Timely, original, independent reporting and analysis of the most important stories changing Spain, in English. No ads. No spam. Free members can read all updates, leave comments and get e-mail alerts.
The government in the north-eastern region of Aragón declared a day of mourning following the explosion this afternoon at a local fireworks factory that killed five people and left six in hospital. The period of mourning will run from midnight on September 1 until midnight on September 2, the regional government said in a statement e-mailed to journalists, which also provided more details on the six casualties in hospital:
A new poll published by Jaime Miguel & Associates for Público shows no overall majority for any party at Spain's general election, expected to take place at the end of November. The only workable coalition, according to the poll results, would be between the Popular Party (PP) and Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE). In a 350-seat Congress, requiring 176 for a majority, the results show (with current seats in brackets):
Spain's Home Secretary, Jorge Fernández Díaz, and Public Works Minister, Ana Pastor, attended the meeting of European Interior and Transport Ministers in Paris on Saturday to agree on new cross-border and train security measures following the failed terror attack on the Thalys high-speed train in France on August 21. Gilles de Kerchove, the EU's counter-terrorism chief, also attended, the EU said in a press statement issued after the meeting. The new beefed-up rail security measures will include the "swift adoption" of a Passenger Name Record Directive" to detect movements of foreign fighters more efficiently", "initiatives related to detention and to the disabling of weapons" and more cooperation between national intelligence services. The statement also said a "first European forum with internet service providers" would be held on December 2, 2015.
Retail sales rose in Spain by 1.3% in July, compared to June, and by more than 4% compared to July last year, the National Statistics Institute (INE) reported on Friday. Removing petrol stations from the calculation still showed a monthly rise of 1.1%. The petrol station and domestic appliances sub-sectors each posted increases of 2%. The survey questions 12,500 retail businesses across Spain on their sales activity and turnover. The 4.1% year-on-year increase forms part of an ongoing trend in increasing retails sales in Spain that began almost two years ago, in September 2013. The biggest gains by Spanish region were seen in Cantabria (6.6%), The Canary Islands (5.7%), The Balearic Islands (5.5%) and Valencia (5.5%). The INE also reported consumer prices had fallen by 0.4% in July "mainly" on falling energy prices.
Spain's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) grew by 1% between April and June, the National Statistics Institute (INE) reported, an increase of 0.1% compared to the first quarter. Both domestic and foreign demand continued to improve. Accumulated total GDP growth for the first six months of 2015 is 1.9%. Accumulated GDP growth for previous 12 months (July 1 2014 - June 30 2015) is 3.1%. The increases in GDP are translating into more work and more hours worked. The INE said 477,000 "jobs equivalent to full time" had been created in that 12 month period. Current GDP growth rates in Spain are above the European average.
The Financial Times published an editorial on Wednesday praising Mariano Rajoy's "courageous" economic reforms in Spain, saying they are "a lesson for the eurozone" and that they "have allowed Spain to defy the once widespread prediction that it would remain Europe's economic laggard". The country's 3% GDP growth proves that "remaining in the eurozone does not condemn a nation to economic failure". The main challenge, says the editorial, is political, in a "fragmented" public environment with the possibility of "no clear result" at the general election and "constitutional turmoil" if Catalan separatists win a majority, combined with doubts among Spaniards about whether or not the economic improvements will last. The newspaper also notes that Spain's recovery "has been helped hugely by factors outside Mr. Rajoy's control", including a weaker euro, lower oil prices and actions by the European Central Bank. The high 22% unemployment rate remains "a blot on the government's record".
Spanish police intelligence forces and Morocco's DGST arrested 14 people in a joint "large anti-terror operation" on Tuesday morning, the Spanish Home Office said in a press statement posted online. The 14 were detained in the Moroccan cities of Fez, Casablanca, Nador and Al Hoceima and the town of Driouch, and the Spanish town of San Martin de la Vega, 21 km outside of Madrid. The suspects "were part of a recruitment network to send foreign fighters to join the ranks of Islamic State, in the Syrian-Iraqi region under its control", said the statement.
Spain's Home Secretary, Jorge Fernández Díaz, said in televised statements in parliament that the joint operation had begun "when we found out that the group's leader had a strong link to Melilla" and that "they all form part of the same network". He refused to comment on the nationalities of those arrested.
The IBEX 35, Spain's leading stock index, fell up to 6.6% during trading on Monday, dropping below the level of 9,600 points and losing almost all of its gains in 2015, with three hours left in the trading session and before the opening bell in US markets. Stock markets across Europe also fell after an 8.5% plunge in Chinese shares the official Chinese news agency Xinhua labelled a "Black Monday".
The IBEX 35, Spain's leading stock index, fell more than 2.5% on Monday morning, led by drops in Spanish steel, energy and construction companies:
Spanish anti-terror police believe 800 jihadi radicals who have returned from trips to Syria are roaming Europe and that Ayoub Al Hkazzani, the 26-year old Moroccan who attacked the Thalys train in northern France, "likely" received his weapons and orders from another person "shortly before getting on the train in Brussels", Cadena SER reported on Monday. According to the news report, intelligence services know where "some of them are, but not others", that they have returned after trips to the wars in Iraq and Syria and that they are "waiting for the right moment and specific orders" to carry out more attacks.
Overnight stays at Spain's hotels increased by a further 5.9% in July, to 39.8 million, compared to the same month last year, according to new data published by the National Statistics Institute (INE) on Monday, although the average length of a trip fell slightly to 3.8 nights. Overnight stays by residents increase at a greater rate, 7%, than stays by non-residents, 5.3%. The southern region of Andalusia was the top destination for Spaniards in July, scooping up a quarter of the total (24.8%), followed by Valencia and Catalonia. The preferred destinations for foreigners were The Balearic Islands (35.9%), Catalonia and The Canary Islands. British and German tourists made up half of all tourist visitors to Spain in July.
A new Celeste Tel poll for El Diario shows up to a twenty point gap between the Popular Party (PP) and the Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE), and Podemos and Ciudadanos. None of the four leading parties would have enough support for an overall majority in the 350-seat Congress. Possible left-wing (Spanish Socialist Party and Podemos) and right-wing (Popular Party and Ciudadanos) coalitions would also fall short.
The 26-year old Moroccan man who attacked a Thalys train in northern France on August 21 lived for a year in Spain—"until 2014"—El País reported, citing Spanish anti-terror sources, who also said Ayoud El Kahzzani had then moved to France before travelling to Syria and returning. The newspaper did not report where in Spain Mr. El Kahzzani had lived.
Catalan First Minister Artur Mas said during a press conference on Tuesday that he believed 68 seats for Junts Pel Sí ("Together For Yes")—the joint pro-secession electoral list he is a part of—would be enough in the 135-seat regional parliament for the formation to push on towards a unilateral declaration of independence from Spain. "When you are attacked", he said: "you have a legitimate right to self-defence", adding that while formally these are normal regional elections, he considers them a plebiscite on secession. He said 68 regional MPs would be enough to consider the 'yes' vote had won, regardless of whether or not those 68 seats were won with a majority of the vote. Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said on Tuesday that: "no one was going to break up Spain or turn citizens in Catalonia into foreigners in their own country. This government is not going to allow it".
17 regional governments will receive €7.5 billion more in financing from the central government next year and Catalonia will receive the largest increase of all, up by 12%, compared to an average increase of 8.7%, following a meeting of the country's Financial & Fiscal Policy Council, which deals with regional funding. Spanish regions led by new Socialist Party governments, as well as Catalonia, Cantabria and the Canary Islands, voted against a reduction in regional deficit targets to 0.3% for 2016. Spanish Finance Minister Cristóbal Montoro said that "Catalans have to have finance guaranteed for services", given that a "disconnection" from Spain "is not going to happen".
The average cost of employing a worker in Spain fell by 0.6% last year, to €30,653, according to new data published by the National Statistics Office on Wednesday. Average gross salary fell slightly, to €22,605, or 74% of the total cost. Most of the rest goes towards paying employees' social security contributions. The highest average wages in Spain are to be found in the energy and financial sectors and the lowest in restaurant and hotel work. The region with the highest average wage is Madrid and the region with the lowest average wage is Extremadura. Average total and salary costs have remained relatively stable since the economic crisis began in 2008.
The regional government in Castilla La Mancha, led by Socialist Party (PSOE) First Minister Emiliano García Page, has moved to block the construction of a nuclear waste dump in the town of Villar de Cañas just hours after Spain’s Nuclear Security Council gave the green light for preliminary construction work to begin. El Mundo reported a regional government cabinet meeting on Tuesday morning had decided to increase the size of a nearby natural park and bird protection area from 2,500 acres to 62,000 acres, thus prohibiting any construction work from beginning in the area. The Spanish government wants to store radioactive waste there for up to 100 years.
The Café Comercial, a historic café in the centre of Madrid, often described as "the oldest café in Madrid", announced on Facebook on Monday morning that it was closing its doors immediately. The café said on its website that it opened in 1870 and Spanish media reported its first operating licence had been awarded in 1887. It was frequently the scene of literary debates and a favourite stop for Spanish cultural figures, across many generations. The message posted by the café online said that while it was "a shame" to have to announce the closure, the time had come and that it was grateful to its customers for their patronage.
Just a third of residents in Catalonia believe the independence of the region will be possible "in a more or less near future", El País reported, citing the results of a new Metroscopia survey the paper had commissioned. Two thirds of those living in Catalonia believe independence has "very little or no chance" of becoming reality and that it is now difficult for Catalonia and the rest of Spain to reach agreement on the issue. A clear majority of both Catalan respondents and Spaniards in other parts of the country said they thought both Mariano Rajoy and Artur Mas were approaching the dispute in the wrong way. Another poll by NC Report in La Razón suggested the new joint list "Together For Yes" (Junts Pel Sí) would only win 35.8% of the vote or 56 seats, 13 seats short of a majority in the 135-seat regional parliament.
The Spanish government has increased the terror alert in Spain from three to four (out of a total of five), signifying a "high risk" of a terror attack and extra reinforcements at key targets, the Home Secretary said in a press conference on Friday evening. The alert level was raised to three following the attack on Charlie Hebdo in Paris in January.
(UPDATE 1, June 26, 4:51 pm) RIU issued a brief statement on Friday afternoon confirming the attack had taken place on the Imperial Marhaba Hotel's beach. "The Riu Imperial Marhaba Hotel in Port El Kantaoui, Tunisia, has been affected by the attack occurred this morning on the hotel's beach. We are collecting all the information about the incident and are in permanent contact with the authorities in order to have full information about what happened. We would like to extend our sincere condolences to the victims and their relatives, and are awaiting to know more about this incident. We will keep you informed through this media and the social networks of RIU Hotels as soon as we receive more information."
A heat wave is set to spread across Spain over the weekend, with temperatures in inland areas of the southern half of the country reaching the mid forties by Saturday, according to the three-day forecast published by the Spanish weather office AEMET, which said in a statement that the heat wave would continue until next Tuesday.
A 44-year-old man in the villa of Coria (Extremadura) was attacked and killed by a bull during a village festival yesterday whilst standing behind a protective barrier. A second man was killed after being knocked down by a bull during a village festival in l’Ampolla (Catalonia).
In an interview with Público, Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias said he is open to the idea of Podemos supporting more open alternative left formations like Ahora Madrid or Barcelona en Común at the general election but launched a biting attack on what he called the “sad, bored, bitter” traditional Spanish left “that enjoyed stewing in defeat” rather than winning elections, adding that they lived in “existential pessimism” and had been unable to properly understand Spain’s changing political situation. The attack is being interpreted in other Spanish media outlets as a thinly veiled attack on United Left.
A new poll in Catalonia for El Periódico suggests Catalunya en Comú, a hypothetical alternative left coalition similar to the one that has just won Barcelona City Hall, could challenge Artur Mas’s First Minister’s List at the regional election on September 27. The poll suggests 30-31 seats in the 135-seat regional parliament could go to ICV, the Catalan version of Podemos and the party led by celebrity nun Teresa Forcades if the three parties formed a new regional popular front, compared to 33-35 seats for Mr. Mas’s First Minister’s List.
Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy again rejected the idea of calling an early general election during a visit to Brussels for a European Council meeting. Cadena SER reported Spain’s provincial electoral colleges had not yet been dissolved one month after the local and regional elections. Spanish newspapers reported the Finance Ministry was preparing to bring the 2016 budget forward and present the plan in parliament before the summer break, allowing the Prime Minister to announce a series of pre-electoral economic measures related to tax rates and civil servants’ pay. Annual budget plans in Spain are normally presented in September. The government had previously denied the measures and ruled out an early general election.
New data published by the National Statistics Institute on Thursday showed the size of the population had fallen by January 1 2015 to 46,439,864 people, the third yearly drop in a row. Population changes registered a net outflow of 102,000 people. In 2014, there were still more births than deaths in Spain. The biggest falls in population were seen among young people of working age, from 25 to 39, and among the elderly, aged between 70 and 75, a group the National Statistics Institute calls the “Civil War generation”.
The Bank of Spain said on Thursday that economic growth had increased slightly in the second quarter to an annual rate of 3.1%. It said the “high” growth rate was accompanied by the “rapid creation of jobs”. The Bank said additional growth in the second half of the year would be “contained” when the impact of low oil prices and the depreciation of the euro lessened. The Bank’s GDP forecast for 2015 is 3.1%.
A judge in Madrid has opened a preliminary investigation into Guillermo Zapata’s offensive tweets after the Public Prosecutor recommend yesterday he be investigated on glorification of terrorism charges. Mr. Zapata must appear in court on July 7. Podemos political analysis director Carolina Bescansa told Cadena SER the justice system was being used in a partisan manner, adding that she was surprised the Public Prosecutor was acting in such a decisive manner to investigate some tweets. The Home Secretary, Jorge Fernández Díaz, told the same radio station that “when a crime is committed, apologies and regrets are not enough”.
María del Mar Villafranca, the director general of the board of trustees of the Alhambra palace in Granada, Spain’s most visited tourist attraction, said during a press conference following her arrest on Thursday by police in Granada that she would not resign and that she had cooperated with officers from the Economic & Tax Crimes squad investigating a money laundering case related to contracts to supply audio guides to tourists. A spokesman for the National Police in Granada told The Spain Report that Mrs. Villafranca had been arrested along with four others. She said she would offer to resign if she was indicted by a judge.