Saturday, 14 December 2019

The Devil is in the Detail

What is it going to be like for Spaniards living, studying and working in the UK following Brexit? They have safeguards from the government, including ‘settled status’, and while they might be used as an exchange coin by Westminster in negotiations with Brussels, and possibly the target of some racist treatment for the more excitable fringe of British society, they should be OK.
The corollary is clear – if they are going to be all right, then so will the Brits in Spain – despite going from green-police-letter ‘Community citizens’ (with limited voting rights) to TIE foreigners in the blink of an eye.
The Spaniards in the UK are treated poorly by Madrid (nothing new there) and thanks to paperwork issuers, only around 5.6% of them voted in the past Spanish elections. As we know to our cost, those who don’t vote do not capture the interest of politicians.
The Spanish Foreign Ministry deals with the paperwork for Spaniards abroad here.
How many Spaniards are living in the UK? As usual, no one can be sure (although the INE tries its best). We read at Wiki that ‘...the number of Spaniards enrolled in the Spanish consulate in the United Kingdom was 102,498 as of January 1, 2016. The INE estimates that there are about 240,000 Spaniards residing in the United Kingdom...’. Another link from the INE itself claims 139, 236 Spaniards as of January 1st 2019.
Apparently, while there are some in Wales and Scotland (and a bemused handful in Northern Ireland), the largest concentrations can be found in Kensington, Regent's Park and Chelsea, all in West London.
In a reaction to the Conservative victory in the UK elections, Pablo Casado from the PP said Pedro Sánchez could be sure that ‘...he has the full backing of the PP to ensure the government is as supportive as possible to the Spaniards living in the United Kingdom, and at the same time also to the British who have their permanent residence here...’.
Will Gibraltar change this sunny image? Casado again: ‘I want to make it very clear that any change in status that Gibraltar receives within the EU would only be granted with the express authorization of the Kingdom of Spain’.
Around fifteen thousand Spaniards work in Gibraltar (population 36,000).
Besides Gibraltar, another concern of Spain is Scotland. Would the Scots successfully secede from the UK in some future referendum? Well, fine and dandy, and they would be welcome to join (re-join) the EU, only... wouldn’t this encourage those troublesome Catalonian independence-seekers? From a New York Times correspondent: ‘For Spain, an important outcome of the British election is the crushing nationalist victory in Scotland. Sturgeon is already calling for another independence referendum. No doubt Catalan independence movement will welcome that’. A full article from El Independiente on Boris Johnson’s ‘two Catalonias’ winds up with ‘...Nicola Sturgeon said the convicted Catalonian politicians had been jailed "for trying to allow the Catalans to peacefully choose their own future."...’.
Thus, the future political relations between Spain and the UK will be forged in the small details of the inconsequentialities of nationals from the one living, working or studying in the other. Meanwhile, the doubt continues.
La Vanguardia considers the difference between an orderly and a hard Brexit for Spanish residents in the UK (we shall know which by the end of January). Either way supposes extra formalities.  
Economic consequences for Spain following the Brexit are of more concern to the politicians than the social issues (wasn’t it ever thus?). From El Confidencial, we learn that the Spanish GNP will fall slightly as the UK is currently Spain’s largest export market.
El Correo talks to a Spanish driver on the London Underground, who is 57 and will return when she reaches retirement age, to live in Spain. Aratxu is also a moderator on the Facebook page Españoles en Reino Unido - Surviving Brexit! (here). Unlike Britons moving to Spain for their twilight years, few Spaniards choose to retire in the UK (and even fewer, not to say ‘none’, will purposefully move there on retirement).  ‘The future will be difficult’, she says, ‘there are many bilateral treaties left to negotiate between the UK and each European country and many of us fear that they will use us as hostages, that they will press Brussels using the Europeans that still reside here as bargaining chips’. Reading the Facebook page above, several members say they will ‘throw in the towel’ and will be returning to Spain. Apart from mixed-national couples and their rights (and their children’s status), they worry about pensions and the possibility of employment in Spain.
All in all, if the Spaniards (and of course, other EU citizens, they number in total 2,240,000) find that life in the UK becomes more difficult, then we would expect Madrid (and the other EU capitals), regardless of legislation from Brussels, to make life correspondingly harder for its British residents.

Tuesday, 10 December 2019

Illegal Homes (Again?)

From Sur in English here: ‘Some owners of illegal homes are still ignored by new law, says SOHA. While the campaigners for the legalisation of illegal homes say they support any initiative taken by regional government, they maintain that the owners are being forgotten’.
AUAN: a British family in Albox face demolition in 2018

That’s the new law designed by the current right-leaning Junta de Andalucía to ameliorate the problems caused by the ‘illegal homes’ rules. While there is talk of an appropriately exact 327,583 non-authorised buildings in Andalucía (just for comparison, the City of Málaga has 245,000 viviendas), we tend to consider only the 12,700 or so in the Almería interior, plus another 22,000 in the Axarquía area on Eastern Málaga. This is because they tend to have been bought in good faith by foreign buyers (other editorials are welcome to concentrate on the ‘illegal homes of Cádiz’ etc...).
Andalucía lost heavily when it demolished that one home in Vera in January 2008, as the owners, Len and Helen Prior, solemnly moved into the surviving garage that was on a separate deed, and proceeded to embarrass the hell out of the foolish politicians and benumbed rubber-stampers of the day (many of whom, of course, are still in employment) who were responsible for Andalucía losing untold wealth and jobs plus the chance to re-energise some of their moribund villages (a problem they still, uselessly, must face today). 
They discussed it endlessly in the British and German media.
They even talked about it on Zimbabwe TV.  
However, while the PSOE-A (who largely caused the problem of the 'viviendas ilegales' in the first place), eventually voted towards a resolution over the enormous number of illegal homes in the region (without escrituras and thus un-inheritable and un-saleable, with crippling water and electricity issues), joining with the PP-A and Ciudadanos, it now appears that the national government has called 'foul', putting the whole sorry affair back on the front-burner once more.
Gerardo Vázquez, legal advisor to AUAN and spokesperson for the National Coordinating Committee for Justice in Planning says “it would be terrible if the Spanish government attempts to impugn the Decree in the Constitutional Court, as appears to be the case. It is not only an environmental issue; we are talking about the most basic rights of people, the right to a home, to a residence and to a house; and these are real issues, not paper theories. It is not only the environment; it is people’s lives. I am sick and tired that people are dying without solutions. I do not understand the attitude of the government. Last week yet another of those affected, someone known to me, died without being able to obtain paperwork for their house. And I have been contacted by another poor lady whose house has been demolished, after cutting off the electricity to her house whilst she was on dialysis in the house, and this lady has nowhere adequate left to live. Please, we need to be sensible and work together to resolve these issues urgently”.
But then we have the environmentalists to contend with, as they relax in their comfortable apartments in the city, knowing with that particular satisfaction shared by zealots everywhere that their hostile indignation has once again turned Shangri-la into Gehenna. 

Monday, 2 December 2019

Ecology and the Madrid Summit.

As we wait for Greta’s arrival, here are the headlines from the Climate Summit in Madrid.
From El País in English here: ‘Pedro Sánchez at COP25 climate summit in Spain: “Only a handful of fanatics deny the evidence”. Spain’s caretaker government has stepped in to host the event against a global backdrop of weakened environmental leadership’. Extract: ‘...The summit brings together over 25,000 delegates from around 200 countries from December 2 to 13, and seeks to reach agreements to tackle the effects of global warming and keep it within manageable limits...’. Among them, and welcome, is the US Democrat leader Nancy Pelosi: ‘US Congress commits to act on climate crisis, despite Donald Trump. Pelosi tells UN conference in Madrid that commitment is iron-clad’.
There is all to play for: ‘COP25 in Madrid: UN Secretary-General Guterres says planet is 'close to a point of no return'. Found at EuroNews here (with video).
Inevitably, ‘Vox accuses the left of using climate change to change "our way of life"’. An article at El Español here includes the claim from the party that ‘..."We are here because we represent more than 3.5 million people and to keep a close eye on the extreme left, because we all have to pay for this and many dangerous claims are being said for the future of Spain," the Vox spokesperson Iván Espinosa de los Monteros added. He also blamed the left for the summit being held in Madrid and not in Chile...’ (!).  Beyond the posturing of Vox, Climate obstructionalism is strong in Spain, says here: ‘...A new climate denial has found ways to continue filtering its discourse: from boycotting international agreements to taking advantage of bad economic streaks to put impediments in actions against the global warming of the Earth. Climate discourse is admitted, but not the incorporation of the main measure claimed by science: to cut CO2 emissions...’.
From the financial sector comes The Corner where we read ‘Two things to watch out for at COP25 (and why climate stocks could benefit)’. These apparently are emission-trading schemes and an expected range of updates to countries’ individual targets, known as nationally determined contributions.
Because there are powerful interests rallied against action against Climate Change (what could be the upside, no one knows), here are thirteen fake news items planted in the public eye on the subject with Maldito Bulo here.

‘The effects of longer summers in Spain: Temperature rises of up to two degrees in cities, uncontrolled CO2 emissions, disappearance of glaciers, changes in species distribution, appearance of invasive exotic animals and plants or alterations in bird migrations, among other effects, show Spain's high degree of vulnerability to climate change, says the Sustainability Observatory in a complete study presented last week...’. From El País here.

The coastline of Almería stands to be affected by climate change, says the local paper, with an average loss of two metres of beach within the next twenty years, taking away some 440 square kilometres of playa from the province.   

Endesa, Spain’s leading polluter, bought the front pages of the main newspapers on Monday, the first day of the COP25. From El Salto Diario here: ‘"Endesa presents, at the COP25 in Madrid, its solutions for an emission-free society." The same title ran above the fold of the printed editions of newspapers such as ABC, El País, El Mundo, La Vanguardia, El Correo, Expansión, La Voz de Galicia and 20 Minutos among others. Whether oriented to the centre or rather towards the right, all those newspaper editors coincidentally decided on the same story for their leaders on the first day of the 25th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Coincidence? Free-choice? Worthy news? Corporate sponsors?

Tuesday, 26 November 2019

The trick lies in not seeing the trick

To form a government, Sánchez either needs a parliamentary majority – which seems impossible – or at least a majority of ‘yeses’ over the ‘nos’ with the doubtful parties relying on abstaining.  Unfortunately, the three right-wing parties of PP, Vox and Ciudadanos won’t allow this situation to ease by abstaining, leaving us with the current scenario. So far, the plan to join with Unidas Podemos has received the support of 92% of PSOE militants who answered the consultation (here). Currently, attention is focused on gaining the tacit support of the ERC, the Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (wiki). 
The ERC is an independence party with its leader Oriol Junqueras imprisoned for thirteen years for ‘sedition’. The party has consulted its militants and found 95% won’t support an arrangement with the PSOE without ‘a negotiation over Catalonia’. (Or, as El País gamely puts it: ‘Massive support of the ERC militancy to the leadership plan to negotiate the investiture of Sánchez’). That arrangement says here, would include pardoning the political prisoners jailed (or in exile) over the pròces.
‘Critics of the PSOE warn: the pact with Podemos and ERC "puts coexistence at risk"’, says VozPópuli here, adding ‘A debate platform called La España que reúne, sponsored by the former French socialist minister Manuel Valls, warns that "Spain is in a troublesome situation" and that a PSOE and Podemos government pact, with the inevitable support of an ERC that has not renounced its plan to break the unity of the country "would be a very serious political error and irresponsibility that would put our freedoms and citizen coexistence at risk"...’. The platform would like to see a PSOE-PP-C’s partnership. José María Aznar is also fully against a PSOE/Podemos government and says ‘you’ll be hearing a lot from me in the future’ (here).
If all goes to pot, then a fresh election will be held, says El Español, on April 5th 2020.