News from Andalucia & Costa del Sol
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Week January 19th to January 25th 2006. SPANISH TAXES UPSET EUROPEAN COMMISSION
Brussels accuses Spain of discriminating against non-residents
BY OLIVER MCINTYRE
THE EUROPEAN COMMISSION HAS FILED A CASE WITH THE EUROPEAN COURT OF JUSTICE ACCUSING SPAIN OF FINANCIALLY DISCRIMINATING AGAINST NON-RESIDENT EU CITIZENS BY TAXING THEM AT DIFFERENT RATES THAN RESIDENTS ON BOTH INCOME AND REAL-ESTATE CAPITAL GAINS.
Income taxes for non-residents are taxed at a flat 25 per cent, while residents pay on a progressive scale from 15 per cent to 45 per cent, depending on income level. "The different treatment is especially significant in the case of taxpayers with relatively low incomes," says the EC.
Capital gains on real-estate sales are taxed at a flat 35 per cent for non-residents, while for residents they are taxed on a progressive scale if the property was held for less than a year and at a flat rate of 15 per cent if the time of ownership was greater than a year.
'INCOMPATIBLE' FINANCIAL TREATMENT
The EC says the Court of Justice has clearly established that offering different financial treatment to resident and non-resident EU citizens is "incompatible" with the European Treaty. "The difference in the tax treatment of the two categories of taxpayers, in so far as it results in a higher tax burden on non-resident individuals in situations objectively similar to those of residents, constitutes indirect discrimination on the grounds of nationality prohibited by the Treaty," it says.
"The higher tax burden on non-residents may dissuade individuals from taking up employment or buying immovable property in Spain while remaining resident for tax purposes in another Member State," says the EC. "It also makes it less attractive for Spanish employers to recruit labour from other Member States rather than locally."
NO CHANGES IN TAX STRUCTURE
The EC's move to report the case to the Court of Justice comes after Spain failed to alter its tax structure after an official request by the EC in July 2005.
Agreement ends quarry strike
BY OLIVER MCINTYRE
AT THE END OF A 24-HOUR MARATHON MEETING, OFFICIALS FINALLY REACHED AN AGREEMENT ON FRIDAY THAT PUT AN END TO THE ALHAURÍN DE LA TORRE QUARRY WORKERS' STRIKE, WHICH HAD BEEN UNDERWAY FOR 47 DAYS AND HAD CAUSED MAJOR DISRUPTION IN THE BUILDING INDUSTRY, SPARKING A KNOCK-ON STRIKE AMONG CONSTRUCTION WORKERS.
The agreement allows the quarry companies to process their existing stockpiles of materials while creating a quarry-restoration plan that will guarantee workers' jobs for at least seven years. The companies will be in charge of drafting the restoration plans – which are expected to be ready in four or five months – and the Junta de Andalucía will review and approve them. Once that is done, the Town Hall will issue municipal licences for the restoration work.
Alhaurín de la Torre Town Hall went into the meeting – which included representatives from the Junta de Andalucía, the quarry companies and trade unions – with a portfolio of demands, many of which were met. The quarries will provide the Town Hall between 14 million and 20 million euros during the seven-to-10-year period of restoration work, to go toward a host of projects and improvements in the town. Included are the creation of an indoor sports centre in Pinos de Alhaurín, a 24-hour geriatric centre in Huerta Nueva, the purchase of the old Cerro Planchela quarry for the creation of an environmental theme park and the planting of 16,000 trees, among other projects. Rejected were the Town Hall's requests for the Junta de Andalucía to finance a fire station and a theatre and to approve two golf-course construction projects.
Once the quarry restoration plans are drawn up and approved, the agreement allows the company's to process and sell the materials resulting from the restoration work – such as from the terracing of the quarry walls. Officials say this will guarantee materials for the construction industry during the restoration work, and meanwhile the Junta will draw up a master quarries plan for the region that will dictate the longer-term fate of the quarries in Alhaurín and elsewhere. Junta officials have not ruled out the possibility that continued quarrying will be allowed in Alhaurín.
ALHAURÍN PLATFORM NOT HAPPY
All of the parties involved came out of last week's meeting with a positive view of the results. But at least one group, the Platform for the Defence of Alhaurín's Health and Sierra (PDSS), was highly critical of the agreement and even challenged its legality. PDSS announced it is filing a complaint with the anti-corruption prosecutor's office, claiming that the agreement is merely an attempt by Alhaurín Mayor Joaquín Villanova to allow illegal quarrying activity to continue in exchange for development deals. The workers' strike began when the Town Hall carried out a court order to shut down four of the town's quarries due to lack of proper licences.
Arenas shooting case solves expat house robberies
News Staff Reporter
The arrest in November of four Romanian men after two of them showed up with gunshot wounds at the Axarquía regional hospital (CDSN, Nov. 17 – 23) has now allowed investigators to solve 14 house robberies.
The investigation began when two Romanian men, aged 20 and 23, turned up separately at the hospital, one with a gunshot to the stomach and the other with a shot through the leg. Although they claimed not to know each other and gave differing and vague accounts of how they came by their wounds, investigators soon identified them as members of a robbery gang and discovered they had been shot while in the act of robbing a home in Arenas. They were arrested, as were two other members of the gang, and police tracked down the Arenas house where they had been shot.
The house, whose Belgian owners had been out of the country since October, was being watched over by a neighbour, also Belgian. He was identified as the shooter and arrested, and in his home police found six firearms and close to 4,000 rounds of ammunition.
Investigators searched the home of the Romanians and found a large quantity of stolen goods. Using records of reported house robberies in the zone, police tied the gang to 14 robberies, mostly around the Vélez-Málaga area, and the victims, many of them foreign residents with rural homes, identified their stolen items. Police say there are more stolen goods that remain to be identified by victims, possibly foreigners who are currently out of the country.
King charged with attempted rape
NEWS Staff Reporter
Tony Alexander King, already sentenced to 24 years in prison for the murder of Coín teenager Sonia Carabantes and currently awaiting trial for the murder of Rocío Wanninkhof in Mijas, has now been charged with a separate attempted rape. The prosecutor last week announced his formal charges and sentencing request in the case, an attack that occurred in Benalmádena in June 2001.
It was 'Noche de San Juan', the night of bonfires and partying on beaches all along the Costa, when the victim was attacked as she approached her car in Puerto Marina on her way back from the beach at around 3.00 in the morning. As she was opening the car, King attacked her from behind and shoved her inside, according to the prosecutor. The woman struggled, fought back and screamed for help until King finally ran off, says the prosecutor.
The woman reported the attack immediately but no suspects were identified. In September of 2003, when King was arrested in connection with the Coín and Mijas murders, the woman recognised him as her attacker. She later picked him out of a police line-up.
Brits top new registered residents list
By David Eade
At the end of 2005 the official registered population of Estepona had risen to almost 59,000 people. That figure is an increase of over 4,500 on the year previous and is 22,000 residents more than just 10 years ago.
Of the new residents who are registered on the Town Hall census in 2005 a total of 60 per cent are foreigners. Indeed the number of foreign residents officially living in Estepona now totals 14,600, around 25 per cent of the population. The actual figure will be higher than that as many foreigners do not enrol on the town hall census, indeed it is estimated that there are another 50,000 people living in the municipality who are not officially recorded.
Britons make up the largest foreign national group in the municipality with 4,070 official residents. In second place are Moroccans with 1,640 followed by Argentineans (1,023), Germans (870) and Italians (670). The actual range of nationalities living in Estepona is very widespread with the town hall recording residents of 103 countries spread over all five continents.
Safety of Vélez light-rail questioned
Town Hall calls opposition's concerns 'absolute nonsense'
By Oliver McIntyre
JUST DAYS BEFORE THE FIRST TRIAL OPERATIONS OF VÉLEZ-MÁLAGA'S NEW 'TRANVÍA' LIGHT-RAIL SYSTEM, THE OPPOSITION PARTIDO POPULAR LAST WEEK FILED A WRITTEN STATEMENT AT THE TOWN HALL REQUESTING THAT THE RAILWAY'S ELECTRICITY POLES BE ELIMINATED DUE TO TRAFFIC-SAFETY CONCERNS.
The PP wants the poles and overhead cables removed from the stretch of track from Parque Jurado Lorca to the roundabout at the La Mata urbanisation, as well as the stretch along Avenida de Andalucía in Torre del Mar, from Carril de Sevilla to the San Andrés church. It says the electricity poles along the roads pose a risk of traffic accidents.
The opposition party says other systems for providing power to light-rail tracks – such as running electricity along the rails or under the street – have been used in many European cities. The PP points out that even Torre del Mar Deputy Mayor Manuel Rincón – a member of the governing team at Vélez Town Hall – submitted a similar proposal back in June, citing the potential traffic hazard posed by the above-ground electricity poles. "We fear they could cause serious crashes with grave consequences," said Sr Rincón in his written proposal at the time, says the PP.
TOWN HALL RESPONDS
The Town Hall's Transport councillor, Antonio López, roundly criticised the PP's request, calling it "absolute nonsense." The light-rail system is designed to use only overhead cables as its electricity source, and attempting to alternate between overhead cables and in-track electricity on different stretches would be like "trying to run a car sometimes on petrol and sometimes on diesel," he said. In addition, running the necessary 750 volts of current at track level would pose danger to pedestrians and traffic, he continued.
Sr López cited the existence of some 250 rail lines in the European Union that use overhead electricity cables, including all the newest light-rail systems. And the electricity poles, he said, pose no more traffic risk than "other similar elements along the road, like traffic lights, streetlamps, or standing road signs."
Fuengirola apartment block demolished
NEWS Staff Reporter
One of the longest legal battles in Fuengirola over an apartment block that contravened the planning laws has ended with the bulldozers moving in to demolish it.
The 13-flat block was constructed by Arenal 2000 on the promenade in Los Boliches on the site of the old La Olla restaurant. Residents of the adjacent Ronda 1 and 2 apartment buildings took legal action after the developer used 110.70 metres of their communal garden. At the same time the regional government's Town Planning Department took Arenal 2000 to court as the construction did not comply with the minimum-area provisions of the 1982 local development plan and was too close to the riverbed of Arroyo Real.
The first court ruling in favour of the residents of the Ronda apartments came in 1998 but the case has dragged on over the years as Arenal 2000 appealed the decisions and kept on building. The company received a favourable decision from the Málaga provincial court but in February 2000 Fuengirola Town Hall ordered a halt to all work on the site.
Due to the legal battles the apartment block was never inhabited and in May 2002 the Málaga court ordered the demolition of the penthouse as well as the part of the development that sat on the land owned by the Ronda apartment blocks. Now, three years on, the building has finally been demolished.
Bolín to link up with Partido Popular
BY DAVID EADE
ENRIQUE BOLÍN, THE MAYOR OF BENALMÁDENA, WHO GOVERNS THE MUNICIPALITY WITH HIS OWN CENTRE-RIGHT GIB-BOLÍN PARTY, HAS STATED THAT HE INTENDS TO JOIN FORCES WITH THE PARTIDO POPULAR AT THE NEXT LOCAL ELECTIONS.
In the 2003 elections Sr Bolín's party lost seats to the PP as well as overall control of the local council. A pact was established with the PP to govern Benalmádena but that was broken within months with the expulsions of three of the four PP councillors from the governing team.
For the 2007 elections, Enrique Bolín is seeking to establish an electoral pact with the PP. Talks have been underway for some months with the president of the PP in Andalucía, Javier Arenas, and now Joaquín Ramírez, the party's president in Málaga Province has opened the doors to Sr Bolín with the objective of presenting a united centre-right front in Benalmádena.
For his part Enrique Bolín has stated that he totally agrees with the unification project as expressed by Sr Ramírez. He added that there is now nothing that separates the two parties and therefore it is right they should join forces to work for Benalmádena.
GIG PARTY FUTURE UNCLEAR
Indeed Sr Bolín has signalled that in the interests of an accord he is willing to rejoin the Partido Popular. Should that occur it is not clear what will happen to the GIB party other than its members will have to meet to decide whether they back the pact, want to also join the PP or carry on as an independent entity.
Attempt to halt HMS Sussex exploration
Guardia Civil patrol boat orders Odyssey Explorer to stop work
By David Eade
THE US-BASED COMPANY, ODYSSEY MARINE EXPLORATION, RECENTLY RESUMED OPERATIONS ON A WRECK OF WHAT IS BELIEVED TO BE HMS SUSSEX THAT LIES IN INTERNATIONAL WATERS IN THE STRAITS OF GIBRALTAR.
If the wreck is indeed that of the large 80-gun English warship that was lost in a severe storm in the western Mediterranean in 1694 it could still have onboard a valuable cargo of gold coins.
Work was restarted after Odyssey said that it had reached agreement with the Spanish authorities over the exploration work. However last week a Guardia Civil patrol boat ordered the exploration vessel Odyssey Explorer to stop work. Whilst the wreck is in international waters it is in a zone of the Strait that Spain is responsible for patrolling.
Following the intervention of the Guardia Civil a statement from Odyssey acknowledged that the Master of the Odyssey Explorer was requested, via ship-to-ship radio transmissions, to appear in Spain to make a statement, apparently relating to the operations of the vessel. However, according to Odyssey's legal counsel in Spain, neither the ship nor the Master of the vessel fall under the jurisdiction of the authorities that delivered the request.
Now the culture ministry of the Andalucía regional government has issued a strongly-worded statement stating that only it has the authority to give approval for exploration work on the site. The ministry added it had not received any such request from Odyssey and has now asked the Spanish government to intervene should unauthorised archaeological work start on the wreck.
ODYSSEY CO-FOUNDER TALKS TO CDSN
Greg Stemm, Odyssey's co-founder, told the Costa del Sol News: "We respect international law and have continued the Sussex project based on the official communications that have taken place between the relevant governments and transmitted to Odyssey. We believe we are in good legal standing with all the competent governing authorities that have jurisdiction in this matter, and we intend to continue operations on the shipwreck believed to be HMS Sussex. We are concerned that a significant amount of false and misleading information has been furnished to the Spanish media. Nevertheless, we are steadfast in our resolve to conduct the Sussex excavation according to the approved project plan while attempting to address all reasonable concerns by relevant authorities."
Work to begin on Málaga metro
Officials come to an agreement with subway company
BY OLIVER MCINTYRE
FRIDAY THE 13TH WAS ANYTHING BUT A JINXED DAY FOR MÁLAGA'S FUTURE METRO SUBWAY, AS OFFICIALS FINALLY CAME TO AN AGREEMENT THAT ENDED MONTHS OF CONTROVERSY AND POLITICAL FIGHTING.
The agreement will allow the beginning of work on Line 2, from Héroe de Sostoa to the Martín Carpena sports stadium. The Town Hall had been resisting the start of work along the busy Carretera de Cádiz at the western entrance to the town, saying insufficient measures were being taken to address the traffic impacts the work will have. Things came to such a head that just days before Friday's meeting the Junta de Andalucía had laid down an ultimatum basically stating that work must begin by the end of this month.
At the meeting, municipal Traffic Department technicians came to an agreement with Metro de Málaga, the company created to build and operate the subway. The Town Hall said the plans presented by the company were better than previous ones, and "reduce significantly the effects of the work on daily life" for drivers and pedestrians along Carretera de Cádiz.
The initial work, set to begin within the next three weeks, is really just preparatory infrastructure changes prior to the actual subway construction. It involves rerouting things like water, gas and electricity lines and is expected to take about 19 weeks. The biggest traffic impact, say officials, will be the closure of one lane of traffic along 300 metres of Héroe de Sostoa near Avenida de la Paloma. It is expected to increase traffic density by about seven per cent.
TRAFFIC PROBLEMS STILL 'TO BE RESOLVED'
Málaga Mayor Francisco de la Torre noted that Friday's agreement was just a first step, saying that "the fundamental subject of traffic detours" during construction of the subway itself "remains to be resolved."
Man turns in wallet with 24,000 euros
NEWS Staff Reporter
Even the police were somewhat taken aback when a man came into their office at the Málaga airport to turn in a lost wallet that was not only not empty, but contained a staggering 24,000 euros in cash and several valuable vintage gold coins. The man reported that he had found the wallet in the airport car park. He said he had opened it to check for the owner's ID, and was shocked when he saw the amount of money inside, not to mention the suede pouch containing gold coins.
According to a report in the Spanish daily 'La Opinion de Málaga', as the man gave his report to one of the police officers, another stared at him in wonder. "What?" the man asked the officer. "I'm an idiot, right?" The police officer commented simply that it was not common for someone to turn in such a large quantity of money.
Just as the man was wrapping up his statement to the police, the owner of the wallet, a Mollina man, burst into the office "nearly in tears" to report his wallet missing. After checking him against his ID, the police reunited the man with his wallet, his 24,000 euros and, most importantly, his gold coins, which he said had been a gift from his son and had great sentimental value. Overjoyed, the man hugged the good Samaritan, and later rewarded him with a top-quality 'pata negra' cured ham.
Alcalá double death shooting
By David Eade
EMOTIONS ARE RUNNING HIGH IN THE CÁDIZ VILLAGE OF ALCALÁ DE LOS GAZULES AFTER A LOCAL MAN AND A WOMAN WERE FOUND WITH GUNSHOT WOUNDS BESIDE A ROAD.
The Guardia Civil has ordered in reinforcements from Cádiz, Barbate and Medina Sidonia in case trouble erupts but no incidents have yet been reported.
The body of Catalina Cabeza was spotted at 14.45 at kilometre 45 on the A-375, by a motorist who thought she must have been hit by a car. However, when the emergency services arrived on the scene they discovered that she had been shot. A search of the area then revealed another body, that of Miguel Sánchez Rojas, about 150 metres away in an area known as Finca Olivar de los Frailes. He had also suffered a bullet wound and a gun of the type used for hunting was lying at his side.
The Guardia Civil are investigating the two deaths and are not ruling out any possibilities in the case. A news black-out has been ordered by the investigating judge however it has emerged that the couple are believed to have been involved in a secret romantic relationship for several months. It is alleged that Miguel Sánchez drank a bottle of whiskey before he shot Catalina Cabeza and committed suicide by turning his gun on himself.
News of the two deaths caused widespread commotion in Alcalá de los Gazules, where both victims were very well known. Catalina was a married housewife, 45 years of age, with two children, while Miguel was 39 and single and a cousin of Catalina’s husband.
After the post-mortems had been completed the funerals of the two deceased were held in the same church with both interred in the village cemetery. As emotions were running high it was decided to hold separate funerals with a two-hour interval between them.
Spanish court to investigate genocide in Tibet
NEWS Staff Reporter
Spain's High Court has ordered a judge to investigate charges of genocide against several ex-leaders of China for their role in the country's policies in Tibet during the 1980s and '90s. The decision overrides the previous ruling of the investigating judge and prosecutor, who had favoured not admitting the case, which was brought last summer by three pro-Tibet organisations.
The charges are against China's ex-President Jiang Zemin, ex-Prime Minister Li Peng and ex-Family Planning Minister Deng Delyun, as well as four former leaders of the Chinese Communist Party and Tibetan police.
The High Court ruled that the case meets all of the requirements established by Spain's Constitutional Court for the investigation of genocide in other countries even when no Spanish citizens are among the victims or the accused. A Constitutional Court ruling last September stated that Spain's High Court has jurisdiction to investigate any crime against humanity in another country if the courts of the country in question and the International Criminal Court have not done so, and the accused have not been convicted or acquitted of the alleged crime.
The High Court stated that there was "no doubt" that the charges filed by the pro-Tibet organisations could indicate a crime of genocide. It said that the persecution and violation of the fundamental rights of the Tibetans, the military occupation of the country, the forced exile of its national and spiritual leader the Dalai Lama and the repression of its people are acknowledged and censured in several dozen resolutions of the United Nations and many parliaments, among them the European Parliament.
The court said it is clear that there has been no desire for Chinese courts to investigate the charges, and that it is impossible for the International Criminal Court to do so because the alleged crimes occurred prior to its inception in 1998.
CHINESE GOVERNMENT'S STATEMENT
The Chinese government issued a statement calling on Spain to prevent the "Tibetan independence seekers" from achieve their "contemptible goal of breaking the friendship between the two countries."
Andalucians opt out of extraordinary life-saving
By Oliver McIntyre
IN THE REGION OF ANDALUCÍA 4,466 PEOPLE HAVE OFFICIALLY DECLARED THAT THEY WANT NO EXTRAORDINARY MEASURES BE TAKEN TO PROLONG THEIR LIFE IN THE EVENT OF EXTREME, IRREVERSIBLE INJURY OR ILLNESS THAT LEAVES THEM UNABLE TO VOICE THEIR WISHES AT THE TIME OF TREATMENT.
Andalucía created the official no-extraordinary-measures registry ('Registro de Voluntades Vitales Anticipadas') in May 2004, giving residents the right to sign a legally-binding declaration of the type of life-saving or life-sustaining treatments or interventions they do or do not want undertaken. It also allows people to state if they want to donate their organs after death.
According to Celia Gómez, the Junta de Andalucía's Health delegate in Granada, the profile of those who have signed onto the registry is varied, but in many cases they are people who have a very clear view on the issue due to "ethical or religious convictions or their state of health." Often they are patients facing a surgical procedure or the diagnosis of a serious illness, she said.
But apparently not everyone who considers signing onto the registry is so certain. Sra Gómez says that 40 per cent of those who make an appointment to sign their declaration either cancel the appointment or fail to show up. Of those who do show up, 14 per cent ultimately decide not to sign.
At the time the registry was created, María Jesús Montero, the head of the Junta's Health Department, stated that the ability for people to declare in advance their desire that no extraordinary measures be taken to keep them alive in a terminal situation serves as a great "liberation" to family members and doctors. Failing such a pre-signed declaration, the patient's family or medical caregivers are often left toiling with the decision of what or how much should be done to prolong the patient's life, she said.
Officials point out that the decision to refrain from using certain measures to keep a terminally ill patient alive – such as respirators, aggressive surgeries or intravenous feeding – is not the same as euthanasia, which involves taking proactive steps to end the life of a patient.
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