Category: National

9 month deadline for driving after Brexit

News emerged this weekend that in the event of a no-deal Brexit, a nine month deadline will be imposed on British drivers in Spain to request a Spanish driving licence. After this deadline, British driving licences cannot be exchanged for the Spanish equivalent unless a bilateral agreement is reached between both governments.
A range of measures were agreed as part of a Royal Decree issued on Friday in order to protect British citizens in the event of a no-deal Brexit. The decree gives British residents of Spain access to healthcare until at least the end of 2020. Spain has also agreed it will provide residency for an estimated 400,000 Britons and maintain freedom of movement at the Gibraltarian border.
Spain’s Foreign Minister, Josep Borrell said that the aim of the decree is to “preserve the interests of citizens, Spaniards in the UK and Britons in Spain, who exercised their right to free movement before Brexit. We have to respect that.”
As the March 29th deadline draws nearer, the possibility of a no-deal Brexit is becoming increasingly likely.
The Spanish government has made it clear that the concessions they are offering to British citizens here are subject to Spanish people in the UK receiving equivalent treatment. Over 9,000 Spaniards cross the border with Gibraltar every day to work, while an estimated 150,000 Spaniards live in the UK.
The Costa Blanca People spoke to Francisco Morales, the Guardia Civil officer behind the N332 ‘Driving in Spain’ Facebook page which currently has over 127,000 followers. Francisco said, “This is really important news for British drivers in Spain. After Brexit, UK licences will be categorised differently – they will be non EU licences. Unless both governments sign a bilateral agreement, only UK drivers who carry the required international driving licence will be able to drive here. If British residents here don’t change their licence during this nine month grace period, it could be problematic.”
Francisco went on to explain that if a Briton resident in Spain does not exchange his or her licence before the nine month deadline, according to the Royal Decree 81 (Article 21 – Valid licences for driving in Spain) their only option is to apply for an International Driving Permit in the UK which could be a complicated process if you are a Spanish resident.

New speed limits now in force in Spain

As of Tuesday 29 January, 2019, new maximum permitted speed limits came into force on certain roads in Spain.
This is the first of a wave of reforms intended on reducing the number of injuries and fatal incidents on the roads, and is effective on 7,000 kilometres of the secondary road network.
This reform reduces the maximum permitted speed on some of the main carriageways of the road network, and fixes a maximum permitted speed of 90 kilometres per hour, on roads where no other restrictions are in force.
This is in effect the same concept as the commonly referred to “National Speed Limit” which is in place on British roads, where a maximum is automatically set on roads outside of towns.
The maximum permitted speed on the secondary road network is now 90 kilometres per hour, for cars, motorbikes, small motor homes and pick-ups, as well as buses (except under certain circumstances), derivatives of cars, and mixed adapted vehicles.
In Spain, speed limits are dictated by three elements, the road, the vehicle and the driver (in some cases). Therefore, some vehicles are still restricted further, such as trucks, vans, large motor homes, articulated vehicles, vehicles towing a trailer, and others not listed, which are restricted to a maximum permitted speed of 80 kilometres per hour on these roads.
Bicycles and mopeds are restricted to a maximum permitted speed of 45 kilometres per hour.
The change applies only to the secondary road network, where no other restriction is in place, so if there is a sign saying that the maximum permitted speed is 80, or 50, for example, then that is the case.
Similar vehicular restrictions are also in place on motorways, as we can see from the table. It is important to know what classification your vehicle is.
Some drivers are also restricted such as may be the case those suffering certain medical conditions, for which the doctor has determined a restriction is necessary.
Prior to this change in the speed limit there was some confusion as some roads had different limits depending on their physical characteristics. This change aims to simplify the concept as there is now a uniform maximum permitted speed outside of towns, again, in places where no other restriction exists.
Reducing the speed limits on these roads has not been without controversy, with a number of people voicing their complaints about the reduction, this being the first of many reforms we will see this year.
Before the end of January this year, more than 100,000 people have been killed on the roads around the world. This is the reality of road safety, the fact that too many people are losing their lives or being injured, every single day, and so long as we, the drivers, collectively fail to make the roads safer, then we can and should expect more legislation which is ultimately aimed at keeping us all safer on the roads.

First motorway to scrap toll sees 58 percent traffic increase

Traffic on the AP-1 motorway has rocketed by 58percent since the government scrapped the tolls on 1st December, giving an idea of what is yet to come when the next batch of pay-per-use highway franchises come up for renewal.
Public works minister José Luis Ábalos opted to continue with the previous government’s plans not to renew any of the toll contracts on Spain’s motorways once they expired, and a sub-commission in Parliament has been set up to work out how they will fund their maintenance in future.
The AP-1 was the first, and another nine followed a fortnight ago – the AP-7 between Cartagena (Murcia) and Vera (Almería) and the Alicante ring road on the same motorway; the AP-36 between Ocaña (Toledo province) and La Roda (Albacete province); the AP-41 from Madrid to Toledo; the M-12 Madrid airport link road, and three Madrid outer-suburban ‘radial’ highways, the R-2, R-3, R-4 and R-5.
These nine, however, are only toll-free overnight from midnight to 6am but fees for their use during the day have been slashed by 30 percent to encourage users.
Toll motorways in general have been losing traffic – and money – since the start of the financial crisis as drivers sought to save cash, and the firms’ response of putting up prices to claw back more backfired, with vehicle numbers plummeting as a result.
This has become patent in year-end traffic figures for the AP-1 between Burgos (Castilla y León) and Armiñón (Álava province, in the Basque Country), with a 58 percent rise in a month, skewing the total for 2018 to show an annual increase of 5.26 percent.
Since 1st December, the AP-1 has witnessed the passage of 26,516 vehicles a day on average, compared with 16,703 a day over the rest of 2018. This translates to a year-on-year rise of 40 percent – in December 2017, an average of 18,900 cars, vans and lorries used the AP-1 every day.
Lorries are using the motorway far more now the tolls have been scrapped – with 68.6 percent extra being recorded, or 6,400 a day, compared with 3,800 as at November 2018.
Assuming the current government stays in power until the next general elections are due in November 2020 – or a new government decides to continue with the motorway ‘buy-back’ plan – another handful will be toll-free by then.
Franchise ends
On New Year’s Eve this year, the toll franchises for the AP-7 from Tarragona (Catalunya) to Castellón and from Silla (Valencia province) to San Juan (Alicante province), plus the AP-4 in the provinces of Sevilla and Cádiz will also end and not be renewed, meaning these roads will become free of charge from 1st January, 2020.
So far, of the 10 toll roads now back in State hands, only two have seen a reduction in traffic rather than an increase – the R-3 Madrid-Arganda del Rey ‘radial’ highway, and the R-5 between Madrid and Navalcarnero (Toledo province) – the first of these by 24 percent, down to 8,214 vehicles a day, and the second by just 0.85 percent, to 10,868 per day.
Traffic volume hikes on the other seven – excluding the AP-1, R-3 and R-5 – range from 1.8 percent on the AP-7 Alicante ring-road up to 15.7 percent on the AP-41 Madrid-Toledo motorway. However, the latter has long been the motorway with the lowest volume of traffic in the country, at just 1,193 vehicles a day.

Dispute over responsibility for town hall transport fine

On 9th November 2017 a town hall worker was involved in a small accident whilst travelling on the moped provided for her by the town hall. At a roundabout, the moped slipped and the police attended the incident. On inspection of the vehicle they issued a fine for the ITV (MOT) being out-of-date.
Now, the town hall worker, who is part of the parks and grounds team, has presented the fine to the town hall, insisting that it is their responsibility to pay this, rather than hers. The debate continues as to who should pick up the bill for the missed ITV. According to the town hall, it is the responsibility of the employee using the vehicle to ensure that it is roadworthy and that its documents are in order.
The fine was for €200 or €100 for early payment and the driver of the moped paid the fine. However, she decided to apply for a refund from the town hall as they actually owned the vehicle. However, this was refused on the basis that the law does not allow for this type of payment in this way.
The debate continues. Some feel that a fine issued for non-compliance with traffic regulations such as speeding or jumping a red light should be the responsibility of the driver but that the maintenance of the vehicle should be the responsibility of the owner.
This isn’t the first time that such a confusion has arisen. In October a town council employee was fined €80 when delivering documentation in Alicante on town hall business. The driver had not obtained the ticket needed to leave the vehicle in the blue zone. However, on this occasion the decision was made that the fine would be paid by the town hall. Who exactly is responsible for picking up the tab seems to be rather unclear.

2000 bars inspected in TV football clampdown

Over 2000 bars and restaurants have been inspected as part of a nationwide clampdown on the illegal screening of football matches. Owners are alleged to have made ‘premium’ football content available to their clients without authorisation. Of the 2000 establishments inspected, around 60% were found to have been screening football matches illegally, most using a so called ‘android box’ to broadcast the games.
National Police across Spain carried out the inspections, starting in November of last year, when legal representatives of La Liga, Spain’s national football league, filed official complaints against various public establishments across Spain for alleged crimes against intellectual property.
It was claimed that certain bar and restaurant owners were making ‘pay per view’ content available to clients without authorisation, causing economic damage to La Liga, its clubs and sponsors and also to the bar and restaurant owners who did actually pay the corresponding fee to broadcast matches to their clients in a legal manner.
When La Liga became aware that this activity was taking place, it carried out its own investigations of the offending establishments before formally presenting its report to the National Police.
The Central Cybercrime Unit coordinated the operation at a national level while officers carried out the necessary inspections during the live broadcasting of La Liga games in order to verify the claims made in La Liga’s own report. If a bar was found to be illegally broadcasting a game, officers disconnect the devices used and seized any illegal decoder while issuing a summons to the person in charge to make a statement to police.
The investigating officers found that approximately 60% of the establishments inspected were carrying out illegal rebroadcasting through various media. The most common was the use of a “vitamin” decoder, which had illegally altered firmware to decode private signals and access viewing of the games for free.
At present, investigations continue as the statements of the owners are being documented and over 800 decoding devices examined.

New Ambassador to Spain

The new British ambassador to Spain is a former Brexit chief who will replaces Simon Manley next year. Mr Manley CMG will step down from his role as the British Ambassador to Spain next summer and be replaced by a Brexit communications director.
Manley, 51, has held the post since 2013, but in 2019 will make way for Hugh Elliott, who is the current Director of Communication and Stakeholders at the Department for Exiting the European Union.
Father-of-three and Oxford graduate Manley wished his successor a ‘heartfelt welcome’ to his new job.
Elliott, who has held several high-level posts in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) since 1989, said: “It will be a pride and a pleasure to represent the United Kingdom in Spain and take over next summer.”
Despite his Brexit credentials, the FCO claimed the reason for Elliott’s takeover of the role from Manley is that ‘appointments change every 3 to 4 years.’ Elliott will hope to emulate the illustrious career of his predecessor, who had many highlights as a British envoy, including receiving a cooking lesson from the three-Michelin star-winning Spanish chef David Muñoz.
Another key moment of Manley’s diplomatic tenure was the recent Tertulias event, where Harriet Harman, Boris Johnson and Ed Miliband were accompanied by the ambassador in the 30th annual Anglo-Spanish celebration of bilateral and cultural links.
Manley said: “It has been the best charge of my diplomatic career, a great honour, and a pleasure to work to reinforce the bonds between our two great countries – and I’m not leaving, I have nine more months!”

Supreme Court rules client must pay mortgage tax

The Spanish Supreme Court has done a U-turn again and decided that it is the clients who must pay for a controversial mortgage tax, and not the banks. The Impuesto sobre Actos Jurídicos Documentados (AJD) is a stamp tax paid in Spain by the homebuyer at the time of purchase, when a notary officially documents both the sale and the bank loan.
The decision was reached recently in the Administrative Division of the Supreme Court after two days of intense debate, and with just two votes of difference: 15 justices were in favour of making the client pay the levy, and 13 voted to confirm a groundbreaking decision reached by this same court in mid-October that it should be the banks who pick up the tab.
The vote comes after three weeks of legal chaos that have evidenced a fracture within the Supreme Court and damaged its public image. While bank shares started to gain value on the trading floor following news of the court’s decision, Spanish political parties, consumer groups and unions immediately issued highly critical statements.
Leaders of the anti-austerity Podemos party have already announced protests over a decision that “calls into question” the court’s independence and undermines democracy, in the words of party leader Pablo Iglesias. “Shame and anger should turn into a great civic mobilisation to defend the rights of the majority from the privileges of a minority,” he said.
Alberto Garzón, head of the United Left coalition, went even further: “Private banks are thieves, they are the main enemy of democracy and they are responsible for gutting our economies. A majority of the Supreme Court sides with them, ratifying that justice has a price and that the system is rotten and spent,” he tweeted.
Both leftist leaders called a street protest outside the Supreme Court.
“One cannot subject millions of families to such uncertainty and make such a spectacle of oneself,” said Albert Rivera, the head of centre-right group Ciudadanos.
The government of Pedro Sánchez, of the Socialist Party (PSOE), has not yet taken a public stand on the issue, but said it will “analyse and study the impact of the ruling.” Reforms to existing mortgage legislation are already underway in parliament in order to adapt to EU norms, and the executive could introduce new measures to make the banks pay some of the costs now borne by clients. The secretary general of the conservative Popular Party (PP), Teodoro García Egea, confirmed his group will work toward legislative reform.
Earlier, Finance Minister María Jesús Montero had said that if the court ruled in favour of clients and made the measure retroactive for four years, the claims could have an impact on regional coffers of up to €5 billion. She warned that this could affect the national public deficit and compromise EU deficit targets.
“The impact on regional coffers in a four-year retroactivity scenario would be of €5 billion, but the claims would be directed at the lenders,” said Montero at an economic forum in Madrid. “It is not the state who would have to put up the money.”
A reversal
On 19th October, the president of the administrative division of the court, Luis Díez-Picazo, opted to revise the new criteria that the court had established days before, when a panel decided that it should be the bank, and not the client, who pays the AJD tax on the basis that it is the lender who needs a public document registering the loan, and not the homebuyer. This ruling in itself constituted a reversal of 20 years of jurisprudence confirming that clients are responsible for paying this tax.
A total of 28 justices from the Administrative Division of one of Spain’s top courts gathered to debate the new criteria, which ruled that the bank was the only party with an interest in getting the loan certified by a notary, because this is what allows the lender to initiate foreclosure proceedings if the borrower defaults on payments. Because the lender is awarded this privilege through the public document, the lender should pay the fee, said the judges on 13th October.
Had the judges decided in favour of homeowners this week, they would have also had to decide whether to make the measure retroactive – and how many years back – opening the door to claims from thousands of clients.
“Many of the decisions made by this division have consequences representing millions of euros,” said one judge. “We have to be aware of this to be able to make a very strict decision. But we cannot help that this fact has an influence on our decision. We are used to this.”
What is the ajd?
The Actos Jurídicos Documentados (AJD) is paid on certain documents that are signed before a notary, such as a mortgage. The amount is a percentage of the loan, and this figure depends on the region of Spain where the home purchase is taking place. This tax is collected by the regional governments, and last year it represented a collective €8 billion in revenues. Some regions apply a 0.5 percent fee, such as the Basque Country. Others, like Andalusia or Aragón, have set this fee at 1.5 percent.+6+
However, the tax is not calculated on the amount of the loan itself, but on the mortgage guarantee, which is the sum of the loan amount, interest, late fees and legal expenses in the event of default – a fact that could significantly raise the final figure. The consumer group OCU figures that for a mortgage of €150,000, with a mortgage guarantee of €270,000 and an AJD rate of 1.5 percent, the fee would mean €4,050. This is on top of other transaction expenses involving the notary, property registrar, property valuation and gestoría.

Drug traffickers distributed a thousand kilos of cocaine

Ten people have been arrested following discovery of a drug trafficking network linking South America to Torrevieja via Portugal. The undercover operation was a joint one between the Guardia Civil and the National Police and it is believed that it was responsible for the distribution of a large amount of cocaine from Alicante to different provinces such as Madrid and the Canary Islands.
The ten people arrested have been detained in prison and will be up in court number 2 in Torrevieja accused of crimes against public health, money laundering, possession of illegal weapons and being members of a criminal organisation. Three more people are being investigated for the same crimes but have been released on bail.
In total, 14.4 kilos of cocaine was seized, 10.4 kilos of marijuana, 1.6 kilos of hashish and 50 grams of amphetamines. Police have also taken €610,380 in cash, nine high-end vehicles, a 9-mm gun with ammunition and different types of computer equipment. Altogether the haul is valued at €1,763,000.
The operation to uncover the ring began in September 2017 when a load of cocaine arrived in Portugal from South America in a catamaran. On investigation it was discovered that its destination wasn’t Portugal but Torrevieja from where a gang was operating transporting drugs along the coast to Andalucía, Madrid and the Canary Islands.
Because the gang were spread across a number of provinces, catching them required a consistent effort across different police forces. It was also discovered that the gang had a workshop in Almería where they were preparing vehicles to transport drugs and money. The gang had also created a number of businesses to launder the money created by drug sales. They had twenty-six million euros to bring back into the economy without looking suspicious.
The first detention took place in June when 11 kilos of cocaine was being transported in a car between Alicante and Andalucia. The car was driven by a 65 year old man from Orihuela and the cocaine was hidden in the false floor of the car. A few days afterwards another vehicle was intercepted in Huelva after returning from Las Palmas on Gran Canaria. A total of €528,000 in cash was hidden in carefully concealed pockets in the car.
These discoveries led to more arrests in Alicante, Almería and Córdoba. One of those detained is believed to be the leader of the ring who comes from Crevillent and is the owner of the workshop in Almeria where the vehicle modifications were taking place. Five searches were made including in Guardamar del Segura and more drugs, vehicles and even a machine for counting money were discovered.
A second phase of the operation began more recently and concluded with six detentions and investigations in Madrid and Cádiz. In total another 10 kilos of marijuana, 1.6 kilos of hashish, 200 grams of cocaine and 50 grams of methamphetamine were seized. Police also found a 9mm gun with ammunition, three fake guns and five high-end vehicles as well as a variety of computer equipment and mobile phones.

Drugs mafia uncovered

The Guardia Civil has broken up an organisation who have been cultivating marijuana in Alicante province. The organisation was a large and well-established group who were responsible for growing up to 80,000 plants a year in different locations across the area.
In order to provide electricity to their plantations they connected into the supply beneath pavements in what was a sophisticated operation. The Guardia Civil has arrested five men, four of whom are Dutch, a Dutch woman and a Moroccan. All those arrested are between 39 and 46 years old.
The operation began in August when the Guardia Civil raided one source of the plants and began to realise that this was a network on a grand scale. Many of the plantations were located inside houses and altogether it is believed that around 20 houses have been used to cultivate the plants.
Not only did the organisation grow the plants, they also cultivated their own seeds. The small plants that resulted were then distributed amongst the farms across the province. It is believed that the majority of the drugs were in fact exported to the Netherlands, with some also being distributed in Germany and Belgium.
The farms used systems to control the temperature and humidity and also had sophisticated alarms to alert the men to any intruder. In one of the raided houses they found a semi automatic pistol with silencer, more than 7,500 euros, jewellery, watches and two luxury vehicles.
Six people have now been arrested and charged with the illegal possession of firearms, drug trafficking, belonging to a criminal organisation and three crimes of using electricity power illegally.

British man shot dead by police in Estepona

Officers from Spain’s National Police force shot a British man dead in Estepona, Málaga, last Monday evening. The man, who had a criminal record for drug trafficking and weapons possession, reportedly fired shots at the authorities as he was being detained.
The incident began on Monday morning, when a number of witnesses called the emergency services to report that an individual had been in a traffic accident near Puerto Banús, in Marbella. According to witnesses, the man involved was carrying a firearm when he emerged from the crashed vehicle. Rather than waiting for help, he fled the scene of the accident.
The local police managed to determine the identity of the suspect, leading them to a hotel in Estepona. When officers tried to detain the individual, he fired his weapon at them, prompting them to respond in kind. Emergency crews were called to the scene, but were unable to save the life of the British man.
The man was subsequently found to be in possession of two firearms and four magazines of bullets. Police sources did not confirm whether any officers had been injured in the shooting.
This incident marks the second shooting death in Estepona in less than a month. On 20th August, a 34-year-old Spanish man was killed by a hooded assailant, who later fled the scene on a bicycle. The shooting happened in the early hours of the morning, in a residential estate in the east of the municipality. The victim was about to enter his home when he was killed.

Spanish health minister quits over ‘degree-gate’

Spanish Health Minister Carmen Montón was forced to quit recently after mounting irregularities emerged regarding a master’s degree she had studied for at Madrid’s King Juan Carlos University (URJC) in 2011. The institution has been at the centre of a series of scandals, which have involved current Popular Party (PP) leader Pablo Casado, and former Madrid regional premier Cristina Cifuentes, also of the PP. The latter was also forced to step down over her master’s degree, among other matters.
A story published earlier last week by Spanish online newspaper eldiario.es revealed that Montón’s grades had been altered in the university’s online system. Montón did not pass all parts of the masters’ course in June 2011, which is when she should have finished her studies. According to her student records, at least one part of the coursework was marked as “not submitted.”
On 25th November, 2011, “someone entered the IT system” of the URJC and changed “not submitted” to a “pass,” despite the fact that the administrative procedures for the course had been closed, according to eldiario.es. This alleged modification of the grades outside of the deadline would explain why Montón’s official certificate states that she completed the course in 2012.
The minister had stated that she handed over her final thesis on gender studies in June 2011, something that would have been irregular since at the time she had not completed all of the coursework – an essential requisite.
As the story broke Montón insisted that she had not done anything wrong, voicing the same arguments used by Cifuentes and Casado over their suspect master’s degrees – i.e. that they had done everything they had been told to by the university.
PSOE Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez had, until last night, backed the minister. But the revelation that her final thesis contained sections that had been plagiarized was the final straw.
The work is entitled “Assisted reproduction. A liberation or a setback in equality,” and is 55 pages long. And it is alleged that whole pages and paragraphs are copied from other theses and articles that are freely available on the internet – even containing texts lifted from Wikipedia.
For example, practically the entire first chapter is the same as an article entitled “New identity,” written by Mexican Mónica Pérez, in an article dated 26th July, 2004.
The episode is an embarrassing one for Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, who came to power earlier this year after ousting PP Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy in a vote of no confidence, precisely due to the corruption scandals that were plaguing the party.
“I have been transparent and honest,” Montón told the press last night after announcing her resignation. “I have not committed any irregularity.” She went on to praise Sánchez, and stated that she was quitting so as not to cause him damage.
She also highlighted the work that she had done as health minister in the first 100 days of the Sánchez government. “We have brought back universal healthcare. We have laid the foundation for the approval of a law for protection against childhood violence. This is a good result for the first 100 days,” she stated.
Montón will be replaced by María Luisa Carcedo, who was until now the high commissioner against child poverty.
Montón is the second minister to have to quit in the first 100 days of the Sánchez administration. Culture and Sports Minister Màxim Huerta resigned in June after just a week on the job, after the media reported that he withheld taxes in the early 2000s and was recently forced to pay €365,000 in back taxes, late fees and fines.
More degree-gate
In late April, Cristina Cifuentes of the Popular Party (PP) was forced to step down due to irregularities in connection with a master’s degree that she obtained in 2012 from King Juan Carlos University. That case has led to a criminal investigation into forgery of public documents by officials at the public university.
And the current leader of the PP, Pablo Casado, is under fire for a similar degree obtained from the same institution in 2009. So far he has refused to hand over his final dissertation, and has stated that he will not resign even if the Supreme Court, which is investigating the case, decides to charge him.

Spanish women live the longest

Spanish women have the highest life expectancy in Europe at birth. According to an analysis by Public Health England, the women in Spain come out top at 86.3 years followed by France and Italy. The UK is ranked in 17th place out of the 28 EU countries that are featured in the table. At the bottom are Bulgaria, Romania and Latvia.
The results are based on informationpublicised by Public Health England as part of its Health Profile. This brings together a variety of reports, data and research to provide a picture of the health of people in England in 2018. One of the reports it draws on is that of Eurostat data from 2016.
Obesity is one of the reasons being given for the difference between the two countries. The Mediterranean diet has long been referred to as a major reason for longevity, both for the nutrients it provides and also as a combatant to obesity.
Men in Spain do not do quite as well. Their life expectancy at birth is down to 80.1 years. However, this is still relatively high in comparison to many other countries and again beats the UK whose men have a life expectancy of 79.4. Top of the charts are the men in Italy who can expect to live until they are 81 years old.
Life expectancy at birth is an indicator of the number of years a baby could expect to live if mortality patterns when it is born stay the same throughout its life.

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