fines on bank managers, and substitute them if that would prevent the deterioration of the bank concerned. This is just one of the measures contained in the financial sector reforms decree to be approved by the government this Friday. The new reform transfers the power from the ministry for economy to the Bank of Spain, and gives it the capacity to impose fines of up to five hundred thousand euros on bank managers, and prevent them from working as bank managers for up to ten years.
Opposition leader Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba has returned from the summer holidays, with a new proposition to present to Congress this Friday. The PSOE party will propose that the government changes its thinking on raising purchase tax on school materials and cultural products, and that instead, adopts alternative measures. These include the revision of some income tax rates, and the suppression of the total tax exemption on large lottery prizes. Rubalcaba made this announcement on Saturday, when he called the rises, effective on the 1st, especially unjust on school materials and culture.
Long term unemployed people who wish to benefit from the Plan Prepara, the monthly payment which was approved by the government on Friday, will have to prove, in a form which will be determined by regulations, that during a minimum period of thirty days, they’ve been actively seeking employment. A justification from the public employment service will suffice, and this active search for employment could include short term work which the applicant has done during the period. Additionally, if the applicant lives with parents, the total income of the family will be taken into consideration.
Ten of the seventeen Spanish airports in the AENA network, specifically those handling less than five hundred thousand passengers, and two heliports, began to operate reduced hours yesterday, in an effort by the authority to save money. The airports affected are Pamplona, Burgos, Vitoria, Logroño, Huesca, the general aviation airports at Córdoba, Sabadell and Son Bonet, and the heliports at Algeciras and Ceuta. Despite these changes, AENA stressed that these will always be operative in emergency situations, and for the transfer of organs for transplants.
Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy had his first meeting with King Juan Carlos since the summer holidays, at the Zarzuela Palace on Wednesday evening. During the fifty minute meeting, they analysed the reforms to the Plan Prepara, the monthly payment to the long term unemployed who have no other resources, which are to be approved today. They also discussed international politics, especially Rajoy’s planned meetings with his European colleagues in the coming months, and the bringing forward of the elections in the Basque Country. The meetings between the two will now be weekly.
The definitive rejection by the European Justice Tribunal of an appeal presented by Gibraltar, against Spain’s capacity to protect a natural habitat in the waters surrounding the Rock, and whose sovereignty is under dispute, has triggered alarm in the governments of the UK and Gibraltar, according to local press. The Rock’s local daily, The Gibraltar Chronicle, says that Gibraltar’s government wasn’t officially informed of the result of this second appeal, and didn’t find out until Tuesday. It is expected that Gibraltar will now come up with new legal tactics to rectify this situation.
The European Union Justice Tribunal has, for the second time, refused to admit an appeal by Gibraltar which questions Spain’s ability to environmentally protect the natural habitat in the disputed waters surrounding the Rock. A spokesman for the Luxembourg tribunal, said that this is the final decision, and no further appeals will be admitted. Gibraltar’s first appeal, supported by the UK, against Europe’s decision to name the Estrecho Oriental, a protected space, and include it in the area previously registered by the UK as a British natural habitat, was also rejected by the court.
The payment of 400 euros to the long term unemployed without any other resources is to be raised to 450 euros a month for those who have larger family commitments, according to the ministry for employment and social security. This means that those without jobs, whose unemployment benefit has run out, and who as well as a partner, have another two dependent family members, will receive the higher payment. This decision follows a meeting at Moncloa yesterday when various ministers analysed reforms to the Plan Prepara, and these will be approved by the government on Friday.
The Guardia Civil Trafico Division has started a new campaign to encourage drivers to comply with speed limits, which will last until the 26th. This campaign is being carried out simultaneously in twenty five European countries, to increase awareness and reduce the number of accidents. Traffic checks have been increased mainly on conventional roads. Trafico says that this year, to the 15th of August, speeding was a factor in a hundred and fifty seven mortal accidents. Officers will also be fining drivers for other traffic offences, such as failing to use a seatbelt, or using a mobile while driving.
The minister for industry, energy and tourism, José Manuel Soria, has said that the government will be watching company invoices issued after the 1st of September for items consumed before that date, to ensure that they don’t succumb to the temptation of applying the new purchase tax rate, and to prevent the consequences of this form of malpractice. He commented, we are saying openly that anyone who applies this increase for sales made before the 1st of September, will have to suffer the consequences. He added that this rise is only a temporary measure, and will be reversed as soon as possible.
The government has raised its estimate of the number of immigrants who tried to cross into Melilla in the early hours of Sunday morning, to four hundred and fifty. They tried to jump over the barrier separating the city from Morocco in two attempts, once at 9pm on Saturday evening, and again at 5am on Sunday morning. Of these some sixty managed to get through the Moroccan and Spanish police checkpoints, where the officers attempted to repel the avalanches of immigrants. The figures have not reached this level since the summer of 2005, when thousands tried to cross over.
The ministry for the interior is considering a plan which would make it easier for fugitive ETA terrorists to return, provided they don’t have any future links with the criminal organization. The minister in charge of the department, Jorge Fernández Díaz says that the plan is in study phase, and may also allow for terrorists with court cases pending, to return, in which case they would be tried for their offences and complete their sentences in a Basque Country prison. According to the security forces, ETA only has around fifty terrorists in France, but suspect that dozens are hiding in South America.
The minister for development, Ana Pastor, has said that the investigation by the airports authority AENA into Ryanair, is trying to find out if the airline operates its aircraft with a level of fuel below safety regulations. This follows three emergency landings by the airline at Valencia in late July due to a lack of fuel. Pastor added that the government will be on the lookout, to ensure passenger safety and rights. Ryanair president Michael O’Leary defended his fuel saving politics, saying that they operate the same as all other European airlines, and that this was an exceptional situation.
The twenty one Bulgarians who were amongst those arrested on Wednesday in Cádiz, appeared in court yesterday. After this, the case was passed on to the National Court. They were the crew of the SV Nikolay, the merchant ship intercepted fifty miles off the coast of Cadiz, which had come from South America and was on its way to Galicia with three tons of pure cocaine on board. The police operation was carried out with the cooperation of the security forces in Bulgaria and Italy. Another four people were arrested in Galicia and six in Madrid, and police haven’t ruled out further arrests.
Today, following the agreement made with Gibraltar’s prime minister, Fabian Picardo, the fisherman from La Linea in Cádiz can start to fish again in the waters around the Rock. Picardo promised them at a meeting earlier this month that they would not be bothered by patrol boats, following several months of conflicts. According to a representative of the fishermen, Juan Morente, there won’t be many fishing around the Rock, as, due to the fish in season, a lot of the fishermen have gone to other areas. This is a temporary truce, but the boat owners are confident that every-thing will return to normal.
Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has announced that at the Cabinet meeting on the 24th, the extension of the Plan Prepara will be approved, retrospectively. The plan allows for a subsidy to be paid to the long term unemployed who are not receiving any other benefits, of four hundred euros a month. They do, however, have to sign up for training programmes. Rajoy said, this is a small help, but in any case, it is worth it, in difficult times such as this. He didn’t however, say whether changes would be made to the system, but the main objective is make improvements to help people get jobs.
Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has said that it is absurd that the ETA prisoners are trying to blackmail the government. He assured that the law would be complied with regarding the case of the prisoner Josu Bolinaga, who kidnapped Ortega Lara. Rajoy made these comments to the press following his meeting with King Juan Carlos in Mallorca. The other prisoners are on a hunger strike, demanding his release for health reasons. This prisoner is actually in the San Sebastian hospital. Two hundred and twenty five ETA prisoners have joined the protest, along with a group of French terrorists.
There are now two hundred and twenty five ETA terrorist prisoners on hunger strike after twenty nine decided to leave the protest which has lasted for five days. Prison sources say that the number of prisoners joining the hunger strike is going to increase. They also say that a number of those who have said they are part of the initiative, have been caught with food in their cells. Others have said that they will only join in for twenty four hours, and some, as an alternative form of protest, have renounced their right to go outside. They are demanding the release of another prisoner for health reasons.
So far this year, forest fires in Spain have burned a hundred and thirty two thousand three hundred hectares of forest. This is more than three times the amount lost during the same period of last year, when thirty nine and a half thousand hectares were reduced to ashes, according to data provided by the ministry for agriculture, food and the environment as at the 5th of August. These figures do not include the damage caused by the latest fires in Guadalajara, Gerona, Ourense, Alicante, La Gomera and Tenerife. 0.478 per cent of the national territory has been affected.
The European Commission has said that it is good news that Spain has not yet requested the emergency aid of up to thirty thousand million euros, approved for the banks by the Eurogroup on the 20th of July, and which is now available. They made it clear that the idea has always been that the aid would be paid in October, provided everything went according to plan. The Commission is maintaining contact with the Spanish authorities over the banking rescue, which could reach a maximum of a hundred thousand million euros, and says the government hasn’t yet made any request.
The prison institutions’ secretary general Ángel Yuste has said that by yesterday, a hundred and eight ETA terrorist prisoners had joined a hunger strike, in a protest to demand the immediate release of the man who kidnapped José Antonio Ortega Lara, , and another thirteen prisoners, for health reasons. To this number, Yuste said more had to be added, as there were fifty one more prisoners who joined the protest after dinner on Sunday. Of these, twenty six joined yesterday’s hunger strike. The minister for the interior, Jorge Fernandez Díaz, says he will not succumb to blackmail.
The Duke of Palma, Iñaki Urdangarin, will be called to declare again by the judge in charge of the Palma Arena case, if a report from the tax authority, which is about to be presented, and others from the commissions in Andorra, Switzerland and Luxembourg, provide new information about his activities at the front of the Noos Institute. In this case, his ex partner, Diego Torres, would also be cited to declare again. This case has now become so complex, that there are twenty six separate parts, all centred on irregularities committed during the construction of the Palma Arena cycle track.
Apart from the Olympics, the most attention this weekend has been on the suffocatingly high temperatures, with some areas such as Cordoba, reaching 51 degrees on Saturday. There have been forest fires all around the country. In Galicia, a fire which began on Friday in O Barco, Ourense, has reached the neigh-bouring municipality of Rubiá. In Girona, a fire at Ger has been stabilized. In Cantabria, a fire has extended into Palencia. There have also been fires in León, Ciudad Real and the Canaries. Firefighting efforts have been hampered by poor access, high temperatures and winds.
Ryanair has said that it will now advise passengers by SMS, regarding flights which are delayed by more than ninety minutes, giving them the latest information and the new departure time, according to the company. This service is a new addition to communications already offered by Ryanair. It will apply to serious delays to flights caused by bad weather, air traffic controllers’ strikes, or closure of airspace, such as was provoked by the cloud of volcanic ash. The communications director said the latest survey suggested that 95 per cent of passengers had a mobile phone with them when they travel.
The Partido Popular spokesman in Congress, Alfonso Alonso, has said, regarding a possible extension of the four hundred euros a month aid for the long term unemployed, that the government would make a pronouncement when the programme ends, on the 15th of August. Alonso said that the government hadn’t made any decision. He emphasized that the situation is that there are nearly six million people out of work in Spain, and that what must be done is help them to get work. He criticized the previous socialist government for having destroyed three and a half million jobs in seven years.
The Izquierda Unida parliamentary delegate for Seville, Juan Manuel Sánchez Gordillo, who was involved in the supermarket raid which has caused a stir in many circles, has said that the expropriation of food from two supermarkets, in which two others took part, was a necessary action which would probably be repeated, because someone has to do something so that families can eat every day. The three filled trolleys with food and other essential items to give to a local food bank. Gordillo added that it was necessary to draw attention to the reality of the poor families in Andalusia.
On Tuesday, the spokesperson for the socialist group in Congress, Soraya Rodríguez, demanded that the government interrupts its holidays, and calls the cabinet for an extraordinary meeting, to approve the extension of the benefit payment of four hundred euros a month for the long term employed who have no other benefits, before the 15th of August. That is that date when this payment, known as Plan Prepara, expires, and once that date passes, the plan cannot be renewed, a lack of action which the PSOE calls political cowardice. The next scheduled Cabinet meeting is on the 24th.
A spokesman for the consumers’ association Facua, Rubén Sánchez, has called the proposal by the ministry for health, social services and equality, to make illegal immigrants who have been registered on the Padrón in Spain for a year, pay seven hundred and ten euros annually, to obtain free health assistance, xenophobic and discriminatory. The socialist PSOE delegate and spokesman in the Congress health commission, José Martínez Olmos joined the fray, referring to this as barbaric, and added that he doubts that the government has the authority to implement the measure.
Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy had a half hour telephone conversation on Monday with US President Barack Obama, during which they analysed the economic situation in Spain and Europe, as well as on a world level. According to Moncloa, they spoke about various questions relative to bilateral relations. Meanwhile, the opposition PSOE leader, Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba, during a trip to Berlin, said that the government has begun to have conversations with the European Central Bank, to find out exactly what they are prepared to do to deal with the Spanish and Italian debt situations.
National Police officers have arrested fourteen people who belong to a network dedicated to the falsification of tactical articles used by the police and military. Six thousand two hundred and twenty five products, which were being distributed in Spain, were confiscated. Among the arrested were two Chinese men who imported the false products from their own country. This is the first seizure of this type in Europe. The items do not have guarantees for safety or quality, and could be harmful. They include simulated firearms which could explode, and visors with lasers which could damage the eyes.
The two Russians of Chechen origin, linked to Al Qaeda, who were arrested last Thursday in Ciudad Real, possessed video material which could rationally suggest the preparation of some type of terrorist action, according to National Court judge Pablo Ruz. After two interrogations, the two have been charged with belonging to a terrorist group, and possession of explosive equipment and substances. The charges are based on information from American secret services agents, that according to a protected witness, one of them has been taking part in terrorist attacks since 2010.
The budget program for 2013 to 2014 which Mariano Rajoy’s government submitted to Brussels last Friday, to guarantee its commitment to spending cuts, and increased tax income, estimates an adjustment of a hundred and two thousand million euros. This may force the government to attack the problem by restricting access to early or partial retirements. They may also bring forward the date when the reforms to retirements and pensions, introduced by former prime minister Zapatero, come into force, which is currently set for the year 2027.
The British Embassy warns homeowners to ensure that they rent properties in accordance with Spanish law. Homeowners who rent out their properties to holidaymakers are being warned they could face huge fines unless they comply with Spanish law. The British Embassy has become aware of a number of cases where homeowners have been fined up to thirty thousand euros for letting properties without the correct permits. The Embassy has today published advice for homeowners who rent out their properties or are considering doing so, which can be found on the UKinSpain website.
The three presumed Al Qaeda terrorists arrested yesterday in La Linea, and in Ciudad Real – one Turk and two Russians – were storing a small amount of explosives in an apartment in San Roque, in La Linea, and were planning attacks both inside and outside of Spain. Police think they might have been planning to use new methods such as a motorised paraglider. The minister for the interior, Jorge Fernández, said that the explosives found were being analyzed, and that the amount was sufficient to destroy a bus. The investigation, led by National Court Judge Pablo Ruiz, remains open.
The director general of the International Monetary Fund, Christine Lagarde, has praised Spain for its efforts to reduce its deficit, and for the reforms which have been introduced to make the Spanish economy more competitive. Lagarde added, what Spain has done, and what it has promised to do, is not much more than we would have asked if the country was under an IMF programme. She said that the best of all this, was a better than expected improvement in Spanish exports. She commented that many of Spain’s efforts were being undermined by investors’ uncertainty over the future of the Eurozone.
The claim to be lodged by the public prosecutor for environmental damage caused by the maritime Prestige catastrophe could reach as much as two thousand million euros, according to the chief prosecutor in Galicia, Carlos Varela. He said that the prosecution’s objective is that the tribunal which judges this case values the pure environmental damage, to vegetation and wildlife, and the health of people, amongst other aspects. He said that this will be the first case of this type in Spain. The judicial process will begin on the 16th of October.
Trafico has repaired all the radar installations for speed control which were broken, and there are now eight hundred and fifty in operation on Spain’s roads. This came just in time for the August holiday operation, which began on Tuesday. Catalonia, with two hundred and twenty, is the community with the most radars, with a ratio of 18.25 per kilometre of road, followed by the Basque Country and Madrid. Trafico has predicted that there will be 40.7 million movements on the country’s roads during this month, and on the busiest days there will be extra measures in operation to reduce traffic jams.
The Euribor, the interest rate on which mortgages are based in Spain, ended July at the lowest level over the more than ten years of its history. In July, the indicator fell by 1,222 points, leaving it at 1.215 per cent, well below the level of March 2010. This is excellent news for those with mortgages. For example, the payments on a mortgage of a hundred and twenty thousand euros over a term of twenty years, will be reduced by 64 euros 20 a month, meaning a annual saving of more than seven hundred and seventy euros.
On Monday, on the thirteenth anniversary of taking the throne, the King of Morocco, Mohammed the 6th, ordered his government to make available any opportunities needed to alleviate the financial crisis in Spain. The objective, he said, is to create shared wealth for the two neighbouring countries. He added, in this difficult situation, that once again we want to express our commitment to make opportunities available, and create a deeper and more efficient solidarity between the two countries. There are already solid links between the Royal households of Spain and Morocco, and the two Kings.
The minister for foreign affairs, José Manuel García Margallo, revealed yesterday that the government’s decision over the weekend, to repatriate Spanish foreign aid workers from the refugee camps in Tinduf, was taken after information was received regarding the existence of an imminent kidnapping plan. In response to criticism from some charity organisations over the repatriation, Margallo said that returning to Spain was voluntary. He added that Spain and the rest of the European Union are working together to decide how to help a mission in Mali, which has become a no-man’s land.
The miners in Aragon decided on Sunday, at a meeting in Andrra, that tomorrow, the 1st of August, they would call off the strike which has now lasted for sixty three days. The head of the mining sector of the UGT union in Aragon, Aurelio Rodrigo, explained that the strike had been called off in the hope that an agreement could be reached with the ministry for industry, tourism and energy. The miners have requested that a series of meetings be called to negotiate, and as a result, the syndicates and coal mining management, are having talks with the ministry today to discuss the new Carbon plan.
Trafico predicts that there will be 2.7 million movements on Spain’s roads in the first holiday traffic operation of August, which begins tomorrow at 3pm, and extends to midnight on the 1st. These are the days on which they expect the most people to be using the roads, either returning from, or going on holiday, and when there will be extra measures to control traffic. Last year, there were almost 1,500 kilometres of traffic jams. Meanwhile, just in time for the holiday seas-on, the road tolls on the AP-7 and AP-2 in Catalonia increased by 7.5 per cent from midnight on Saturday.
National Court judge Javier Gómez Bermúdez, has imposed a surety of 25.8 million euros on the five former directors of the Cam bank, at the request of the bank restructuring fund. It is a surety imposed on the supposition that the former bank chiefs will have to face civil responsibility for the economic damages caused to the bank. Judge Bermúdez has already confiscated passports from María Dolores Amorós and Roberto López Abad, and ordered them to report to their nearest court every fifteen days, due to the clear risk that they might escape or destroy evidence.
In Catalonia, the regional economy councillor, Andreu Mas-Colell has advised the government that Catalonia will not accept political conditions if it takes a loan from the State liquidity fund. He said yesterday that they are conscious that credit always implies economic conditions. Meanwhile, the Catalonian Partido Popular president, Alicia Sánchez Camacho, said that prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, would be contacting the regional president, Arturo Mas to communicate his rejection of the fiscal pact approved in the region, a negotiation which came at one of the worst times in recent history.
The economy ministers for Spain, Luis de Guindos, and for France, Pierre Moscovici, have repeated their commitment to fully and rapidly implement the decisions which were made by the European Commission on the 28th and 29th of June. In a meeting this week, they said that their common strategy for stability in the Eurozone, includes the adoption, before the end of the year, of a means of supervision for the banks in the zone, which involves the Central European Bank. The two have promised to bring negotiations to a rapid conclusion, to open the door to direct recapitalisations of banks.
According to Catalonia’s councillor for the interior, Felip Puig, the fire which has been burning since Sunday in the district of Alt Empordá, and which has already affected around fourteen thousand hectares, and border traffic between Spain and France, has entered into the control phase. Despite this, he explained that the prediction is that the fire will not be totally extinguished until Friday, and that the firemen continue working. On Tuesday, the blaze was reported to be contained and stable, and no-one was confined to their homes. The electricity supply to the area has also been restored.
In Catalonia, the regional government confirmed on Tuesday that, on a date yet to be determined, it will be taking advantage of the liquidity fund which has been made available by central government for the independent communities, although they say that their financial situation is far from needing a rescue. Catalonia is the third community to state that it will apply for a loan from this fund, following Valencia and Murcia. Spokesman Francesc Homs said that this line of credit was very similar to others previously offered to the communities, and would not mean a toughening of conditions.
Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has called all the independent and regional Partido Popular presidents to a meeting on the 30th of July so that he can close the ranks, and stage the central and PP led regional governments’ compromise regarding reduction of the public deficit, as well as to give an image of unity regarding the reforms and adjustments, according to party sources. The meeting, to take place at the party headquarters, was called after some communities, such as Valencia and Murcia, recognised publicly that they needed financial help from the government’s independent liquidity fund.
The government has launched a wide diplomatic offensive to gain support and stop the attack on Spain’s debt situation, which on Monday marked a new record with a risk premium of six hundred and forty points. This offensive by the state economics office, included contacting the United States, France and Germany, to make it clear that the country is complying with its objectives. It was also stated that it’s now time for the Central European Bank to create stability, as the country cannot continue financing itself at a rate of seven per cent, contrary to ECB president Mario Draghi’s recent statements.
Yesterday, a sixty four year old Frenchman became the fourth mortal victim of the fires at Empordá, after he died in a Barcelona hospital, where he had been admitted in a critical condition with eighty per cent burns. The region’s interior minister, Felip Puig, said that he had been found on the road as a consequence of the fire declared at La Jonquera. According to the regional health service, eight patients have been admitted to hospitals in Barcelona and Girona, four of these in a serious condition, in the burns unit. The hospital nearest to the fires, at Figueres, has attended to twenty six patients.
The economy minister, Luis de Guindos, appeared before the economy and competitivity commission in Congress yesterday to explain the agreement reached with the Eurogroup over the banking rescue loan approved last Friday. He said the first part of the loan, of thirty thousand million euros, available at the end of this month, can be used for urgent and unexpected needs. The full amount to be loaned will be known in September. It must be paid back with around three per cent interest, over up to fifteen years, and the aid can be stopped at any time if Spain fails to comply with the conditions agreed.
While the European Community wants to evaluate the effects of the banking rescue and reforms, leading European officials are saying that Spain’s financial credibility is close to zero, that investors have sentenced the country, and that its government has lost time recently, committing a succession of errors. Some say that if there isn’t a change in attitude, Spain will need a complete rescue. Ken Rogoff, Harvard professor and former IMF chief economist, said that Spain would continue to have serious problems with growth and unemployment, until its level of debt is massively reduced.
Hundreds of people from different parts of the country congregated in Madrid on Saturday in the Paseo del Prado, next to the museum, to receive the March of the 40 Million, which were separate marches consisting of people out of work, to demand a real change in the management of the country, and to join a protest against the cutbacks later that evening. They want the money the government will receive, to be destined towards the creation of jobs, and not directly injected into the banks. They said that the fact that the banks have not been managed well, is not the responsibility of the public.
Yesterday, the European Commission specified that the loan to Spain for the rescue of its banks, of a hundred thousand million euros, which the Euro-group is to approve today, will be directed towards banks, and for no other objectives. Brussels said that if the government needed help to buy debt as a way of reducing the risk premium, then it must submit another application, and follow the procedures. This is contrary to reports by various papers yesterday. The EC considers that the signing of the banking rescue for Spain today, will serve to calm the markets and reduce the risk premium.
King Juan Carlos travelled to Moscow on Wednesday afternoon, and for the first time in more than twenty years, a dozen journalists joined him on his Spanish Air Force flight. Also with the King were several business owners, government ministers and councillors. He made it clear that the solution to the crisis currently suffered by the country is to export more and more, and he encouraged Spanish companies to open offices outside of the country if they want to do business and win contracts. All members of the party had lunch yesterday with the King and Russian president Vladimir Putin.
The minister for taxation, Cristóbal Montoro, has justified the adjustments to civil servants’ pay, which includes his own, by saying that there aren’t enough funds available to pay the wages. He said, there isn’t any money, and when there isn’t any money, you have to extend working hours. He added that their pay depended on taxation, and if we don’t collect more, then there is the risk that salaries won’t be paid. He continued by saying that this is what is happening in the independent communities and local corpora-tions, and that the PSOE party should help the government to explain how things really are.
The Finnish minister for finance announced on Tuesday that Spain and Finland have reached an agreement over the guarantees demanded by Helsinki, in exchange for its participation in the banking rescue of up to a hundred million euros. As a result, Spain will pay a surety to Finland, of up to seven hundred and seventy million euros in cash which will come from the Deposit Guarantee Fund, and which will cover forty per cent of Finland’s contribution towards the loan. The money is to be paid into a Finnish bank account in proportion to the amount lent to Spain from the end of this month.
King Juan Carlos has reduced his annual salary by twenty one thousand euros, and that of the Prince of Asturias by ten thousand, according to Zarzuela palace. This was to bring their salaries in line with the government adjustments to those of Mariano Rajoy and his ministers, which have been reduced by 7.1 per cent. The salary of the head of the Royal household, Rafael Spottorno, and the payments to the Princess of Asturias, and the Infantas Elena and Cristina for representing the Queen, have also been reduced. Other Royal household employees will lose the extra Christmas payment.
The secretary general of the opposition PSOE party, Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba, has complained that Mariano Rajoy’s government has imposed cutbacks on the independent communities which amount to more than the 40 per cent adjustments that the government itself is making. Rubalcaba had met the economics ministers from the communities ruled by his party, to discuss the latest measures, the economy and taxation. He said that the adjustments were strangling the communities, were an attack on the welfare state, and imposed despite Europe’s extension of the objective by a year.
Large numbers of civil servants once again took to the streets of Madrid yesterday, and succeeded in blocking various main roads in the city centre, including Gran Vía in the direction of the Plaza de Cibeles, to protest against the latest round of cutbacks announced by the government. As in previous days, at around 11am, employees left their workplaces to protest against the measures which include the removal of the extra Christmas payment. By 11.20, they had blocked the Gran Vía, where they met to form a type of funeral march, which had been called by civil servants from the Madrid council.
In an interview with El Mundo, the minister for industry, energy and tourism, José Manuel Soria, insisted that there was no money left this year for the mining industry, and that there was no room for manoeuvre in that regard. He added that there was no other sector which had such a high budget. He said that the government had no intention to sell off the mining industry, but wants it be competitive, and emphasised that it would not succumb to pressure, no matter hard this is. Of the latest round of cutbacks, he said that the spending party had finished, and that everyone must help to reduce the deficit.
Taxation minister, Cristóbal Montoro, has said that the rise in purchase tax, from eighteen to twenty one per cent, and in the reduced level from eight to ten per cent, will be effective from the 1st of September, so as not to affect tourism. Montoro is aware that August is a significant month for this sector. Necessary items, such as milk, bread and eggs, will remain at the rate of four per cent. Montoro added that some items currently taxed at the reduced rate, will be reclassified to fall within the general rate. Rises in cinema and theatre tickets, as well as hairdressing and cosmetics, will be noticeable.
Nine people were arrested on Friday night by the National Police, during an unauthorised march in Madrid which was called via the social networks, to protest against the latest round of cutbacks approved by the government. The people arrested were accused of throwing objects at police officers. More than a thousand people joined the tense march, which stopped at the headquarters of the Partido Popular and the PSOE, Congress and the Puerta del Sol. Demands for the resignation of various ministers, and the Prime Minister, were shouted. Demonstrations also took place in other large cities.
The fashion chaín C&A has decided to absorb the rise of three points in purchase tax, and will not be increasing the prices of its products. C&A is joined in this decision by other fashion firms, such as Inditex and Mango. C&A say that in accordance with market strategy, they are acting to ensure that their customers are guaranteed the best products at the best prices. C&A has a hundred and twenty nine stores in Spain. And Iberia has decided not to retroactively apply the airport tax increase, which came into effect on the 1st of July, to those who bought their tickets before that date.
A new ministerial order which entered into force on Wednesday, has imposed new criteria for European Union citizens and their families who want to spend more than three months in Spain without working. They now have to prove that they have either public or private medical insurance, which could be contracted in this or another country, and which offers coverage similar to Spain’s national health service. They must also prove that they have sufficient resources to sustain themselves during their stay, and sign up on the foreigners register. Pensioners already comply with this requirement.
Yesterday, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy announced a rise in purchase tax of three points to twenty one per cent, a three and a half billion euro cut in local authority budgets, and a reduction in unemployment benefits. These measures are in return for the eurozone bank bailout and an extension to the country’s deficit reduction targets. The changes came as hundreds of Spanish miners marched in Madrid in protest against government cuts to subsidies. Rajoy, interrupted several times by opposition MPs, told parliament that the measures he was announcing had to be adopted without delay.
The European Union has demanded that Spain closes problem banks which are not viable, to ensure that their bankruptcy doesn’t put the remainder of the sector at risk. This is just one of the conditions which form part of the rescue pact agreed by the Eurogroup, which has not identified the banks which must be closed, but which includes the need for further financial reforms, and states that the country will be monitored closely. Economy minister, Luis de Guindos, has said that the first part of the loan, of thirty thousand million euros could be received before the end of this month.
This Friday, King Juan Carlos will preside over a cabinet meeting at the Zarzuela Palace, at which the ministers responsible for each department will speak about State matters that they are in charge of. This will be the first time in this legislation that the King has called a Cabinet session. The last time was during José Luis Zapatero’s government, in 2008, and previously, just after that government was constituted. Following this special meeting, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy will preside over a normal cabinet meeting at Moncloa, when further adjustments and reforms will be approved.
The provincial court in Guadalajara has condemned a man to two years in prison. He was in charge of watching a barbecue, which he was preparing for five others, sparks from which caused a forest fire in the Riba de Saelices in 2005, in which eleven firefighters lost their lives, and which burned just under thirteen thousand hectares of land. He was also ordered to pay damages to the Castilla-La Mancha regional government of over 10.6 million euros. Two others who were suspected of being involved were acquitted, and none of them were accused of causing the deaths of the victims.
The Eurozone economy ministers have said that they are prepared to approve an extension to the period within which Spain must correct its excessive deficit and bring it below the level of three per cent under its gross domestic product. The proposed extension could be of a year, meaning that Spain will have until 2014. The draft document says that Spain must put an end to its current excessive deficit situation between now and 2014. If there is an agreement, the extension could be approved formally today. In exchange, they will demand that Spain adopts additional measures without delay.
The Guardia Civil’s traffic division has begun an intensive campaign to fight driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs, which will last until the 15th. This time, there will be zero tolerance, and with this, the ministry for the interior hopes to reduce the number of drivers who use drugs and drive. Until now, such campaigns have formed part of a European study to determine the percentage of drivers who do so. These checks will now be carried out in an exhaustive and more frequent manner, as driving under the influence of drugs significantly increases the possibility of provoking, or suffering an accident.
Crimestoppers are seeking help to arrest a suspected murderer of a British family. British national Anxiang Du is wanted in connection with the brutal murder of a couple and their two teenage daughters in Northamptonshire last year. Du, who is believed to be hiding in northern Morocco, may return to Spain. Police are now asking people who will be using the ferries from Algeciras to Tangier to be on the lookout. There is a reward of up to twenty five thousand pounds for information leading to his arrest. You can see photos of him at flickr dot com slash photos slash UK in Spain.
On Saturday, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy once again appealed to the independent communities to make an extra effort to reduce their spending levels, and confirmed that the government would announce more cutbacks during this month. At the same time, he urged the European Union to comply with the agreements reached over a week ago at the Brussels summit, including the banking rescue. At an event which he attended with former prime minister José María Aznar, he added that the European Commission had spoken of a fiscal and banking union, and urged Brussels to turn their words into actions.
A multitudinous funeral was held in Seville yesterday, for the military colonel, José Agustín Nieva Gómez, who died last Monday when the helicopter he was flying, crashed during fire extinction duties in Valencia. He had lived in Seville for the last thirty years with his wife and three children, two of whom are now National Police officers. Despite the wishes of his family for an intimate funeral, crowds attended the mass. Officials, including the mayor of Seville, Juan Ignacio Zoido, and regional minister for agriculture, food and the environment, Miguel Arias Cañete, also attended.
The government is to add a privatisation plan to the list of measures to be announced in the coming weeks to reduce the deficit. Mariano Rajoy had previously announced that there would be new adjustment measures, and asked for a new effort from the independent communities. Any new measures would have to be approved by Brussels before they are announced, and are likely to be analysed at a European economy ministers meeting on the 10th. The proposed privatisations, which would affect various ministries and public companies, would mean savings of up to thirty thousand million euros for the government.
The National Police force have dismantled a travelling gang who are thought to be responsible for at least ten smash and grab robberies at businesses in various provinces, and have arrested the eight members. According to the police, the gang was based in La Rioja, and presumed to have robbed catering establishments, perfume stores, casinos and kiosks in Cantabria, Burgos, Álava, La Rioja, Zaragoza and Murcia. They always worked at night, smashing doors or walls of shops next door to their targets. They worked in teams, studying the area beforehand, and using frequency inhibitors.
The minister for the economy, Luis de Guindos, has said that the government will make additional efforts to ensure that compliance with the deficit reduction objectives are complied with, and that their commitment to this objective is absolute, although this must be compatible with the recession situation in the country. According to the minister, the future measures, details of which he did not reveal, would be aimed at liberating the markets and services, and opening up credit. He did, however, hint that the reforms to public administrations were insufficient, and that more had to be done.
The government plans to strengthen areas where there are large numbers of tourists, with a modification to the commercial norms which would oblige fourteen cities to define areas with freedom to open shops for extended hours, as well as on Sundays and bank holidays for at least 10 days a year, according to the secretary of state for commerce, Jaime García-Legaz. These cities are Barcelona, Seville, Alicante, Valencia, Zaragoza, Málaga, Las Palmas, Bilbao, Córdoba, Granada, Cartagena, the community of Madrid, Palma de Mallorca, and Santa Cruz.
Yesterday, at a national Partido Popular meeting in Seville, prime minister Mariano Rajoy told members that everything that the government has done and will do, is necessary and essential for the country to come out of the crisis. He added that it was now time to accelerate the reforms, and said that the independent communities must now make an extra effort to fight the deficit in the coming months. Rajoy said he was worried that last year, Spain spent ninety million euros more than its income, and defended the reforms which are designed to increase competitivity, boost the economy and create employment.
In Congress, the socialist PSOE party has requested that the minister for agriculture, food and the environment, Miguel Arias Cañete, describes the government’s coordination and reinforcement efforts regarding the recent fires in Spain, and the aid proposed for the affected areas. Socialist spokesperson Leire Pajín, gave all the support of her parliamentary group to those who have suffered directly as a consequence of the fires in Valencia and Murcia, and those who are tirelessly fighting to extinguish them. The Valencian fire is one of the worst recorded incidents in Spain since 1991.
According to Europa Press, the pressure on the Guardia Civil’s traffic officers to issue fines has worsened recently. The level of fines issued increased by nearly eleven per cent in April. According to Guardia Civil sources, this is due to a constant flow of orders, always verbal, from the ministry for the interior, to increase the number of fines. They say that sometimes their bonus has been cancelled when they have been told that their productivity level is low, and that they have been warned of the consequences on their salaries if they fail to improve their behaviour – a cut of around 230 euros.
Yesterday, the new system of co-payment for prescribed medicines entered into force. For the first time in the history of Spain’s national health service, pensioners are obliged to pay ten per cent of the price of their medicines. Meanwhile, workers must now pay a percentage determined by their income levels. The measure, which forms part of health reforms, has been rejected by social agents and some communities including Andalusia and Catalonia, who until the last minute doubted that the system would start on the set date, and the Basque Country, which has announced that it will not apply the system.
Over the first six months of this year, the ministry for employment and social security has detected four thousand five hundred cases of fraud related to people collecting unemployment benefit despite the fact that they have work, according to deputy prime minister Soraya Sáenz de Santa María. She said at a press conference that the ministry had carried out nearly ten thousand inspections, and added that more resources were needed to eradicate the underground or black economy. She announced that fifty three new work inspectors were being taken on, as well as sixty new sub-inspectors.
At the EU summit which began yesterday, European leaders have asked Spain to increase purchase tax and environmental taxes, and abolish the tax deductions for home purchase, which Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy reintroduced, to favour growth and prevent the creation of another property bubble. The European Council is also set to approve the economic recommendations which it hopes Spain will introduce in the coming months to correct its unbalanced economy. If the government fails to comply, the European Union could ask for the banking rescue to be frozen, according to EC sources.
The minister for industry, energy and tourism, José Manuel Soria, estimates that the rise in electricity bills will be of around four per cent, following this week’s quarterly auction. At a press conference, Soria explained that the cost of electricity would be split equally between regulated costs and those determined by the quarterly energy auction. Wednesday’s auction resulted in an increase of 9.55 per cent in energy supplied. He said that the most probable result would be that the tariffs would be determined by the market, and that this would imply a rise from July, of four to five per cent.
The European Commission has temporarily approved the rescue plan for Bankia and its mother company BFA, which includes converting into capital the four thousand four million euros worth of preferential shares owned by the State, and a guarantee of liquidity for nineteen thousand million euros, and they demand a profound restructuring plan within six months. The approved aid does not include the nineteen thousand million euros demanded by Bankia’s new president, which is being examined by the Spanish authorities. The share conversión means BFA will be completely state controlled.
Yesterday, the ministry for health proposed that the independent communities within the country’s health service, exclude from public finance, some four hundred and fifty six medicines for minor symptoms. The list of products likely to be excluded, for which patients would have to pay full price, includes cough medicines and products to alleviate the symptoms of colds and flu, drugs for herpes, constipation and diarrhea. This proposal was made at the first meeting since the law was approved which restricts healthcare for those without documents, and reformed the co-payment system.
The finance ministers of France, Germany, Italy and Spain attended a meeting in Paris on Tuesday, with the European Commissioners for Economic Affairs, Olli Rehn, to prepare, in an active manner, the European Summit which is to take place tomorrow and Friday in Brussels, according to the French minister, Pierre Moscovici. He said that the summit, of European Union state and government heads is essential, and must serve to establish the basis of the second phase of the euro, and restore confidence in Europe. Economy minister Luis de Guindos will be representing Spain.
During his speech at the general assembly of the CEOE, Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy, announced that, soon, during the rest of this year, there will be new economic measures, which, although difficult, will have the one objective, to create economic growth and employment. He added, these are times of big decisions, and we will have to make many more soon, but we have already taken the worst – to correct what has to be corrected, and reform that which must be reformed. He thanked the Spanish society for the strength of mind and solidarity with which they are confronting the crisis.
In a communication, the ministry for the interior has announced that the coalition political party Bildu risks being made illegal, for subsidising, with nine thousand euros, a documentary about ETA prisoners. The ministry chief, Jorge Fernández Díaz, said that this was tantamount to promoting the terrorist group, as was pointed out in a recent Constitutional tribunal sentence against Sortu. He added that, Bildu could be failing to comply with this sentence, which clearly establishes the type of behaviour which could lead to the illegalisation of a political party. We are not going to allow this.
This Friday, the government will not only approve energy reforms, with which they hope to solve the tariff deficit problem, but also a revision for the third quarter of this year, when income from the electrical system must be sufficient to cover costs, and this may imply a new rise in electricity bills in July. In the energy reforms, the government will include measures to prevent the reappearance of the tariff deficit, and to deal with the accumulated debt of twenty four thousand million euros, which consumers will have to pay for, with only seven thousand two hundred million financed by the electricity companies.
The economy minister, Luis de Guindos, was expected to present Spain’s formal application to the Eurogroup for the banking rescue today, but this won’t include the exact amount that Spain needs, out of the one hundred thousand million euros which are available. In the worst scenario, the country’s banks would need sixty two thousand million euros, according to the independent consultants Oliver Wyman and Roland Berger, who have been carrying out audits on the troubled banks on behalf of the government. De Guindos expects the conditions to be agreed at a Eurogroup meeting on the 9th of July.
The British Royal Navy decorated two of its ships which were moored at La Coruña’s port yesterday, to greet King Juan Carlos on his saint’s day. From daybreak until sunset, the helicopter carrier HMS Illustrious and the minesweeper HMS Ledbury flew a colourful succession of flags, including Spain’s, according to British diplomatic sources. The Illustrious arrived at the port on Friday, and returns to the Atlantic today. On Friday, the ship’s captain and commander, Martin Connell, and rear admiral Frederick Price, offered lunch and a guided tour to various civil and military authorities in La Coruña.
In Madrid, Guardia Civil officers in Las Rozas have arrested four men who illegally supplied drugs, mainly anabolic steroids for the purpose of increasing physical capacity. The four, all Spanish, are well known in the sporting world for their prestige. Over two thousand doses, a large supply of syringes, and over four thousand euros in cash were confiscated in searches inside a shop which specialised in health foods, and at the homes of the arrested people. Operation Gym began in April when a man was seen outside a gymnasium handing over a bag of steroids to another man.
Within the next few weeks, the government will approve a law project against fiscal fraud, according to the minister for taxation, Cristobal Montoro. During a Congress session, Montoro said that these new regulations would give the tax authorities the means and judicial procedures they need to eradicate the black economy, and also matters related to purchase tax. He added that the government is following OECD recommendations, and practices already followed by other countries including Italy, Germany and the UK, and said this regulation would provide more finance for essential public services.
King Juan Carlos visited Algeciras yesterday, to support the work of the Guardia Civil in the Straits, and the local fishermen who are suffering from confrontations with officials from Gibraltar, who since March, have made it difficult for them to fish close to the Rock. The work of the Guardia Civil in this area ranges from the fight against illegal immigration and drug trafficking, to the recent protection of the fishermen. The King agreed to an audience with a dozen fishermen at the end of the day’s agenda. He was accompanied on his visit by the minister for the interior, Jorge Fernández Díaz.
The Spanish government has been negotiating the conditions of the banking rescue from the restructuring fund, of up to a hundred thousand million euros with the Eurogroup, to ensure that it has the least effect on the state debt, and intends to formally apply for the rescue this week, possibly today, as soon as auditors have supplied figures which will reveal exactly how much Spain needs to borrow. During the G-20 summit in Mexico, German chancellor Angela Merkel confirmed that the world leaders had urged Spain to move rapidly with its application. The government is hoping that this will generate certainty in the markets.
Yesterday, the minister for the interior, Jorge Fernandez Diaz continued to talk about speed limits, saying that he expects information panels to be installed on all Spanish motorways and dual carriageways, as are being used on the accesses to Barcelona, which will inform drivers of the speed limit in force, which will be determined by road and weather conditions. In a TV interview, he said that he wanted the new driving regulations to be approved in the second half of this year, which will allow for a reduction in the speed limit on conventional roads to ninety kilometres an hour.
On Monday, the minister for the interior, Jorge Fernández Díaz, said that he is fairly convinced that he will be reducing the maximum speed limit on conventional roads from a hundred to ninety kilometres an hour, as the most serious accidents take place on these roads. He added that this change would be made at the most adequate time, to improve road safety. Regarding the possibility of increasing the speed limit on motorways from a hundred and twenty to a hundred and thirty kilometres an hour, Díaz said that this was being studied, although a decision hasn’t yet been made.
The minister for taxation, Cristobal Montoro, admitted yesterday that the current situation affecting Spain – with the risk premium and ten year treasury bond interest rates at record highs, is critical and crucial, and insisted on not only the need to give more support to the euro, but also that the Central European Bank gives a firm response to the markets which are standing in our way. During his speech in Senate, where they were debating and voting on this year’s budget, Montoro had not wanted to hide the fact that yesterday was a significant and important day on which to deal with public accounts.
The two unions CC.OO and UGT have called more demonstrations for tomorrow, to protest against the labour reforms, the government’s adjustment measures and cutbacks, and to show that they favour other economic and social politics to take Spain out of the crisis. They predict that there will be up to fifty six demonstrations in main cities, as well as concentrations in Logroño and Melilla, under the slogan, Don’t keep quiet – defend your rights. After the last general strike, the unions advised the government that demonstrations would continue if they failed to create a state pact for the crisis.
This week in Congress, the socialist PSOE party will be questioning the government over the banking rescue, a debate which will result in voting on a motion regarding the next session, on the 26th of June, just before the EU summit, and before the day when the minister for the economy, Luis de Guindos and Mariano Rajoy are due make explanations. The PSOE argued in writing that the government must inform parliament regarding the details which still haven’t been clarified, and determine the exact amount of the rescue. They add that the workers and medium classes cannot end up paying for it.
Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said on Saturday, that for now, he had ruled out following the International Monetary Fund recommendations to increase purchase tax and reduce civil servants’ pay. He also emphasised that the IMF had only made recommendations, and minimised their importance. Despite this, Rajoy confirmed his commitment to the reforms programme, and said that the priority was to reduce the public deficit, making the economy more competitive, to create jobs and economic growth. He added that one of the government’s next measures would be to reform the public administration.
The detention of ETA terrorist group member, Lander Fernández, in Italy on Wednesday, has confirmed the hypothesis that anti-terrorist experts have been working on for some time. ETA members have found one of their favourite refuges in Italy, having escaped from the pressure they suffered in France. The ministry for the interior, however, has always denied that ETA has a stable infrastructure in Italy. The experts also say that Spain’s security forces have detected ETA’s presence in the United Kingdom and Ireland, and Sterling bank notes have been found on members previously arrested.
The International Red Cross Movement and the Media Luna Roja have been chosen by the jury of the Principe de Asturias awards in Oviedo to receive this year’s International Cooperation Prize. They are being recognised for their work in public health, education, environmental protection, and social and economic development on an international basis. There were thirty three candidates from all over the world for this prize. Each prize consists of a sculpture by Joan Miró, which is a symbol representative of the award, fifty thousand euros, and an insignia, to be presented this Autumn by the Prince in Oviedo.
Next week, King Juan Carlos is to travel to Algeciras in Cádiz to support the work of the Guardia Civil in the Straits of Gibraltar, and which includes protecting the fishermen in the area of the Rock, as well as the fight against drug trafficking and organised crime. More recently, they have been more involved with escorting fishing boats which, since March, have been pestered by Gibraltar’s police, who have often been supported by the Royal Navy. The Gibraltar government, led by Fabian Picardo, broke an agreement with the fishermen in March, which has been in effect since 1999.
It is most likely that the 11th of July will be the day when prime minister Mariano Rajoy attends Congress to give an account of the Spanish banking system rescue, and of the European ministers’ meeting which will discuss details of last weekend’s decision by the Eurogroup. The government and the Partido Popular have insisted that Rajoy’s explanations of the European rescue should be made after the EC meeting, which is scheduled for the 28th and 29th of June. PP spokesman Alfonso Alonso, insists that Rajoy wants to give explanations in Congress, but that this would be after the G20 and EC meetings.
The Partido Popular was the only party to reject the demand by the socialists, the financial sector and the Izquierda parties, for prime minister Mariano Rajoy to explain the nationalisation of Bankia, and its causes, as well as the economic crisis in general, to a full Congress. All the opposition groups have also demanded that Rajoy explains the details of the banking sector rescue approved by the Eurogroup last weekend. Meanwhile, the Partido Popular, while acknowledging that the emergency situation demands certain explanations, pointed out that they don’t see this as necessary.
In the long running Gürtel corruption case, the defence acting for the supposed head of the plot, Francisco Correa, has deposited the bail fee of two hundred thousand euros with the National Court. This has allowed him to leave the Soto del Real prison in Madrid, where he has been held since the former Judge Baltasar Garzón ordered his detention in February 2009. The money was paid in by the defendant’s mother. In June, the instructing judge allowed the bank accounts and insurance policies in his mother’s name, which had been embargoed, to be unblocked, so that the money could be accessed.
Minutes before Prince Edward and his wife Sophie Rhys Jones landed in Gibraltar yesterday, the national Partido Popular delegate and mayor of Algeciras, José Ignacio Landaluce asked the colony’s government, as a gesture of goodwill, that Prince Edward does not inaugurate the new airport terminal building, an act which is planned for tomorrow, as it sits on land which Spain has never handed over. The British colony has decorated its streets, balconies, shops and bars with flags and photos of the Royal family, especially for the Royal visit, which has been slammed by many officials for its bad timing.
The new governor of the Bank of Spain, Luis María Linde, was sworn in yesterday, in front of King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia, at the Zarzuela Palace. He takes over immediately, and replaces Miguel Ángel Fernández Ordóñez, who has held the position for the last six years. The government chose Linde for his competence in financial affairs, and his lack of political links, according to the minister for the economy, Luis de Guindos. The Madrid stock exchange, the Ibex-35 opened yesterday with a rise of over five per cent, with advances in the financial sector following news of the banking rescue.
Prince Edward, and his wife, Sophie Rhys-Jones, the Count and Countess of Wessex, start a three day official visit to Gibraltar today, regarding which the Spanish government has formally informed London of its disgust and uneasiness. The Gibraltar government has publicised the programme of events, which includes a reception with honours on their arrival at the airport at around midday, as well as a visit to the new terminal building, constructed on the isthmus which Spain says the English have occupied illegally since the nineteenth century, as Spain never handed over that piece of land.
Spain's decision to request a loan of up to a hundred billion euros from eurozone funds to help shore up its struggling banks has won broad support. The International Monetary Fund said the bailout was big enough to restore credibility to Spain's banks. The move was agreed during emergency talks between eurozone finance ministers on Saturday. Economy Minister, Luis de Guindos, said the help would be for the banking system alone, is not a rescue, and would not come with conditions for the economy. He added that no final decision would be made until the auditors’ results had been considered.
The public prosecutor for road safety, Bartholomé Vargas, has announced that the juvenile department could adopt protective measures, and remove a child from the parents’ custody, if they are fined more than three times for failing to use adequate child safety seats. After explaining the conclusions of a scientific study into fatal traffic accidents in which under 14s were killed, he said that instructions would be given to the traffic authorities saying that in that situation, they must file a report with the road safety prosecutor. Parents also run the risk of being prosecuted for murder by carelessness.
The anti corruption prosecution has opened an investigation to find out what happened during the fusion of the seven savings banks which formed Bankia, and what caused dealing in Bankia’s shares to be suspended, and its later part nationalisation, according to the tax ministry. The prosecutors in charge of the case, Alejandro Luzón and Luis Rodriguez Sol, have requested information from the Bank of Spain, the National Commission of Market Values and Bankia itself, to determine whether its management committed offences in accounting, swindling and falsification of documents, amongst others.
The prime minister of Gibraltar, Fabian Picardo, has returned from a trip to London, in the certainty that the UK will continue to make its posture over British sovereignty of the Rock, and its surround-ding waters, clear to Spain. Picardo has been in London since last weekend, where he has attended the main events of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations. This gave him the opportunity to talk to members of the Royal Family, as well as British prime minister David Cameron, vice prime minister Nick Clegg, and foreign office secretary, William Hague, regarding Gibraltar, and the fishing conflict.
The Cordoba court has ordered that the property belonging to the paternal grandparents of the two children missing since October last year, be sealed off and put into police custody, so that a meticulous search can be carried out, and that this be done under a non disclosure order. In this search, expected to begin next Monday, the most sophisticated equipment will be used, including aerial photography, along with heavy machinery, such as excavators. The judge has also ordered a face to face meeting between the children’s father, José Bretón, and his wife’s cousin, who Bretón assured that the children were dead.
Congress has rejected an initiative registered by the ERC, IU-ICV and BNG parties, to open an investigation commission into the King and the Royal Family, to give more transparency, and parliamentary control over their actions, and economic activities, as they consider it unconstitutional. The first vice president in Congress, Celia Villalobos, said the decision to reject the proposal was unanimous, with no discussion in the Lower Chamber. All the parties involved in this presentation defended the need to create such a commission, because they say the debate is now on the streets.
The Partido Popular Secretary General, and president of Castilla La Mancha, Maria Dolores de Cospedal, said on Monday that her party is prepared to investigate all the savings banks which have been helped, or rescued, not only Bankia, but that this is not the time to create uncertainties in the Spanish financial system. She added that, this is the time to support the banking system, and work together so that the country can move forward. She made these statements during a press conference after a meeting with other secretary generals, and when asked if she was bothered about public opinion, she replied, not at all.
Over a hundred and twenty women’s associations, syndicates, health organisations and abortion clinics, have presented a manifest in which they show their total anger over the reforms announced by the minister for justice, Alberto Ruiz Gallardon, to the sexual health and abortion laws. Those who have signed the manifest insist that women have specific rights in terms of sexual health and reproduction, and demand that women should have the right to specific treatment within the basic list of health services. The manifest also says that to deny these rights brings with it a backward step in sexual education, and in access to contraceptives.
Tomorrow, the European Commission will be presenting its proposals for liquidating banks with problems, centred around shareholders and creditors, rather than contributors, paying in the case of a bankruptcy in the future. Brussels wants to create a European network of funds from each member state, which in the case of Spain would be the equivalent of its deposit guarantee funds. These would be financed at the start by the entities themselves, and used as a last resort. The Central European Bank has proposed creating a banking union to end the debt crisis and banking problems, especially in Spain. Leaders are to discuss these proposals at the end of this month.
Over the weekend, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy launched a calming message regarding Spain’s current situation. He said, we are not on the edge of any precipice, and this is not the eve of the apocalypse. The storm hasn’t cleared, but we are not going to sink. He added, for this, we need our own strength, and the help of our community colleagues, and admitted that Spain and Europe are in a difficult situation which is neither easy nor simple. Rajoy made these comments as he attended the closure of the economics circle meeting in Sitges, Barcelona. Meanwhile, opposition leader Rubalcaba, offered to discuss ways of coming out of this crisis together.
King Juan Carlos attended his first official event on Saturday since his last operation when he presided over the Armed Forces Day celebration in Valladolid. Although he needed to use his walking stick to move around, he stood without any help for the complete forty five minute event, during which he paid homage to the flag, and to those who had fallen. The King arrived at Valladolid by car, accompanied by the Queen, and the Prince and Princess of Asturias. According to the Royal household, the King’s rapid recovery from his last operation allowed him to attend. He was taken by car to see the families of the dead, and saluted them all, one by one.
Yesterday, for the first time in its history, the Red Cross launched an appeal to Spanish society, to help them to increase their capacity to front the appallingly vulnerable situations, which have been worsened by the economic crisis, affecting 21.8 per cent of the population, who now fall below the poverty line. The Red Cross wants to be in a position to help another three hundred thousand people, especially families where all their members are out of work, children who live in poor homes, elderly people with family responsibilities, long term or young unemployed people, and the homeless. For this, the Red Cross needs an extra thirty million euros.
On Wednesday, the opposition PSOE party registered a petition in Congress, for the creation of an investigation commission over the nationalisation and cleanup process of the BFA-Bankia Group. According to the petition, the socialists want a commission to work for three months, to discover, analyse and evaluate the causes of the dire financial situation affecting Bankia, especially the management of each of the group’s savings banks, with special attention paid to Caja Madrid and Bancaja, and the supervision by the Bank of Spain. Socialist spokesperson Soraya Rodríguez accused the Partido Popular of trying to water down the situation.