News from Andalucia & Costa del Sol
In association with
Week May 29th to June 4th 2003.
THE VOTES ARE IN
Municipal election results show only slight changes in power
By Oliver McIntyre
WHEN MILLIONS OF PEOPLE WENT TO THE POLLS ON SUNDAY, THE SPANISH POLITICAL LANDSCAPE SHIFTED ONLY SLIGHTLY, BUT OVERALL, VOTERS DID NOT PRODUCE DRAMATIC CHANGES.
Nationally the socialist Partido Socialista Obrero Español (PSOE) party won the most votes overall, but the right-wing Partido Popular (PP) picked up a greater number of councillors and mayors in the country's capital cities. The PP also won in nine of the 13 regional government elections held Sunday.
ANDALUCÍA FOLLOWS TREND
In Andalucía, which held municipal but not regional elections and saw a 65 per cent voter turnout, the national trend continued with few major changes to the region's existing balance of power. The PSOE party retained its significant edge in the region, with nearly 1.5 million votes resulting in 4,115 town councillors (31 less than it had after the 1999 elections). The PP was the second most voted for party, with just over 1.2 million votes giving it 2,339 councillors (55 less than in 1999). Out of the region's eight capital cities, the PP won absolute majorities in five - Malaga, Cádiz, Huelva, Jaén and Granada.
The Izquierda Unida (IU) party, with a little over a half-million votes, won 1,092 councillors (37 more than in 1999), while the Partido Andalucista (PA), with 333,691 votes, picked up 126 more councillors than it had after the 1999 elections. Smaller, independent parties in many towns continued to perform similarly to the way they have in previous elections, with some, such as Marbella's GIL party, retaining absolute majorities and others, like Benalmádena's GIB, winning the greatest number of votes but losing the absolute majorities they previously enjoyed.
In 27 municipalities in the province of Málaga - including the relatively major towns of Ronda, Vélez-Málaga, Estepona, Rincón de la Victoria, Benalmádena and Coín - the failure of any single party to win an absolute majority means that the parties will have to form coalitions to create their town hall governments and establish with certainty who is to be mayor. The six towns mentioned represent a combined population of over 200,000 people, and adding to these the other 21 municipalities lacking absolute majorities, means nearly 20 per cent of the province's residents won't know the exact nature of their municipal government until coalitions are formed. The deadline for the town hall's to formalise their coalition decisions is July 2.
BBC PULLS THE PLUG
Satellite switch off comes eight days early
By Danny Collins
COSTA VIEWERS OF BBC DIGITAL TV EXPECTING A MAY 30 SHUTDOWN WITH THE CHANGE TO THE ASTRA 2D SATELLITE FOUND THEIR SCREENS BLANKED OUT LAST THURSDAY, EIGHT DAYS EARLIER THAN EXPECTED.
BBC 1 and 2 were the first to stop emitting signals as UK engineers began testing signal strengths on the 2D satellite, whose footprint now limits reception to the UK and peripherally to northern Europe and the Pyrenees. BBC digital radio stations went off air on Friday morning. Expatriate subscribers ranging from the politely bemused to the incandescently irate besieged local installers' telephone lines for an explanation from equally confused staff, many of whom believed the shutdown was only temporary.
However, it has now been confirmed that the satellite switch is permanent and the testing period is for the benefit of UK viewers, whose programmes continue uninterrupted.
Information received from Astra satellite engineers in the UK confirmed that the BBC was obliged to cease transmissions on the broader 2A satellite by the end of May, necessitating a trial period of around 10 days. An earlier Internet posting, which extended the switch over to July 14 due to a listings squabble with BSkyB, confused the issue further.
Jane Cavanagh, office manager of a local digital communications company, said: "The current UK tests are to ensure that the Astra 2D signal will be strong enough to reach all parts of the UK but too weak for reception in southern Europe. There obviously had to be a testing period but it seems everyone assumed the signal would cease on the day the BBC had to leave the 2A system on May 30." The BBC was officially unavailable for comment, but a spokesman said: "As far as the corporation is concerned, our viewers in the UK have suffered no problems. Our programmes were never destined for Europe in the first place so we have no comment to make."
OPTIONS TO VIEW
Due to the extremely narrow footprint of the Astra 2D, necessary to limit free-to-air reception to the UK for copyright purposes, Costa installers are recommending satellite dishes of up to 2.4 metres in diameter - costing up to 1,450 euros - that will need a concrete base and may be impractical for domestic installation. An alternative could be a collective dish set up on suitable land and shared by a consortium of subscribers. For those who prefer to retain a less ostentatious installation, there remains the cheaper alternative of changing to BSkyB, for which they'll pay around 70 euros for a decoder card and have to arrange a monthly subscription payment through a UK bank.
MÁLAGA'S ENGLISH CEMETERY ATTACKED
By Dave Jamieson
The English Cemetery in Málaga has been the subject of vandalism. Damage was caused to various graves earlier this month, with crosses broken off or knocked over. A memorial stone in memory of American poetess Gamel Woolsey, the wife of British author Gerald Brenan, was also moved. The gardener of the cemetery, Antonio Alcaide, said it was not the first time that vandals have caused trouble at the site. On this occasion, it is believed that they gained access over the north wall, then used gardening tools to wreak havoc. Sr Alcaide, who was awarded an O.B.E. from Queen Elizabeth II in 1991 for his work in caring for the necropolis, added that evidence found at the scene suggested that the area had been used for a "botellón", an outdoor drinking party.
The future of the cemetery, which dates from 1831, is presently uncertain. The creation of a foundation in the name of economist and historian Marjorie Grice-Hutchinson, one of its greatest supporters is planned, in order to solicit funds for continuing the maintenance of the cemetery, which lies at the foot of the Gibralfaro, its entrance guarded by a pair of stone lions who, sadly, were powerless to deter this most recent desecration.
BENALMÁDENA FIREHOUSE MOVES FORWARD
By Oliver McIntyre
Benalmádena's Fire and Civil Defence councillor, Sebastián Carretero, last week unveiled the plans for the new Arroyo de la Miel fire station, a 2.9-million-euro complex expected to provide firefighters better and faster access to the town's various neighbourhoods, as well as improved training facilities. The plans call for a six-storey training tower, garage space for four large and two smaller vehicles, and normal firehouse amenities like a gymnasium, a dining room, sleeping quarters, and a communications room.
Sr Carretero also highlighted the plan's call for the creation of a canine rescue unit. He said his department has already been in contact with a company specialising in rescue-dog training, in order to begin the development of the new unit.
The Benalmádena Fire Department currently consists of 21 firemen, a force that Sr Carretero indicated should increase to 30 in coming months. He said that is the number "recommended by firefighting technicians in order to effectively serve the town's population."
ONE HUNDRED RAIL CROSSINGS TO BE ELIMINATED
Public outcry sparks action
By David Eade
WITH THE RECENT ALLOCATION OF FUNDS FOR THE REMOVAL OF STREET-LEVEL RAILWAY CROSSINGS IN CÁDIZ AND MÁLAGA, THE MINISTRY OF PUBLIC WORKS IS SET TO BEGIN FULFILLING COMMITMENTS IT MADE OVER TWO YEARS AGO.
In January 2001 the Ministry announced that it intended to eliminate all 800 rail crossings in Spain, and in March of last year, the Ministry stated it would remove 90 crossings in Málaga Province. However, over that two-year period, not one public crossing has been removed. As reported recently in CDSN, there was a near miss in Cortes de la Frontera when a train struck the rear of a school bus but luckily caused no serious injuries. Days later, a train hit a stalled car on a crossing at Arriate, but the train conductor spotted the vehicle and was able to apply the brakes in time to reduce the impact and avoid derailment.
WORK TO BEGIN
Now, after public outcry, the minister of Public Works, Francisco Álvarez Cascos, has announced the allocation of 2.1 million euros for the removal of railway crossings in the provinces of Cádiz and Málaga. Work will begin on the Antequera-to-Ronda and the Benaoján-to-Algeciras lines in 2005, but no start date has been given for the removal of crossings on the Bobadilla-to-Granada or Córdoba-to-Málaga lines.
The Antequera-to-Ronda line has more than 80 crossings, and a study is underway for the removal of 20 of these. Further projects are being carried out on four of the 57 crossings on the Benaoján-to-Algeciras line. However, the feeling is that it is not enough and there have been public calls for the removal of 162 crossings in 17 municipalities in Málaga alone that are deemed to be a danger to thousands of people.
The municipalities in the province of Málaga affected by these crossings include Málaga, Ronda, Antequera, Archidona, Almargen, Arriate, Cortes de la Frontera, Campillos, Teba, Benaoján, Jimera de Líbar, Benadalid, Humilladero, Fuente de Piendra, Álora, Pizarra and Cártama. In Cádiz Province there are crossings at Colmenar, Jimena de la Frontera, Castellar de la Frontera, San Roque, Los Barrios and Algeciras.
COSTA TARGETED FOR TAX INSPECTIONS
Hacienda to tighten control on fraud-prone real estate industry
By Oliver McIntyre
Spain's Inland Revenue Office (Hacienda) has set its sights on the Costa del Sol, where it plans to crack down on tax fraud, particularly in the real estate industry and in tourism-related businesses. Hacienda announced last week that it is launching a new campaign of tax fraud investigation, in which it will co-ordinate the efforts of nine regional teams of specialised inspectors. The teams have been in existence since March (in Madrid, Cataluña, Galicia, Andalucía and Valencia) and are expected to be fully co-ordinated by the summer.
According to Hacienda, the new investigation strategy gives the inspectors greater autonomy in selecting taxpayers to be investigated, as well as in the carrying out of the inspections. Though each team of inspectors will have a particular region of focus, they will have the authority to act anywhere in the country. And while the Costa del Sol is not the only region to be targeted for the beefed-up tax fraud investigations, the area is expected to be a strong focus due to its booming real estate industry, which has been identified by Hacienda as one of the most fraud-prone business sectors.
MÁLAGA HOSPITAL ASSISTS IN NEW DRUG TEST
Trials will benefit kidney patients with anaemia
By Dave Jamieson
MÁLAGA'S CARLOS HAYA HOSPITAL WILL ONCE AGAIN BE AT THE FOREFRONT OF SPANISH MEDICAL PROGRESS THIS SUMMER AS IT PARTICIPATES IN CLINICAL TRIALS OF A NEW TREATMENT FOR ANAEMIA IN KIDNEY PATIENTS.
The second phase of the research project is presently underway in Zaragoza, and Málaga will host phase three, ahead of the commercial release of the product, which is forecast for 2006. Oncology units are expected to be able to take advantage of the developments the following year.
QUALITY OF LIFE
The head of haematology at Zaragosa's University Hospital, Miguel Servet, explained that the drug is based on a molecule that increases the performance of a protein known to stimulate the production of red blood corpuscles, and that is already prescribed to patients suffering from anaemia. First signs are that the new drug will increase the interval between treatments, from once a week to once every three or four weeks, thus improving the patient's quality of life. Hospitals in Santander and Barcelona are also involved in the trial phases of the drug, which is being developed by the pharmaceutical company Roche.
BRITISH COMPANY COLLECT FOREIGNERS' TRAFFIC FINES
Windsurf capital Tarifa tires of unpaid tickets
By David Eade
TARIFA TOWN HALL HAS SIGNED AN AGREEMENT WITH A BRITISH COMPANY TO COLLECT MUNICIPAL TRAFFIC FINES OWED BY EUROPEAN CITIZENS.
The town is the windsurfing capital of Europe and attracts thousands of visitors from all over the continent to its wind-blown beaches. Unfortunately, many of these tourists leave without paying their parking or traffic fines.
The company, Euro Parking Collection (EPC), will work on behalf of the Town Hall to locate the offenders and collect the monies owed for parking tickets as well as other traffic offences. Under the agreement, EPC will not only seek out the owners of offending vehicles, but also foreigners who receive traffic tickets whilst using hired cars.
Once EPC has tracked down the offenders, it will give them three opportunities to pay before taking court action. The company will pursue unpaid fines in all EU countries including Gibraltar. It will also operate in Norway, Switzerland and Turkey.
EPC will receive a monthly list from Tarifa Town Hall of unpaid fines for tickets issued by the local police. Under the contract, the municipality will receive 80 per cent of the money collected whilst EPC will take 20 per cent for its services.
ALL LIT UP IN NERJA
NEWS Staff Reporter
Three of Nerja's churches may soon be floodlit. Local tourism delegate José Miguel García has unveiled the 70,000-euro plan, which is aimed at capitalising on tourism potential by buffing up the town's image.
The plan calls for lighting to be installed outside the Ermita de Nuestra Señora de Las Angustias, the church of El Salvador in Nerja, and the church of Nuestra Señora de las Maravillas in Maro. The proposal, which follows calls from residents and visitors to improve Nerja's image after dark, has gone to the Junta de Andalucía along with an application for financial subsidies for the work. Another complementary project on the table calls for the improvement of tourist signposts throughout the municipality, to better guide visitors to points of interest. That project has a price tag of over 138,000 euros.
José Miguel García said the plans would improve conditions for tourists and for the town in general, and would guarantee the competitiveness of Nerja in the tourism sector. He has also announced plans to improve the cleanliness of the municipality's Paseos Marítimos. Action is to be taken to avoid the accumulation of rubbish in overflowing bins, with consequent decomposition and bad smells in hot weather.