News from Andalucia & Costa del Sol
In association with
Week December 8th to December 14th 2005.
EU APPROVES INFO RETENTION
Telephone calls and emails to be stored for a maximum of two years
BY DAVID EADE
SPAIN, ALONG WITH THE OTHER 24 MEMBER STATES OF THE EU, HAS AGREED TO ADOPT THE CONTROVERSIAL MEASURE OF STORING ALL CALLS VIA THE TELEPHONE NETWORKS AS WELL AS THE INTERNET, EMAIL MESSAGES AND WEB SITES ACCESSED FOR BETWEEN SIX AND 24 MONTHS.
The action has been taken in the name of fighting terrorism and serious crime. At a recent meeting in Brussels of the Council of Justice and Interior Ministers only Ireland, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia voted against the measure. Ireland opposed its introduction because it already stores the information for more than two years and felt the plan watered down its already strong stance on the matter. Other countries were fearful that the retention of this information would place strains on their telecommunications industries.
DECEMBER 15 DECISIVE MEETING
The plan brought in under the British presidency of the EU was an attempt to establish a minimum community wide norm on information retention but each member state can decide for how long it will store the data. Although it has been agreed by the ministers, the measure still has to be approved by the next meeting of the European Parliament scheduled for December 15. Opposition from those Euro MPs who are concerned about public freedom is expected to make its mark at this meeting.
CHARLES CLARKE HOPES FOR APPROVAL
Britain's Home Secretary, Charles Clarke, is hoping that if the vast majority of the member states approve the plan that it would be sufficient to persuade MEPs to back the measure without any changes to the text. Spain and the other EU states then have 18 months in which to pass the law in their own national parliaments. Mr Clarke had justified the storing of all calls and emails on the basis that terrorist organisations, drug and people traffickers are organised internationally and use these methods of electronic communications.
Uncertainty mounts over stability of Marbella
BY DAVID EADE
RECENT EVENTS BOTH POLITICAL AND IN THE COURTS HAVE LED TO FURTHER INSTABILITY IN THE GOVERNANCE OF MARBELLA.
The past week has seen the regional government step in to take over the administration of town planning in the municipality, the Partido Popular to call for the town council to be dissolved, the conviction of former deputy Mayor and Partido Andalucista leader, Carlos Fernández, for embezzlement and the sixth reorganisation of the administration in two years because of his subsequent resignation.
On the face of it, the decision of the regional government to withdraw Marbella's town planning powers, the first time this has been done in Spain, should bring much needed stability to the development of the resort. The President of the Andalucía government, Manuel Chaves, acted, he says, because his ministry of public works has had to oppose more works licences during the present Marisol Yagüe administration than during the era of Jesús Gil. He has also accused the present Mayor and her team of not complying with orders issued by the Andalucía High Court (TSJA) for building works to be suspended as well as refusing to nullify illegal licences issued in accordance with the 1998 PGOU which is not deemed valid by the regional government. If that wasn't enough Sr Chaves says Marbella is continuing to grant licences for illegal building developments.
DECEMBER 12 DATE FOR 'LEY DEL SUELO'
The change will come into effect when the 'Ley de Suelo' comes into force on the December 12, and it will mean that Marbella will be unable to enter into any agreements over construction or authorise any building developments as regional government will now control the local development plan (PGOU). However the Town Hall will be able to issue works licences but these will be closely scrutinised by regional government to ensure they comply with the planning laws.
Whether stability will be achieved is yet to be seen as Marisol Yagüe intends to fight the ruling and will also be able to cause mischief if she refuses to issue work licences for projects passed by the regional government. There is also uncertainty over the draft PGOU which currently has over 2,500 amendments to be considered and could take a year to approve.
The president of the Partido Popular in Andalucía, Javier Arenas, has called for the dissolution of the Marbella administration claiming it could be done within weeks. This call is probably more in his party's self-interest rather than for the general good as the PP is well organised in the municipality and is confident it has a chance of achieving power if new elections were called now. The regional government's delegate in Málaga province, José Luis Marcos, has dismissed the suggestion stating that the council should have been dissolved three years ago and such a move would be impossible now. He also pointed out that at the time of the 2003 censure motion that brought Marisol Yagüe to power Javier Arenas was vice president of the PP government in Madrid and he then opposed the dissolution of the Marbella administration.
DEPUTY MAYOR CHARGED WITH EMBEZZLEMENT
There was further woe for Marbella council when a jury found the former Partido Andalucista leader and deputy mayor, Carlos Fernández, guilty of embezzlement. The charges related to when Sr Fernández was a GIL councillor in 1997-98 and involved the misappropriation of funds destined for the San Pedro football club. The prosecutor has called for a sentence of up to four years in prison and for Sr Fernández to be barred from public office for six years.
Sr Fernández will appeal the decision but has immediately resigned as a Marbella councillor and from the PA. This means that Marisol Yagüe will see the sixth reorganisation of the town council in the last two years, the last being on a week or so ago when two other councillors were forced to stand down because of court convictions.
Briton dies in Málaga stabbing
By Dave Jamieson
A former Scottish lawyer living rough in Málaga has been stabbed to death. The man, described as being 53 years old and with the initials L.W., is reported to have been in the city for about five years, and was well-known to local people in the Huelin area where he was often seen begging, accompanied by Maggie, his cinnamon-coloured dog, outside a supermarket. He is believed to have slept in the loading-bay area behind the store, where his body was found in the early hours. Police say that an argument began when he reproached a fellow vagrant for taking drugs. Tempers flared and the victim was stabbed.
When the emergency services arrived on the scene, they found him with a single knife wound to the thorax, but were unable to resuscitate him. National Police investigating the murder have arrested a 35 year old man who has 16 previous convictions in connection with their enquiries.
Residents say they were shocked by the murder and said L.W. never showed any signs of violence. One said that he was characterised by his education and friendliness, while another described him as, "a quiet man who was always asking for money with his dog and with a carton of wine in his hand." Another vagrant who was a friend of the dead man said that he believed he had no children, and his only relations were two brothers.
La Línea firemen block roads in debt protest
One million euro debt is owed to Cádiz fire consortium
BY DAVID EADE
FIREMEN IN LA LÍNEA CUT THE TRAFFIC FOR AN HOUR ON MONDAY IN A PROTEST OUTSIDE THE LOCAL TOWN HALL.
They were demanding that the municipality pay its one million euro debt to the Cádiz fire consortium. If the amount is not paid by the end of the year the local fire service will be expelled from the consortium and then the fire fighters livelihoods will be in the hands of La Línea Town Hall, which is already in dire financial straits.
The protest was held to coincide with a meeting at the fire station between the CCOO union representative of the firemen in Cádiz and the La Línea councillors responsible for the fire service and civil defence. In the course of this encounter the councillors stated that the debt would be paid by December 15.
A SENSE OF DÉJÀ VU
There is a sense of déjà vu for the fire fighters as La Línea was threatened with expulsion from the consortium a year ago because of its huge debt. Their spokesperson said they were not interested in what could again be false promises and would only be satisfied when they saw certified documents proving that the money had been paid. He added that the Town Hall had made a payment in October but that was to cover the month of March.
DECEMBER 12TH DEADLINE
The firemen have promised to renew their protest on December 13 if they do not receive proof of payment by the 12th and to call on fire brigades in other municipalities to support them.
Two British prisoners on the run in Gibraltar
News Staff Reporter
Two British remand prisoners literarily went on the run on the streets of Gibraltar after escaping from prison wardens. The incident happened as they were being escorted to court when the pair, who were handcuffed together, made a run for it. They managed to avoid being captured for nearly three hours despite a massive manhunt by uniformed and plainclothes police officers who were also helped by a startled public. The prisoners were eventually discovered hiding inside a wardrobe in a derelict building in the Rock's Upper Town.
The prisoners, Ian Seward, aged 30, and John Viner, aged 20, are both facing drugs charges and were due to appear at the Magistrate's Court on the morning they fled. After being recaptured Seward and Viner were charged with escaping from lawful custody and appeared in the Magistrate's Court again the following day and were held in remand for a further week. Seward from Portsmouth was on remand facing charges of possession with intent to supply 180 ecstasy tablets whilst Londoner Viner was on remand for possession and unlawful importation of a small amount of cocaine.
Construction work threatened by quarry strike
BY DAVE JAMIESON
A STRIKE BY QUARRY WORKERS IN ALHAURÍN DE LA TORRE HAS BEEN AFFECTING SUPPLIES TO CONSTRUCTION SITES THROUGHOUT THE PROVINCE.
The stoppage came after the Town Hall was ordered by an upper Andalucían court to close four local quarries by Tuesday of next week. Those affected are the Retamero, Taralpe, Pinos de Alhaurín and Troconal quarries, and shortages as a result were expected to increase during this week as businesses start to run out of materials which had been stored before the strike began.
Workers who will be affected by the closures on December 13 have been protesting, with the support of the CCOO trades union, to protect their jobs. An indefinite strike began on November 28 because, according to union representative Salvador Rojas, a two-year old agreement to protect jobs by regularising the quarries status has been "thrown out" by the Town Hall. Sr Rojas said that the Town Hall's failure to issue licences to the quarry operators meant that they could not honour the agreement. He considered that the ball was in the politicians' court when it came to addressing the problem. Around 200 direct jobs are under threat, with effects also likely to be felt by thousands of indirect workers.
MORE QUARRIES TO CLOSE?
The situation deteriorated late last week when 150 employees at three quarries in Mijas and Manilva which are not threatened with closure, walked out in solidarity. The Mayor of Alhaurín de la Grande, Joaquín Villanova, also added fuel to the fire by raising the possibility of closing all quarries in the municipality within six years.
The quarry workers, some of whom have been employed there for over 30 years, say that it is not only the local economy which will be affected by the closures. They believe that major construction works in the city of Málaga and throughout the province, already affected by shortages, will soon be seriously hampered by the absence of the 50,000 tons of material extracted daily. Costs will rise, they say, as this is replaced from elsewhere in the region, with consequently higher house prices. In addition, workers claim, quality will fall because the limestone rock produced locally is the best in Europe.
Nerja green light for pool demolition
News Staff Reporter
Nerja Town Council have given the go ahead for an illegally constructed wall and swimming pool to be demolished. During the debate, opposition councillors claimed there were dozens of other illegal constructions in the municipality.
The property which is affected by the compulsory demolition order lies in Calle Lucena, in the Nerja Golf area to the east of the centre. The Town Hall rejected an appeal against the order by the property owner, saying that it invades designated green zones. However, councillors belonging to the opposition Izquierda Unida party said there were around 100 more examples of properties in Nerja which broke building regulations, amongst them a hotel which, they alleged, invades 70 metres of green space.
The councillor responsible for Infrastructure and Urban Regulations, José Alberto Tomé, acknowledged there were a number of such cases and that they were being dealt with.
Benalmádena doubles population in 10 years
Britons are largest foreign resident group
BY DAVID EADE
IN THE LAST 10 YEARS THE OFFICIAL POPULATION OF BENALMÁDENA HAS INCREASED BY 92 PER CENT ALTHOUGH THE ACTUAL LEAP IN THE NUMBER OF RESIDENTS IS PROBABLY GREATER.
In 1996, the number of people officially registered as resident with the Town Hall stood at 27,050 and that has now increased to 49,715. Benalmádena officials predict that the census will exceed 50,000 inhabitants in the first quarter of next year.
Breaking the 50,000 mark will be an important development for the popular resort as it will mean that it receives additional funding and aid from the central government in Madrid.
When Benalmádena made its submission to the Andalucía tourism ministry to be granted 'tourist municipality' status it pointed out that between 80,000 and 110,000 people actually live in the resort. Those figures were gauged on the amount of water and electricity used as well as the rubbish collected and the population rises still higher in the peak summer holiday months.
101 DIFFERENT NATIONALITIES
Benalmádena is very much a Spanish town with 35,489 of its residents being nationals. Britons account for second place with 4,846 followed by Argentineans (1,279), Moroccans (955) and Italians (777). In all, peoples from 101 different countries reside in the municipality but there is only one official resident from Papua New Guinea, Syria, Nepal, Saudi Arabia, Trinidad and Tobago and Malta. The Town Hall is to start a campaign to encourage more people to register on the census so as to ensure more funding and facilities for the town.
Foreigners put strain on Andalucían health
By Dave Jamieson
Málaga's health resources are being stretched by the number of foreigners requiring medical assistance. The province's Department of Health says that figures to September of this year show that almost 14 per cent of hospital consultations were made by non-Spanish patients, while the same group accounted for almost 26 per cent of admissions and nearly 27 per cent of emergency cases.
The figures show an appreciable rise from previous years' statistics and have resulted in consequently higher costs for the health authorities. Alejandro Cornel, who heads the resource planning department says that high-level conversations are already taking place with a view to revising the amount of cash need to keep the service going.
Britons form the biggest group of foreigners demanding medical attention and account for over a fifth of non-Spanish emergency cases, followed by Moroccans and Argentineans. Other EU countries appearing in the "top ten" include France, Germany, Sweden, Italy and Ireland.
The Department of Health's finances are also under pressure from the attention given to non-EU patients who are in Spain without legal residence papers. The Andalucían Health Service says that, in the province of Málaga alone this year, over 13,500 health cards have been issued to this group, but that because of their status in the country, they do not count towards the census total – the figure which determines the annual resources received from central government.
Málaga bells' festive ring
BY DAVE JAMIESON
EIGHT OF THE 12 BELLS PRESENTLY ABSENT FROM MÁLAGA CATHEDRAL WILL BACK IN OPERATION BY CHRISTMAS.
The bells were removed from the church during September and were taken to the workshops of Relojería Valverde in Murcia as part of a 105,000 euro renovation project. The dean, Francisco García Mota, said the work has been "relatively quick" and that instead of the four bells which were expected back before Christmas, eight are now likely to be home by that time. He added that when they arrive back in Málaga, the bells will be on view to the public inside the Cathedral, until they are ready to rehung,
One of the original 12, however, will not be heard pealing over the city again - the 390 kilo San Juan Nepomuceno, which dates from 1887. Fissures have been detected on its interior surfaces and an exact replica will replace it, with the original being retired to the Cathedral's museum. The oldest of the bells are two which date from 1785 - La Encarnación, also known as La Gorda, weighing in at 4,500 kilos and the 3,500 kilo La Concepción – while the youngest, Campana Murua of 400 kilos, dates from as recently as 1973.
The Unicaja Foundation is supporting the renovation project and the 11 renovated bells plus the one newcomer are expected to be in full swing by Easter, controlled by a new computerised system. The Dean said that the bells would play the traditional changes associated with the Catholic liturgy. "They won't play melodies," he explained, "but will be programmed to deliver predetermined sequences of chimes according to the celebration which they are announcing."
WORK TO START ON CATHEDRAL ROOF
Meanwhile, work to improve the Cathedral's roof will finally start this month or early next month. Andalucía's culture councillor, Rosa Torres, blamed "planning errors" for delays in the project to protect the building from the effects of rain water.
Granada ski season begins
News Staff Reporter
With clear blue skies and temperatures just below zero, the ski season in Granada's Sierra Nevada opened last Thursday. Ten kilometres of the total 84 kilometres of runs were open on eight of the 79 pistes.
This week, which many have been taking as a long winter break, the resort is hoping to run at 86 per cent capacity, while the hotel nearest the ski slopes was expecting 41 per cent occupation at the opening quickly to rise to 83 per cent.
The first day of skiing was delayed from November 26 so that everything would be in top condition for holiday-makers, making this the first time ever that the resort has opened on a weekday. Snow was lying between 20 and 40 centimetres deep as the season's first 4,000 enthusiasts, including 1,500 Portuguese visitors, arrived to take up their reservations on December 1. Amongst improvements this year, Cetsura, the public company which operates the ski station, has installed four latest-design "cannons" for the production of snow, as well as an ice-rink and other innovations. The 150-day season continues until May 1.
Hunt for coastal hotel sites
News Staff Reporter
All the coastal town halls in the province of Cadiz from Sanlúcar down to Tarifa that face on to the Atlantic Ocean have one major interest in common, to find suitable locations for hotel developments.
It is not possible to estimate with total accuracy the number of sites as many town halls have yet to finalise their revised local development plans (PGOUs). Nonetheless a possible figure of 22 such sites has been identified from the information presently available.
Some of these plots have already been acquired by developers but others are still on the market. Some are zoned for residential holiday urbanisations but the majority are zoned for hotel developments.
On the North East coast in Rota and Chipiona there are eight such sites, six of them in the Costa Ballena tourist complex. Both the provincial and Andalucía tourism authorities rate this area as having the most hotel development potential in the entire province.
Sanlúcar had no land zoned for hotel development in its 1997 PGOU but the new version will include two sites. El Puerto de Santa María has a five-star hotel zoned for the Bahía Blanca plus two other projects being a hotel in a yachting complex at Puerto Sherry and another at La Puntilla.
Chiclana has just one hotel site in the Loma Sancti Petri urbanisation, which the hotel intends to auction 21 million euros. Conil de la Frontera is one of the most conservation minded municipalities but has a 132-apartment development at La Fontanilla. San Fernando town hall wants a hotel and golf course development at Camposoto but this is being held up because of a dispute with the ministry of defence as it has a military right of access.
Vejer has two hotel sites at El Palmar and an area known as Mangueta was recently purchased as a tourist development. Barbate has a hotel site near the fishing port and is rezoning land at Zahora and Los Caños de Meca and there are other projects planned for Trafalgar. Finally Tarifa has no land zoned for further hotel development but a hotel could be built at Atlanterra but not on the front line.
Opposition leader in helicopter crash
Mariano Rajoy suffers minor injuries in Móstoles air accident
By DAVE JAMIESON
THE LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION, MARIANO RAJOY, AND OTHER PARTIDO POPULAR POLITICIANS HAVE SURVIVED A HELICOPTER CRASH NEAR MADRID.
The accident took place last Thursday in the town of Móstoles, 18 kilometres south east of the capital. Amongst five other people on board was the regional premier of Madrid, Esperanza Aguirre.
The aircraft took off inside the town's bullring at 12.30, on a short flight to give passengers a tour of the area after they had visited the local police headquarters. However, it rose only about ten metres into the air before crashing to the ground and landing on its side outside the bullring, only a few metres from the A-5 Madrid to Extremadura main road, with the tail wrecked but the passenger cabin intact. All six passengers and crew were able to leave easily, assisted by police officers. 50- year- old Sr Rajoy, looking pale, came out first, followed by Sra Aguirre. The Mayor of Móstoles, Esteban Parro, was suffering from shock but escaped otherwise unhurt.
The Partido Popular leader was diagnosed with only a broken finger at the local hospital, where he was taken for treatment with the pilot, co-pilot and a television cameraman. King Juan Carlos and the Prince of the Asturias were amongst those who telephoned Sr Rajoy upon receiving news of the crash.
The helicopter, an American Bell 206 Twin Ranger belonging to the regional police force, entered service January this year and was the first in the country devoted to crime prevention by local police forces. It had passed all relevant inspections. The regional government said the cause of the crash is under investigation but it could not confirm news reports that the helicopter's rear rotor blade had broken. The pilot said the accident was caused by a strong gust of wind which brought the craft down when it flew over the bullring, although later speculation suggested it had suffered a loss of power.
Farmers' fuel protests block roads
News Staff Reporter
Farmers in Andalucía have joined fellow workers throughout Spain in staging road blocks in protest at the rise in fuel prices. At around 50 points nationwide last Wednesday, tractors and heavy farm machinery were placed across the highways following the failure of the Government to reach an agreement with trades unions over compensation for increased costs in the agricultural sector.
12 regions were affected by the action organised by the Asaja, COAG and UPA trades unions who claimed more than 40,000 workers and 10,000 vehicles had participated. In Madrid, a convoy of 33 tractors arrived in the Plaza Conde de Casal at lunchtime, and, by early afternoon, all six main motorways out of the capital were affected by protests. Six kilometre tailbacks built up in each direction on the A-92 Granada to Jaén road at the Venta de la Nava after farmers blocked the road for an hour.
A spokesman for the CCOO union, Miguel López, said the events were just a warning for the Government and that the farmers were still open to discussions. "If we don't take urgent action we are in the risk of going out of business," he said. "We can't just sit down and keep quiet".
However, the Minister for Agriculture, Elena Espinosa, warned that the Government would not be pressurised into providing more financial support by the protests, adding that the ball was in the farmers' court. On the table is an offer to reduce IVA compensation in the agricultural sector by one per cent to nine per cent, and in cattle breeding by 0.5 per cent to 7.5 per cent. This represents total aid of 125 million euros, but farmers say it is not enough. They have estimated their losses at four billion euros this year following increases in fuel costs and Spain's worst drought since 1947.
In October, ports were closed as striking fishermen created blockades in their campaign for higher subsidies. Their representatives eventually reached a deal with the Government.
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