Costa del Sol News - 8th March 2006

News from Andalucia & Costa del Sol

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The Costa del Sol weekly newspaper, on sale at newsagents.

Week March 2nd to March 8th 2006.


Death of British tourist in Nerja leads to bureaucratic breakthrough


THE BUREAUCRATIC COMPLICATIONS ENCOUNTERED IN THE REPATRIATION OF THE MORTAL REMAINS OF A 19-YEAR-OLD WHO DIED IN A NERJA ROAD ACCIDENT IN 1999, HAS BEEN THE STEPPING STONE FOR A CHANGE TO EUROPEAN FUNERAL LEGISLATION. Kris Shambley from Coventry in the West Midlands was hit by a car while on holiday in the resort seven years ago, following which his family's grief was compounded by complexities in taking his body home. Kris's mother Dolores flew to Nerja after the accident but struggled with bureaucracy, had to wait three days and then faced a bill of £3,000 before being allowed to take her son's body back to Britain.

Mrs Shambley, who has now retired to France, enlisted the help of West Midlands MEP Michael Cashman, whose own father died on holiday in Spain in 2003, after which the politician faced a bill of £4,000. He managed to convince the European Commission to review the laws, which has resulted in the European Parliament finally agreeing to adopt new funeral legislation to make it easier for people to bring home the bodies of their loved ones.

DIFFERING REQUIREMENTS AT FAULT MEPs heard that there were "significant" problems due to national rules on the repatriation of the dead leading to difficulties for funeral directors from one member state organising the collection of a body from another because of differing requirements for death certificates and post-mortem examinations. EU single market rules currently cover freedom of movement across borders for goods, services and people, but do not extend to repatriating the dead.

LIGHT AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL Mr Cashman described the development as excellent news. He said, "The Services Directive will include cross-border funeral services to be established, ending pain, suffering and bureaucracy when bringing home those loved ones who tragically die overseas. In the past there have been too many cases where families have been impoverished due to the process of repatriation being wrapped in bureaucracy. Common sense has prevailed and six years' hard work has paid off." Kris's family, with the help of Michael Cashman, have produced an information leaflet which offers advice to those who lose a relative abroad. Dolores Shambley said, "If something good can come out of our loss and we can help other people, Kris's death will not have been in vain."

Benalmádena residents take the initiative


The homeowners' association has installed railroad-crossing-style traffic gates at the three main road entrances to the urbanisation. The association says there are signs clearly stating that heavy lorries are prohibited on the roads of the neighbourhood and that residents are 'tired of the Town Hall doing nothing to enforce this prohibition'.

However, the Town Hall says it is illegal for the residents to erect their own traffic gates, which are 'unlicensed and occupy public property'. Mayor Enrique Bolín has ordered the urbanisation to remove the barriers, and stated that if it does not do so the Town Hall will remove them and fine the homeowners' association.

At press time it appeared the Torremuelle residents had no immediate plans to remove the gates, which at this point are not even being lowered to block lorries from entering, but serve as a deterrent to drivers concerned that if they enter they might be trapped inside, says the homeowners' association. At its March 11 meeting it plans to debate whether to hire security guards to man the traffic gates so that they can be opened and closed as needed to keep out the heavy lorries.

Irishman extradited over Marbella death fall

NEWS Staff Reporter

Irishman Michael D.M. has been extradited to Spain to face charges in relation to the death of his wife five years ago when she fell from a fourth-floor balcony of the Gran Meliá Don Pepe hotel in Marbella, according to court reports. Though the February 12, 2001, incident at first appeared to be a tragic accident, further investigation led police to believe that Michael D.M. threw his wife from the balcony. Other hotel guests in nearby rooms reported hearing a screaming argument just prior to the woman falling, and investigators found indications of a struggle in the couple's room, including broken furniture, according to reports out last week.

During the investigation, Spanish police went to Ireland to question the husband but he reportedly declined to give official testimony. The judge in the case issued a European arrest warrant, which ultimately resulted in the man's arrest and extradition to be tried in the case. The Irishman has now given initial testimony before the judge, and has been released pending trial but ordered not to leave the country.


More local measures against bird flu

Fuente de Piedra Lagoon added to 'high-risk' list

By Oliver McIntyre

WHILE NO CASES OF AVIAN FLU HAVE YET BEEN DETECTED IN SPAIN, LOCAL OFFICIALS ARE CONTINUING TO TAKE PREVENTIVE MEASURES IN THE HOPES OF REDUCING THE LIKELIHOOD OF AN OUTBREAK. Ronda Town Hall has announced plans to remove the ducks and geese from the Alameda del Tajo pond and house them in coops at a private farm as a preventive measure against possible contagion from wild migratory birds. The move comes after Benalmádena recently launched a similar programme, rounding up birds at its Parque de la Paloma. Local officials in Ronda say they are also planning a campaign to capture wild pigeons in the town.

In Villanueva de Tapia, the Town Hall has issued an edict ordering all local residents who keep chickens, roosters or other fowl to keep them enclosed. There are no commercial poultry farms in the town, but many residents keep their own birds for personal consumption. At the regional level, the Fuente de Piedra Lagoon has been added to the list of Andalcucía wetlands considered to be at high risk for bird flu, becoming the first such designated zone in the province. A team of seven people will be assigned to monitor the zone and take samples of birds for analysis. There will be tighter controls on poultry operations within a 10-kilometre radius of the lagoon.

POULTRY CONSUMPTION DOWN Meanwhile, the egg and poultry industry in Málaga province has reported that, despite reiterated calls for calm from the government and assurances that human consumption of poultry products poses no risk, the bird-flu scare has reduced poultry sales by 20 per cent. There are about 25 major poultry farms in the province, including egg farms, with an estimated total of between 750,000 and a million birds.


Guardia Civil displays stolen items on Web

NEWS Staff Reporter

The Guardia Civil has posted on its Web page images of jewellery and other stolen items recovered in the bust of an Islamist terrorist group on the Costa. The recovered goods include more than a thousand items valued at a total of more than 480,000 euros, according to Guardia officials. They were recovered in December as part of 'Operation Green', in which eight people were arrested for allegedly carrying out robberies in the Campo de Gibraltar and Costa del Sol to raise money for the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat, an Algeria-based organisation with alleged links to Al Qaeda.

Officials say that the posting of the recovered items on the Web page ( is a new strategy to streamline the process of reuniting victims with their stolen property. It could be especially useful to people who reside in other countries but were victimised while on the Costa as holidaymakers or part-time residents.

In order to claim their property, the robbery victims must be able to show a police report specifying the stolen item or provide some other proof of ownership, such as receipts, photographs or videos.

Benalmádena to get double-decker tourism bus


Local officials have announced that the company that operates the 'Málaga Tour' bus in the city of Málaga are set to launch a similar service in Benalmádena, beginning April 1. The bus will make stops at a various points of interest or tourist attractions in the town, including the Benalroma ruins, Selwo Marina, Parque de la Paloma, Tivoli World, Castillo Bil Bil and others. Headphones on the bus provide sightseeing information in eight languages.

The buses will run every half-hour from 10.30 to 19.00. Registered residents of the town will receive a discount on tickets, paying 6.50 euros for an adult and 3.00 euros for a child, compared to the regular prices of 13 euros for adults and 6.50 for children. The tickets are good for 24 hours, during which time passengers can get on and off as many times as they like at any of the stops.

Meanwhile, this week Benalmádena launched its new in-town municipal bus service, with distinctive orange and yellow buses running three routes to connect the town's different urban hubs. The in-town bus service comes in addition to the existing inter-urban bus routes that serve the town.

Line 1 of the new service runs between Puerto Marina and the Cerro Viento secondary school in Arroyo de la Miel. Line 2 runs from the Buddhist Stupa, through Benalmádena Pueblo, past the new Xanit hospital and down to Torrequebrada on the coast. The third line is a loop route passing Reserva del Higuerón, Benalmádena Pueblo, Arroyo de la Miel, Nueva Torrequebrada, Torremuelle and Carvajal.

Single-ride tickets cost 1.10 euros and multi-ride, rechargeable pass cards are available, providing per-ride discounts of 40 per cent. The per-ride price for pass-card price holders is 0.65 euros for standard passengers, 0.40 euros for students and 0.28 euros for seniors.


Cártama to double in size

News Staff Reporter

Cártama's local development plan (PGOU), now approved after two years of debate, foresees a doubling of the town's population in the next ten years. The Town Council finally gave the plan a green light last week, with Mayor José Garrido explaining that it hinges on three major metropolitan projects – the food technology park, the regional hospital and a zone of logistic activity. The road network will be improved with a major new link between Cártama Pueblo and Estación de Cártama, traffic congestion on the main Alhaurín and Coín roads will be addressed, and previously announced projects, including the sports centre, a commercial zone and a leisure area will also go ahead.

As many as 19,000 new houses are expected to be built during the next decade. Residential development land will have a density of 35 houses per hectare, while the plan says that the town should have 13.28 square metres of green zone per inhabitant, against the present figure of just 3.5 square metres. A new cemetery and crematorium, a new police headquarters and a dedicated lorry-park are also envisaged. However, opposition councillors said that the residential model proposed would increase the price of land making it more difficult for local people to buy property.


Unknown masterpiece discovered in Málaga

The probable Juan Gris painting belonged to a local family


He worked mainly in France, where he went aged 19 to avoid military service, and died in Paris in 1927 at the early age of 39. The painter's signature was found in the bottom left corner of the painting of a snow scene by a local artwork restorer, Paulino Giménez, who immediately advised the owner. The work, which measures 43 by 60 centimetres, was bought in Paris during the 1940s by the grandmother of the current owner, and had been passed down through the family.

It had been sent to Sr Giménez workshop ahead of its planned sale when its importance was discovered, and prompted the arrival of a team of six professionals to examine it in minute detail. Ultraviolet light was applied to the canvas but no evidence of tampering could be detected, while other tests checked that it had not been painted over an earlier work. Experts say the painting, now entitled "Snowy landscape", might even bring as much as 600,000 euros at auction.


Half million euro investment at Nerja caves

News Staff Reporter

The Foundation which administers Nerja Caves has announced a programme of investment totalling over half a million euros. The first project will be to replace the electrical systems in the caverns' public areas, some of which has been in place for 40 years. Alongside this, three associated projects will see the installation of new illumination which will not impact on the environment of the caves' interiors, new sound equipment, and new sensors to monitor conditions and aid conservation. The second project will be improvements in the entrance to the caves where artefacts found on the site are displayed to visitors. A small museum will be created to give more information on the archaeology and geology of the caves. Outside the caves themselves, various projects will improve the gardens where plants found in the area's Natural Park are on display alongside other tropical specimens. A water deposit to supply the infrastructure of the site will also be constructed.

Ronda Foreign Residents'Office launch

By Oliver McIntyre

Ronda's Citizen Participation Department has announced the launch of a new Foreign Residents Office aimed primarily at assisting non-Spanish Europeans living in the town. The Town Hall has hired an interpreter, Hans Leuenberger, to provide services in English, German and French, assisting foreign residents with municipal administrative or legal procedures and paperwork. The new office, located in the Juan Carlos I civic centre in the Padre Jesús neighbourhood, is currently open only on Fridays.
In addition, the department plans to begin publishing a quarterly bulletin with information about local cultural events, municipal ordinances and other issues. It has also printed up a multilingual form to be used by foreign residents to request information from the Town Hall.

Local officials calculate Ronda's foreign-resident population to be nearly 1,500, though only about half to two thirds are officially registered ('empadronado') as residents. One of the aims of the new Foreign Residents Office will be to encourage foreigners to register. "Since they use our public services it is advisable that they be [official] 'Rondeños'," said Citizen Participation councillor Fermín Villodres.

Irish artist honoured by Málaga

By Dave Jamieson

An Irish painter with strong connections to Málaga is to be honoured by the city. George "Jorge" Campbell was born in County Wicklow in 1917 and spent most of his early life in Belfast where he began painting. In 1951 Campbell first visited Spain, and the atmosphere of the country had such a profound effect on him that he returned there on painting trips nearly every successive year. For more than 15 years, he spent five months annually in the fishing village of Pedregalejo, which has now become a suburb of Málaga city. Most of his paintings were of local people and landscapes, but he was also a writer and broadcaster as well as a designer of stained glass.

In 1978, he was honoured as a "Commander of the Order of the Merito Civil" by the Spanish Government, and after his sudden death in Dublin the following year, an annual travel award was set up in his memory, enabling young Irish artists to work in Spain. It was established jointly by the Arts Councils of the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland and Spain's Instituto Cervantes to celebrate the strong cultural contact which Campbell developed with Spain, and particularly with Málaga. Now, Málaga councillors have voted unanimously that a city roundabout should remember "Jorge", and on Tuesday, March 14, the naming ceremony will take place at the junction of Avenida Cerrado de Calderón and calle Flamencos.

Province on high bird flu alert

By David Eade

Next month hundreds of migratory birds will be flying over the Barbate area, the Bay of Cádiz natural park and Doñana as they return to the north after the winter.

Studies are being carried out to see whether these species are among those which are likely to bear bird flu, and if so, Cádiz will be classified as an area with a higher than normal risk of the disease. Preventive measures are already being taken and thousands of birds in the lake areas are being tested for the H5N1 virus, although the authorities say no special measures are planned to cope with the influx of migratory birds as regulations laid down by the central and regional governments are believed to be effective enough.

The authorities also stress that so far no cases of bird flu have been detected in humans in Europe, and the regional government's agricultural department has produced an informative leaflet to reassure the local population that anti-viral medication is available should it become necessary, and that a vaccine against the disease is expected to be ready within about four months.

Prison sentences for offending drivers?

By Dave Jamieson

Traffic authorities are calling for custodial sentences for motorists who drink or speed to excess. The director general of Tráfico, Pere Navarro, last week told Congress that excessive levels of alcohol or speed must be defined in law, and that, to combat "road rage", the Government should consider prison sentences of between three and six months for those found guilty of driving with more than twice the permitted alcohol level in their blood or exceeding the speed limit by more than 60 kilometres per hour. The present legislation defines the alcohol limit as 0.5 milligrams per litre of blood (0.3 mg for professional and new drivers), but does not define figures for what it refers to as "disproportionately excessive" speeding. If adopted, Sr Navarro's proposals would see drivers traveling at more than 180 kilometres per hour on autovías under threat of imprisonment. This would certainly have applied to the driver on Málaga's ring road who was caught by speed cameras during January traveling at a staggering 220 kilometres per hour. At present, those who are found guilty of excessive speed can be jailed for a period of between six months and two years and have their licences suspended for up to six years.

With reference to alcohol, Sr Navarro said the present laws refer simply to "high levels" but, he added, "nobody knows what these are … neither citizens, courts nor traffic officers". Tráfico is therefore proposing a definition of 1.0 mg per litre be set as the figure above which an offender automatically becomes subject to administrative or judicial proceedings. At present, the offence can result in a fine of between 450 and 600 euros, a prison sentence of between six and twelve months and the suspension of the licence for between one and four years.

As well as speed and alcohol offences, Tráfico wants to tighten up on licence offences, also calling for imprisonment for grave offenders who drive without a licence or after their licence has been suspended or cancelled.

His comments at a meeting of the Commission on Road Safety is reported to have brought support from all political groups for a change in the present legislation. Official figures indicate that speed, alcohol or a combination of both contributed to over 44 per cent of all traffic accidents in Málaga during 2005, in which 93 people lost their lives.

Anti-smoking law challenged

NEWS Staff Reporter

The regional government of Madrid last week approved legislation that modifies, within the region of Madrid, some of the restrictions included in the national anti-smoking law that took effect January 1.

In the region of Madrid smokers will be allowed to light up in workplace cafeterias that are larger than 100 square metres. Facilities where private or institution banquets or events (such as weddings) are held can choose whether or not to allow smoking. Smokers are free to puff away in all open-air zones, as long as they are not in school or healthcare facilities.
Central government officials were quick to speak out against the Madrid law, and threatened to take legal actions against it if it remains in its current form. The secretary general for Health, José Martínez Olmos, said the Madrid measure went "against the spirit" of the national anti-smoking law.

The president of the National Committee of Smoking Prevention, Rodrigo Córdoba, called Madrid's modifications to the law "absolutely illegal."

But the Madrid regional government's Health chief, Manuel Lamela, stated that the law is "neither unconstitutional nor illegal." The Madrid law says the regional government will help pay for quit-smoking treatments for smokers who wish to drop the habit, a measure that was controversially not included in the national anti-smoking law.

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