Costa del Sol News - 22th May 2009

News from Andalucia & Costa del Sol

News Archive

In association with

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

Alcalá in the eye of the abortion storm

Equality minister Bibiana Aído's hometown chosen for protest against new law

By David Eade

The village of Alcalá de los Gazules, population 5,000, is normally a place that is passed-by as motorists head along the Los Barrios-Jerez motorway, but last week it was in the eye of the storm surrounding the new abortion law being introduced by the Spanish government.

Alcalá is the birthplace of Bibiana Aído, the minister of equality, who is charged with making the proposal into law. Hence this sleepy village was chosen by anti-abortion group Derecho a Vivir (DAV) for its latest protest.

In the week before Saturday's day-long demo, the battle of words reached the Andalucía government. The councillor to the regional government, Luis Pizarro, called the protest "provocative", whilst the Partido Popular accused him of doing everything to prevent the demonstration bar calling on the Guardia Civil to block off Alcalá.

The socialist mayor, Arsenio Cordero, perhaps mindful of the business a day-long protest could bring, insisted that his village was open to all and always would be. However, Sra Aído's village rallied to her defence with PSOE posters promoting freedom of choice.

Bus campaign

One of the DAV buses touring the country to campaign against the proposed law and collecti signatures on a petition, visited many parts of Cádiz province ahead of Saturday and was in the village for the day. Ignacio Arsuaga, the national president of the DAV stated: "Alcalá is just one of 52 localities in Spain that the bus has visited so far."

Saturday was more about symbolism than numbers. Over 300,000 people have signed the petition against the proposed abortion law but only 100 or so gathered in Alcalá. As promised, the day had very much a family atmosphere with adults and children carrying balloons and banners.

Antonio Perez, DAV's provincial co-ordinator, stressed the campaign was not aligned to any political party or the Catholic Church, adding that the campaign was being supported by some atheists and people of other religions.

On the national front DAV says it will take its petition to the Moncloa at the beginning of June, likely on the 6th, "to show the PSOE government that the majority in Spain are against this law." A survey carried out by Sigma Dos for the DAV showed that 43.1per cent of women opposed the legislation whilst 34.3 per cent supported it.

Tourism drop-off knocks Spain into third place

US retakes spot as number-two destination behind France, which it lost post 9/11

By Oliver McIntyre

Spain has experienced a higher drop-off in tourism than other European countries during the economic crisis and has been knocked from its ranking as the number-two destination in the world behind France, according to the latest figures from the World Tourism Organisation.

In the first quarter of this year, world tourism dropped by 7.7 per cent compared to the same period last year, while Spain saw a plunge of 16.3 per cent, according to the WTO data.  The dramatic dip is not only more than double the worldwide slump but is also well above the Europe-wide decline of 8.4 per cent or even the Mediterranean-zone average of 10.5 per cent.

The Q1 drop for Spain may be slightly exaggerated due to the fact that Semana Santa fell in March last year and April this year, but the downward trend remains indisputable. 

Technical tie

Assuming Spain continues to feel the pinch, it will be definitively replaced by the US as the second-most visited country in the world.  Already in 2008 the two countries were at what the WTO considered a technical tie, hovering at around 58 million visitors each.  Indisputable leader France received 79 million tourists last year.

The US's pulling ahead of Spain is in fact a return to the previous world-tourism order.  It was the drop in visitation to the US following the 9/11 attacks in 2001 that allowed Spain to ascend to the number-two spot as a tourism destination.  

Marbella cruising towards new port

By David Eade

It has long been an ambition of the tourist and business community in Marbella to see the resort become a venue for cruise liners. The plan centres on the enlargement of the Marina-La Bajadilla port but that has been on hold for more than eight years. However the lucrative cruise ship business could now be on the horizon.

On Monday the mayor of Marbella, Ángeles Muñoz, met in Madrid with the director general of the coastal authority, Alicia Paz. As a result it appears that the central government will send, in two or three week's time, its approval of the project to its Andalucía counterpart.

The Spanish government will pass to the regional government the authority to act on this project. This in turn will allow the Andalucía Department of Public Works to put out to tender the 52 million-euro project which is scheduled to be completed in two years.

After the meeting Ángeles Muñoz said: "This is great news for our municipality, we have waited many years for the project that not only permits us to enlarge the number of yacht moorings but also to cater for cruises - and it will be a major economic investment."

Muñoz wants the project included in this legislature of the regional government which means it would start before 2012. She is seeking a meeting with the new Andalucian minister of public works, Rosa Aguilar, to discuss the scheme. She added: "We want to make it a priority project for the town and for the team of government so that we can enlarge the port as soon as possible."

The Andalucía public ports agency, APPA, that comes under the regional government, says it has yet to receive the go-ahead from the coastal authority. The plans were approved in November of last year and will allow vessels of 60 metres - medium sized cruise ships - to visit the port. There will also be 650 yacht moorings and in the second phase this could be increased to 1,000.

Enrique Moya is mayor after Carnero ouster

Dozens of local and National Police were on hand at the plenary council meeting

By Oliver McIntyre

The Partido Popular's Enrique Moya on Monday became mayor of Benalmádena following a vote of no confidence against Javier Carnero (PSOE) and his coalition government.

Sr Moya now leads the town hall with a centre-right coalition formed by the PP, the Grupo Independiente de Benalmádena (GIB), the Movimiento por Benalmádena (MpB), the Iniciativa Democrática por Benalmádena (IDB), the Grupo Mixto, and one non-affiliated councillor. In all they make up 13 of the 25 seats on the council.

The takeover was made possible by the decision of Grupo Mixto councillor María del Carmen Romero, who was part of Sr Carnero's coalition government, to switch allegiances and join the PP-led ouster.

The noon council meeting was tense and drew a crowd of several hundred local citizens who crammed the town hall lobby and spilled out into the street where they booed and cheered, depending on their sympathies, as they watched the proceedings on television monitors set up for the purpose.

Dozens of local and National Police were on hand as a precautionary measure given the intense and at times virulent emotions that had swept across the town's political landscape in the lead-up to the meeting following the initial filing of the no-confidence motion on May 7.

But despite tensions between councillors at the meeting and the strongly felt convictions of the public, there were no incidents, and Enrique Moya was handed the official mayor's baton at 1.15pm and stepped out onto the town hall balcony, where he was met with a mix of cat-calls, cheers, angry shouts and applause.

During the meeting he defended legitimacy of the takeover as a means to "return the town to the privileged position it never should have abandoned." After two years under Carnero's government, he said, "Our town today is like a crab that crawls backward."

Sr Carnero called the PP-led takeover "cowardly" and accused the 13 councillors who supported it of defending their own interests rather than those of the citizens of the town.

Britain protests over Spanish navy ship

UK says the fisheries protection vessel was in Gibraltar's territorial waters

By David Eade

The British Government has protested to Madrid over the actions of a Spanish fisheries protection vessel - described as a corvette - in Gibraltar's territorial waters. The incident happened on May 8 and has been kept under wraps, as was an earlier incident involving a Guardia Civil patrol on Good Friday.

It is believed that this is the first time that the Spanish navy has undertaken what is seen as an operational mission in Gibraltar's waters although its vessels are often in the area. Britain is adamant that the seas around the Rock are its sovereign waters although Spain disputes this.

It is understood that on May 8 the Spanish navy vessel Tarifa put a launch in to the sea in Gibraltar's waters then left. The launch then carried out inspections of Spanish fishing boats in the area as if they were in its own waters.

HMS Sabre from the Gibraltar Squadron was dispatched to the scene and demanded that the launch move off. What happened next is not clear but eventually the launch and the Tarifa left the area. The British protest took the form of Spain's defence attaché in London being summoned to the Foreign Office for a dressing down.

Moratinos summoned

The earlier incident has again been raised by Spain's opposition Partido Popular. It is demanding that the foreign minister, Miguel Angel Moratinos, appear in parliament to answer questions about the Good Friday incident involving the Guardia Civil patrol boat and a Royal Navy vessel from the Gibraltar Squadron.

Spain insists the Guardia Civil launch was in Spanish waters, although the Royal Navy says the Spaniards were definitely in British Gibraltar waters, on the western approach to the runway.

Nerja residents claim new Paseo Marítimo is illegal

Complaints to both the town hall and provincial government have so far been ignored

By Dave Jamieson

A project underway to extend the paseo marítimo in Nerja has been condemned as illegal by local residents. The province's coastal department is being called upon to halt the work.

Work on El Chucho beach, at the western end of Nerja, began last November after the firm Teconma won a 740,000- euro contract to extend the coastal walkway 280 metres from its present termination on La Torrecilla beach. The total public area will be more than 4,200 square metres, over half of which will be taken up by the Paseo Marítimo and adjoining gardens.

Local residents, however, claim that the work is being carried out without an agreed border between public land and the land on which beach-front apartment blocks have been built. They say that their complaints both at municipal and provincial levels have failed to produce a response and are now threatening legal action.

The president of the Arce residents' group was quoted last week as describing the work as a "flagrant illegality" which is eliminating the beach area. "We want the work stopped," he is reported to have demanded. However, the provincial department responsible said recently that the project was progressing as planned and would be complete for the start of the summer tourist season.