Wednesday, 18 July 2018

The Royal Indiscretion

The Ex-King with his 'close friend' taken some time ago...

It must be hard being Royalty in Spain. A dynasty returned to the front line by Francisco Franco himself. If Juan Carlos I was popular at the onset, and more so following his defence of democracy following the attempted coup of Antonio Tejero (who is still going strong by the way) and others back in 1981 (Wiki), then his later exploits have seriously dimmed that zeal among his erstwhile subjects. While much could be said for his good points, the business with the elephants in Botswana, the girlfriend on the side in the Mallorca palace and now, the apparent revelations of his commissions and business dealings have put his popularity at an all time low. No wonder, we might think, that he abdicated when he did. Indeed, the future of the Bourbons is now held by Felipe VI, who, to give him his due, has proved to be an able and blameless Monarch.  
Why would Juan Carlos need all this extra cash – doesn’t he have enough?
The Media is divided on the news regarding a recently-discovered recording made by the Royal companion Corinna zu Sayn-Wittgenstein, made in 2015, with a copy in the hands of El Español here. They show a man looking to make a few deals and to disguise them behind straw figures (here). But what does all this mean for the Monarchy today?
‘His father is a liability, his mother is missing, his brother-in-law, in prison, his sisters cannot develop a public agenda. And with the queen, things are as they are’. This is the devastating portrait painted from the monarch's circle: the Royal Family has been liquidated as an instrument of representation and Philip VI carries the weight of the crown alone’, says El Español here. There is a strong republican tradition in Spain and the story has plenty more mileage, even though the government says it will not be debating the ‘Corinne case’ and limits itself to saying that ‘it in no way affects the current Head of State’. El Diario thinks otherwise and suggests ‘we are in the midst of a new operation to save the monarchy’.
Félix Sanz Roldán, the head of the secret service CNI, has stepped forward to offer explanations behind closed doors before a parliamentary committee on the alleged threats received by the ex-king's embittered companion (who denies the whole story here).
To sum up: Felipe VI is without doubt a popular figure in Spain, but he stands alone.

Friday, 6 July 2018

A Lot of Weed

The headline from La Voz de Almería says 'The Guardia Civil have decommissioned 24,000 marijuana plants in six months in Almería'.
One could be forgiven for thinking there was something of a demand for this product. Imagine they legalised it and taxed it. We would have our AVE train by now!

Thursday, 21 June 2018

The Brexit Issue Explained

The British consul for Andalucía and the Canary Isles visited Mojácar this Thursday to participate in a presentation regarding what will (might) happen to the Brits living in Spain post-Brexit.
With Charmaine Arbouin was the VP for Brexpats in Spain, Richard Hill, the Mayoress of Mojácar Rosmari Cano and some legal advisors including the Honorary British vice-consul for Almería Ignacio Pellicer and local lawyer Michael Davies (both helping the Brexpats in Spain association). Lucas Mayo, the Mojácar councillor for foreign residents relations, was also there.
Rosmari and Charmaine
Around 150 British residents were present at the meeting which took place at the Centro de Usos Multiples at the Fuente.  
A guest-representative from the INE office in Almería called Javier began, warning us that without being fully registered at extranjería as residents (the padrón is not enough), we would not be afforded whatever rights we might expect following Brexit.  'You will need', he said, 'not just an NIE number, but also a green registration card - a certificado de residencia (what in happier times used to be a residence card)'. The mayoress had previously noted that in the case of Mojácar, there are 6,400 citizens on the padrón of which 1,922 are British. Javier added that, according to his information, only around 700 Britons from Mojácar are properly registered with extranjería.
Those that aren't can expect problems to arise when Brexit is finally implemented.
Charmaine Arbouin also warned us to be fully legal in Spain by at least March 2020, but better before March 2019, when, the 'Brexit Implementation Period' begins. She was unsure as to how many Britons live in the EU - probably no one knows. But, as a representative of Her Majesty the Queen, 'somewhere between one point two and two million' seemed to be a little vague.
The Brexit, she said, 'may have scuppered your plans', but she expected 'reciprocate agreements' between Brussels (or Madrid) and London regarding visas, health, pensions, British children born in the EU and so on - these, she claimed 'will broadly remain the same as long as you are properly registered'. She advised us to 'keep informed' through Brexpats in Spain or other similar groups.
Javier was leaving, so I asked him if we would still be able to vote in next May's local elections. He said - 'yes, or at least, until we are told different by the Ministry of the Interior'.  Those who are registering on the padrón in Mojácar or elsewhere are advised to ask the clerk to be registered to vote (a separate paper). Javier also confirmed that you need to be on the voters' registry at least six months before you can vote.
Richard from Brexpats in Spain reminded us that 'politicians only represent the interests of those people who have the vote - otherwise they won't bother'. Most local authorities have apparently asked the Ministry of the Interior for a continuance of voting rights for the British post-Brexit (I doubt whether Mojácar has - sorry!). he also recommended us to join Brexpats in Spain as more supporters means more weight.
When will Spain consider us to be 'non-EU citizens'? Apparently, we shall be told in October.
Was it a useful meeting...? Not really, despite the fear of scaremongering and the complementary error of complacency.

Representation in Europe on Facebook here

Saturday, 16 June 2018

When? Let's Start with 'When?'

This Brexit stuff is getting interesting.
The British Government appear determined to continue with this idiocy, but, having buggered the whole thing up so thoroughly, they now want more time. We could even remain within the European Union for some years to come - indeed, until long after the next local elections in Spain (May 2019).
Thus, despite my own pueblo's lack of interest in gathering the paperwork for resident foreigners to register to vote, we Brits could still be able to legally participate in local politics for another season.
Screenshot from the Irish Independent, Saturday June 16th
When the UK does finally sign out, then our councillors and perhaps even our votes will be rendered invalid by the Spanish election authority (even though it's already informally gone ahead and crossed us out).
More interesting perhaps is the forthcoming rules about the change in our status here in Spain (or the rest of the EU27). Will we - as Third Class foreigners - have medical care, visas, work permits, financial limits, foreign accounts, travel restrictions and voting rights?
Who knows.
Who knows indeed. We still don't know who will be responsible for this - a central authority from Brussels or perhaps national rules imposed from the different European interior ministries.
As we approach the February 28th 2019 deadline (which may or may not be malleable), we ask - who knows what will happen, or rather, who knows who will be chosen to not know what may or may not be happening, maybe?
The one thing that the UK and the EU agree on, is that no one is at all interested in the millions of citizens unwillingly involved in this debacle.
Shit, no one even knows how many Brits are living in Europe, or cares.
The European Union and the British departure was, after all, always about the money, never the people.

Saturday, 9 June 2018


As we dance, prance and totter around Mojácar during the magnificent Moors and Christians festival, which began thirty years ago in 1988 to remember the Fall of Mojácar ('peaceful transfer of power') from one régime to another, a second important anniversary is upon us.
Twenty five years ago this week, the Elders of the town decided it was time to 'twin' with another city elsewhere. Perhaps, back in 1993, with the first flush of international tourism upon us, the swollen population of Britons living locally and the opportunity to travel abroad at a reduced and subsidised rate, they might have gone for Henley-on-Thames, or maybe Southend or perhaps Brighton.
The children could have perfected their English, as the Good People of Brighton swapped their brood with their Mojaquero colleagues for a fortnight. The wealthy Henlyans might have bought some decent houses here (in those days, unfortunately, we were only building small apartments - there's more profit in them, even if the dwellers are poorer and short-term).
At any rate, and no doubt after much Discussion, we chose to twin with a town in Andorra called Encamps ('Encamp' in Catalán). Andorra is a fascinating place, in many ways, it's a sort of Spanish Gibraltar. Encamps itself is a charming resort with good skiing, lots of shops,a population of
13,000 souls and fourteen banks. Not much to do with Mojácar you might think, but did I mention the banks?
Every year a bus-load of visitors head north, their bank-books firmly held, to enjoy the attractions of the local restaurant and hostal. It's all quite convivial and works both ways as look, in our photo, there's some of the Encamps people here in Mojácar to enjoy the Moors and Christians festival. We hope they can stay for the parade on Sunday night (is that a mannequin standing next to our tourist councillor?).
The story goes that Turre was highly impressed by our choice of twinned town. They famously had a plenary meeting on the subject of finding something suitable for them. 'We don't want anything too foreign', they thought, driving a pencil line through most of Europe, 'or really anywhere that is different in their values from ourselves' (Catalonia fell from the list with a quiet thud). 'No one who might swamp us with different ideas, and anyway, we don't want to subsidise expensive bus tickets for our inhabitants...', they agreed. In the end, so goes the story, they chose to twin with Mojácar.
I like the Andorran flag which can be seen in the Plenary Room at the Mojácar town hall. There's the Spanish one, the Andalusian one and the Andorran one all in a row.
And if the Andorran ensign is the same as the Romanian flag, who are we to quibble?

Tuesday, 5 June 2018

The First 100 Hours...

Pedro Sánchez has done it – he has somehow climbed from the abyss of de-selection just eighteen months ago, to a party with just 20% approval only last week and now to the very top of Spanish politics, leaving – notably – Susana Díaz, Mariano Rajoy and Albert Rivera to lick their wounds as they consider their own ‘what ifs’ and mistakes in the Game of Thrones. On Saturday, Pedro Sánchez became the prime minister of Spain.

His enemies are everywhere – with the Partido Popular passing around a press-kit to editors and commentators, including the charge of a ‘Frankenstein Government’, due to the make-up of his support (180 deputies from the PSOE, Union Podemos, ERC, PDCat, PNV, Bildum and Nueva Canarias – all with their own agendas). The PSOE itself, indeed, has fifty less deputies than the PP, the leading opposition party.
The debate and vote went through smoothly enough last Thursday and Friday, and Mariano Rajoy – perhaps oddly – refused to resign his post, preferring to go down in flames instead (probably due in part to future cases of corruption on the books).  The Senado however, is unaffected and remains in PP hands. What could they do there to salvage their loss (even at the cost of Spain’s reputation and the Spanish people)? Perhaps start by voting down the very national budget that they, as a government, had approved just a week ago.
Pedro Sánchez was born in Madrid in 1972, speaks excellent English and French (here he is speaking against Brexit), he’s a committed atheist and he owns an apartment in Mojácar (heh!). His wife is Begoña Gómez (here).
And what of Rajoy? ‘The Former PM Mariano Rajoy and his team await a cushy future. Members of the defeated Popular Party government can return to their civil servant positions, and most also retain their MP status’, says El País in English here. But who will take over from Don Mariano following a slightly surprising resignation as party leader on Tuesday? The two leading choices – Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría and María Dolores de Cospedal, are at daggers drawn, says El Diario here. A third possibility is Alberto Núñez Feijóo (here).
As part of the fallout with Sánchez preparing to move to his new home at La Moncloa, the shredders there were hard at work apparently. We were also treated to the news that 1,300 (no doubt rather surprised) advisors of the outgoing government would also be out of a job
But, even in Spain, life goes on...

Friday, 1 June 2018

The New President

On Friday, Pedro Sánchez became the new president of Spain, after his no-confidence vote against Mariano Rajoy succeeded. Sánchez' support came from most of the opposition parties: Unión Podemos, the ERC and PDCat from Catalonia and the PNV and Bildu from the Basque Country. Ciudadanos loyally supported the PP (no doubt in the hope of a cock-up sooner or later). Now comes a new set of ministers and secretaries and so on.
Sánchez won with a national clamour against corruption, endemic in Spanish politics. We hope he can address this issue soonest. 

Tuesday, 29 May 2018

The Vote of Confidence

The vote of confidence (‘moción de censura’), called for by Pedro Sánchez of the PSOE, with unconditional support from Union Podemos, will be debated on Thursday and voted on Friday, 1st June.
Spain is at a tense moment, with the Partido Popular in disarray following the sentencing in the Gürtel trial last week - with several important ex-members of the party receiving exemplary prison terms (including Luis Bárcenas) and the PP itself cited for improper party finance, with a 250,000€ fine. A couple of days earlier, on Monday, the ex-minister of the PP and Valencia strong-man Eduardo Zaplana had been arrested and jailed without bail for another case of party corruption. There are many more cases down the line (here).
Of course, it could have been worse if one of the judges hadn’t delayed his ruling a few days, allowing, at least, the national budget to go through safely....
Following from this, the PSOE announced that it would table the debate. They need either all of the smaller independent and regional groups to back them, or else the hard-to-fathom Ciudadanos party.
Ciudadanos, a party that is liberal yet right-wing, anti-corruption yet tied to the Partido Popular, has been mealy-mouthed so far, saying one thing then another, and are now shooting for Rajoy to call for immediate elections (which he can’t following constitutional law). In the event of an election, of course, Ciudadanos stand to do rather well...
For once, their protagonism is limited – and the thought of a legislature run by Pedro Sánchez, however brief, is galling.
Rajoy's reaction to all of this is to say that 'Sánchez wants to be president at any cost', despite '...the damage to Spain's stability'. His party has also been busy, sending out appropriate propaganda to friendly news-media – like ‘the economy and jobs would take a massive hit if the vote of confidence were to prosper’.  Público shows some newspapers playing along here.

The PSOE needs all of the independent groups – the Basque and the Catalonians and the Canary deputy. Can they do it? They say they won’t negotiate with the other parties, but offer a simple yes/no. El Pais has a video which explains the position here. The moción de censura also needs the support of the voters – are they sick and tired of corruption, or do they feel that we still need the firm hand of the Partido Popular? As to corruption itself, a guide here shows that 86% of the cost of corruption in Spain (figured at 122,000 million euros) is down to the Partido Popular.
The vote of confidence, then, ideally needs just one more small push. Another little scandal to break the camel’s back. Perhaps to avoid this, Luís Barcenas’ wife Rosalía Iglesias has been spared prison for the time being and her husband’s threat to ‘spill all’ has, for the moment, been silenced.
Either and any way one looks at it, the present Government has fallen in all but name (as forecast by me six weeks ago here).

Friday, 25 May 2018

Mojácar Padrón (Our Town - your Town)

The Town Hall of Mojácar has just published a plea to all residents (well, the English-speaking ones) to register on the padrón now. The padrón is, of course, a town hall's register of inhabitants. If you live here, you should be on it.
They are right to do so, as the more people registered as living in the municipality means more monies from Madrid, plus more licences, school-teachers, policemen, medics, bus routes and so on. Information is not passed to any sinister tax office or secret bunker. It is used wholly for clerical purposes, like figuring out how many Brits live in Spain (as we know, a wildly inaccurate total). With a giant influx of summer tourists, who of course don't figure on the padrón, it is vital to bring the true numbers of residents up to something approaching reality. Spaniards always register, it is only proper that foreign residents should too.
Normally, when you register, you are asked to fill in a form confirming that you, as a EU citizen, would like to vote in either or both the European and local elections when the time comes (May 2019, since you ask). There is no mention of this egregious formality in the Town Hall's current invitation.
Until now, the Town Hall has never published a call for registration on the padrón, probably because, since the nineteen nineties, the British residents here had the vote in municipal elections, a privilege which will probably be removed from us with the arrival of Brexit. While only about 20% of us bothered to vote, that was still several hundred papeletas in the elections, going, we are sad to report, every which way!
So, no more threat from pesky and confused Brits about how to run the Town Hall.

Thursday, 24 May 2018

The Partido Popular in Deep Doodoo

The Audiencia Nacional has now published its sentencing for the Gürtel Inquiry. The leader of the group is Francisco Correa, who masterminded the network, and he has been handed down 51 years. The ex-treasurer for the PP, Luis Bárcenas, gets 33 years and must pay some 44 million euros in fines. His wife Rosalía Iglesias (significantly, as Barcenas has threatened to ‘reveal all’ if she were sent to prison), received 15 years jail. The Partido Popular ‘ a legal entity, benefited financially from Gürtel’s corrupt practices. It has been sentenced to pay €245,492...’ (Says El País in English here). In all, 29 people, all PP members, received sentences varying from 51 years to (in one case) just five months (here).
President Mariano Rajoy brushed aside the issue – ‘The PP is much more than a few isolated cases of corruption’, he said.
Pablo Iglesias has already proposed a vote of confidence and says his Union Podemos would support Pedro Sánchez (PSOE) for president. Ciudadanos has yet to respond... 
My article 'The end of the Government within weeks' can be read here.  

Friday update: The Government will now Fall here