Business over Tapas nº 444

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Business over Tapas

A digest of this week’s Spanish financial, political and social news aimed primarily at Foreign Property Owners:

Prepared by Lenox Napier.  Consultant: José Antonio Sierra

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May 5 2022            Nº 444

 

 

Editorial:

 

‘The Minister of the Presidency, Félix Bolaños, announced this Monday from the Moncloa, (despite it being a public holiday in Madrid), that the mobile phones of the President of the Government Pedro Sánchez and of the Minister of Defence Margarita Robles have been infected by the Pegasus program…’ La Vanguardia has the story. El Huff Post is quite excitable: ‘it is the worst case of spying during Spain’s democracy’.

The phone-spying in these cases occurred last summer. This type of phone-intrusion is not just ‘listening in’, but rather, the entire unit becomes open to inspection: photos, Whatsapp, Gmail, SMS and so on; and worse still, the microphone and camera can be used remotely.

Did it happen, and if so, have we been told by the CNI intelligence agency just now of something occurring last year to deflect attention (or even blame) from the Catalonian spy-issue? Conspiracy theories abound for the time being, as the recently expanded Comisión de Secretos Oficiales (wiki) investigates.

It also appears that anything up to 1,400 phones may have been compromised in Spain.

Indeed, the system could likely be operating all over Europe, as an inquiry begins in the European Parliament into the use of this illegal software.

What was happening last year as the Spanish President’s phone was being examined by agencies unknown? During the May and June 2021 break-ins, the Moroccan issue over Ceuta and Melilla was much in the public eye – and Morocco, Bless it, is very friendly with Israel.

So, who else might be in line for spying on the President? The secret service, allied in some way with those of a conservative inclination (Who will watch the watchers?)? The Americans, allied through Israel with the Moroccans? The Russians (flavour of the month)? The fellow upstairs who is always on his computer?

Maybe it’s all just a trick to deflect the inquiry away from the Catalonian phone-taps?

Which brings us to Catalan News here: ‘The University of Toronto-based tech crime research group Citizen Lab is investigating whether another 150 people could have also been targeted with Pegasus spyware in the wake of the Catalangate revelations, the online newspaper El Confidencial reported on Saturday. Pegasus spyware allows people to control phones remotely by gaining access to a device’s memory and activating cameras and microphones…’

As Margarita Robles the Minister of Defence (the minister in charge of the secret service, the CNI) was herself allegedly spied upon, one again questions who is responsible, and who is in charge. A report from The Guardian this Tuesday speaks of a leak which claims 200 Spanish phone numbers were targeted by a client of Pegasus – and points the finger firmly at Morocco.

On the other hand, we know that the CNI has the Pegasus spy-ware – they have admitted as much – and, well, it would seem more than likely that they would be prepared to use it, to Protect the State, even from itself.

 

Housing:

 

One often sees posts on Facebook and elsewhere from people thinking to move to Spain, but wondering where to go. Most of us will loyally put the town where we live (for better or worse). From Spanish Property Insight comes a timely article: ‘Ten questions to answer before you decide to buy in Spain’. The same site offers ‘Where did foreign investors buy property in Spain in 2021?’ here.

 

Digital nomads take on the Spanish property market says The Olive Press here. ‘Spain has experienced a 25% increase of interest in property from foreign buyers over the first quarter of this year. This is part of a wider trend observed across Europe of increased interest in the property market from overseas, thanks to the rise of digital nomads looking to base themselves abroad…’

 

There are those who leave their village in the hills to find a better life in The City. With their departures, those villages become smaller and may even die off as the youth (and the local services) disappear. From elDiario.es here: ‘Young people who left the España Vaciada: “I don’t have the option to return, I’d be unemployed”. Hundreds of people leave their pueblos every year in search of opportunities while they look back with longing: “My village in Soria is in my heart and in my head, every day I think of returning”…’

 

The Superior Court of Justice for Extremadura has ruled (once again) that the Valdecañas urbanisation must be demolished. In other news, the Hotel Algarrobico is still standing.

 

Tourism:

 

From Spanish News Today here: ‘UK tourists must prove they have 100€ per day to enter Spain. Travellers can be selected at random to verify their funds at the border’.

 

Finance:

 

‘Full-time work contracts skyrocket in April and unemployment falls by 86,260 people’ says La Vanguardia here. ‘Since the beginning of the year, the percentage of indefinite contracts has been increasing rapidly month after month. It has gone from 10% in December 2021 to over 48% in April this year, which means that half of the contracts signed this past month have been full-time open ended contracts (contratos indefinidos). This can be put down to the Government’s labour reforms, says the Ministry…’

 

Politics:

 

The President’s phone, says El Nacional here, is no ordinary cell-phone, despite its appearance. It was actually built by the CNI to be secure from all interruptions.

 

The other important story of the week was the vote last Wednesday March 27 to the plan anticrisis which was an array of measures (the full list here) to face the war in The Ukraine and lower the cost of living through cheaper electricity, controlled rental rises of no more than 2%, a raise in the minimum wage and so on. Following the Pegasus scandal, some of the PSOE’s allies voted against, and the day was only saved – by a tiny margin – by Bildu, who say they put the nation over party considerations. Vox, C’s and Feijóo’s PP all voted against. El Huff Post has the story here. “Tell me, who of you wants gasoline to go up for citizens or for the electricity bill to be more expensive tomorrow” asked the minister Felipe Bolaños. The PP said afterwards: ‘our conscience is at peace’ here.

 

Far-right parties like Vox will always attract the racist vote, so let’s make the foreigner bad: taking your jobs and chasing your women. Noisy music and funny outfits. It’s not right, say the uncultured. From La Vanguardia (paywall removed) here, we read. ‘The threat of the Xenophobic Workers’ Vote’. From La Voz de Almería, we note that ‘the highest support for Vox within the province comes from El Ejido, Roquetas, Vícar and La Mojonera’. These four towns have a high number of foreign agricultural labourers (who, of course, can’t vote anyway).

 

Andalucía Elections June 19:

 

The polls put the President of the Junta de Andalucía, Juanma Moreno Bonilla, comfortably in the lead with the PP looking to take 44 seats in the regional parliament (up from 26 in the Dec 2018 elections). They will need 55 though, to win outright. Their only apparent partner would be Vox (20, up from 12). Ciudadanos will drop from 21 to just 2 and the PSOE will stay still, says the poll, at 33. The story here.

 

The candidate for Vox for Andalucía has been announced: Macarena Olona.

 

Gibraltar:

 

The Spanish customs have new technology – scanners to detect drugs and contraband cigarettes at the Gibraltar frontier says ECD here. Apparently, they hide inside a specially-prepared van.

 

‘Confusion as Brits fall foul of beefed up Spanish border rules crossing from Gibraltar. More testimonials given to The Olive Press suggest border guards in Spain are now imposing increasingly strict rules for entry – without publicly advertising to travellers’. The item is here.

 

……

Europe:

 

‘What do the Brits living in Europe think about Brexit?’, asks The Guardian here. Embarrassment, chiefly.

 

Health:

 

‘The incidence of the coronavirus in people over 60 years of age rose from 676 last Friday to 790 cases per 100,000 inhabitants this Tuesday May 3rd; while the percentage of hospitalization of people with Covid increases from 3.66% to 5.56%’. More here. Sixty per cent of those who have suffered from persistent Covid are now experiencing cognitive deterioration says El Comercio here.

 

From El Español here (paywall): ‘The Spanish health waiting list has not recovered from the break caused by the coronavirus pandemic. More than 700,000 people were, as of December 31, 2021, waiting to be operated on in the country’s hospitals. The worst data since records began in 2003 sees an increase of 56,861 people compared to 2020, the year in which Spain was paralyzed by the arrival of Covid-19…’

 

It turns out that a glass of wine is good for you while dining, says the president of the Spanish cardiologists Julián Pérez-Villacastín. A recent false story (un bulo) that the traditional menu del día would no longer include a glass of beer or wine has brought Julián’s (questionable) opinion to the fore. The story is at ABC here.

 

Corruption:

 

From The San Diego Union-Tribune here: ‘The president of the Spanish rugby federation will resign from his job after the national team lost its place at next year’s Rugby World Cup for fielding an ineligible player. Alfonso Feijoo said Friday he would step down when the appeal process is completed. He also said the federation will seek to punish those involved in the case after copies of South Africa-born front-rower Gavin van der Berg’s passport were altered to make him eligible…’.

 

Courts:

 

The first judge to investigate the financing of the PP reveals his ordeal: “A thing like that, it stops any chance of promotion”. Judge Luis Manglano, the judge of the ‘Naseiro case’, recounts the tremendous consequences he suffered from the investigation in 1990 that revealed Eduardo Zaplana’s need to “earn a lot of money”. Oddly, it all started with a bugged phone (under a judicial order). The story here.

 

The ERE case against two Andalusian ex-presidents is now ready for sentencing. Manuel Chaves, José Antonio Griñán and another seventeen ex-players are anxious to hear their fate but will now have to wait until after the Andalusian elections of June 19th.

 

Media:

 

Let’s make up a story… about a criminal plot within the Government. Murders and off-shore accounts. The story comes from a discredited judge and an avowed ultra-right winger. The pair of ‘conspiracy theorists’, ex-judge Fernando Presencia and right-wing activist Santiago Royuela are busy with their tales and fake documents which, known as ‘Expediente Royuela’, may well appear on a WhatsApp message near you. There’s a webpage of theirs here which, on visiting, asks for funding for the Associación Contra la Corrupción y en Defensa de la Acción Pública. Newtral has this to say about them.

 

Reporters without Borders have dropped Spain’s world score on the Freedom of Press index by three spaces to Nº 32. The story is at El Confidencial here.

 

Ecology:

 

Two images of Spain, a dry one and a wet one at Xataka here. They say, ‘The good news is that March has been a very rainy month. Remarkably so, indeed. Moreover, April, despite the sudden changes in temperature, also brought a lot of water. Water that was urgently needed. The bad news is that it hasn’t helped. Or very little: we are still in a drought and the only thing we have achieved with this soaking is a little more time…’ Here, at the somewhat dry elDiario.es, we find: ‘Spain, increasingly pressed by desertification. Ever more arid soil and together with the most acute and recurrent droughts are degrading our land through erosion, salinization and the degeneration of water, according to the diagnosis of the National Strategy Plan. Another article from them, from 2019, is titled: ‘The road to the desert: erosion eats up more than 500 million tons of soil a year in Spain’.

 

From Naiz, some better news: ‘The investment boom in solar energy in Spain will allow an installed capacity of more than 100GW in the coming years, which implies a radical drop in costs and the attraction of companies, something that “is already happening”…’ We read that ‘According to the PNIEC (the Government’s energy plan 2021 – 2030), the objective is to install at least 60 GW by 2030 in renewable energies, which would mean the production of 75% of all electricity use through clean energy. The impact of this on gas usage will be huge and the overall lower costs will benefit consumers and businesses alike’.

 

Various:

 

The British residents in Spain who hold a British driving licence issue has attracted the Spanish media, with EuropaSur reporting from the frontier with Gibraltar. The Daily Mail also echoes the news: ‘British expats in Spain face weeks of chaos as they are banned from driving after failure to reach a post-Brexit agreement on UK driving licences. Whitehall sources blamed Spanish bureaucrats for delaying talks and missing deadline’. … ‘Tory MP Sir Iain Duncan Smith criticised the Spanish authorities, saying: ‘It’s a case of “Manana, manana [tomorrow, tomorrow]” (sic). It’s time they pull their finger out and do what they agreed…’ The London Economic says that ‘A complication arising from Brexit has been blamed for a legislative nightmare, which is set to impact tens of thousands of Brits in Spain’. How long this situation will last is anyone’s guess as Spain has bilateral agreements with a number of other foreign countries. From Visit-Andalucia here: ‘Do I need a Spanish licence to drive in Spain and how to obtain or exchange a Spanish driving licence’.

 

Opinion:

 

My first road-legal vehicle was a Vespino. This is a moped with a 49cc motor. With such a machine, I could pedal away to help its small engine get me and a packet of cigarettes up the hill to the village. I was sixteen.

Following this, and a few other mopeds (the pedals were usually removed to make the bike look a bit racier, and the motorbike would be ‘trucado’ to get it up over whatever the limit was, I think it was 60kph in them days).

Like most young fellows, I wanted a car and, in 1975, the year that Franco died, I passed my driving licence in Huercal Overa and took over operation of the Peugeot that my dad had bought in Madrid a few years earlier on tourist plates (from Bert Schroder, if there are any old-timers reading this). A succession of cars followed, usually second-hand, and there it was – the perfectly normal story of a fellow living in España, trying to impress the girls with his wheels.

Many Brits living here in Spain, in this post-Brexit time, seem surprised that the rule to stop the legal use of a British driving licence for foreign residents of the British persuasion should not have been subject to yet another extension once again as May 1st 2022 rolled around. Somehow, many of us British are convinced that we should be allowed to be different from the American or South African resident or anyone else who aspires to drive on his home-licence.

The message evidently didn’t get through to the Spanish – we Brits are special. Oh, but we are allowed to drive with a British licence in France, we say – why not ’ere?

Thus, the cold water of reality now means classes and both a written and practical driving test, which is a serious bother. They’ll do a health check as well.

Mind you, one can always wing it – how many times does one get stopped by the tráfico anyway; and if you do, you simply explain to them in a condescending yet respectful way that you are British.

They’ll soon see your point and will no doubt wave you on your way with a crisp salute.

It’s clear that many of this unfortunate set of non-European foreign residents will need to bite the bullet and go through the rigmarole, and it is not easy. Fifty years driving and now told to watch your rear-view mirror and to hold the steering wheel properly, with three eighteen-year-olds squeezed across the back seats nudging each other and chuckling.

For some, the answer is a taxi or a bus. The Tarjeta SensentayCinco for the Oldies gets you discounts on travel. Or then there’s the car-share app Blablacar for long trips. For others, perhaps, one can acquire a vehicle that doesn’t need a full licence. Not the Vespino, no, nor a mobility scooter (not yet, anyhow), but something to do the shopping with or to go out as a couple to a favoured restaurant.

The answer to this is the ‘coche sin carnet’, the microcar. The reality is that one does need a licence for these, the same AM permit as for mopeds and three-wheelers (it’s very easy, just drive a zigzag and a circle). They have a limit of 45kph and, needless to say, with their egg-beater engine, they can’t go on the motorways.

There are a few brands available in Spain, including the Aixam, the Ligier, the Chatenet and the Microcar.

Even cooler is the all-electric city-car, the Citroën Ami (road-test here). To drive one, you just need to be sixteen years or older and perhaps equipped with a keen sense of humour.

It’s not easy changing one’s feathers as one gets older, but a golf-cart with windows, heating and a radio doesn’t sound so bad.

At this stage, who did you want to impress anyway?

 

Supermarket prices have risen over the last twelve months says the OCU, the Spanish consumers’ organisation here. The average rise was almost 10%, with Carrefour (12.1%) and Mercadona (11.4%) leading the spike.

 

Maldita explains how the Pegasus spy-ware works here.

 

From Expatica here: ‘Spain on Saturday announced its two enclaves in North Africa, the EU’s only land borders with the continent, would remain closed for 15 days, dashing hopes they would finally reopen after two years. The frontiers of the two Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla were first shut in spring 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic and stayed closed during a diplomatic crisis in 2021 between Madrid and Rabat…’

 

Sur in English brings us: ‘Six out of every ten new residents in Málaga province are foreigners. The British once again lead the local foreign population and are the biggest international community, with 55,758 living in the province’.

 

20Minutos has an article about how many people are rude to telemarketers – those bothersome people who call you on the phone at the wrong time to try and sell you something. We are often curt with them. It sounds like a stressful (and low-paid) job. There are around 120,000 callers working for those contact centres. One useful defence is to get registered on the Lista Robinson as I have (it’s easy to do) – as it reduces commercial calls to almost zero.

 

One of those city-ranking articles, written by The Telegraph, puts Barcelona at the top position says La Vanguardia with satisfaction here (I’m quite happy with Almería).

 

Pension scams: the video here. The kind you might find in a dodgy free newspaper, mostly (it’s the commissions, stupid!). Some background, from Pension Life here.

 

The editor of The Olive Press Jon Clarke and his book ‘My Search for Madeleine’ (Amazon) points the finger firmly at the new prime suspect in the disappearance of Madeline McCann, a German sex-offender called Christian Brueckner. The premise of the book, published last year, appears to be vindicated with fresh revelations about the case. Investigators claim they have found fibres from Madeleine’s pyjamas in Bruekner’s caravan.

 

A documentary from RTVE looks at ‘The Bikini Democracy’, when the first foreign tourists arrived in the late fifties bringing changes to Spain’s old-fashioned and fusty way of life. You can see ‘Democracia bikini: Dictadura, divisas y bikinis’ (dictatorship, foreign exchange and the bikini) here. Valencia Plaza watches the documentary here.

 

Not only the Americans planning to invade the Canaries back in the eighteen nineties, here at Wiki we have the Brits with Operation Pilgrim which ‘was a planned British operation to invade and occupy the Canary Islands during World War II’. In a similar vein, Wiki here with Operation Goldeneye (‘an Allied stay-behind plan during the Second World War to monitor Spain after a possible alliance between Francisco Franco and the Axis powers, and to undertake sabotage operations)’. The plan was orchestrated by Ian Fleming (seriously!)

 

Cyber-security. When travelling, keep a close eye on your mobile phone, your credit card and your laptop. Others will be keeping a close eye on them as well. From Piccavey here.

 

An article at Media-tics looks at the main investment funds behind the arms business (BlackRock, Vanguard and State Street), currently doing remarkably well out of the horrific struggle in The Ukraine. The article then turns to Spain: ‘…BlackRock also participates in 21 large listed Spanish companies and is the leading shareholder of both the Banco Santander and the BBVA. This fund was spun off in 1985 from another powerful fund, Blackstone, the world’s largest private equity firm with $620,000 million in assets. That’s the one which bought 30,000 subsidized homes very cheaply from the then mayor of Madrid Ana Botella and who promptly raised the rents and began to evict. Los fondos buitre: vulture funds, they call them here…’

 

See Spain:

 

From BBC Travel here: ‘At Granada’s famed Alhambra palace, a 1,000-year-old feat of hydraulics still impresses engineers today. Water is everywhere in Granada’s ornate and lavish Alhambra, a 13th-Century palatial complex that’s one of the world’s most iconic examples of Moorish architecture. It flows in channels that cool the buildings; spurts from fountains in grand rooms and charming courtyards; and sprays in such a way that, from certain angles, it perfectly frames majestic arched doorways. The same intricate system brings colour to the famed gardens of the Generalife, the former summer palace next door’.

 

Letters:

 

Hi Lenox (on the non-influence of the foreign residents)

Good analysis! If the “Digital Nomad” plan becomes law, the number of foreign residents will further increase, as people (and employers) found out during the Pandemic that going to the office wasn’t really necessary for production from many desktop workers. Spain needs more focus on the reoccurring monthly revenue from retired foreigner residents, along with the potential benefits from remote information workers. As your article suggests, the economic benefits are often lumped in with spending from tourists, obscuring the analysis.

Anon

 

To the Editor:

The only good thing about Brexit is that it has made a lot of illegals either leave the country or become resident.

Gerry

 

Hi Lenox

I was interested to read the letter from the Americans in last week’s BoT. They are lucky to live in a part of Spain where there is decent public transport, including the coastal railway with trains each way every 20 minutes. And for us pensioners, prices are very reasonable indeed.

But Americans (& now post-Brexit Brits), unfortunately cannot exchange their driving licences and are obliged to take the Spanish driving test. Although I had exchanged my UK licence for a Spanish one some time ago, last year I decided to do a refresher course of 5 classes. I had not driven here for years due to eyesight problems, now resolved. My instructor told me I would easily have passed the practical test. Anyone who has driven all their lives (like the Americans) probably would.

But the Theoretical? Here – from the DGT – is an example.

As anyone with years of driving experience can see, it’s mainly common sense (although it’s an absolute must to gen up on those traffic signals; there are some pretty weird ones…).

Not only that, but you can even do it in English!

I’d definitely advise them to go for it.

Jake

 

Finally:

 

Formentera: a catchy beer advert from 2009. Also here.

 

 

 

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