Blogging from the Murcia region of Spain until toward the end of February, when I return to
the Highlands of Scotland for a few months

'Fair and softly goes far' - Miguel de Cervantes

Sunday, 5 February 2017

"Theresa May wins Spain’s support over early deal for rights of expat Brits in Europe"

The title of this article, in quotations, is taken from an article published in the Daily Express newspaper on Friday evening - you can read it here.

I've no idea whether this Daily Express article is authoritative or speculative - it would be helpful to see a similar message in other parts of the mainstream media, not to mention direct quotes from both Mrs May for the UK and Sr Rajoy for Spain in particular, although the article does contain a number of direct statements attributed to a spokesman for Mrs May:


Comments directly attributed to a spokesman for Mrs Theresa May, British Prime Minister:

"They both agreed it was an area it would be good to get agreement early on in the negotiations.

"He said we need to get an agreement on reciprocal rights.

"We are firmly of the opinion that we want this issue that is resolved early. There is some broad agreement across member states but not all of them.

"They both agreed it would be an area it would be good to get an early agreement on."

On this basis, these are my remarks on what may have been achieved, but what obviously still requires to be formalised:

This sounds hopeful but I'd be cautious about over-optimism until formal agreement is reached - both the UK and Spain have an interest in resolving this issue quickly, but if Germany and some others remain intransigent, it may not happen so smoothly as this implies - my view is and has always been that the rights of existing EU27 residents in the UK must be protected; it is not the British government that is holding cross-border EU residents to ransom, despite attempts in some parts of the British media to paint this picture, it is countries like Germany.

There should be no illusions about this - Brussels regards Britons in the rest of the EU and residents in the UK from the rest of the EU as bargaining chips in their plans to make the UK's exit (aka 'escape') from the clutches of the EU as painful as possible - the Eurozone is in such a mess that Brussels will go to almost any lengths to keep its banks afloat (notably Deutsche and certain of the French banks, which are heavily epxosed in places like Spain, Italy and of course Greece, etc).

Personally I have few qualms about Merkel's 'crazy' immigration policy, because luckily the UK is not a member of the Schengen area, something which is only possible because the UK happens to be comprised of islands off the mainland of Europe (Ireland is also outside of the the Schengen area, it being a practical solution because of its long-standing relations with the UK, but is really for Ireland's convenience, especially given the open border between Ireland and Northern Ireland dating back to, from memory, 1923 - long before either country joined the EEC (now EU).

It is no accident that thousands of prospective immigrants surged through Schengen in to Germany, Finland, amongst other destinations, and to Calais (hoping to smuggle themselves into the UK, until the French government at last took the situation in hand and dispersed them around the country). It is possible that a proportion of the large number of 'immigrants' referred to are genuine 'asylum seekers' to whom refuge must be granted, but it seems to be generally agreed that these represent at most 50% of the total numbers and perhaps considerably less. Although the rules for claiming 'asylum' are that a claim must be lodged in the first 'country of sanctuary' (often Greece or Italy within the EU, but also countries such as Turkey and Lebanon), it has always seemed to me only fair that all EU members should share the burden, certainly financially if not always physically - it is striking that the UK contributes more than the rest of the EU combined to this effort and is second only to the US in this financial assistance. Those 'first sanctuary' countries, all of them, have in my view tried their best to accommodate as many genuine refugees as they can, given their own high levels of unemployment and the fact that their economies are generally much less robust than some of the countries further north in the EU (Austria, Germany, Holland, Finland and of course the UK) and from what I can gather the two of them in the EU (Greece and Italy) had been pleading for help from the rest of the EU, both financial and practical, for some years, but had largely been ignored and left to get on with it as best they could, until the surge of numbers in the summer of 2015 shamed the EU and in particular Germany to accept as many as could travel there - the open Schengen border then (since restricted somewhat in practical terms) made transit across the continent fairly easy, if chaotic - but the drawback was that the huge numbers meant that any real effort to distinguish between 'immigrants' ('economic' or other) and genuine 'asylum seekers' became almost impossible, not aided by the fact that many discarded whatever ID they may have had, or obtained forged documentation from what were considered to be more acceptable 'asylum' countries, such as Syria or Iraq and a few others such as Sudan or South Sudan etc, when many of those concerned probably came from completely different countries, whilch although poor were not in a state of political turmoil requiring 'asylum'. This article is NOT about immigration or asylum, however, but it is impossible not to mention this topic when discussing wider matters relating to EU membership and the rights and responsibilities that status implies.

The UK will always need "immigrants" and generally welcomes them, as we have a robust economy and relatively low unemployment. We also have a long history of accepting refugees in need of asylum and I hope this will continue long into the future, quite apart from our international obligations in this regard. It seems to me that although relatively few genuine asylum seekers arrive direct in the UK from the countries they are fleeing from, even if through equally dangerous countries, that we have to play our part in helping, at the very least financially, those countries where genuine asylum seekers are likely arrive first in Europe. It is certainly unfair to leave it all to Italy and Greece within the EU, or Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon, which already have accommodated large numbers of refugees - and are not wealthy countries themselves - simply because geography places them in the path of these genuine refugees.

Coming back to the main topic of this article, however, I do hope the governments of the EU27 overall (and not just Spain, obviously one of the more important member states) will come to their senses and agree quickly measures to protect both EU27 citizens in the UK and UK citizens in the EU27 - the UK government and now apparently Spain want to get this matter resolved quickly. Let's hope sense will prevail in Brussels (& Germany) so that this agreement can de done quickly. Although I didn't agree with 'remainer' Theresa May's seeming intransigence, I have come to the conclusion her robust, but fair, attitude has been the better course to follow and will in due course stand the best chance of allowing this matter to be resolved in a common sense way. But it needs reciprocal good will from the EU27 too - given that, I do not think the UK will be found wanting. But we have taken the decision to depart the EU and the stamping of feet in frustration and anger by anyone is highly unlikely to change this and given the British nature is only likely to harden attitudes here, which frankly is the last thing I wish to see happen.

(NB/ This article is cross-posted from my main blog Bill's Comment Page [link] - see also link to relevant article).

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Yes, it does occasionally get VERY cold, even in southern Spain

A neighbour has just sent me some photographs of the same view I have from my little house in Spain near Mazarron (Murcia); apparently this "cold snap" is expected to last for another couple of days (visibility is quite low too), although another acquaintance living a little inland from Torrevieja is reporting that rain there is already washing away the snow they had. I saw photographs yesterday from near Alicante too (must have been a little inland at a slight elevation) where there had obviously been a LOT of snow.

Thursday, 5 January 2017

Public Holidays for 2017 - Murcia Region, Valencian Community ('Communitat Valenciana') and Andalucía ('Andalusia') , Spain

As readers of this blog will know, I have been preparing lists of 'Public Holidays' applicable in the Murcia Region of Spain for some years, because it is in this part of Spain that my own holiday home is located; I wrote a blog article about Public Holidays for 2017 in Murcia Region on 23 October 2016 and you can read it here; the actual list of Public Holidays for Murcia Region for 2017 can be downloaded from my personal website here (in .pdf format).

For the past couple of years, though, I have been thinking it might be useful to prepare a similar list of Public Holidays which apply in one of the neighbouring regions, the Valencian Community ('Communitat Valenciana'), comprising the three Provinces of Alicante, Castellón and Valencia, specially because I often visit a few of the cities there, such as Torrevieja and Alicante, etc, and wanted to avoid a perhaps wasted journey should any of these places have a 'Public Holiday' when I was visiting. However, until recently I found difficulty in identifiying the most suitable source of reliable information, specifically the 'Official Gazette' of the Valencian Community ('Communitat Valenciana') and more usefully the specific decision documents relating to 'Public Holidays' there, but I am happy to advise that I overcame this hurdle quite recently.

In Murcia Region the 'Official Gazette' is called the 'Boletín Oficial de la Región de Murcia' or 'BoRM' for short, and its website may be visited here. For the Valencian Community ('Communitat Valenciana') its 'Official Gazette' is called the 'Diari Oficial de la Generalitat Valenciana', and its website may be visited here. It can then be a laborious task to identify the specific information required as it is necessary to scrutinise each daily issue of the 'Diari Oficial'. Over the years I have learned roughly when relevant information is likely to be published for Murcia Region, but I have been on a 'learning curve' recently for the Valencian Community ('Communitat Valenciana'), but the relevant information has now been tracked down in two documents published in early September and late December 2016 respectively:
- the summary of National/Regional holidays for 2017 in Valenciana can be viewed here (.pdf document);
- the detailed list of Local holidays for 2017 in Valenciana can be viewed here.

For Murcia Region, a much smaller administrative operation, this information is published in one document, but I imagine that because the Valencian Community ('Communitat Valenciana') is a much larger and more complex administrative operation, it takes somewhat longer to coordinate all the 'Local' holiday information in particular, so that it has been published only as recently as 27th December 2016 (the final link immediately above).

Using my best efforts, I have now 'distilled' all this information into a one page document showing National/Regional/Local holidays in a few of the towns/cities in the Valencian Community ('Communitat Valenciana') which I think will probably be of most interest to most people, but if you need to find information about a town/city not mentioned in my list, then the final link immediately above will provide it (but bear in mind that municipalities are grouped alphabetically within separate sections for the three constituent Provinces of Alicante, Castellon and Valencia, so you need to know in which of the three Provinces your target town/city is located, or go through this 23-page document laboriously). In any case, my one-page list can be found here in my personal website.

All of this information is centralised in my personal website for Spain, in the Links page under Public Holidays.

Finally, I will perhaps in future years extend my coverage of local public holidays in Spain to other neighbouring regions of the country (for example Andalucía/Andalusia), but I have neither the time nor the inclination to tackle this task in detail for this year, but some may find these links within the official website of the Government of Andalucía/Andalusia ('Junta de Andalucía') of interest:
- National/Regional holidays for 2017 for the whole of Andalucía/Andalusia are here;
- Local holidays for 2017 for towns/cities in Andalucía/Andalusia are here.
(For the final link immediately above, please bear in mind that municipalities are grouped alphabetically within separate sections for the eight constituent Provinces of Almeria, Cadiz, Cordoba, Granada, Huelva, Jaen, Malaga and Sevilla [Seville], so you need to know in which of the eight Provinces your target town/city is located, or go through this very lengthy document laboriously.)

Finally, I hope at least a few readers will find all of this research and information of practical value on the occasions when they are visiting Murcia, Valencia or Andalucía, for national/regional/local holidays, or indeed other parts of Spain so far as national/regional holidays are concerned. I remind readers that such information is summarised for the whole of Spain in its 'Official Gazette' ('BOLETÍN OFICIAL DEL ESTADO') here.

Tuesday, 27 December 2016

Toll motorway charges in Spain will fall on average a further 0.4% in 2017

(Please see UPDATE at end)

For the second year in a row, toll motorway charges in Spain, for toll motorways supported by the State (i.e. most of them), are destined to fall again, this time on average by about 0.4% according to media reports here (rtve website). Last year the tariffs between 2015 and 2016 were reduced by on average 0.6%, with the aim of increasing toll motorway usage - I write about this here in December 2015.

According to the figures released, during the ten months to October 2016 toll motorway traffic has increased by 5.65%, to 18,762 vehicles a day compared with the same period to October 2015, which at 17,759 vehicles per day was an increase of 6.38% over the ten months to October 2014. The further fall in toll fees is again as a result of the application of a formula for automatic annual toll fee adjustments agreed with the government in 2002.

As last year, there are no details yet of how this will affect specific sectors in the toll motorway network, usually such detailed information becomes available only during January of the following year, but given that the average tariff reduction is to be 0.4%, the monetary reduction will be small. For example for 2016 a 0.6% reduction compared with 2015 resulted in a reduction of €0.05 to €5.75 for a journey in either direction on the Cartagena to Mazarrón sector of the AP-7 and as this was already rather more than the notional 0.6% average reduction a year ago, I would imagine that for 2017 the tariff for this sector will either remain as it is now at €5.75, or perhaps reduce to €5.70, assuming that changes are to be in €0.05 steps for convenience in making change at toll booths, but we will only know this next week when the full details will presumably become available.

For reference, the current tariff for 2016 for the Cartagena to Vera sector of the AP-7 may be downloaded from the Aucosta website here (in .pdf format) and it is likely that this page will be updated to show the tariff for 2017 in due course, going by past experience.

NB/ It will be recalled that I wrote on 18th December 2016 about the plans announced by the Spanish government to "rescue" eight bankrupt motorways in the Spanish toll motorway network, one of which is the Cartagena to Vera sector of the AP-7 - this article may be viewed here.

UPDATE (Thursday 12JAN17 12.45 GMT) Full details of toll motorway tariffs for 2017 have now been published. As expected, most tariffs at least on the Cartagena-Vera part of the AP-7 remain effectively unchanged, although a few sectors will be very slightly cheaper (by €0.05) during 2017 than they were in 2016. You can see full details in various pages linked to from the Location page of my Spanish website, for example here and here (scroll to the bottom of both these pages, to see summary tariff information and links to more detailed information in the Aucosta website).

Sunday, 18 December 2016

A rescue plan is finally agreed for bankrupt Spanish toll motorways

The Ministry of Development(or "Ministry of Public Works" ['Ministerio de Fomento]') has finally agreed a rescue plan for toll motorways in Spain 'in bankruptcy'. The public funds required to carry out this rescue plan will amount to between €4.5 and €5 billions according to the details released by the Ministry. The routes involved are:

- the four radial access motorways around Madrid;
- the M-12 which provides access to Barajas Airport in Madrid;
- the AP-41 which links Madrid and Toledo;
- the radial motorway around Alicante;
- the sector of the AP-7 between Cartagena and Vera.

A few weeks ago the Government asserted that the rescue plans then being formulated would not cost the public purse one Euro, but there is a clause in the original concession agreements that requires the State to step in to take over management of concessions which go into bankruptcy. Initially the Government had tried to get the creditors to accept a "haircut" of 50% of the debts due, with the remainder to be paid off over 30 years, which would it was hoped be funded by toll revenues. However the private lenders who financed the motorways declined to accept this solution and their interpretation of the contract detail has finally been upheld by the courts - so the Government must pay up. It appears that the haggling between the lenders, many of them foreign banks, and the Spanish authorities has been going on for well over two years (see the second linked article below).

Sources:
- Al final, el rescate de los peajes lo pagamos todos (Autobild.es - 13th December 2016), this article is in Spanish;
- Foreign banks resist losses on Spanish motorway rescue (Reuters - 1st October 2014), this article is in English.

My most recent article on on the vexed subject of the [lack of] viability of parts of the Spanish toll motorway network was published here on 12th November 2016 and you can read it by clicking this link:
Moves afoot on eight financially precarious toll motorways in Spain


Saturday, 12 November 2016

Moves afoot on eight financially precarious toll motorways in Spain

It seems that with the recent formation of a new government in Spain, steps are to be taken to either close or radically restructure the operations of upto eight "bankrupt" toll motorways across Spain. It is not entirely clear yet, at least to me, but it does seem that one of the toll motorways under the microscope is the section of the AP-7 between Cartagena and Vera, regarded really since its inception as something of a "white elephant".

It seems that the toll highways at most immediate risk are two radial motorways around Madrid (R-3 and R-5), according to this article dated 27th September 2016, although the Cartagena-Vera section of the AP-7 also receives what I suppose one might call an 'honourable mention'.

Since then, the new government has (finally and after many months of "negotiation") been formed and amongst its first and most urgent actions is to take decisions about "the spending ceiling, budgets and pensions" on many subjects including those eight toll motorways, according to this article dated 29th October 2016. An article in the same place, a few days later on 3rd November 2016, takes the sorry story on by declaring that the minister of development ('fomento') will have to look at amongst others the following:


Entre los retos que ahora tendrá que afrontar como ministro, figura la quiebra y el riesgo de liquidación de un conjunto de ocho autopistas de peaje, dos de las cuales el Ministerio ya se ha comprometido a asumir antes de julio de 2017

(or, in this rough translation into English):
"Among the challenges he will now face as a minister is the bankruptcy and liquidation risk of a set of eight toll highways, two of which the Ministry has already committed to take over before July 2017"
Quite obviously, it probably goes without saying, these problems with the transport infrastucture (not forgetting the delayed AVE high-speed railway network) that I have covered in this article, are only minor details in comparison with the major problems facing the whole of the Spanish economy, undoubtedly not helped by the dithering of the Spanish political establishment whilst it quarrelled over the past year about the formation of a new government. And these are, in their turn, only minor details in the overall problems facing the EU and within the Eurozone within which Spain limps on; the hopeful economic signs of recent months in Spain are not to be dismissed, of course, but wider and perhaps more alarming economic and political factors are in flux not only in the EU but in Spain too, in my opinion. Hold on tight, would be my adivce - and take nothing for granted.

Sunday, 23 October 2016

Public Holidays for 2017 - Murcia Region and local to Mazarrón

I have added a list of Public Holidays for 2017, applicable to the Murcia Region of Spain and including local public holidays in Mazarrón and nearby municipalities in the Region. You can find the list, which is available for download in .pdf format, in the Links page, under 'Public Holidays', of my personal Spanish website here (where you will also find a link to download public holidays for the current year, 2016, as this may still be useful for the remainder of the year).

You can also download the .pdf file of Public Holidays in Murcia for 2017 directly from this blog article by clicking here.

For those who are interested, you can view the official Spanish source documents for this information:
- here for the .pdf version (this is the formal official version);
- here for the HTML website version;
(These are the formal Murcia Region documents which contain the decisions authorising these public holidays, as gazetted in the Official Gazette of Murcia Region ["Boletín Oficial de la Región de Murcia"].)

NB/ Note added on 23 October 2016 at 12.35 RST - The consolidated list of equivalent Public Holidays for 2017 for the whole of Spain has now been added in the 'Public Holidays' section in the 'Links' page; it is also in .pdf format. However, to find details of municipal holdays in regions of Spain other than Murcia, you will need to visit their respective websites. You can however also download the consolidated list directly from this blog article by clicking here.

2nd NB / Note added on 26 October 2016 21.20 RST - as I wish to keep the list of Public Holidays I prepare as a one-page single-side document, I am unable to include every municipality included in the official BORM list, but in response to a comment received will probably add Fuente Alamo to my list from next year, because it is fairly close to MCC, specially with the opening of the new motorway link a few years ago, and of course because of the popularity of the golf course at Hacienda del Alamo amongst many golfers in the area.

Sunday, 25 September 2016

Briton arrested in Mazarrón under European Arrest Warrant

I wrote about this in my Facebook/Twitter pages a couple of days ago, but it probably merits mentioning in this blog too, unfortunately, as it touches on the area where my holiday home in Spain is located.

A Briton has been arrested in Mazarrón under a European Arrest Warrant. All that the linked article reveals is that the individual is 32 years old and was identified as being present at an "urbanisation in Mazarron" with his partner (wife?). He was apparently detained near his home. He is alleged to have a pending conviction "for crimes against persons, cultivation and trafficking of narcotics, damage and reckless driving, which together represent sentences totaling 27 years in prison".

It is usual in Spain for official reports, and subsequent press reports, not to give the full names of arrestees, although sometimes initials are mentioned, but in this case no identifying information has been provided. I have, since my original Facebook article was published, been made aware privately of more details of the origin of the individual who has been arrested, but as this is 'hearsay' do not include it here.

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

For Europe, Against the EU

The first and most important thing to bear in mind is that Europe is not the EU and the EU is not Europe - Europe is a lot wider than the restrictive 'corset'/'straitjacket' of the EU.

For Europe, Against the EU. It’s not a contradiction in terms. The EU is a deadweight around the neck of this exciting continent, limiting the power of its peoples and submitting its parliaments to petty bureaucracy and diktat. Just ask Italy and Greece! The video embedded below argues that the referendum is an opportunity for the British public to strike out against the risk-averse, technocratic elites of Brussels and Whitehall, and an opportunity to inspire publics across Europe to do the same.

Watch, share and vote Leave on 23 June. Unless you prefer to remain in the gilded cage that is the EU, of course - gilded it may be (for some, at least), but it is still a cage.


PS/ Obviously this article is directed principally at those eligible to vote in the referendum to be held in the UK on 23rd June, but it may be of interest to others too.

Brexit the Movie - essential viewing before you vote in the Referendum on 23rd June

Watch this in full and then decide if you want the ‪#‎UK‬ to remain in the ‪#‎EU‬ - or not:


If you decide, after watching this film (1 hour 11 minutes in length), then at least you won't be walking into the decision completely blind - and will have no excuse for complaint afterwards if we do vote to 'remain' in the EU and things go belly-up, as I fear greatly they will. It'll be too late then to whine "but I didn't realise".

PS/ Just to be clear, I am a supporter of neither UKIP nor its leader Nigel Farage, although he appears in this film, but then so do many others of great reputation and stature.

PPS/ Obviously this article is directed principally at those eligible to vote in the referendum to be held in the UK on 23rd June, but it may be of interest to others too.