Wednesday, 31 October 2018

The Municipal and European Elections. May 2019

This is the release from the INE regarding the local and European elections of May 26th 2019. It says that EU citizens over the age of 18 can vote in these elections if they ask to do so. They have until 30th January 2019 to claim this right (which they can do in their town hall - assuming they are registered on the padrón).
The Oficina del Censo Electoral will be sending out letters to the 575,072 Europeans resident in Spain who had not already (previously) asked for the right to vote in municipal and European elections. One can also fill out a form to register to vote by going to (here). It is accepted and assumed that theses residents will not be voting in the European elections in their own countries.
To date, 407,784 foreign Europeans are currently registered as being able to vote.
'Although the United Kingdom has shown its intention to leave the EU on March 30th 2019, the Spanish Census office has not removed Britons from the census for these elections', says the document, 'however, their inclusion will no longer have effect once the UK leaves the EU'.
It is, indeed, as we expected (and reported in Business over Tapas).
The above document and explanation are for EU citizens only. Spain also has some bilateral agreements with non EU countries, including Norway and (for some reason) New Zealand.
The document does however NOT make clear the Britons resident in Spain who are candidates in local elections or who appear on electoral lists. To prepare for the local elections, it is evidently necessary that the parties prepare their candidacies in good time. It would be odd to suddenly pull candidates from local lists just two months before an election. The Oficina del Censo Electoral needs to consider this point.

Wednesday, 24 October 2018

The Drums of War

The rivalry between Pablo Casado and Pedro Sánchez is showing a clear winner. While Pablo was in Brussels last week bearding an uncomfortable Angela Merkel about how Spain is going to the dogs, Pedro has reached out to Pablo’s bitterest rival from the recent leadership battle within the Partido Popular, Soraya Saénz de Santamaría, ex-President Mariano Rajoy’s right hand and ex Vice-president of Spain (yes, 'the poisonous dwarf'), to join the Council of State - the supreme consultative organ for the Government..
Furthermore, Sánchez offered in person the position for Santamaría without consulting her erstwhile teammate Casado. 
The exvicepresidenta of the Government decided to accept the offer after a few days of reflection following the phone call of Sánchez.
The Casado plan nevertheless continues in trying to hamstring the PSOE ‘okupa’ Government at every turn.
But now, it’s going too far. Pedro Sánchez was speaking about Brexit in a full session of Parliament on Wednesday, noting the loss to the European Union (and the hard times ahead for the UK) and, with a glance towards the Catalonian nationalist party-members in the Cortes, he made the obvious but telling point that united means stronger.
But then, in the reply from the Leader of the Opposition, the future ex-leader of the Partido Popular (re my forecast from August) Pablo Casado said that the Spanish president Pedro Sánchez was a golpista, a traitor to Spain because of his handling of the Catalonia crisis. Pedro Sánchez answered with: ‘If you don't withdraw that I'm a golpista you and I will never have anything more to say to each other’.
The spokesperson for the ERC, the Catalonian Republican Left party, Joan Tardà, said in his presentation that if Casado had his way, ‘we would all be shot’.

Tuesday, 23 October 2018

It's Getting Tight (Can we vote in May next year or not, pretty please?)

A community needs to have its spokespeople: who represent them, speak for them, collect taxes in their name, spend the common money wisely (without stealing more than 20%), plan for the future and celebrate the past. The town hall (in case the penny hadn't dropped) needs to attract extra funding from the central, regional and provincial authorities, chase after the elusive tourist (without buggering up the community for the residents), educate and entertain its children, provide culture for its general population, and protect its poor and infirm through social programs.
No doubt I've missed a few points, but, in short, the town hall needs to represent its population, and be chosen democratically by its population.
No tricks, like adding people to the padrón a few months before the elections (twenty or more people at one address?). No tricks, like pruning the padrón or neglecting to tell the foreign residents that they have to register to vote.
No tricks, like not telling the British residents if they can vote at all.
While that key question is being asked - no one is answering.
There are seventeen British councillors in Almería - and even they don't know what will happen. (The best info I can find for Spain in general comes from 2008, when there were 37 British councillors across the country.)
In 2014, a national newspaper published an article titled 'Immigrants in local politics?'. The article
said this: 'The political inclusion of immigrants is still very unequal with respect to the indigenous population. Despite the extension of their electoral rights, they are under-represented among the final number of elected councillors, and to a lesser extent on electoral lists'.
Some data was forthcoming: Towns with 15% foreign population - had less that 1% representation in local politics.
Foreigners currently make up 10% of the population of Spain.
In Spain, there are 240,934 British residents legally registered by the Ministry of the Interior (about the size of the city of Granada). In Almería, there are 14,318 Brits.
All of these, if over 18 years old, can currently vote (until told otherwise).
So who will tell us, pretty please, and when?
The provincial newspaper Almería Hoy looks at the current number of foreigners in each and every town in Almería. They note that in Mojácar, almost half of the entire population (from information provided by the town hall) is foreign - indeed, out of a total population of 6,630 inhabitants, 3,005 'mainly British' - are foreign.
Will we have the vote in May 2019, following the Brexit, or not?
Because without it, the town hall of Mojácar will cease to represent the wishes of around half of its citizens.

Monday, 22 October 2018

Toros en Albox

There is a bullfight in Albox (Almería) on November 3rd at 5.00pm - apparently the first to be held in that locality in fifteen years. The three bullfighters are two matadores Julio Benítez 'El Cordobés' and the Murcian Filiberto Martínez; the third participant is the rejoneadora Ana Rita, who fights from horseback.
Tickets are available at the Agencia de Viajes Tagili, the Bar Whynot and in the Ayuntamiento in the offices of Cultura y Festejos.
While excitement is building in some quarters, other local citizens are not so enthused. A Facebook page with the rather emotive name of Albox without animal torture (here, enjoy!) had, by Monday 22 October, 416 members. Those who enjoy seeing gruesome pictures should feel right at home here. I've already been told about the Vaseline in the eyes, cotton wool in their nostrils (!) and squitter-drugs to weaken the bulls (who cost, by the way, some 6,000€ each) - but, with a bit of luck, the spectators, the media and the bullfighters will never find out about this rather improbable sabotage.
Meanwhile, will the protestors be happy to merely vent on this Facebook page of theirs, or will they escalate their indignation and protest outside the bullring on the day?
The Albox fights will be the last held in Spain this year as the season ends and many matadores head for Mexico and South America. 

Saturday, 13 October 2018

The 2019 Budget - almost

Some exciting news this week – potentially – as the two main parties of the left agree over the details of next year’s budget. So far, the PNV regionalist party has agreed to support the plan. El País in English leads with ‘Spain’s PM and Podemos leader sign deal for biggest wage hike in 40 years’. Well, yes, that’s certainly a part of the deal. Spain’s minimum wage would go up from 736€ a month to 900€ (France, by contrast, is 1500€). A meme on Facebook says ‘900€? I’ll be able to realise my life’s ambition of eating an avocado’. Funny, because, avocados are a bit overrated, and funny too, because with 736 euros, or even 900 euros, one still isn’t exactly wealthy.
How many people working – at least in the orbit of us wealthy foreign residents (er, mostly) – earn 736€ a month for a full-time job? Not many, we hope. Fruit packers and some other agricultural jobs… cleaners perhaps…? It’s a slave wage certainly and we probably shouldn't worry too much
about the lowest paid sending their money off to Offshore Tax Paradises.
Not everyone agrees. The two main opposition parties think that raising the minimum wage is a bad idea. Albert Rivera from Ciudadanos (4,800€ a month) and Pablo Casado (5,700€ a month) are both against the idea (although Rivera was campaigning for 1,000€ per month not so long ago). El País again: ‘...The CEOE employers’ association has already talked about “the negative effects” of such a move on collective bargaining, wages and the economy in general. If implemented, it would be the biggest rise in 40 years...’.
There is much more in the budget that the raising of the minimum wage, and the availability of avocados.
However, and who knows – it could even make sense – as the figures are balanced here.
Top-earners, those who earn more than 130,000€ a year, can expect a rise in their income tax and ‘large fortunes’ would pay more tax as well. Rents would be controlled in certain cases. As El Huff Post says - ‘...While the Partido Popular, Ciudadanos and Vox are fighting for the same ground on the right, the PSOE and Podemos are laying the foundations of an agreement that behind the numbers hides the principle of a close and lasting collaboration in the medium and long term...’. From Valencia Plaza comes a note on another useful subject: ‘...under the heading "Health is a universal right and not a business", the signatories of the pact argue that "The excuse of the economic crisis has been used to weaken public health and encourage its progressive privatization, which is why it is still necessary to shield our health system against privatization flows and attacks by interested sectors.”...’. Furthermore, and again quoting Valencia Plaza, ‘...the Government and Unidos Podemos have also agreed to reform the ‘stamps’ system of self-employed workers to link it to their real income, guaranteeing that those with lower incomes pay a lower contribution...’. El Huff Post has a full list of the accords here.
But the success of the socially progressive budget plan depends on
uncertain support from the Catalan separatists who understandably ‘...request the Prosecutor's Office to withdraw the charges against their imprisoned and exiled leaders to support the General Budget. The government view on this is that such a solution is impossible given the separation of powers in force in Spain’, and, secondly, on the approval of the EU. To thwart this second condition, the PP leader Pablo Casado has flown to Brussels to put his oar in the deal, much to the amazement of his fellow Spaniards...
If all goes according tp plan, the budgets should finally be approved in February or March.

Tuesday, 9 October 2018

Women's Rights in Spain

As we read of the furore regarding Judge Brett Kavanaugh over in Washington and his alleged behaviour towards women, the broad picture remains and once again spikes: women are treated to a different standard. In Spain, relieved, we see that we live in ‘the fifth country in the world where women feel the safest’ (behind Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and Slovenia), but even so, we have had 58 women killed by their companions so far this year in Spain. The #MeToo movement, the heart of the new feminist wave that focuses on sexual violence, has called for a general strike across Spain for the International Women’s Day on March 8th 2019 (following their successful protest last year).
Spain is nevertheless moving forward rapidly in women’s rights. We read ‘Spain’s Supreme Court has ruled that any and all physical contact of a sexual nature, where deliberate, and irrespective of how brief it is, counts as a criminal offence. This ground-breaking and necessary verdict means grabbing someone's bottom, breast or legs in a pub, a crowd or on public transport, for example, is no longer simply a tort or civil offence but attracts criminal charges on the grounds of 'sexual abuse'...’.
We also read of a specific case here, as ‘a man is sentenced to a year in prison for touching a woman on the bottom’ outside a bar in Almería.
Spain then, is moving forward in its respect towards las españolas. This is a worthy thing.

Thursday, 4 October 2018

Following Brexit, Who's a Resident?

I found this the other day, it's a two-year padrón renewal from the town hall for someone with an American passport. She owns property here in our pueblo, but she is still an 'extranjera no comunitaria sin autorización de residencia permanente'. A non-EU foreigner without authorization of permanent residence.
Now, residence give you rights. As EU citizens, we Brits don't need a work permit, we can vote in local elections, we don't need a visa and we have automatic rights to enter Spain (I have a visitor staying with me from Canada who, despite a two-week return ticket, was asked to provide either a receipt for a hotel booking or a confirmatory letter from me before being allowed entry at the Madrid airport).
But, we British residents have Residencia - some of us.  Those that don't will of course be out on a limb. Don't think that owning property will save you, any more than it saves the American above.
But, those that do, (and check your police green card) will find that we are, since the dreadful Interior Minister of Spain Rubalcaba in 2008 removed our tarjetas de residencia and gave us the dreadful passport/green-card combo, actually have a 'Certificado de Registro de Ciudadano de la Unión': a certificate of registry of an EU citizen.
But, following Brexit, we British will be in breach of the above.
Will the Spanish let it go, or will they offer to re-register us as 'Residents' after some extra formalities have been completed? Perhaps having a certain monthly income from abroad? Perhaps the 240,000 Britons registered on the padrón, and rather less Britons in possession of a proper residencia, will find that Brexit will be bringing some unwelcome change.

Wednesday, 3 October 2018

Censorship Only Works when It's Your Side Doing It

Stung in some way by the hostility of the mainstream media against the government (President Sánchez is known in some circles as the ‘okupa’, the ‘Squatter in the Moncloa’, following his successful vote of confidence despite only having 84 deputies in the 350-strong Parliament), we read of further socialist moves (see here) towards censorship.
‘The Vice President of the Government, Carmen Calvo, said that "freedom of expression does not resist everything, does not welcome everything" and therefore believes that the EU will have to start reviewing jointly the legislation on this matter. Calvo made these considerations at the opening of the XVI Journalism Day of the Association of European Journalists, which this year asks "who pays for the lie? Is the truth paid?". "We need security", said the Spanish Vice-president, who recalled that certain European countries are taking decisions on regulation in the area of freedom of expression and the right to information...’.
But, while the right-wing media may be all in favour of protecting its product from smaller news services, it doesn’t want to be itself muzzled: ‘The Government's announcement of trying to limit the freedom of expression of the media, coinciding in time with journalistic information that puts different members of the Executive in check, has caused surprise, anger and indignation among journalist associations and opposition parties. The Federation of Associations of Journalists of Spain (FAPE) rejects any attempt to modify the right to freedom of information. The PP and Cs denounce an attempt to "muzzle" journalists and "kill the messenger"’... El Mundo here. From another source, we read an even more worried reaction from the press: ‘The FAPE rejects any attempt at modification because "every time governments try to regulate freedom of expression they in fact only limit it"’.
And finally, from comes ‘Let's not get confused. What the mediatic arm of the plot against the Government does is not journalism. Its end is not service to society. It's dirty work for the client...’.