Thursday, 13 April 2017

Spanish King to Pay Visit to Queen Elizabeth II in June

Spanish King to Pay Visit to Queen Elizabeth II in June

The Spanish King Felipe the VI will visit the UK with his wife Letizia as part of an official state visit to meet with Queen Elizabeth II, the British head of state. The visit was due to happen last year, but was postponed due to the political deadlock of the country. Now King Felipe’s calendar for 2017 has been opened up for ceremonial matters following all the officiating he had to do with the political landscape of Spain last year.

As momentous as the visit from the Spanish king will be, it is likely to be overshadowed by a visit from controversial US president Donal Trump, who will be welcomed by the Queen later this year.

Even so, a meeting between the British and Spanish heads of state is always an occasion worth savouring, especially during the current climate of uncertainty caused by the Brexit and the future of the relationship between Spain and the UK. While it’s not very likely for the royals to discuss highly political matters, their meeting offers a chance to symbolically show both Brits and Spaniards that there is a lot of goodwill still between the countries, forged by their deeply connected ties.

A report was recently released by the Spanish government showing the damage that could be caused to both the Spanish and British economies by a “hard” Brexit, which could cost the economies of both countries by up to €4 billion. The good news is that Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy is seemingly taking a sensible approach to the Brexit, telling reporters that they should avoid dramatizing everything. He said that they just need to have good negotiations, which is just what the UK, Spain, and Europe as a whole want, and he expressed his hope everything will turn out well for all involved.

It might not make the headlines, but Rajoy makes a great point; the day will be won by sensible debate. If the heads of state for both nations can have a meeting filled with smiles, handshakes, and great photo opportunities, then it gets proceedings off to the right start and ensures a harmonious future for all.

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Victory for Clean Energy Advocates As Fracking Firms Abandon Spain

Victory for Clean Energy Advocates As Fracking Firms Abandon Spain

Clearly the people of Spain don't want fracking
Spain has been getting a bit of a bad rep lately as far as energy policy goes. Things went downhill when the country decided to “tax thesun” after a particularly generous support scheme for solar power several years ago that saw many homeowners happily install solar panels to receive a feed-in tariff (FIT) from the government.

The government thought it would be good to rein in their financial support of solar power, and now man homeowners with solar panels are in a position where they have to pay a “solar tax” to feed their solar power back into the national grid.

It’s obvious this wasn’t the intended outcome. Spain has a lot of large solar farms, and plenty of windfarms, but it takes more than just renewable energy to support a country the size of Spain right now, which is where fracking comes in.

Fracking is a controversial technique where natural gas is extracted from deep underground, and it’s dramatically transformed the energy sector of the USA, enabling the country to reduce its dependence on oil from Africa and the Middle East. Now the USA can even export their excess energy themselves.

It was hoped that Spain would be able to get on the fracking bandwagon. Fracking companies estimated there was some €700 billion euros in natural gas sitting under Spain that would only be accessible through hydraulic fractured drilling; a process where water, sand, and chemicals are injected into rock buried deep underground at high pressure, with gas extracted through a pipe.

Fracking is a controversial process, with many people living close to fracking sites reporting earthquakes, polluted water, and even fires. That is why there was such a strong opposition to the practice in Spain.

Even so, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy passed a law that allowed for fracking during his previous term, and explorations have already begun by five of the leading fracking teams in the US.

Given the nature of Spain though, it was only natural the natives would continue to be restless about the issue. As soon as a company headed out to a site, they would find themselves greeted by resistance from energy and environmental groups, seeking to block racking as much as possible.

These groups – such as Heyco, BNK, R2 Energy, SHESA, and San Leon – are celebrating this week following the announcement that all the fracking firms that entered Spain have now left the country behind.

This means that the energy future of Spain needs to be considered once again, but now maybe Prime Minister Rajoy will think again about using renewable energy, what with the natural gas stuck in the ground for the foreseeable future.

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Land Registry Data Shows Spanish Property Sales up 19% in One Year

Land Registry Data Shows Spanish Property Sales up 19% in One Year

Spain property sales continues to break sales records

As if there wasn’t enough evidence out there that the Spanish property market has picked itself back up, the latest data from the Land Registry offers even more.

There are many different ways to measure how healthy the Spanish real estate sector is – such as mortgage data, notary data, data from the National Statistics Institute (INE), and search trends. Perhaps the most accurate way to measure this success would be the land registry.

Property sales in January of this year were shown to be 19% higher than in January of last year, which is the biggest increase for January since 2008; according to leading Spanish property agent Mark Stücklin.

Stücklin said that sales figures had been inflated in 2011 and 2013 due to government interference; referring to tax incentives issued during these lean years.

Stücklin is confident that this shows 2017 is truly the best start to a year as far as property sales go since the boom period ended. It also appears that there is plenty of demand across much of the country, with no region coming out ahead of the crowd.

The land registry data shows that the biggest transaction rise in January occurred in the Balearics, which saw an increase of 40%, followed by the 36% in Barcelona, 35% in Costa Dorada and 28% in the Costa Brava.

Property sales on the Costa del Sol were up 20% in Janary compared to last January, pushing it above the national average and a clear sign that property sales will remain strong across 2017 despite the looming concerns of Brexit negotiations and how they impact British buyers.

As far as the property types go, resales increased 21% compared to 2016, with 8% more new homes sold. Stücklin said that it was a reassuring sign that the recovery of Spanish home sales will continue into 2017, and that the increases seen in Alicante and Malaga suggest that international buyers are coming forward.

The Brits were still the largest single nationality in terms of foreign buyers in January, accounting for 11% of foreign buyers. Second was the Middle East with 8%, while Scandinavia came in third with 7%.

Monday, 10 April 2017

Time Runs out for Eta as Separatist Group Fully Disarms

Time Runs out for Eta as Separatist Group Fully Disarms

It’s been a long time since the Basque separatist group Eta could be considered a threat, and it’s now expected that the terrorist organisation will wilfully disarm themselves by April 8th.

The regional Basque government announced on Friday that they have contacted the leaders of Eta, who say that they will not just lay down their arms next month, but will also offer up the location of all their weaponry stockpiles.

Eta have spent decades trying to create an independent Basque, but sympathisers have disagreed with their tactics and work by Spanish and French police have reduced the power of the group, rendering them unable to continue their attacks.

An ETA activist confirmed last week that the group will finalise their disarmament by April 8th, with disarmament completed no later than the date of the French general election; April 23rd.

Even though the Basque region is officially a part of Spain, ETA claims that a part of it is in southwest France as well. The governments of both countries have long resisted the actions and pressure of the group, which claimed hundreds of lives in the 80s and 90s.

The group was formed in 1959 and – since then – there are some 830 deaths attributed to the group. The last time they performed a deadly attack was back in 2010, which claimed the life of a French policeman in Paris.

The group has taken a more political approach since then, calling a ceasefire in 2011. Even though the group is still considered a terrorist group, many of the its members have begun hiding in plain sight.

Txetx Etcheverry – an activist with ETA access – said that ETA gave them the responsibility of disarming their arsenal, and that the group would be completely disarmed by the evening of April 8. The Basque government say they see the potential for a complete and final disarmament in the short term, and asked for the cooperation of the Spanish and French governments; asking them to open communication lines and show ambitious vision to reach a goal that benefits – and is historically important to – society.

Madrid is likely to welcome the news of disarmament. Spain has been fighting hard to keep its unity following the reign of Franco, and is still dealing with the Catalan independence issue on top of this Basque separatist problem.