Murcia and Spanish news round-up week ending 31st March 2017
The regional government crisis sparks debate nationwide as the Costa Cálida prepares for Easter
For many of us the real news this week is that the weather seems to have settled down a bit and ithe forecast is for good weather over the Easter holidays which begin here in the region next Friday with the day of the Virgen de Dolores, a local holiday in some municipalities.
In the wider picture, of course, the triggering of the Brexit process by the activation of Article 50 is of interest to a great many people in Murcia - and not just the British! - and there have been some interesting opinions expressed regarding both the positive and negative effects which the UK's departure from the EU might have on the Costa Cálida and those of us living and working in Spain.
Elsewhere, it is still hard to keep the airports of San Javier and Corvera off the front pages - the tender process for the new management contract at Corvera has now begun - and in many places the race is now on to make sure that beaches are in the best condition possible for the start of Semana Santa next Friday.
The political crisis in the region continues, with a debate over the motion of no confidence in the regional president taking place this week. By this time next week we could have a different regional president or be careering towards impromptu regional elections with a different coalition at the helm, but as they say, a week is a long time in politics!
Corvera and San Javier airport news
The long-awaited process by which the new management contract at the unopened Region of Murcia International Airport in Corvera will be awarded finally got under way officially on Saturday, when the conditions offered to bidders were published in the Official Bulletin of the Region of Murcia (BORM), and Pedro Rivera, the minister for Infrastructures and Development in the regional government, stated that the aim of the tender process is to achieve the maximum increase possible in both domestic and international flights, generating more tourism and therefore more economic activity and employment in the Region of Murcia.
Looking further ahead, he anticipated that the airport will bring in 495.8 million euros during the 25-year period for which bidding is now open, and as an incentive it has been decided that there will be a 5% reduction in the tariff per passenger if and when the figure of 2.5 million users per year is reached.
This target is significantly higher than the figures currently being achieved at the airport of Murcia-San Javier, where passenger flights in recent years have been dominated by low-cost airlines such as Ryanair, Easyjet and Jet2. However, on Tuesday British Airways joined them on the arrivals and departures boards with the inauguration of a new service between the Mar Menor and London Heathrow, currently the sixth busiest airport in the world.
Brexit and Murcia
Prime Minister Theresa May formally began Britain's divorce from the European Union on Wednesday, notifying EU Council President Donald Tusk in a hand-delivered letter that Britain would quit the club it joined in 1973.
This takes the UK into the unknown and those of us living here in Spain (and indeed, expats living elsewhere in Europe) face a two year wait before we know definitively what effect the outcome of the negotiations will have on our own lives here.
British Ambassador to Spain Simon Manley, was quick to reassure expats that it would be business as usual for the next two years, “One of our top priorities for the negotiations is our citizens, and there will be no immediate changes to expat rights here in Spain in the interim” he said, "as the Prime Minister said in her letter to European Council President, we should always put our citizens first, and we want an early agreement about their rights. We are ready to reach such an agreement right now if other countries agree. We want to give citizens as much certainty as possible, as early as possible.
In the interim, there will be no immediate changes to expat rights here in Spain. Until exit negotiations are concluded, the UK remains a full member of the European Union and all the rights British Nationals enjoy in Spain remain in force.
You can continue to live and work in Spain. You can continue to access Spanish healthcare, access your UK pension and your children can continue to attend Spanish schools. We encourage all British citizens residing in Spain to register on their local padron, so that you can fully exercise your rights to access local services in Spain and so that we have the most complete possible picture of all the British citizens are living here. If you encounter any problems exercising your rights, get in touch with your nearest British consulate. Our teams across Spain and I will continue to keep you updated on the negotiations.”Click to read full story
It was pleasing to see on Tuesday that some elements in the regional press of Murcia are making an effort to present non-Spanish residents in the Costa Cálida in a rather more positive light than they have on previous occasions, when almost every image published seemed to be of a Brit holding a pint of beer at ten in the morning.
In regional newspaper La Verdad an article was published in which five women living in the Hacienda del Álamo golf resort were interviewed, with the tone being one of appreciation of their contributions to the Region of Murcia rather than of criticism. In fact, if anything, criticism was reserved for certain aspects of Murcia and the limited way in which information is made available to foreign residents regarding cultural events and the attractions of the Region.
Even more pleasingly, the article reports that in order to keep track of current affairs and cultural events, the women, all of different nationalities, follow and use Murcia Today in order to keep up with the latest events and information!
Of course, that's something we're fully aware of as google analytics clearly shows the reach of this product and how wide its international readership actually is, and we're fully aware of how little interest ( and support!) there has been during the last eight years to make any effort to put cultural and tourist information into English on the part of the bodies who most benefit from tourism and the money spent by the foreign national residents and visitors, but at the end of the day, more than half a million unique readers use this product to read about the Region of Murcia in English, so it's hardly surprising that some of them should be on a local urbanisation.
The whole question of communication with foreigners is likely to be prominent in the next two years as we lurch towards Brexit.
Murcia participates in EU debate on the challenges of Brexit: the Region of Murcia was represented last week at the European Committee of Regions debate on the challenges facing the EU as a consequence of the UK’s departure, with Manuel Pleguezuelo of the regional government’s Citizen Participation and EU department stressing the need to protect the rights of British nationals living in the Costa Cálida.
Referring also to the importance of reassuring EU nationals living in the UK, Sr Pleguezuelo spoke of the need to provide health care and safeguard the right to move freely within Europe, as well as to provide services and export goods across borders.
However, Gibraltar now becomes a bargaining pawn
Although most expat residents are more focused on the Brexit issues which will affect them closest to home, such as healthcare, pensions and their status here in Spain, the developments on Friday relating to Gibraltar could result in tougher bargaining by the Spanish government than had been hoped by the British Government.
Although Theresa May specifically mentioned the Irish borders in her Article 50 letter, she failed to mention the territory of Gibraltar, which has a border with Spain in the Andalucía Region. On Friday the EU presented its draft Brexit negotiation guidelines, specifically mentioning that Spain will be given an effective veto on whether the Brexit deal applies to Gibraltar.
Gibraltar, as a British colony, became a member of the EU automatically when the UK joined in 1973, so when the UK leaves the EU, so will Gibraltar, but according to the document on Friday, the Spanish government will have the power to effectively veto the terms of a future UK deal with the EU in reference to Gibraltar.
The document said, “After the United Kingdom leaves the Union, no agreement between the EU and the United Kingdom may apply to the territory of Gibraltar without the agreement between the Kingdom of Spain and the United Kingdom.”
This effectively allows Spain to exclude Gibraltar from any UK-EU transitional single market access arrangement or future trade deal, if it does not accept the status of Gibraltar, so pressures the UK government to reach agreement with Spain over the future status of the territory or risk potential economic disaster for the residents and businesses on Gibraltar.
Spain has never made any secret of its determination to reclaim sovereignty over Gibraltar, and this move effectively strengthens its position in any negotiations with the UK, as the EU is supporting its member states, of which the UK, and therefore Gibraltar, is no longer a member, “the union will stick up for its members and that means Spain now,” a senior EU official is reported in the UK media, to have said.
So effectively, Spain has been given a stronger bargaining position to negotiate the future of Gibraltar on its own terms, and increase the likelihood that its demands for joint sovereignty and the closure of the airport and UK military facilities will be met in order to facilitate agreement.
Spring weather arrives in time for Easter
After the roller-coaster ride of the last few months, during which the city of Murcia has endured both its coldest day on record (maximum 3.6ºC) and the warmest winter day ever (33.6ºC), the weather forecasters at State meteorological agency Aemet are quietly confident that the spring-like temperatures which arrived in the Region of Murcia during the week are here to stay this time.
Maximums are now into the twenties all over the Region, Archena recorded the second highest temperature in Spain on Tuesday (Molina de Segura and Mula were also in the top ten) and it appears that it could at last be time to put away the radiators and thick sweaters for the summer, although after the experiences of the last few months it might be too early to be sure: there is still a nip in th eair at night, and on Wednesday morning a thick fog swept across the Campo de Cartagena from the Mar Menor.However, the forecast for easter is good.
Murcia drought continues despite wet winter: it might be supposed that the heavy rain which fell in the Region of Murcia in December and February would have contributed to alleviating the drought which has affected the Segura basin for the last three years, but unfortunately not enough water has been collected in the basin’s reservoirs for this to be the case.
Cartagena struggling to prepare the beaches and install chiringuito bars for the start of Easter Week
Almost three weeks after the latest episode of heavy rain washed away more sand and created ravines on many beaches, many beaches in Cartagena are still in far from perfect condition, but on Thursday councillor Obdulia Gómez was keen to dispel any fears that the municipality might not be putting itself across in the best possible light by the time the Easter tourists arrive. She replied to a question by stating that the beaches will be clean and ready in time for Semana Santa, and that in terms of lifeguards and other services there will be more staff on duty than has been the case in previous years.
However, there are even greater doubts over whether visitors to Cartagena will be able to enjoy the delights of the beach bars which are normally in place by the time Semana Santa begins: in the same session of council the Mayor admitted that the delay in the opening of beach bars throughout the municipality this spring is due to an “error” in the procedures by which the concessions for the establishments are awarded every year, and expressed doubts over whether it will be possible for them to offer refreshments and snacks to the thousands of visitors who will start to arrive next weekend.
Although there is a way for last year’s licences to be hurriedly re-awarded, to do so would be to correct one mistake by deliberately making another, according to Mayor José López, and needless to say those who make their living from the beach bars of Cartagena every year are not best pleased.
Political debate surrounds vote of no confidence in the Murcia government
Now that it has been established that the motion of no confidence in the regional government of Murcia led by Pedro Antonio Sánchez of the PP will be debated and voted on in parliament on 5th and 6th April, the task facing the opposition parties, who in theory outnumber the 22 PP representatives, is to reach an agreement on what alternative they propose.
This job is not proving to be an easy one and while Ciudadanos and PSOE are reported to be close to agreeing the the next week promises to be an eventful one in the world of regional politics. By the start of Semana Santa it is possible that the case in which Pedro Antonio Sánchez is under judicial investigation could be closed, as he has formally requested, and he could be exonerated from any suspicion of guilt regarding the construction of the auditorium in Puerto Lumbreras while he was Mayor: in this case the motion of no confidence will be dropped.
Then again, Sr Sánchez may decide to resign, or be asked to do so by his party, in order to avoid the no confidence vote.
If the debate goes ahead, the motion may fail to prosper, a possibility which is far from remote given the difficulties faced by PSOE, Podemos and Ciudadanos in agreeing how to proceed. This would leave Pedro Antonio Sánchez in office, although still under investigation.
Or, of course, the motion could be passed, meaning that a caretaker government would be needed and that a regional election could be held before the end of the year.
Drone video shows crystalline water in the Mar Menor: clear water all along the Mar Menor coast of La Manga as the beaches prepare for Easter.
Mar Menor birdlife welcomes in the spring: the arrival of spring in the Mar Menor coincides with rapid changes in the bird population of the area, as those which have been wintering here begin to fly back to northern Europe for the summer and other which have wintered further south in Africa arrive back in the south-east of the Region of Murcia.
5-metre whale washed up near Puntas de Calnegre in Lorca: the dead Cuvier’s beaked whale weighed approximately a ton.
Other items in the news this week
Gorguel macro-container port construction could begin by 2020: Antonio Sevilla, the president of the Port Authority in Cartagena, speculated on Thursday of last week that work could begin within “three or four years” to build the proposed macro-container port in El Gorguel, a few kilometres to the east of Cartagena, although he was careful to qualify this prediction with the uncertainty which arises from the numerous environmental and administrative hurdles which still have to be overcome.
No doubt he was wary of falling into the trap of excessive optimism, remembering that his predecessor Ángel Viudes forecast five years ago that construction would begin in 2014!
Catwoman joins the campaign to save Monteagudo: a campaign has been launched recently to protect and restore the natural environment and historical heritage of Monteagudo, the outlying district of Murcia which is best known for the huge statue of Jesus Christ which towers above the fertile plain alongside the River Segura, and this week, following the support offered to the campaign by Murcia artist Salvador Espín, who works for Marvel comics, some unusual photo montages have appeared concerning the monument!
Recycled glass decorates Bullas roundabout: work has been completed by the Town Hall of Bullas to improve the roundabout and access road to the west of the town, leading to and from the exit at kilometre 43 on the RM-15 motorway, and one of the innovations is the use of recycled glass in the decoration: Perhaps reflecting the importance of wine to the local economy!
Murcia martyrs beatified in Almeria: the two clerics from Mazarrón and Lorca were murdered in the Civil War.
British anthropology professor publishes book on Torre Pacheco Neanderthals: Michael J. Walker studies the Neanderthal skeletons found in Sima de las Palomas, which are among the most important yet unearthed in the Mediterranean.
Aguilas-Calabardina road improvements completed: it may be a minor road, but the RM-D14 carries around 1.7 million vehicles per year, and is used not only by those traveling to Águilas and Calabardina but also by the heavy vehicles which service the numerous agricultural concerns in the area.
Aguilas man arrested for selling live anti-aircraft shells online: merely possessing these items is an offence, let alone trying to sell them!
Drug dealing den revealed by Caravaca house fire: a young Colombian is under arrest following the fire at his Caravaca home.
Roast chicken and paprika in weekend fires! 20,000 chickens were accidentally over-roasted in a fire near Zarzadilla de Totana in the municipality of Lorca, while in Abanilla another blaze destroyed large quantities of paprika as a warehouse was gutted by flames.
Murcia woman suffers buttock burns on local bus route: a right pain in the backside on the number 41 to Las Torres de Cotillas!
Torres de Cotillas woman received late mother-in-law’s pension for 20 years: the Guardia Civil have placed a 56-year-old woman in Las Torres de Cotillas under arrest after it was found that she and her husband had continued to receive the monthly pension payments sent to her late mother-in-law for two almost decades after the woman’s death.
Domestic tourism figures on the rise in Murcia: the bulk of Spanish visitors to Murcia come from Madrid and Valencia.
Home help stole jewelry worth 60,000 euros in Puerto de Mazarron: a 52-year-old has been arrested in connection with the theft of 21 items of jewelry from a mother and daughter for whom she worked as a cleaner and home help.
Mula Town Hall acquires another 11 per cent of the castle: The process by which Mula Town Hall hopes to take possession of the 16th-century castle which stands on the hill behind the town is taking far longer than had been hoped, but another significant step in the right direction was taken this week with the donation of another 11.11% of the monument by one of the family who were granted possession by the Supreme Court in 1998. The Town Hall is attempting to repossess the castle in order to carry out essential repairs and restorations.
Patrulla Aguila aerobatics team baptizes its first female pilot: Rosa Malea, who joined Spain’s Red Arrows in San Javier this week, may momentarily have wondered whether it was all worthwhile on Thursday, when her new companions congratulated her by unceremoniously emptying a bucket of cold water on her head!
Murcia property news
This week, as Theresa May finally pushed the exit button and triggered Brexit, concerns resurfaced in the Spanish property market over what the effects might be caused of the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union, with the overwhelming impression being one of a certain amount of trepidation mixed with elements of cautious optimism.
Since last June there has been a noticeable slowdown in the rate at which properties on the Costas are being snapped up by the British, and in provinces such as Málaga and Alicante this has been especially significant. And yet, in the province of Alicante, where Brits acquiring retirement or holiday homes on the Costa Blanca account for a very high proportion of the market, sales figures are still continuing their recovery after the slump which began in late 2007, and this January the monthly total was the highest for eight and a half years. How can this be explained?
There are many reasons, and some of them could have positive side-effects for the property markets of the Region of Murcia and the province of Almería: read the full article for details!
Brexit and Catalunya hog the headlines as British tourists continue to flock to Spain
Much of the Spanish television and printed news this week has focused on the events surrounding the triggering of the Brexit process: on the one hand, attempts are being made to count the cost of Brexit to Spain, while on the other hand property developers in Madrid are anticipating a flood of businesses leaving London and relocating to the Spanish capital, and on all sides there are concerns over the future status of Spaniards living in the UK.
At the same time, it's interesting to see that the British love affair with Spain as a holiday destination is still undimmed by the fall in the value of the pound: tourist figures continue to rise, with the Brits leading the way!
However, there has also been plenty of time to focus on the ongoing debate over the proposed independence referendum in Catalunya: the latest development here is that an opinion poll suggests that opposition to independence is growing, and that even if the referendum is eventually held it could easily lead to the region remaining part of Spain. Apparently, too many people in Catalunya are proud of the Spanish football team to make secession viable!
Elsewhere in the Spanish news, scroll through the items below to find out about a Civil War arms cache which was found in a convent in Barcelona, a freak wave which killed at least two in Tenerife, proposals to scrap the law which makes it illegal to glorify terrorism and a 100-metre mega-truck which took almost 12 hours to travel 16 kilometres in the Basque Country!
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Islas Menores and Mar de Cristal
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