News from Andalucia & Costa del Sol
In association with
Week December 29th to January 4th 2006.
A SMOKE-FREE NEW YEAR
Spain's new anti-tobacco law comes into force on January 1.
BY DAVE JAMIESON
THE HISTORIC LEGISLATION WAS PASSED BY PARLIAMENT ON DECEMBER 15 AND THREATENS FINES OF UP TO 600,000 EUROS ON THOSE WHO FAIL TO COMPLY.
The new legislation, as publicised, states that bars and restaurants which are larger than 100 square metres and do not have a designated smoking section must be wholly non-smoking, although proprietors who wish to allow smoking have eight months in which to define the area in which it is allowed and from where children will be banned. However, it has been estimated that this will cost each owner an average of 30,000 euros by the time extractor fans are installed and other requirements are met.
Smaller bars have to choose whether to permit smoking or ban it. Where it is permitted, the bar must make it clear that smoking is allowed and local authorities will have the power to prohibit the presence of children.
Bars and restaurants will not be able to sell cigarettes over the counter, only from a vending machine. And with tobacco shops the only other place to buy tobacco, the number of outlets where cigarettes may be purchased will be halved. The National Committee for the Prevention of Smoking (CNPT) has also asked the Government to raise tobacco taxes so that the minimum price for a packet of cigarettes is two euros.
In three days, it will be illegal to smoke in the workplace, cultural centres, museums, libraries, taxis, ambulances, most public transport, airlines and trains, as well as inside on public maritime transport. Health centres, lecture halls, educational institutions, enclosed sports venues, shopping centres and any sites where public events are held will also be smoke free. Airports, theatres and cinemas must designate and separate areas for smoking. Workplaces will not have designated smoking areas.
Within three years, tobacco sponsorship of and advertising at sporting events, including the placement of company logos on racing cars and clothing, must end. The existing ban on advertising tobacco products on television will be extended to billboards.
REACTION FROM BAR OWNERS
At Nerja's Camaleón bar and restaurant, a survey indicated that the anti-smoking drive may not be the disaster feared by the catering sector. The result suggested that only 12 per cent of potential clients would avoid a wholly non-smoking establishment. Amongst those smokers questioned, a fifth said they would not patronise a no-smoking bar, 10 per cent were undecided, but 70 per cent indicated they would be happy to. That figure rose to 88 per cent amongst those who were non-smokers. The total of 83 per cent who said they would visit a non-smoking bar or restaurant convinced owner Mark Johnson to declare a complete ban inside and on the front terrace, although he conceded a rear outside terrace for smokers, a policy which he says has worked well.
Torremolinos population to break 60,000
BY OLIVER MCINTYRE
IN 2006 THE OFFICIAL POPULATION OF TORREMOLINOS WILL LIKELY BREAK THE 60,000 MARK, ANNOUNCED MAYOR PEDRO FERNANDEZ MONTES DURING AN INTERVIEW LAST WEEK ON THE LOCAL TV STATION TORREMOLINOS TELEVISIÓN.
The town "has gone from being a 'pueblo' – though I'll always call and consider it as such for its sentimental and historical significance – to becoming a city," he said.
The population growth was just one of many topics taken up by the Mayor during the lengthy interview on the programme 'Primer Plano'. He touched on the town's important tourism industry, calling 2005 an "excellent" year, with an average occupation rate of 76 per cent in the town, compared with a Costa del Sol-wide average of 68 per cent.
The Mayor also spoke out against the Junta de Andalucía's new 'Ley de Suelo' land law, saying it is detrimental "to the Costa del Sol and Málaga and will damage many town halls." He called the law "unconstitutional" because it "intends to control the money of the town halls and to say where they can and can't build, which is exclusively the jurisdiction of the town halls." Nonetheless, Mayor Fernández Montes expressed confidence in the Costa del Sol's future, "because its great potential allows it to aspire to be the California of Europe" in coming years.
'CONTROLLED AND BALANCED GROWTH'
The Mayor also discussed the town's new local development plan (PGOU), stating that the draft version will be made public in January. It aims to "maintain controlled and balanced growth," he said, revealing that its two major development themes will be construction along the old N-340 up to Arroyo del Saltillo and "controlled" construction on the hillsides north of the motorway. The latter will include the reforestation of parts of the hillside by the developers who are granted licences to build there, he said.
Gibraltar to exchange tax info with Britain
By David Eade
Agreement has been reached between the governments of Gibraltar and Britain that will see the Rock participating in the EC Taxation of Savings Directive. This directive came in to operation on July 1 and financial institutions are now obliged either to give information on the investments held by citizens of other EU nations or withhold a tax.
Gibraltar opted out of the voluntary agreement with the UK, as it is not bound by the directive because it is not a separate jurisdiction. However this led from loud protests from the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands who had agreed to abide by the directive. They argued that Gibraltar's non-compliance gave it an unfair advantage and threatened to break their agreements with the UK.
Gibraltar had signalled at the time that it was willing to enter a voluntary agreement with Britain and this has now been done. Therefore British residents and tax payers who have money invested in Gibraltar will now either have to agree to allow that information to be passed to the UK tax authorities or pay a withholding tax. The exchange of information and withholding tax agreement will come into operation at the start of the tax year on April 1 2006.
In a press statement, the Gibraltar Government said that there are transitional arrangements which exempt income from existing fixed deposits and arrangements up to April 1 2007. A copy of that agreement can be viewed on the Gibraltar Government website at www.gibraltar.gov.gi. Investors can also contact their Gibraltar financial institution for further information.
Marbella construction licence income drops
News Staff Reporter
The decision by the regional government to take over town planning approvals in Marbella will have a major administrative impact on the municipality. The legal and administrative process is expected to be completed by next summer but already the town has seen a serious drop in its financial income.
It has emerged that this year the ICÍO tax on construction and related works has produced a decrease income of around 60 per cent compared with the amount generated in 2002. So far the town hall has received 7.1 million euros from issuing such licences compared with 17 million euros in 2002.
A continuing decline will present Marbella with serious problems because this specific tax has been one of its major sources of income. Juan Jiménez, the director of the provincial ICÍO tax collection office has blamed the reduction on the town planning problems in a town that has no legal local development plan (PGOU) and where many licences and property developments have been embargoed by the courts.
The economic situation for Marbella could improve next year if the council finally approves a PGOU that meets the legal requirements of regional government. Another solution could be a revision of the land and property values that have not been altered for the past 15 years.
Hashish traffickers hit hard by sive success
High-tech coastal surveillance system detects arriving boats
By David Eade
THE TWO CÁDIZ COMMANDS OF THE GUARDIA CIVIL THAT CONTROL THE WATERS OF THE STRAITS OF GIBRALTAR ZONE HAVE HAILED THE SUCCESS OF THE SIVE COASTAL SURVEILLANCE SYSTEM IN REDUCING THE AMOUNT OF HASHISH ENTERING THE COUNTRY.
The SIVE system monitors all movements of vessels in the Straits zone and can detect the approach of even the smallest launch or boat from the moment it leaves Moroccan waters. It covers the coast from Punta Chullera in San Roque to the mouth of the Guadalquivir River in Sanlúcar de Barrameda.
This year, for the first time, a drop has been recorded in the amount of hashish seized in the zone. In 2004, 137.5 tons of the drug were seized by the Guardia Civil, intercepted either at sea, whilst being landed on the beaches or once on terra firma. So far in 2005 the total is 88.4 tons, a massive drop of 35.71 per cent.
Whilst the Guardia Civil has claimed a major part of this success story lies with the SIVE system, it also acknowledges that pressure from politicians, the courts and the population in general has contributed to this major reduction in the amount of drugs entering Spain via the Cádiz coastline.
FINDING NEW ROUTES
However, the drug traffickers have not gone away but merely sought out easier points of entry. Whilst SIVE has deterred them from landing their drugs in Cádiz, there has been an increase in landings in Huelva and Almería as well as further up the eastern coast. Portugal has also seen more drug activity.
Nationally, more hashish is seized each year. Spain seized 429 tons in 1998, which increased to 431 tons in 1999, 474 tons in 2000, 514 tons in 2001, 725 tons in 2003 and 793.5 tons last year. The hashish confiscated in Spain represents 40 per cent of world seizures and 70 per cent of the European total.
Cold Christmas for striking quarry workers
By Oliver McIntyre
It was a cold and drizzly Christmas Eve for the 40 or so Alhaurín de la Torre quarry workers who, despite the weather and the holiday, continued their camp-out protest in front of the Town Hall. The workers, who are among those on strike over the court-ordered closure of four of the town's quarries, were joined for Christmas Eve by around a hundred family members, who shared a meal of sandwiches, chorizo and barbecued steaks. A few gas heaters were set up and some local residents stopped by with champagne and holiday greetings for the workers, who have been on strike now for about a month.
Meanwhile, trade unions and other groups continued to put pressure on Alhaurín Town Hall and the Junta de Andalucía to find a solution to the quarry situation and bring to an end the strike, which is affecting construction projects throughout the province and threatening thousands of workers' jobs. The CC.OO union said that if a solution is not reached by the end of this week, it will call a general construction strike, tentatively scheduled for January 9. The union says construction companies have filed for at least 900 layoffs as a result of halted projects due to the quarry strike, and a further 10,000 workers have been quietly dismissed by employers terminating their temporary employment contracts.
The Málaga Business Confederation (CEM) has also called on the Town Hall and the Junta to work together to solve the quarry problem. It cited the negative economic impacts the strike is having in the province, with construction halted on thousands of homes, and warned that if the situation continues it could affect "100,000 jobs in construction and related industries."
Marbella mayor accused of tax evasion
NEWS Staff Reporter
The mayor of Marbella, Marisol Yagüe, has been accused by the Partido Popular of dodging the full tax on improvements to her home in the town.
According to the PP spokesperson in Marbella, Ángeles Muñoz, the mayor did apply for a municipal licence for renovations to her home. However, she is alleged to have declared that the works would cost 29,000 euros when in fact the true total was around one million euros. Thus the mayor was charged four per cent tax on 29,000 euros instead of the tax on one million euros, which would have been nearly 40 times higher.
The matter has come to light because Copasur, the company that carried out the works, is taking the mayor to court for not paying the full bill of over 950,000 euros. Sra Yägue has expressed indignation that the PP should have mixed her "private and public affairs" and says the matter has gone to court because she is in dispute with the company over the cost of the works.
The company that carried out the work on the mayor's home is the same company that is remodelling the central Calle Jacinto Benavente in Marbella. Work has been halted on this project as the Town Hall has not made the necessary payments. The company has since also alleged that Mayor Yagüe used municipal funds to pay for the work on her home and also involved Town Hall officials in an effort to solve the dispute over payment.
Christmas Day murder at Alfarnatejo
By Dave Jamieson
A German man, H.J.F, 52, and his Spanish wife, D.S.S., 48, were arrested by police on Christmas Day by police officers investigating the discovery of a severely burned body in a car at Alfarnatejo. The grim find was made at about 14.00, and the suspects were detained that evening. The victim, W.J.D., 65, also German, was the detained couple's neighbour and landlord and had lived in Alfarnatejo for nearly 30 years.
According to early reports, the arrested man admitted to investigators that he struck the victim on the head with a stone in self-defence when they got into a scuffle during a heated argument. But he claimed the landlord then got into the car and drove off, crashing into a small outbuilding on the access road to the property, causing the car to burst into flames.
But police indicated they were unconvinced by the story and are investigating another theory. They suspect that the victim was killed in the scuffle and the body was then stuffed into the car and the crash staged in order to justify the subsequent car fire.
Political hot potato in Guadalhorce
Farmers protest dumping oranges and letting loose 60 chickens
BY OLIVER MCINTYRE
ALHAURÍN DE LA TORRE MAYOR JOAQUÍN VILLANOVA SAYS HE HAS TAKEN UP THE CAUSE OF ARROYO DEL VALLE RESIDENTS WHO HAVE BEEN PROTESTING AGAINST REGIONAL-GOVERNMENT PLANS TO EXPROPRIATE THEIR LAND FOR THE CREATION OF A RURAL PARK.
At Tuesday's meeting with the Junta de Andalucía regarding the regional development plan (POT) for the Málaga Metropolitan Area, which had been called by the Junta in order to review the draft POT with local mayors, Sr Villanova requested that the park project be eliminated from the plan.
Going into the meeting, the Mayor said he would ask "that the [Arroyo del Valle] zone not be modified, that no property there be expropriated and that the classification of the land remain as outlined in the draft municipal PGOU [local development plan]." The PGOU classifies as 'protected' only the few remaining flood zones along the edges of the arroyo, and leaves properties in the hands of their private owners, he said.
'UNNECESSARY RURAL PARK'
Town Hall officials say they find it "incomprehensible" that the Junta would expropriate productive farmland to create "an unnecessary rural park." They say the orchards and farms, from which many of the landowners make their living, already create a sufficient "greenbelt" in the zone.
But days before the meeting, some of the landowners took matters into their own hands, heading to the Junta's offices in Málaga, where they set loose around 60 chickens and dumped a load of oranges, symbols, they said, of the agricultural productivity of their land. The dramatic action resulted in a meeting with a Junta representative, who told the residents that there are no current plans to expropriate the properties and blamed Mayor Villanova for spreading fear and rumours.
At press time, it was unclear whether or not the park project and related land expropriations are currently included in the draft POT.
Three radar traps installed on A-7
By David Eade
The traffic authorities have installed three fixed radar traps on the A-7 (old N-340) as it passes through key points on the Costa del Sol. The spy equipment has been installed and is now operational at km 200.4, 204.8 and 164.25 and any speeding motorist caught by them will be issued with a fine.
The first of these radars (km 200.4) is located at La Cala de Mijas by the La Butibamba restaurant and is located on the Cádiz direction lanes. The second (km 204.8) is on the Fuengirola stretch of the road in the direction of Málaga. The third (km 164.25) is between Benahavís and Estepona in the zone known as the 'Parque de las antenas' and is also in the Málaga lane.
The installation of these three new radar traps brings the total to five in Málaga Province. The existing two are in Málaga on the A-45 at the access to Ciudad Jardín from Las Pedrizas and also on the eastern by-pass close to the tunnel at Cerrado de Calderón.
The head of the provincial traffic authority, José Vico, confirmed that all five radar traps were now fully operational and had a preventative function adding: "the sole objective is to avoid the excessive speed that causes accidents with the accompanying death and injuries." There are now 41 radar traps on Spain's roads and the head of the national traffic authority, Pere Navarro, has credited them in the six per cent drop in fatal accidents recorded so far this year.
Foreigners under-represented in private schools
Britons make up the largest group of foreign school children
By Oliver McIntyre
CHILDREN OF FOREIGN RESIDENTS IN THE PROVINCE OF MÁLAGA ARE STARKLY UNDER-REPRESENTED IN THE PRIVATE SCHOOLS THAT RECEIVE GOVERNMENT FUNDING TO TAKE IN STUDENTS UNDER THE STATE EDUCATION SYSTEM.
While the publicly funded ('concertado') private schools enrol nearly 25 per cent of the province's school children, they count just three per cent of the foreign school children. Of the more than 18,000 foreign students in the province, just 619 attend publicly funded private schools.
Britons make up the largest group of foreign school children in the province, with 3,313, but just two per cent of them are enrolled in 'concertado' private schools. Of the 2,568 Argentines, four per cent are in publicly funded private schools, while two per cent of the 1,568 Moroccan school children are.
Officials give a variety of reasons for the disparity. One is the schools' locations, often in middle- or upper-middle-class neighbourhoods where there are fewer immigrants. Another is conscious opting out by the foreigners because of either extra expenses the private schools might have or religious bents which may not coincide with those of the foreigners. In other cases, particularly when considering Britons or other EU citizens who likely do not fall under the 'immigrant' definition, the disparity may be more related to a lack of information, say officials. Also, many foreigners are late or miss the deadlines for school-placement requests, and the private schools tend to fill their slots quickly.
TRADE UNIONS' SUSPICIONS
But the UGT and CC.OO unions suspect there is a hidden 'selection filter' being used by the publicly funded private schools, despite that fact that they are supposed to have the same enrolment criteria as the state schools. The filter comes in the way of extra costs – for materials, medical treatment, extracurricular activities or donations – that can reach up to 450 euros per student each school year. The unions argue that services and expenses should be made equal at state and 'concertado' schools and that the school-by-school placement process should be replaced by centralised system by zone.
Torremolinos multiplex on the way
BY OLIVER MCINTYRE
TORREMOLINOS TOWN HALL HAS AWARDED THE CONTRACT TO BUILD AND OPERATE THE TOWN'S NEW MOVIE MULTIPLEX.
The winning company, Viviendas Ideales SL, receives a 40-year contract to operate the theatres, which will cost it an estimated 6.5 million euros to build. From the date the contract was awarded last week, the company has 15 days to make a security deposit of 256,703 euros, or roughly four per cent of the total construction budget, said Town Hall officials. Once construction begins, the project has an estimated completion date of a little over a year.
The 10-screen multiplex is to be located at the municipal fairground, near the bullring and the sports facilities. It will be approximately 6,500 square metres, including the theatres and a cafeteria-restaurant (possibly a fast-food burger chain, say officials). All 10 theatres will be on the ground floor, with an upstairs area to be used for storage and equipment. The complex will include one 600-seat theatre, two 400-seaters, four 300-seaters, one 225-seater and two theatres with 180 seats each.
The Town Hall has given preliminary approval to the project plans and economic viability study, which will now be put up for a one-month public-comment period before final approval. Officials tout the future cinemas as "a new entertainment option for all Torremolinos residents, and especially for the young crowd, such fans of the seventh art."
Local residents oppose ecologists' stance
By David Eade
AS REPORTED IN LAST WEEK'S COSTA DEL SOL NEWS A 100-STRONG DEMONSTRATION, ORGANISED BY 'ECOLOGISTAS EN ACCIÓN', WAS RECENTLY HELD TO PROTEST AGAINST THE EL PALMAR TOURIST DEVELOPMENT BETWEEN VEJER AND CONIL.
This has led to a backlash from people living near the site who say they are supporting the construction of a tourist complex there and in turn oppose the environmentalists who want the project stopped.
The president of El Palmar hostelry association, Antonio Muñoz, says the people who organised a protest demonstration against the complex last Sunday have no idea what the project is about and have no understanding of the situation. He argues that the project has been in the pipeline for the past five years and nobody has objected to it, even when the plans were put on public display before being approved by the regional government.
Other local people claim that many of the "forty pseudo-ecologists" who held the demonstration are people who live in illegally-built houses in the area, and others who live in Conil have made no protest about the amount of development being carried out near the Roche cliffs.
According to Antonio Muñoz, the hotel complex will be the beginning of a better future for Vejer, and it has a great deal of support. He also claims that feelings among local people ran so high during the ecologists' demonstration and that he had to convince them not to throw tomatoes at the environmentalists who were attending the protest.
Spain passes anti-smoking law
Brits and Germans boost Andalucía tourism
By Oliver McIntyre
Regional tourism figures on the rise
ANDALUCÍA LOOKS SET TO TURN AROUND THE TREND OF FLAGGING INTERNATIONAL TOURIST ARRIVALS THAT IT HAS BEEN SUFFERING OVER THE LAST FEW YEARS.
The good news is thanks almost exclusively to an increase in the number of visitors from Britain and Germany.
As of November, the number of foreign tourists visiting Andalucía in 2005 broke the 7.6 million mark, a 1.3 per cent increase over the same period last year, according to Tourism Ministry data. In 2004, foreign tourism to the region fell by 1.3 per cent from the previous year, following a trend of sagging or stagnant numbers that began in 2001.
The increase in arrivals this year has been achieved by a large up-tick in the number of British visitors (up 10.6 per cent from 2004) and, to a lesser extent, Germans (up 4.3 per cent from last year). The strong showing from these two countries – the biggest sources of tourists to the region – made up for stagnant or even slightly decreased numbers of visitors from most other countries.
In the month of November alone, 414,000 foreign tourists visited Andalucía, up 5.2 per cent from 2004 and representing a 13.4 per cent share of all foreign visitors to Spain that month. The number of British visitors during the month of November was up 13.3 per cent from last year.
CATALUÑA TOPS LIST
But Andalucía is far from being the Spanish region with the greatest number of foreign arrivals. Year to date through November, Cataluña topped the list, with 13.2 million foreign tourists (25.3 per cent of the national total), followed by the Balearic Islands (9.4 million) and the Canary Islands (8.6 million). Andalucía came in fourth, with 7.6 million.
Meanwhile, the regions seeing the greatest percentage increase in their number of foreign visitors were Aragón (55.7 per cent), Asturias (40.8 per cent) and Cantabria (38 per cent).
Málaga's El Gordo luck
News Staff Reporter
The province of Málaga has enjoyed its best-ever Christmas lottery. Last week's El Gordo draw saw 16.1 million euros in prize money awarded between Málaga and Coín, with the biggest single amount – a 200,000 euros fourth prize for ticket number 84,003 – rewarding punters in the capital's La Luz district where anyone who bought a décimo share won 20,000 euros back.
A fifth prize of 50,000 euros went to the Puerta Blanca district of the city where investing in a décimo brought a return of 5,000 euros, while a second fifth prize was shared between lucky ticket holders in the El Palo district and the town of Coín. It is estimated that the province spent 33 million euros buying tickets for last Thursday's draw, which, at 215 minutes, was the longest ever. The payout in the world's biggest single prize draw totalled three billion euros for the first time, and the number of tickets issued increased from last year's 66,000 to a new record of 85,000.
The ticket which won the first prize in this year's El Gordo was number 20,085. It was sold entirely in the town of Vic, 96 kilometres inland from Barcelona, and is worth a record 510 million euros. Every single 20 euro stake in the ticket was sold in the same lottery office which had never previously struck it lucky. "This is new for us," said the office's manager, Miguel Colina. "It has absolutely overwhelmed us." Police had to close the street where the office is situated because of the crowds which gathered to celebrate.
It was not the first time that all the first-prize tickets have been sold in one town. It happened in 2000 in Segovia, and again last year in Catalunya, where the town called Sort, the Catalan word for "luck", struck it rich.
This year's second prize went to ticket 28,150, sold in Valencia, and third prize, ticket 07,494, sold in the Catalan city of Mataró.
But spare a thought for two ladies, a cook and a waitress, who work at Carme Criviller's restaurant in Vic. They refused to buy tickets offered to staff and customers "because they are anti-lottery", said the owner. But with almost 182 million euros being shared amongst those who did invest, Carme added, "We are going to have to do something for them, give them a gift."
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