Wednesday, 19 April 2017

The President to Testify in the Gürtel Case

Mariano Rajoy will testify as a witness in the Gürtel Case, says El Mundo here. The President will be asked about his time as general secretary of the PP in 2003 and 2004 to explain his understanding of the improper party funding during that period when Luis Bárcenas was the treasurer. It is not very good to have the president of a country being grilled by the judges, as PP sources tell LaSexta TV here (video): ‘it’s terrible for his image’.  El País in English says that the anti-corruption public prosecutor loyally complains that ‘...testimony from the prime minister “would not be relevant.”...’.
Important news as this undoubtedly is – it hasn’t made the state-owned television for some reason, says El Español here.

Thursday, 13 April 2017

Britons in Spain Face the Brexit

The British are divided between themselves: those who favour leaving the EU versus those who would like to remain. The Brexiteers (or ‘Quitlings’) are on one side, the Remainers (or ‘Remoaners’) are on the other.
Well, good for them.
Here we are in the expatriate community (where we worry more about if we are ‘ex-pats’ or ‘immigrants’, rather ignoring the point that we are just ‘Europeans’). Brexit isn’t an exercise in freedom versus slavery (or however you want to phrase it), Brexit for those of us who live in the other 27 countries of the EU is about our potential loss of privilege.
We may shortly have to face obtaining a visa, or a work permit. We may need a convertible bank account, or ‘sufficient funds’ to remain. We might lose our health cover or certain pension rights. We would probably forfeit the right to a local vote (and lose, too, our few brave Britons working in local politics). Of course, no one knows, or if they do, they aren’t saying. It is however (as we should remember from our times in the UK), never a bad idea to bring along an umbrella when the sky is looking stormy.
So, what can we do? Being Britons, of course, many of us are quite frankly that strangest of beast – a Continental Quitling! Yes, they say, it’s better to heave the immigrants out of Blightly since they just cause problems and mooch off the State. We’re different – we bring badly needed funds to Spain. 
Yep, they really say that!
Others think we should ignore the issue since somebody (ahh, somebody) will sort it all out for us.
But who?
Our own ex-pat newspapers – the ones that are left in piles outside estate agents and cafés – have singularly failed to help us so far, with some columnists frankly spouting the Brexiteer cause.
The British Government is interested, very interested, in European business. The Embassy too, must spend its time on building Trade. The few unorganised Brits scattered about on the Continent in uninteresting villages or busy with their professional lives in large companies in the cities of Europe are not going to be of any consequence. They are more of a hindrance to the free movement of commerce if anything.
If the Spanish are worried about the whole thing, it’ll be about their citizens in the UK, who may get work permits, visas and the rest of it, or they may not. Again somebody should do something. Some Spaniards – if we are to believe the press – are already being given their marching orders by the British Home Office. Spain is less concerned about the apparently small number of Brits here (see the padrón – we are around 270,000) than we ‘expats’ like to think. We need to attract their attention.
Tourism won’t fall thanks to any Spanish action following Brexit, although EU regulations will put the cost of non-EU flights up, and there will be extra visitor formalities to be undergone. We, again, need to focus the attention on the expatriate community in Spain – known disparagingly by the authorities, as those who practice ‘residential tourism’.  We are the ‘Foreign Residents’, at best. The ‘Guiris’ at worst. You’ll rarely see mention of us in the Media here or on the TV. We are dismissed as living in ghettos in some ghastly place built by a corrupt local politician. Best forgotten.
As Leicester fans invade the Plaza Mayor in Madrid, we need to create our own separate identity. We are not like the hinchas británicas, the hooligans. We are Europeans. Second-class Europeans perhaps, as the Brexit menace pursues us, and we need some help.
We have created some associations to try and publicise the Brexit threat – ‘EuroCitizens’, ‘Europats’, ‘Bremain in Spain’, ‘Brexpats’ and so on. A leader, acceptable and known to both the Brits and the Spanish has yet to emerge from these groups.
Supposing we were offered the choice: British passport only, and to be treated as a non-EU foreigner – or to hold two passports: double nationality, allowing us to retain our Britishness and, at the same time to continue with all current EU privileges (and even throw in a few we don’t currently hold, like full emancipation)? Sounds good? That’s what Spain (and by extension Brussels) is offering Gibraltar. If the citizens of the Rock, once again besieged by larger forces, saw the advantages of the deal, there would be thirty thousand new British Spaniards. Perhaps there would be room, at that time, for a few more...

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Easter in Mojácar: Kyrie Eleison

Mojácar is full. La Voz says so - our 10,200 hotel beds are occupied. This, early in the Easter week. Beyond the hotel numbers (and, my praise to the hoteliers and their cheap prices), we have family, guests, renters, caravans, people sleeping ten in a two-bed apartment, people sleeping on the beach, people here for a two-day marathon then back on the bus, people over for the day from Murcia and Almería. People.
To make them feel comfortable, we have extended the beach promenade, painted our homes, cleaned the verges and watered the plants. We have prepared some traditional Easter parades for their souls and repaired the streets for their soles. The  'Mirador' has been (more or less) finished so they can ascend to the view-point to see the astonishing view (the one thing that has remained over the years, more or less constant) and to enjoy our sunset.
There was no bread left in the supermarket when I got there yesterday. I would have been earlier, but I had to park a kilometre down the road. Never mind, the queues, dust, noise, cars, jams and lack of parking are bringing a delightful profit to our main industry...
The souvenir shops.
Residents don't buy souvenirs. No drunken Indalos, wrist-bands, 'I Got Laid in Mojácar' tee shirts or the myriad other charms of the Chinese wholesalers. Which is why we are being slowly edged out. No honourable mention for us.
The Easter onslaught, happily, only lasts for a week. Then the town returns to the residents and their dogs, and for a short while, the barkeeps remember once again our names and preferences.

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

AVE News

Spain has a great motorway network and plenty of flights from anywhere to anywhere else.
It also has the AVE - the high-speed train that, between gigantic costs, enormous bribes and commissions, plus sponsored rides (every passenger benefits from a modest subsidy) - crosses the country from one end to the other. More or less.
Here in the Levante Almeriense, there's not much AVE beyond a twinkle in a financier's eye, an empty politician's pocket, a few kilometres of expensive rail-bed and some bricked up tunnels to show for the project to bring Maria and her chickens to the market.
The problems for the high speed train are expropriations (often paid years later), the construction costs, maintenance costs, and the lack of customers. A high-speed train is in a hurry, but the fruit and veg companies say they will keep to the motorways and their lorries. And after the novelty wears off, who wants to go to Murcia anyway (the Almería continuation, to Granada, won't even begin work until 2030).
Anyhow... The Government says that the single-line Almería to Murcia link will be completed in 2023 at an extra cost of 1,800 million euros.
Part of the project, of course, is a station outside Vera, allowing us one day to whizz up to Madrid in style and comfort.