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Live News From Spain As It Happens

Keep up to date with all the latest news from Spain as it happens. The blog will be updated constantly throughout the day bringing you all the latest stories as they break.

Police enforce 'yellow ribbon ban' in Catalunya
14 December 2017

CATALUNYA regional police have been inspecting public buildings in the region to check they are not displaying yellow loops, the pro-independence sign, and ordering them to be taken down when they are found.

The Mossos d'Esquadra recall that in the run-up to any local, regional or national election, any symbols or messages biased towards one party or another cannot be shown in government-owned places, since these are supposed to be neutral and failure to be impartial is considered unfair electioneering.

Yellow loops have appeared all over Catalunya and are worn by separatist politicians and residents as a show of support for the high-ranking public figureheads currently in prison or under arrest warrants for their role in the 'banned' secession referendum on October 1, and for the regional government which was sacked en masse by the State.



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Judge handling Catalunya referendum 'seriously ill' in hospital
14 December 2017

A JUDGE investigating Catalunya's disputed independence referendum on behalf of the central government is said to be in a 'serious condition' in hospital, although the reason has not been revealed.

Juan Antonio Ramírez Sunyer, 70 (pictured), from Barcelona's Court of Instruction number 13, is behind several of the arrests on September 20 and 21 when separatists stormed the regional government buildings and tried to block the Guardia Civil from getting in, and also filed charges against 20 people – 14 of whom were later arrested.

Judge Sunyer issued search warrants for 41 premises and seized 9.8 million ballot papers.

Strangely, Sunyer's reportedly 'critical condition in hospital' has come within days of the death of Catalunya's senior regional prosecutor José María Romero de Tejada and less than a month after State general prosecutor José Manuel Maza passed away.



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Puigdemont 'might risk returning to Spain' if he wins regional election
13 December 2017

FORMER Catalunya regional president Carles Puigdemont says he is considering 'running the risk' of returning to Spain to be re-invested in the role if he wins the elections on December 21.

Puigdemont, currently in exile in Belgium along with four of his ministers, had his European arrest warrant lifted, but knows that if he sets foot on Spanish soil again, he will be immediately taken into custody.

He still intends to stand for the election and considers himself still to be Catalunya's president, despite the State having taken control of the region and fired its entire government.

The problem he faces is that if he wins the election, the formal investiture ceremony has to take place in the regional Parliament of Catalunya.

“It might be worth the risk,” Puigdemont reportedly said today (Wednesday).

“You cannot be invested as president in Brussels – nor in prison. You have to be free for, at the very least, the time it takes for the investiture to be completed. But for me, the people's votes carry more weight than handcuffs and iron bars.”



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Spain's richest residents revealed
12 December 2017

INDITEX fashion empire founder Amancio Ortega (pictured) is still the richest person in Spain and his daughter Sandra Ortega is the second-wealthiest, according to the most recent Forbes list.

Chairman of supermarket chain Mercadona, Juan Roig, remains in third place with a total fortune of €4.8 billion – compared with the top two's €70bn and €6.5bn respectively.

His wife Hortensia Herrero, with assets totalling €2.6bn, is Spain's seventh-richest person and second-wealthiest woman.

Iberostar chairman Miguel Fluxà, from Palma de Mallorca, ranks fourth with €3.6bn, and head of transport infrastructure company Ferrovial, Rafael del Pino, concludes the top five with €2.9bn.

In total, the top five richest people in Spain have a combined fortune of €87.8bn, or 55.3% of the wealth of the entire population.

The Inditex chain – which owns Zara, among other clothing brands – remains comfortably ahead of its nearest rival in terms of its founders' fortunes, but Isak Andic, who created the global label Mango, joins the Ortegas in the top 10; his wealth of €2.3bn puts him joint ninth with Helena Revoredo, chairwoman of Prosegur and Spain's third-richest woman.

The remaining names in the Forbes top 10 are OHL's biggest shareholder Juan Miguel Villar Millar with €2.7bn (sixth) and owner of Cirsa, Manuel Lao, with €2.4bn (eighth).

Of the 100 wealthiest Spaniards, only 27 are female and their joint wealth comes to €24.5bn – just over a third of that of Amancio Ortega alone.

Catalunya is home to 22 of the richest Spaniards, with an aggregate wealth of €15bn, whilst 35 of them are based in Madrid and are worth €29bn put together.




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Spanish citizenship applications up by a third
10 December 2017

NUMBERS of foreign residents choosing to take Spanish nationality have risen by nearly a third in the last two years, and anecdotal evidence hints that the figure may go up even more after Brexit at the end of March 2019.

As yet, British citizens do not figure in the top 11, since there is rarely any need for European Union nationals to acquire a Spanish passport – although an increasing number of Brits say they are considering doing so once the UK leaves the EU if their existing rights are not retained in full.

Moroccans were the most likely to obtain Spanish citizenship, based upon figures for the year 2016 – the most recent on record at present – which is unsurprising, given that two of Spain's provinces border by land onto the North African country.

They totalled 37,009, a long way ahead of any other national group.

Morocco's historical cultural ties with Spain make it inevitable that the country would be among the top for producing new Spanish nationals, and all the others in the 10 most frequent are either former colonies or, in the case of Brazil, at number nine with 3,427, an immediate neighbour of an ex-colony.

Bolivians were the second-largest national group to acquire citizenship in 2016, at 15,802, followed by Ecuador (15,255) and Colombia (14,299).

Although foreign resident statistics show that these three nationalities, once the most prolific in Spain, have dropped considerably in the last 10 years or so, it is likely this is due to high numbers of them 'becoming Spanish' rather than returning to their countries of origin.

The Dominican Republic is fifth, with 9,176 becoming Spanish, followed by Cuba (4,353), Argentina (3,716) Brazil, and Paraguay (3,358).




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Puigdemont: “My only plan is to continue as president of Catalunya”
09 December 2017

CATALUNYA'S exiled president Carles Puigdemont says he has 'just one plan' for the forthcoming regional elections on December 21 – and that's to carry on being leader of the four north-eastern provinces.

Currently banned from leaving Belgium but released pending trial and free from an earlier extradition order, Puigdemont has made it clear he has no plans to return to Spain until he can be guaranteed a 'fair hearing' for forging ahead with the disputed independence referendum, but still wants to stand for the regional election called by the State government, which now has full control over Catalunya's affairs.

“I consider I am still president of Catalunya, because my regional Parliament has not kicked me out,” Puigdemont says.

“Unless the Parliamentary majority changes after the elections, I am still president, and that's the only plan there is.”

He was asked if he had a 'Plan B' for the vote due in 12 days' time.

“The Spanish political system needs to be responsible for solving the great contradiction it has created by allowing me to become invested as president and then arresting me for carrying out my role, and I trust that the 'Article 155 tripartite' [the PP, socialists and Ciudadanos] will respect the result of the December 21 election,” Puigdemont continued.




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Spain wants three-year post-Brexit transitional period 'to protect citizens'
09 December 2017

SPAIN has called for a three-year 'transitional period' post-Brexit to 'protect the half a million' Brits and Spaniards living in each others' countries.

Its government wants the transition to continue from 'Brexit day' in March 2019 until a new deal is in force, but with a deadline of three years for this to take place.

An in-house report drawn up by the Spanish government shows the results of analyses on bilateral effects of Brexit in terms of employment, trade, healthcare, tourism, justice and education, and cites the migration figures as 200,000 Spaniards living in the UK and 300,000 British nationals living in Spain.

The results will be discussed at the next Council of Europe meeting on December 14 and 15.

Foreign affairs minister Alfonso Dastis says he 'welcomes' recent developments on Brexit in which UK prime minister Theresa May has agreed to 'retain citizens' rights', settled on a sum payable to the EU in respect of Britain's liabilities, and a 'soft border' between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

But Dastis says Spain still has a series of objectives it needs to negotiate with the UK, which includes a request for all current agreements to remain in place until at least the end of the year 2020 so as not to affect Spaniards living in Britain or Brits living in Spain.




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Welcome rain heads for Spain, but not enough to cure drought
08 December 2017

MUCH-NEEDED rainfall is on its way to Spain, with tomorrow (Saturday) expected to bring an Atlantic front with showers across the whole of the mainland lasting until at least Tuesday.

With the national drought reaching crisis proportions and reservoirs down to 36.5% of their capacity, the rain is long overdue and will be very welcome, although considerably more will be needed to take Spain's water supply off the critical list by next summer.

Showers will start in Galicia, Cantabria, the Ebro delta, the Pyrénées, the southern Aragonese mountains, Castilla y León and central Spain, then by Monday it will have spread to the rest of the mainland, the Balearic Islands and the city-province of Melilla on the northern African coast directly due south of Almería.

Sunday will bring locally-heavy downpours in Galicia and snow at high altitudes, above 600 metres, in the north.

By Tuesday, the rain may even reach as far south as the Canary Islands, currently one of Spain's driest regions.

More rain is expected in the far north on Wednesday, although may not extend beyond this, other than isolated showers on Friday on the Atlantic coasts, the Strait of Gibraltar and the Balearic Islands.

Atlantic areas could also see high winds.



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Greenpeace blames 'poor water management' for drought, not just lack of rain
08 December 2017

GREENPEACE'S latest report warns that a third of Spain's territory is at risk of becoming desert and up to 75% of the country's land is 'vulnerable'.

The paper, Drought: More than lack of rainfall says the effects of climate change in Spain are the 'most worrying and severe' on the continent.

At the time of the report, reservoirs were down to 37.3% of capacity after the driest spring since 1965 – with rainfall 23% below normal – and the least rain year-round in over 22 years.

But this week, it was reported that water levels had dropped once again, to 36.5%.

Reservoirs in Spain have lost 129 cubic hectometres (1.29 million litres) of water in less than a week, or around 0.2% of their capacity.

Rivers in particular risk include the Segura, through Alicante and Murcia, now only 13.5% full, and the Júcar, through Valencia and Castellón, at 24.9% full.

The Canada-based environmental charity says 'poor water management' and policies that 'have not worked to mitigate dry periods and desertification' are to blame almost as much as the lack of rainfall.

“Spain has lived and legislated as though it were a country with an endless supply of water,” Greenpeace states.

The Mediterranean and the Canary Islands are the most at-risk areas for desertification, and yet the former has historically seen spring and winter monsoons – known as a gota fría – keeping it green and its reservoirs topped up whilst the centre of the mainland rarely saw a drop.

But the last five or six years has seen the typical seasonal storms pass over the Mediterranean completely.

As far back as 2005, the Gallocanta Lagoon in the province of Zaragoza was already suffering the effects of drought, and by 2007 it was almost empty, whilst the Tablas de Daimiel wetlands (second picture) in the province of Ciudad Real, which has capacity for up to 2,000 hectares (4,942 acres) of its surface to be filled with water, was down to a quarter by November – 500 hectares, or 1,236 acres.



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Tickets now on sale for Benicàssim International and Arenal Sound festivals
08 December 2017

MUSIC festival schedules for summer 2018 are starting to fill up, with The Killers being the first band to confirm their presence at Benicàssim's world-famous FIB International and at least four now a certainty for the Arenal Sound in neighbouring Burriana.

The Killers, led by Brandon Flowers, will bring their greatest hits along with new tracks from their latest studio album, Wonderful Wonderful, to the shores of Castellón between July 19 and 22, 2018 – although they will always be best known for their 2009 epic, Human, based on the Nietzsche quote, “are we human, or are we dancers?”

Early tickets for the full four days of Benicàssim International Festival (FIB) at a special reduced price of €110 have already gone on sale on the event's official website, although the cost will rise from December 14.





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