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Unemployment in Spain began its annual upturn in August with the number of Spaniards registered as unemployed rising by 21,679, the latest Employment Ministry figures showed, a 0.54% increase compared to July. The new total is 4.086 million people. Seasonally adjusted, unemployment fell by 5,286 people. The bulk of the jobs were lost in the service sector, and the leading regions were Valencia and Catalonia. The government says the jobless total has fallen by 359,975 since August 2014. 1.15 million of the 1.25 million employment contracts in Spain in August were temporary hires. The second main measure of unemployment in Spain, the National Statistics Institute's quarterly Active Population Survey (EPA), recorded a figure of 5.15 million unemployed Spaniards in the latest edition in July.
The First Minister of Catalonia, Artur Mas, reacted on Tuesday night to the Popular Party's announcement that it was to rush urgent legislation through the Spanish parliament to give the Constitutional Court power to fine and suspend political leaders who do not uphold the court's judgements. "It's grotesque", said Mr. Mas at a dinner with businessmen in Gerona: "This really does take us back to the 1930s. This is the tune of the inquisition. This is not the rule of law. This is an alarmingly low quality democratic [measure] that gives one the sensation of a very grave step backwards in history". He also said that: "the party that currently governs the Spanish state, with an absolute majority, means to wreck the legal system they are always bragging about".
Both Podemos and Ciudadanos have lost ground in favour of the Popular Party (PP) and the Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE), according to a new Observatorio poll published by Cadena SER on Tuesday morning. The radio station's headline read "The bipartisan system is making a comeback". The two main parties add up to 54.2% of the vote in the poll. The results are broadly similar to those of other recent polls published in the last week of August.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said during a press conference alongside Mariano Rajoy in Berlin on Tuesday morning that "respect" should be shown for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of member states, in reference to the upcoming secessionist challenge at the Catalan regional elections on September 27. "Of course we have talked about the situation in Spain", she said: "and about what is happening in Catalonia, and we have a very similar position. We all have to respect European Union treaties that guarantee the sovereignty and territorial integrity of each state. That is why it is very important national and international law be respected, and we don't have any kind of differences on that". On August 29, the EU's former top lawyer, Jean Claude Piris, said the idea of a newly independent Catalonia joining the EU was "totally illusory".
Markit's Purchasing Manager's Index for the manufacturing sector in Spain "dropped for the third successive month to 53.2 in August, down from 53.6 in the previous month", the company said in a press release, although any score above 50 is considered optimistic territory by analysts. The rise in new orders slowed as output "rose sharply", with August's increase being: "the twenty-first in as many months and the sharpest since May". Spanish manufacturers continued to take on new staff, for the 20th month in a row, although August's increase was "the weakest for six months". Andrew Harker, senior economist at Markit and author of the report, said:“Growth of new work continued to ease at Spanish manufacturers in August, providing further evidence of a slowdown in the sector".
The body of one person missing since the explosion at the Pirotécnica Zaragozana fireworks factory in Zaragoza (Aragón) on Monday was found in the early hours of Tuesday morning, Civil Guard sources told Spanish news agency EFE, bringing the death toll from the accident to six. The body was found at around 5 a.m. next to farm close to the factory. Four people died in the initial blast and a fifth died in hospital on Monday evening. Six people are still being treated in hospital, two of them in intensive care.
El Mundo embargoed its front page until 3 a.m. on Tuesday morning to then publish "the 3% document", reporting that the piece of paper—containing typed accounting entries in two columns as well as handwritten annotations—proves the existence of a 3% commission paid to Artur Mas's party CDC in Catalonia in exchange for the awarding of five public works contracts in Catalan towns for a total of more than €11 million euros. "Here, in black and white", says the Spanish daily: "is the famous 3%", which in the cases annotated on the sheet of paper meant more than €343,000 in income for CDC. It forms part of the documentation found "on July 23 last in the safe of Jordi Sumarroca, the former CEO of Teyco and son of one of the founders of Convergència" (CDC). The contracts were for a park, an outdoor swimming pool, two public buildings and a car park. and all were awarded between "March and June 2009".
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).