Costa del Sol News - 10th April 2008

News from Andalucia & Costa del Sol

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

Week 10th April - 16th April 2008


The Frost Koning family has made another long-term loan to Benalmádena's Felipe Orlando Pre-Columbian Art Museum, bringing to 138 the total number of pieces the Australian family has made available to the museum since 1981. The latest five-year loan is of five wood and textile pieces. In the photo, Benalmádena's mayor, Javier Carnero, shakes Mrs Frost's hand after the signing of the loan agreement.


Airport checks lifted between most EU countries andtransatlantic flightrestrictions ditched in new era for air travel

By Glenn Wickman

Just months after the EU's passport-free area opened up eastwards to include another nine countries, border checks at airports have also been removed.

For Europeans travelling between the 24 countries concerned - whether by air, sea or land - border checks are now a thing of the past. And visitors to the EU need just one visa to travel to all these states.It's not just this side of the Atlantic that flying is getting easier - in a move that looks highly promising for air travellers; the EU's open skies deal with the US has also entered into force. By lifting flight restrictions in a market that accounts for 60 per cent of world traffic, this deal (signed with the US on 30 April 2007) is expected to generate more than €15bn in benefits for consumers in its first five years, and 80 000 new jobs in the EU and the US combined.

Transatlantic travel will no longer be the lucrative privilege of a few fortunate airlines. Instead, EU and US airlines will be free to fly to airports in each other's territory and from there on to other destinations. EU transport commissioner Barrot hailed the agreement as "a big step forward in international aviation" and said that benefits were already being felt.

The deal is part of the EU's overall plan to create a common aviation area by 2010 including its neighbours in the Mediterranean and countries further east, as well as the US. These closer relations will do more than just open markets - they will also allow the EU to ensure higher safety standards for international travel.

Negotiations on a second open skies agreement will begin at the end of May, to consolidate the EU-US air transport market as it takes shape and introduce further liberalisation.

Mobile calls allowed on airplanes

Air travellers will also soon be able to make mobile telephone calls while airborne.In a revolutionary new move, the European Commission has announced that calls will soon be allowed onboard aircraft once the plane has climbed higher than 3,000 metres over European airspace.The announcement has come after six months of consultations and tests, and restrictions on the use of mobiles could be lifted as soon as next month. The decision whether or not to implement the technology now falls to individual airlines.Air France is reportedly ready to introduce the service, and Ryanair is expected to apply for the introduction of the technology.

However, there are still some final tests required before the move is given the definitive thumbs-up.The European Aviation Safety Agency still has to approve the hardware set to be installed onboard aircraft, in order to ensure it does not interfere with the flight controls.The BBC has revealed that the service will be enabled thanks to a series of base stations known as pico cells, which generate 'a bubble of coverage in and around the aircraft'.Calls are then relayed to terrestrial stations via satellite. Radio technology has already been reserved for the service throughout Europe, although the signal could be lost if the aircraft leaves EU airspace.EU authorities are now requesting that mobile phone companies keep the price of calls to a reasonable level, although they are predicted to cost more than calls made on the ground and there are so far no plans to introduce a general maximum cost limit.The Commission is also asking both operators and airlines to create the necessary conditions inside planes for users to be able to make calls without disturbing other passengers.

Search continues for missing Axarquía 15-year-old

Manolo Marín Hidalgo went missing ten days ago

By Dave Jamieson

RESIDENTS of Canillas de Aceituno have been helping in the search for 15- year-old Manolo Marín Hidalgo who went missing ten days ago. More than 100 volunteers scoured land within a three kilometre radius of the town centre but without any success.
Manolo had told friends he would not be at school as he had to attend the doctor with his mother, which was untrue. Possible sightings of him have been reported from bus stations in Vélez Málaga and Torre del Mar, while a shop assistant in a clothing retailer in Málaga said she was certain he was in the shop together with two women.

Manolo is the son of a former mayor of Canillas, Manuel Marín Cubo, and is in the fourth year at the Alta Axarquía secondary school in Periana. He is a huge Real Madrid fan and is very fond of racing cars, following the Formula One season avidly and downloading images of Ferraris and Porches from the internet. He is understood to have vanished without money, documentation or his mobile phone.

The present mayor, José Manuel Aranda, said that the reports received from outside the town have led the Guardia Civil to believe Manolo is not in the municipality. At the weekend, Sr Aranda said the search was underway at a national level and that emails had been sent to all Spanish universities asking for help.

Search has spreadto Málaga city

Last Wednesday, officers took Manolo's computer away for examination to find out if it could yield any clues to his disappearance and by Thursday, the search had spread to the city of Málaga where investigators were viewing recordings from security cameras in the Larios Centre. On Monday evening, a week after his disappearance, a number of towns showed solidarity with Manolo's family by holding gatherings outside their town halls to call for his safe return home.

The last person to see Manolo was his friend Claudio. He told police that the missing boy was wearing dark trousers, a blue and yellow striped teeshirt and a dark jacket when they parted at 5.30 pm on Monday, March 31. Manolo's family have distributed posters bearing his photograph throughout the Axarquía, as well as in Granada and Córdoba, asking anyone who has seen him to contact the police.

Beware - The fake gasmencometh again

By David Eade

RESIDENTS in the Fuengirola area are being warned that fake gas inspectors are once again calling on homes and are especially targeting the elderly and foreign residents. The alert has been issued by Fuengirola's consumer office (OMIC) but there have been reports of these conmen's actions in other towns on the coast.
Fuengirola's councillor responsible for consumer affairs, Alison Paz, has stated that the OMIC has so far this year dealt with over 50 people who have been charged around 600 euros for unnecessary work to their gas installations.

Sra Paz said these conmen were tricking vulnerable people into parting with a large amount of money for little or no work. The law requires that gas installations should be checked every five years. This has to be carried out by a duly authorised organisation which in the case of Fuengirola is Moreno Rivera. The conmen present the unsuspecting residents with official looking identification documentation and issue them with fake invoices for the work. In one instance an elderly person was charge 900 euros for a job that should have cost around 60 euros to complete.

Email scam alert

The Royal Gibraltar Police have issued a warning to the public after another wave of lottery scams commonly referred to as 'Nigerian' or '419' scams have hit the Rock. Many of these have been sent by post and residents of the Costa del Sol have also been targeted. You should exercise extreme caution if you receive unsolicited calls, emails, or letters which purport substantial wins with the 'El Gordo', 'La Primitiva', Euro Millions lottery or other similar institutions - especially if you haven't entered any of these lotteries.

The RGP says fraudsters are seeking to obtain bank and other personal details from their victims under the pretext that the winnings will be credited to their accounts. The personal and bank details are used by these criminals to fraudulently withdraw funds from the victims. Any such letters received in Gibraltar should be forwarded to the RGP's Financial Crime Unit.

MEP calls for halt todevelopment abuses

Spanish government challenged by EU

By Dave Jones

"THE PAIN in Spain has got to come to an end". This was the message meted out by MEP Michael Cashman following the visit by Costa expats to the European Parliament in Brussels last week.
Dozens of residents hit by illegal building - and land law and construction industry abuses - gave evidence to the EU Petitions Committee on Wednesday over their plight.

Following the meeting Petitions Committee vice-chair Michael Cashman called on Spain's prime minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero to force regional governments to change their laws.
Mr Cashman told Costa del Sol News that the meeting had been 'very positive' and he hoped for concrete action from the Spanish authorities.

"I am calling for a moratorium on any future land grab, as well as a moratorium on the legal practice of the demolition of illegal properties," he said.

"I have also called on the national government to negotiate with regional governments to enforce this moratorium.
"This is a scandal of unprecedented proportions and involves appalling human misery.

"The fact that the Parliament took so much time to listen to the people affected shows the importance we are placing on this."
He added that action from the Spanish government was the only way to restore the country's damaged reputation in the rest of Europe.
And he said the Petitions Committee would be drawing up a fourth report in which MEPs will demand that such action is taken.
"We will not be coming back to Spain because we have enough information already," he said.

He also had a message for the people who had travelled to Brussels to tell their story.

"It was wonderful to see so many petitioners there and it was a reminder of the human element involved in this tragedy," he said.

Second missing car in AmyFitzpatrick case found

By David Eade

THERE HAS been no sign of missing Irish teenager Amy Fitzpatrick since her disappearance on January 1 from Mijas Costa. During that period the Guardia Civil have tried to trace two cars and have now found the second vehicle they were looking for.

According to an eyewitness, either Amy or a girl looking like her got into the vehicle, a Mazda, around the time she is thought to have disappeared. The car has apparently been sold within the last three months and although it is undergoing forensic tests the investigators are not hopeful that it will hold any important clues.

However the Guardia Civil have stressed that their main focus has been on tracking down the first car they identified that belongs to a neighbour of Amy's. This is a white Ford Fiesta with a British number plate C955SLK. The government's sub-delegate in Málaga province, Hilario López Luna, confirmed last week that finding this car was still a top priority.

At the same press conference Sr López Luna admitted that the longer Amy was missing the less likely it was that she had disappeared voluntarily. The same view is shared by the government's delegate in Andalucía, José Lopéz Garzón, who stated that from the start the investigation centred on either her voluntary or involuntary disappearance. He agreed that as time passed the first scenario was less likely but they had not given up hope.

Her family are not giving up hope either. They are renewing their efforts to find her with a new campaign to distribute between 50,000 and 100,000 pamphlets with her photos and telephone numbers on so that any information regarding her disappearance, possible sightings or whereabouts can be called in.

Government denies Nerja aid to repair storm damage

Councillors left open mouthed at "unjust" decision

By Dave Jamieson

Nerja's town council was left "open mouthed" when it found out that the government last week rejected their request for financial help to clean up after last September's storm. The appeal for aid followed a three-hour nightmare of rain and strong winds which dumped 200 litres per square metre of water on the municipality and caused damages estimated at 9.2 million euros.

On Monday, the councillor for agriculture, Antonio Miguel Navas, said he felt „annoyed and deceived“ at the response from the Ministry of the Interior. He said the total aid requested for infrastructure repairs had been 3,764,000 euros but this had been rejected because, the government told the town, it is less than three per cent of the local budget for such work. He described as "unjust" an outcome in which help has not been forthcoming for local people, adding that the town would continue to press for financial support. The next town council meeting on April 24 will be asked to consider a motion calling on the Ministry to reconsider their position.

More than 300 applications for help were received by the town hall following the storm on September 21 and the only outside help has come from the Department of Agriculture which gave the municipality 350,000 euros towards the repair of rural roads. The storm and its aftermath also caused 600,000 euros of damage to Nerja's sports centre while the local power infrastructure needed 28,000 euros of repair.

Church security cameras nab donation thieves

Three local women are arrested after video footage shows them taking cash

By Oliver McIntyre

GOD MAY or may not see all - but the security cameras at one Coín church do appear to, as a group of thieves learned the hard way last week. Three women were arrested after footage from the security cameras at the Iglesia de San Juan Bautista allowed the Guardia Civil to identify them as the alleged culprits of a robbery inside the church.

The three local women, two of them sisters and all aged between 24 and 37, are accused of breaking into the cashbox where people put donations to light a votive candle at the church. They allegedly made off with around 120 euros.

The camera footage shows two of the women enter the church and try unsuccessfully to open one of the donation boxes. They then move on to another, which they finally break into by forcing the lock. In addition to damaging the box itself, they broke the cable that goes from the box to the panel of electric votive candles, allowing a candle to light up automatically when a donation is put into the box.

The third woman did not appear on the security video but is believed to have been standing watch outside the church door as the other two committed the robbery.

Church officials say the security cameras were installed about a year and a half ago to protect against vandalism and robberies.

Congestion charges in Nerja? You must be joking!

By Dave Jamieson

TEMPERS were frayed and hackles raised in Nerja's business community last week when it was rumoured that the council was planning a radical approach to the town's chronic traffic problems. Word quickly spread that congestion charging had been approved by councillors and that the first area where it would be implemented was confirmed as the Burriana beach zone where traffic jams and parking chaos are a regular summer tourist attraction.

Bar and restaurant owners along the Paseo Marítimo immediately began analysing the situation, debating whether the practice would work or whether it would simply keep people away. The six euros to be charged per vehicle at barriers installed at zone entrances was agreed to be high enough to deter visitors and seriously dent business incomes.

The rumour was traced to a local website which ran a story about Nerja councillors who had visited the UK to observe congestion charging in Durham and London. Following phase one at Burriana, it said, the scheme would be extended to all entrances into the town centre and would operate from 10 am until 10 pm. Delivery vehicles and residents could apply for substantial discounts.

However, anyone visiting would have noticed that the article was posted on Tuesday of last week, April 1. The site's owner, Neville Rogers, told CDSN that he traditionally ran a spoof news item on All Fools' Day and that he was delighted so many had been taken in once again. The congestion charge story followed Neville's leg-pull of last year when he announced that the town hall was about to establish a DNA database for animals so that it could trace the owners whose pets fouled the streets.

Meanwhile, the traffic chaos which fills the streets around Nerja's Burriana Beach may soon be a thing of the past. The council has included plans for a much-needed multi-storey car park at the eastern end of the beach among its planned projects for this year.

Hefty fine forspitting or urinating

By Oliver McIntyre

COÍN town hall has passed a new ordinance that, among other things, sets a fine of up to 300 euros for anyone caught spitting or urinating in the street. These are just two of some 40 minor infractions listed on the new public hygiene and sanitation bylaw and punishable with fines ranging from 90 to 300 euros. Others include allowing the water from flower pots or planter boxes to drip down onto the public way; washing cars or pets in the street; leaving advertising flyers on car windshields; abandoning a vehicle on the street; and dumping inappropriate waste down storm drains.

The new bylaw sets fines of 301 to 600 euros for serious offences, which include improper handling of rubbish or other waste, and obstructing the work of municipal rubbish inspectors.

Offences considered 'very serious' - with fines of up to 30,000 euros - include illegal dumping of toxic or dangerous waste that could pose a risk to people or the environment, as well as stealing, burning or otherwise vandalising street rubbish containers.

The bylaw includes a special section related specifically to building works, laying out sanitation-related requirements for any construction or remodelling project that affects or occupies public ways.

easures must be taken to keep the public ways clean - including washing off the undersides and tyres of lorries before they leave a construction site - and loading-unloading zones must be cordoned off with safety barriers.

Estepona now has only one municipal bus

NEWS Staff Reporter

The Portillo bus company has carried out its threat to slash the municipal bus service in Estepona because of what it claims is the town hall's unpaid debt to subsidise the routes.

The company had warned that the service would be reduced on April 1 if the monies due were not paid. Portillo says the debt is 1.5 million euros but the municipal accountant claims there are only two unpaid invoices totalling 575,52 euros. The bus operator counters that it sent all the invoices to the town hall department handling outside contracts but has heard nothing from its officials.

Portillo has now withdrawn its number 2 service that runs from the cemetery to Avenida Litoral, and reduced the number 1 line that runs along the Avenida Litoral to the local police station, to just one bus.
The problem centres on a battle between the ruling socialist party and its one time coalition partners, PES. It was the PES leader, Ignacio Crespo, who as the councillor for local security agreed the compensation package with Portillo.

The town hall has insisted that it knew nothing of the agreement to pay a subsidy to cover losses on the routes that was apparently signed between Sr Crespo and Portillo. Officials have also stated that this was not passed by the town council. For his part Crespo has stated that it was the mayor, socialist Antonio Barrientos, who signed the contract with Portillo to improve the bus service.

The current wrangling has literally left Estepona passengers at the bus stops and has led Partido Andalucista councillor, Lina Rivas, who is a member of the ruling coalition to assure residents that the problem would be sorted out quickly and the service restored.

Meanwhile the Partido Popular has called for Málaga's public prosecutor to investigate the matter. The PP says that in 2004 an agreement was reached to enlarge and improve the service and for any additional costs to be covered without the contract being put out to tender. Portillo, which was then under different ownership, has already been implicated in the Malaya corruption case in Marbella for allegedly paying sums to maintain its concession in that municipality.

Portillo has now been acquired by the CTSA transport group. Apart from urban services in Estepona CTSA also runs municipal bus services in Benalmádena and Marbella as well as for eight other town halls in Spain along with many other medium and long distance routes.

Town hall announcesracetrack redundancies

The takeover guarantees that the summer racing season will go ahead as scheduled

By Oliver McIntyre

MIJAS town hall last week confirmed it is to at least temporarily retake control of the Hipódromo Costa del Sol horseracing track, and said that the process will mean a significant number of compulsory redundancies for track employees.

"The track staff currently includes more than 30 workers, when - as even the opposition publicly acknowledges - a quarter of that figure is sufficient during the off-season when there are no races," said the town hall in a statement. It said the track employees are aware of the situation.

Officials say the municipal company Recursos Turísticos, which managed the track prior to operations being contracted out to the current concession company, Carreras Entertainment, will take over control at least until the end of this year and until a new concession company is found. The negotiated exit of Carreras, which had a 50-year contract to manage the track, has been made possible after the company paid off a 1.1 million euro tax debt (CDSN, April 3-9).

Workers will receive back pay

The town hall says every effort will be made to find new jobs for track workers made redundant in the takeover process, and that all of the employees will receive the back wages they are owed since January. Recursos Turísticos will also pay off Carreras' 600,000-euro debt to the Social Security system.

Once the track is back on its feet under Recursos, Turísticos, the search will begin for "a profitable company with experience operating horseracing facilities" to take over the concession, say officials.

Meanwhile, the town hall takeover guarantees that the summer racing season can move forward as scheduled.

Spain pioneers hydrogenpowered, manned flight

Boeing carries out successful tests with two-seater aircraft

By Dave Jamieson

THE WORLD'S first manned aeroplane flight powered by hydrogen has been seen in Spanish skies. Aircraft manufacturer Boeing announced last Friday that successful trials had taken place during February and March at an airfield south of Madrid.

A US company pioneered an unmanned craft powered by hydrogen three years ago, but the Spanish test flights are the first time ever that the gas has been used in a piloted aeroplane. Boeing's chief technology officer, John Tracy, described the flights as "a historical technological success" with "promises for a greener future."

Hydrogen fuel cells, which produce only heat and water as waste products, were used to power a small propeller-driven, two-seater aircraft on three test flights at Ocaña in Toledo, 40 minutes drive from Madrid. The cells combined oxygen and hydrogen, creating enough energy by to power the electric motor which turned the propeller. Batteries were used to boost power on take-off and climb to 1,000 metres above sea level, but after that the flight at 100 kilometres per hour relied solely on hydrogen for the 20 minutes before landing. Boeing said the potential maximum flying time of the plane was around 45 minutes but that the sole goal of the development programme was to demonstrate for the first time that "a manned airplane can maintain a straight level flight with fuel cells as the only power source."

Experts doubt energy is enough

However, experts believe that hydrogen cells will never produce enough energy to be a primary power source for large, passenger aircraft. Even their development as a secondary source could take as much as twenty years, they say.

Does the Bishop have the Constitutional table?

Experts hunt for the table that was used to sign 'La Pepa'

By David Eade

ALTHOUGH the Bicentenary of the 1812 Constitution, known as 'La Pepa' and viewed as Spain's Magna Carta, is still four years away, officials in Cádiz are busy with preparations for the celebrations, including the hunt for the table on which the hallowed document was signed.

One contender is the Arranz y Villapadierna Foundation, in Benahavis, which owns a table bought ten years ago from a Carratraca palace once belonging to Fernando VII. The other table, that is much bigger, belongs to the Bishop of Cádiz and is housed in the diocese headquarters at the former Women's Hospital.

Tests will be carried out on both tables but, to make matters more complicated, nobody is certain where the Constitution was actually signed. It was first drawn up in San Fernando in 1810 but the court moved to Cádiz in 1811 once the city's yellow fever outbreak ended. Meetings were held at San Felipe Nero Oratory and the Constitution was adopted by a vote on March 11, 1812 and signed on March 18 and 19.

The debate on the table centres on whether the signing was a public or private ceremony. The bishop's table would have been suitable if there was a public ceremony but the Benahavís table is smaller and more appropriate for a private signing ceremony in the oratory. It is hoped that historians can establish which is the true Constitutional table so that it can be included in the 1812 celebrations.