FACTBOX: Russia’s Imports from Countries that Imposed Sanctions

MOSCOW, August 7 (RIA Novosti) – Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree Wednesday, banning for a year imports of agricultural and food products from countries that imposed sanctions on Russia. The government is expected to announce the complete “black lists” of imports on Thursday. Below is the list of Russia’s major imports from the countries that imposed sanctions against Moscow.


Meat, including poultry, makes the basis of the imports from the United States.


Among the Canadian goods imported to Russia are products of animal and plant origin, ready-made foods and drinks, fats and oils of animal and plant origin, and mineral commodities.


Russia primarily imports frozen and refrigerated cattle meat from Australia.



The Russian imports from Austria are mainly made of commodities, particularly crude rubber, certain types of chemicals, as well drinks and tobacco goods.


The main Russian imports from Belgium include foods, particularly meat, fish, fruit and vegetables, baked goods and fats.


Russia mainly imports grape wines, as well fruit and nuts from Bulgaria. Continue reading “FACTBOX: Russia’s Imports from Countries that Imposed Sanctions”

20 richest Spaniards have as much as 20% of population

– ”the economic elite is seizing political power to manipulate the rules of the economic game”

80% believe laws crafted for the wealthy, says Oxfam Intermon

20 January, 16:02

    (ANSAmed) – MADRID, JANUARY 20 – The overall wealth of the 20 richest people in Spain (77 billion euros) is equivalent to the income of the poorest 20% of the population, rendering the country the second ”most unequal in Europe”.     The figures are from study released by Oxfam Intermon, which also notes that ”the economic elite is seizing political power to manipulate the rules of the economic game”.     The document states that ”the case of Spain is especially worrisome”, due to the ”effect of the financial crisis and the policies adopted”, which ”have hit the medium and lower classes especially hard”. (ANSAmed). Continue reading “20 richest Spaniards have as much as 20% of population”

Is Europe on the verge of a popular uprising?

Europe’s ‘crisis after the crisis’ poses uncertainty in 2014

14 Dec 2013


The question was asked by one of Greece’s most respected newspapers as another year of painful austerity drew to a close.

If public anger does explode on the streets, wrote Kathimerini, it will not be provoked by politicians or labour unions, but come from ordinary people who “never imagined themselves doing such a thing”.

Desperation is weighing not just on Greece, but on countries across Europe facing the same paradox: despite the end of the Great Recession, people continue to struggle with the daily reality of unemployment and poverty.

Greece, Italy and Portugal are forecast to return to growth next year, while Spain has already emerged from recession and Ireland has ended its bailout programme.

But the disconnect between economic data and quality of life is fuelling populism, rightwing extremism and anti-European sentiment — and is likely to play a big part in European Parliament elections in May.

“An improvement? We see no improvement, and will not for quite some time,” said Manuel Moreno, a 34-year-old who just lost his job at a humanitarian organisation in Madrid. Continue reading “Is Europe on the verge of a popular uprising?”

Gibraltar: Fury as Spanish officers search British diplomatic bag at border

Foreign Office spokesman described incident as ‘serious infringement’ of diplomatic protocols

Heather Saul

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

The Foreign Office has  made a formal complaint after a British diplomatic bag was opened and searched by Spanish Guardia Civil officers on the border with Gibraltar.

The incident, which occurred on Friday, was described by a Foreign Office spokesman as a “serious infringement” of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.

“Diplomatic bags are inviolable,” the spokesman said. Officials are now seeking assurances from the Spanish that there will be no repeat of the incident, which follows months of tension between London and Madrid over the British overseas territory.

The British embassy in Madrid has also made a “formal diplomatic protest” to Spain’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and and requested that it investigate the incident.

Continue reading “Gibraltar: Fury as Spanish officers search British diplomatic bag at border”

Spain colluded in NSA spying on its citizens, Spanish newspaper reports

El Mundo says it has document detailing collaboration between US intelligence agency and foreign countries

 Paul Hamilos in Madrid theguardian.com,              Wednesday 30 October 2013 07.41 EDT

Protesting in Spain against NSA spying
A man protests against NSA spying outside the foreign ministry in Madrid. Photograph: Juan Medina/Reuters

The widespread surveillance of Spanish citizens by the US National Security Agency, which caused outrage when it was reported this week, was the product of a collaboration with Spain‘s intelligence services, according to one Spanish newspaper.

In the latest revelations to emerge from the documents leaked by the US whistleblower Edward Snowden, Spanish agents not only knew about the work of the NSA but also facilitated it, El Mundo reports.

An NSA document entitled “Sharing computer network operations cryptologic information with foreign partners” reportedly shows how the US relies on the collaboration of many countries to give it access to intelligence information, including electronic metadata.


According to the document seen by El Mundo, the US classifies cooperation with various countries on four different levels. In the first group – “Comprehensive Cooperation” – are the UK, Australia, Canada and New Zealand. The second group – “Focused Cooperation” – of which Spain is a member, includes 19 countries, all of them European, apart from Japan and South Korea. The third group – “Limited cooperation” – consists of countries such as France, Israel, India and Pakistan; while the fourth – “Exceptional Cooperation” – is made up of countries that the US considers to be hostile to its interests.

The reports come a day after the director of the NSA, General Keith B Alexander, testified before the US house intelligence committee that suggestions the agency monitored millions of calls in Spain, France and Italy were “completely false” and that this data had been at least partially collected by the intelligence services of those countries and then passed on to the NSA.

According to El Mundo the NSA documents explain the “specific guidance for evaluating and initiating Computer Network Operations (CNO) cryptologic cooperation with other countries, generally within existing foreign cryptologic relationships”. It outlines these telephonic and electronic surveillance operations, indicating that the results would be shared with allied countries. In short, this suggests the Spanish intelligence services were working hand in hand with the NSA, as were other foreign agencies. But if there was any doubt as to who held the upper hand, the NSA documents make clear that any collaboration was always to serve the needs of protecting American interests.

On Monday, El Mundo reported that the NSA had intercepted 60.5m phone calls in Spain over one month alone.

Alexander said foreign intelligence services collected phone records in war zones and other areas outside their borders and passed these on to the NSA. He said this arrangement had been misunderstood by French and Spanish newspapers, which reported that the NSA was spying in their countries.

But this explanation has not allayed European or domestic US concerns about the exact nature of NSA surveillance in allied countries.

The suggestion that the Spanish intelligence agency was working with the NSA will confirm the suspicions of many in Spain who believe that the government has not only failed to protect its own citizens’ privacy, but was actively supportive of US surveillance inside the country.

Although there are strong privacy laws in Spain, and judicial oversight is required before a phone can be tapped, there are concerns that these laws are applied less than rigorously.

The US has offices for the CIA and the NSA in Madrid.

On Monday, Amnesty International called on the Spanish government to “reflect on its total failure to protect its own citizens’ privacy”.

The prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, announced on Wednesday that the director of the Spanish national intelligence centre (CNI), Félix Sanz Roldán, would be called to appear before the official secrets committee to explain the activities of the NSA and the CNI. Unlike in the US, however, this meeting will be held behind closed doors.

The latest document, published by El Mundo on Wednesday, shows the NSA to be watchful of any information gathered by countries outside the top tier of allies, which together with the US are known as the “five eyes”.

According to the Spanish newspaper’s report, the NSA says any co-operation with countries outside this group is to be carefully evaluated, and they should be reliable allies,  capable of protecting any US classified information.

A further document seen by El Mundo reportedly explains how that cooperation between the NSA and foreign intelligence agencies increases the number of foreign-language speakers available to it, so as better to understand any communications they uncovered.

Not every line in the document is hard intelligence work, though. At one point, an NSA agent apparently writes that the Spanish agents were exceptionally helpful when they collaborated, not just at work, but also in their downtime. In Madrid, lunch apparently always took place at 2pm; the US agents were given an enjoyable bus tour of the sights of Madrid; and one dinner was accompanied by opera singers. The only disappointment came during one trip to Spain, when it rained all the time, despite the Spanish agents having promised unlimited sunshine.



Spain and France’s intelligence agencies carried out collection of phone records and shared them with NSA, agency says

NSA spy row: France and Spain ‘shared phone data’ with US

Raf Sanchez

By , Peter Foster in Washington

8:35PM GMT 29 Oct 2013

European intelligence agencies and not American spies were responsible for the   mass collection of phone records which sparked outrage in France and Spain,   the US has claimed.

General Keith Alexander, the head of the National Security Agency, said   reports that the US   had collected millions of Spanish and French phone records were “absolutely   false”.

“To be perfectly clear, this is not information that we collected on   European citizens,” Gen Alexander said when asked about the reports,   which were based on classified documents leaked by Edward Snowden, the   former NSA contractor.

Shortly before the NSA chief appeared before a Congressional committee, US   officials briefed the   Wall Street Journal that in fact Spain and France’s own intelligence   agencies had carried out the surveillance and then shared their findings   with the NSA.

The anonymous officials claimed that the monitored calls were not even made   within Spanish and French borders and could be surveillance carried on   outside of Europe.

In an aggressive rebuttal of the reports in the French paper Le Monde and the   Spanish El Mundo, Gen Alexander said “they and the person who stole the   classified data [Mr Snowden] do not understand what they were looking at”   when they published slides from an NSA document.

The US push back came as President Barack Obama was said to be on the verge of   ordering a halt to spying on the heads of allied governments.

The White House said it was looking at all US spy activities in the wake of   leaks by Mr Snowden but was putting a “special emphasis on whether we   have the appropriate posture when it comes to heads of state”.

Mr Obama was reported to have already halted eavesdropping at UN’s   headquarters in New York.

German officials said that while the White House’s public statements had   become more conciliatory there remained deep wariness and that little   progress had been made behind closed doors in formalising an American   commitment to curb spying.

“An agreement that you feel might be broken at any time is not worth very   much,” one diplomat told The Telegraph.

“We need to re-establish trust and then come to some kind of   understanding comparable to the [no spy agreement] the US has with other   English speaking countries.”

Despite the relatively close US-German relations, the White House is reluctant   to be drawn into any formal agreement and especially resistant to demands   that a no-spy deal be expanded to cover all 28 EU member states.

Viviane Reding, vice-president of the European Commission and EU justice   commissioner, warned that the spying row could spill over and damage talks   on a free-trade agreement between the EU and US.

“Friends and partners do not spy on each other,” she said in a   speech in Washington. “For ambitious and complex negotiations to   succeed there needs to be trust among the negotiating partners. It is urgent   and essential that our US partners take clear action to rebuild trust.”

A spokesman for the US trade negotiators said it would be “unfortunate to   let these issues – however important – distract us” from   reaching a deal vital to freeing up transatlantic trade worth $3.3 billion   dollars (£2bn) a day.

James Clapper, America’s top national intelligence, told a Congressional   hearing yesterday the US does not “spy indiscriminately on the citizens   of any country”.

“We do not spy on anyone except for valid foreign intelligence purposes,   and we only work within the law,” Mr Clapper said. “To be sure on   occasions we’ve made mistakes, some quite significant, but these are usually   caused by human error or technical problems.”

Pressure from European leaders was added to as some of the US intelligence   community’s key Congressional allies balked at the scale of surveillance on   friendly governments.

Dianne Feinstein, the chair of powerful Senate intelligence committee, said   she was “totally opposed” to tapping allied leaders and called for a   wide-ranging Senate review of the activities of US spy agencies.

“I do not believe the United States should be collecting phone calls or emails   of friendly presidents and prime ministers,” she said.

John Boehner, the Republican speaker of the house and a traditional hawk on   national security, said US spy policy was “imbalanced” and backed calls for   a review.

Mr Boehner has previously been a staunch advocate of the NSA and faced down a   July rebellion by libertarian Republicans who tried to pass a law   significantly curbing the agency’s power.

Healthy living can turn our cells’ clock back / telomeres regrow


Healthy living can reverse the telltale signs of ageing in your cells.

The finding relates to telomeres, the caps that protect the tips of chromosomes when cells divide. With each cell division these get shorter, so as we age they wear away like a candle wick burning down. Now there is evidence that telomeres can regrow if people switch to, and maintain, a healthy lifestyle.

The study involved 10 men in their early 60s, who were asked to follow a strict healthy living regime. They ate a meat-free diet, exercised for 30 minutes a day, did an hour of yoga and meditation a day, and attended group therapy sessions each week.

After five years, the telomeres on a type of white blood cell were on average 10 per cent longer in these men than at the start of the study. In contrast, 25 men who kept to their usual lifestyles saw telomeres on the same cells shrink by an average of 3 per cent over the same period.

The researchers also found that the more strictly the 10 men stuck to the healthy regime, the longer their telomeres became.

“It’s a very encouraging finding,” says Dean Ornish of the Preventive Medicine Research Institute in Sausalito, California, who led the study. “In a biological sense, they are getting younger, but what the long-term implications are we don’t know,” he says.

Tale of the telomeres

Previous studies comparing telomere lengths in individuals against the population as a whole suggest that shorter telomeres are linked with ill health, including heart disease, dementia and cancer, and also with a shorter lifespan.

Telomeres are known to regenerate in stem cells and in some cancer cells, but this study is the first to show that a specific lifestyle change can make them do so in ordinary cells.

“These results are very nice, and hold promise for preventive medicine,” says Maria Blasco, head of the telomere group at Spain’s National Cancer Research Centre in Madrid.  Earlier this year, her group published results showing that telomeres grow in mice fed calorie-restricted diets while they shrink in mice on standard diets.

However, not everyone is convinced by the telomere data. “The [same] methods used to measure telomere length in an earlier paper have been called into question,” says Carol Greider of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, whose discovery of telomerase earned her a share of the Nobel prize in 2009. “It’s not clear if very small changes are real, or normal fluctuation in noisy data,” she says.

Journal reference: The Lancet, DOI: 10.1016/S1470-2045(13)70366-8



David Cameron vows to continue to defend Gibraltar in the ongoing diplomatic row with Spain over the tiny territory as chief minister warns of “huge escalation” in the standoff

David Cameron vows to defend Gibraltar


Mr Cameron met Fabian Picardo, Gibraltar's chief minister, in Downing Street on Friday.

Mr Cameron met Fabian Picardo, Gibraltar’s chief minister, in Downing Street on Friday. Photo: LEWIS WHYLD/AFP


Fiona Govan

By , Madrid

3:21PM BST 30 Aug 2013

Gibraltar’s chief minister has warned that Spain’s bid to cripple the Rock’s key refuelling industry would amount to a “huge escalation” of the already tense standoff over the territory’s sovereignty.

Speaking ahead of a meeting with David Cameron at Downing Street, Fabian Picardo said that a move by Madrid to impose fines on refuelling companies operating around Gibraltar would be “an act of absolute bad faith”.

“This is Spain legislating extraterritorially for something that is beyond the jurisdiction of Spain,” the Chief Minister told the Gibraltar Chronicle. “If the Spanish government decides to take that line, it is a huge escalation of the way that they are dealing with this issue.”

Mr Cameron later vowed to defend Gibraltar in the ongoing diplomatic dispute, saying Britain would “always stand up” for the territory and its people.

The Prime Minister said after his meeting with Mr Picardo that the British Overseas Territory, and the interests of its population, “matters to us deeply”.

Meanwhile Spanish police unions organised a demonstration at the border on Friday in protest at verbal and physical abuse inflicted on Guardia Civil officers by angry commuters held in long queues to cross into Spain.

Police unions called on the Spanish government to “defend their interests and support them in their work using all the resources at their disposal”.

“It seems cowardly and perverse to try and use the police and the Guardia Civil in a conflict between the two countries,” a joint statement said.

“Staff from the two bodies, who were on the border with the British colony, were only acting in accordance with the law.

“Nothing can justify these acts against people who are only carrying out their duty,” it said.

The Royal Gibraltar Police are investigating claims that “a small number of missiles” were thrown at Guardia Civil officers carrying out stringent checks on traffic at the border on Wednesday afternoon.

Spain began imposing checks leading to delays of up to eight hours for traffic at the border at the start of August, widely viewed as a retaliatory measure after Gibraltar sunk an artificial reef to prevent fishing in territorial waters disputed by Spain.

Brussels will be sending an EU monitoring unit to the border next month on the request of David Cameron who called the checks “disproportionate and politically motivated.” Speaking after the talks at Downing Street, Mr Picardo thanked the British Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary for their support. “The people of Gibraltar know they have a friend in David Cameron and a friend in William Hague,” he said.

“That Gibraltar continues to be on your mind means a lot to us,” he said.

Crisis: 72.9% of Spanish under-30s live with their parents


55% youth unemployment, low wages: hard to pay for a house

22 August, 20:24


(ANSAmed) – MADRID – Prolonged recession and record unemployment rates are forcing 72.9% of Spaniards aged under 30 to live with their parents, according to a new study by the Youth Council of Spain (CJE).

With 55% youth unemployment (against an overall jobless rate of 26%), eight out of ten people aged under 30 are financially unable to fly the nest, according to the study released by the CJE’s Observatory on Emancipation.

Those who do have jobs are often paid so little, they can’t afford to buy or rent starter homes, the study showed. ”Based on the premise that you should be able to cover your monthly rent or mortgage payment with 30% of your salary, entry-level jobs should pay 80% more than they currently do,” said sociologist Joffre Lopez and CJE Socioeconomic Commission head Sheyla Suarez, who co-authored the study. Based on current average salaries and real estate prices, a 30-40 year old in Spain can only realistically afford an average rental in the provinces of Extremadura and Castilla-La Mancha.

This, in spite of an estimated 800,000 empty residential units left behind by a speculative real estate bubble.

What this adds up to, say Lopez and Suarez, is that ”young people are being almost systematically expelled from the real estate market.” To make matters worse, more than half of under-30 employees are overqualified for their jobs. This figure is 53.9% among graduates aged 16-29, and 56.1% for graduates aged 30-34. Another 3% of the under-30 set has given up studying and looking for work altogether, the study showed. (ANSAmed).

© Copyright ANSA – All rights reserved



Gibraltar chief says no chance of sovereignty talks with Spain / “a snowball’s chance in hell”

The Chief Minister of Gibraltar has said there is not “a snowball’s chance in hell” that Britain would grant Spain talks over the Rock’s sovereignty.

Fiona Govan

By , Gibraltar

11:51AM BST 22 Aug 2013

A day after Spain’s foreign minister urged Britain to the table to negotiate amid an escalating border dispute, Fabian Picardo absolutely ruled out any discussion of the sovereignty of Gibraltar or its territorial waters.

“There isn’t a snowball’s chance in hell that Mr Margallo is going to get bilateral talk on the sovereignty of Gibraltar,” the 41-year-old leader told the Daily Telegraph in an interview at his office.

“Spain will not even get the opportunity to talk, discuss, negotiate about the sovereignty of Gibraltar if the people of Gibraltar don’t say to the UK that we are content with them having that discussion. I have made very clear that there is no question of Gibraltar consenting to any such talks occuring,” he said.

Mr Picardo gave the interview a day after Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo, the Spanish foreign minister, penned an article in the Wall Street Journal insisting on the removal of an artificial reef created by Gibraltar to boost fishing stocks, from waters that he said were “undoubtedly Spanish”.

The chief minister hit back arguing that they are recognised as British Gibraltar territorial waters in a UN charter accepted by all countries excepting Spain.

“I can tell you very confidently that under international law the waters are defined as British Gibraltar territorial waters. We have said repeatedly if Spain doesn’t recognise this let us go to the international tribunal on the law of the sea and let them determine the issue.”

He also said Gibraltar would welcome a discussion on “fishing practices” with the Spanish but that sovereignty could not be brought to the table.

“We are developed in our plan to change Gibraltar law to deal with the issues that concern local fisherman and Spanish fishermen in a way that is designed to produce environmentally sustainable fishing for the future.”

The diplomatic spat over the territory at Spain’s southern foot has escalated since Spain began imposing stringent checks at the border have caused lengthy delays to frontier traffic, widely seen as a “retaliatory move” in response to the fishing reef.

On Monday the European Commission confirmed it would send observers to the border at the invitation of both London and Madrid.

The breakdown in Anglo-Spanish relations over the peninsula comes 300 years after the Treaty of Utrecht in which Spain ceded Gibraltar to the British in perpetuity.

Mr Picardo challenged Mr Margallo to bring the issue of sovereignty to the UN and international courts.

“The people of Gibraltar, the government of Gibraltar, the parliament of Gibraltar, we are all united in wanting to remain British.” Mr Picardo said.

“If Spain thinks that self determination does not apply to the people of Gibraltar let us take this issue to the international court of justice in the Hague. That will determine once and for all whether we do have the right to self determination or not.”

Gibraltar police ‘push out’ Spanish fishing boats during reef protest

Spanish fishermen stage Gibraltar artificial reef protest

Spanish fishermen sailed into Gibraltar’s waters to stage a protest over an artificial reef that prevents them from fishing, the latest move in an escalating diplomatic row over the territory.

Fiona Govan

By , Madrid

3:18PM BST 18 Aug 2013

The protest by some 30 fishing vessels from La Linea de la Conception came a day before a British warship docks in Gibraltar’s port.

The Spanish fishing boats accompanied by Spanish Guardia Civil vessels were met by a Royal Gibraltar Police patrol, which cordoned off their path. They were protesting about a new artificial reef that they claim is a risk to their boats, construction of which sparked the latest diplomatic spat over the Rock’s sovereignty.

British police boats patrol the coastline off La Linea de la Concepcion near the Rock of Gibraltar (AP)

Chief Inspector Castle Yates, of the Royal Gibraltar Police, said the Spanish boats crossed into Gibraltar’s waters before being “pushed” out again.

“At around 9am about 38 Spanish fishing boats and seven or eight pleasure craft converged in the area of the western anchorage,” he said.

“We had our own police cordon along with Royal Navy and other assets and we corralled them. They tried to breach the cordon several times but they were not successful.”

The fishing fleet had pledged to try and remove the concrete blocks that form the reef, but at the last minute admitted they did not have the means available to achieve their aim.

Spanish fishermen gather in their fishing boats during a protest in the Bay of Algeciras (Reuters)

Fabian Picardo, Gibraltar’s chief minister, thanked the British authorities for their help. Mr Picardo, who has been the target of a campaign of online abuse because of his staunch opposition to Spain’s sovereignty claim, wrote on Twitter: “Big thank you also to Royal Navy, Gib Defence Police, HM Customs and Port Authority for their deployment too.

The fishermen are at the centre of the latest row over the British Overseas Territory, claiming their livelihoods have been destroyed by the creation of an artificial reef off the Rock.

Gibraltar authorities sunk 70 concrete blocks late last month with a view to preventing fishing in the area for environmental reasons and to boost stocks.

They claim that in fact only one boat regularly fished in the area and that it used illegal dragging methods to harvest shellfish in a protected zone.

Since the reef was created Spain has imposed stringent checks to traffic crossing the border, a move that Downing Street has said is “disproportionate and politically motivated”.

On Friday, Prime Minister David Cameron called EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso to raise “serious concerns” over the delays caused at the border and to urge a monitoring group to be dispatched to the area.

Spain insists the border checks are essential in their fight against tobacco smuggling and money laundering and have pledged to use all legal means necessary to protect national interests.

HMS Illustrious docks in Spain’s Rota naval base, which is near the Strait of Gibraltar in south-west Spain (AFP/Getty Images)

Royal Navy warship HMS Westminster and two auxiliary vessels will arrive in Gibraltar on Monday morning. The visit is described by the Ministry of Defence as “long planned” and “routine”, but in the current political climate the trio of vessels are expected to be welcomed by crowds of flag-waving Gibraltarians.

Their presence in the bay will do little to calm tensions over the 300 year sovereignty dispute. Locals have reported a spate of anti-Gibraltarian incidents in recent days. Two Gibraltar-plated cars were torched while parked in the town La Linea over the weekend.

Chief Inspector Ricard Ullger, of the Royal Gibraltar Police, who described the attacks as “most concerning”. said: “There have been a number of sporadic incidents involving damage being inflicted over Gibraltar vehicles in Spain.”


Gibraltar tensions soar : London Mayor Boris Johnson implies War

Gibraltar tensions soar as UK threatens legal action over border checks and HMS Illustrious sets sail for Med

Downing Street said it was considering the ‘unprecedented step’ against Spain

Nigel Morris

Monday, 12 August 2013

The Government today threatened legal action against Spain over the “politically motivated” imposition of extra checks on the frontier with Gibraltar.

Diplomatic tensions between the two countries looked set to soar after Downing Street said it was considering the “unprecedented step” against Madrid.

Last week Number 10 claimed David Cameron had secured a promise from his Spanish counterpart, Mariano Rajoy, to scale down the border controls. The Spaniards immediately contradicted Britain’s version of events.

With little sign of an early resolution to the stand-off, there were reports yesterday of drivers facing a wait of up two hours to pass into the UK overseas territory.

A Downing Street spokesman said: “Clearly the Prime Minister is disappointed by the failure of Spain to remove the additional border checks this weekend. We are now considering what legal action is open to us.

“This would be an unprecedented step so we want to consider it carefully before a making a decision to pursue.”

He said: “We feel these delays are politically motivated and totally disproportionate”.

Ministers were discussing whether to pursue the issue as a “matter of urgency” with the European Union, the spokesman added.

The move comes amid an escalating row over the construction of an artificial reef by the Gibraltarian authorities which Spain claims will destroy fishing in the area.

Madrid responded by beefing up border controls, leading to lengthy queues, and suggesting that a 50 euro (£43) fee could be imposed on every vehicle entering or leaving the British overseas territory through the fenced border with Spain.

Earlier, thousands of Royal Navy personnel set sail for a training deployment in the Mediterranean.

The helicopter carrier HMS Illustrious left Portsmouth Naval Base, Hampshire, and will join the navy flagship HMS Bulwark, which has sailed from Devonport for the Cougar ’13 operation.

Also sailing tomorrow will be HMS Westminster, a type 23 frigate, which will visit Gibraltar en route.

Other UK ships taking part are another type 23 frigate, HMS Montrose, and six Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) ships.

The vessels will be taking part in what defence officials stressed was a long-scheduled deployment in the Mediterranean and the Gulf.

But London mayor Boris Johnson said the deployment should send a clear signal to the Spanish, and he accused Madrid of reverting to the blockade tactics of the Franco era.

“Perhaps it really is a coincidence – as the Foreign Office claims – that we have just sent a fleet of warships to Gibraltar,” he wrote in an article for the Daily Telegraph.

“Maybe it’s just a fluke that HMS Illustrious is about to bristle into view on the southern coast of Spain, complete with thousands of Royal Marines and other elite commando units.

“But I hope not. I hope that one way or another we will shortly prise Spanish hands off the throat of our colony, because what is now taking place is infamous.”

Commodore Paddy McAlpine, Commander UK Task Group, said Cougar ’13 was an opportunity to enhance the Navy’s ability to “operate and project power as a task group at range”.

“In so doing, it will also remind interested domestic and international parties of the enduring utility, employability and interoperability of the Royal Navy,” he said.


Gibraltar: Spain considers joint diplomatic offensive with Argentina over Falkland Islands

Spain is considering forging an anti-British alliance with Argentina, adopting its strategy over the Falklands Islands, as the diplomatic row over Gibraltar intensifies.

Drivers wait in line along the road of the Gibraltar International airport to enter to Spain at its border with the British territory of Gibraltar in front of the Rock (rear) in Gibraltar, south of Spain Gibraltar: Spain considers joint diplomatic offensive with Argentina over Falkland Islands

Drivers wait in line along the road of the Gibraltar International airport to enter to Spain at its border with the British territory of Gibraltar in front of the Rock (rear) in Gibraltar, south of Spain  Photo: REUTERS
Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo: Gibraltar: Spain considers joint diplomatic offensive with Argentina over Falkland Islands

Fiona Govan

By , Madrid

1:46PM BST 11 Aug 2013

Spanish foreign minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo will use a trip to Buenos Aires next month to raise the possibility of forging a joint diplomatic offensive with the South American country over the disputed territories, sources told Spain’s El Pais newspaper.

Spain’s foreign ministry was also discussing whether to take its complaints over Gibraltar to the United Nations, the newspaper reported on Sunday.

The sources did not specify whether Spain would ask the UN to back a request for Britain to give up sovereignty or just adhere to certain agreements.

It could take its petition to the Security Council or take up the matter with the UN General Assembly.

Spain is also considering the option of denouncing Gibraltar to the International Court of Justice in the Hague for its “illegal occupation” of the isthmus – the strip of land connecting the peninsula to the mainland that was not included in the 1713 Treaty of Utrecht.

Mr Margallo, who has threatened retaliatory measures against the Rock that include a 50 euro border tax and the closure of Spanish airspace to Gibraltar traffic, will meet with his Argentine counterpart to discuss a new alliance.

Spain has always been careful over showing support for Argentina’s long-standing claim over the Falkland Islands against its EU partner, and has had its own recent problems with the country.

Last year President Cristina Kirchner, nationalised oil company YPF, a subsidiary of Spanish firm Repsol, causing outrage from Spain’s government and striking a blow for bi-lateral relations.

But according to sources cited in El Pais, the nations’ two foreign ministers would meet to discuss an alliance in the UN over Gibraltar and Las Malvinas – as the Falkland Islands are known in Spanish.

Last week Mrs Kirchner renewed her country’s demand for talks on the sovereignty of the islands at the UN Security Council.

The Argentine president said: “This is not a fanciful stance. We simply want the United Nations resolution to be enforced and for our two countries to sit down and discuss this.”

Spain’s Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy vowed on Friday to take “every legal step to necessary” to protect his country’s interests over Gibraltar.

His threat came a day after it emerged Britain was sending a naval warships to the area as “part of a routine deployment”.


Spain vows to defend its Gibraltar interests while British fleet sails in (coincidentally, of course)

Mariano Rajoy says Britain should act with ‘common sense and good judgement’

Oliver Wright, Adam Withnall

Friday, 9 August 2013

Spain will take “all legal measures” to protect its interests in its row with Gibraltar, its Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has warned Britain.

In tough remarks, following the failure of diplomatic efforts to defuse the row, Mr Rajoy said Spain would “defend its national interests” and suggested Britain should act with “common sense and good judgement”.

Downing Street said the British position on the issue had “been quite clear” and the Foreign Office said it was aware of Mr Rajoy’s comments.

A fleet of British warships will visit Gibraltar this month in what Prime Minister David Cameron calls a “routine deployment”.

The Ministry of Defence confirmed that the frigate HMS Westminster and two auxiliary Royal Navy ships will be sent to the Rock, while another three warships will visit Spanish ports.

They will be accompanied by an elite commando group from the Royal Marines and naval air squadrons. The MoD says the deployment is “long-planned” and not connected to political disagreements.

Meanwhile Spanish Prime Minister’s intervention followed a formal protest by Britain’s ambassador in Madrid over “disproportionate” checks at the border with Spain and Spanish threats to levy a charge on vehicles crossing into Gibraltar and to close airspace. Yesterday No 10 confirmed that British warships will soon set sail for Gibraltarian waters as part of a planned exercise in the Mediterranean.

The dispute flared up after Gibraltarian authorities dropped concrete blocks in the sea off the territory’s coastline. The Gibraltar government said it was attempting to create an artificial reef to protect marine life.

However the Spanish believe the blocks were dropped to prevent Spanish fishermen from trawling in the area.

In a press conference Mr Rajoy said: “We will take legal measures which are proportionate to defend the interests of Spaniards. I hope that this issue goes no further, but Spain has to defend its national interests.

“We can and should carry out border controls like the ones which we have carried out in recent days.”

The Spanish Prime Minister’s intervention came two days after a phone call with David Cameron, who told his counterpart the situation at the border with Gibraltar was “not acceptable”.

Downing Street said that in the “constructive” phone call Mr Rajoy agreed to reducing measures at the border, but a statement issued by the Spanish government afterwards made no reference to any such concession.

The European Commission has suggested organising a “technical meeting” with the Spanish authorities about the border controls in September or October. Spain claims sovereignty over Gibraltar, which has been a British Overseas Territory since the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713.

The UK Government has made clear that it will not negotiate over sovereignty as long as Gibraltar’s people want to remain British.



Britain sends rapid reaction force of warships to visit Gibraltar / Spain threatens to close part of its airspace to Britain

British navy warships to visit Gibraltar amid diplomatic row

Exclusive: Britain has said a rapid reaction force of warships will visit Gibraltar on its way to naval exercises in the Mediterranean, even as the fierce diplomatic row over the disputed territory looked set to continue.

HMS Illustrious

The Navy’s force led by HMS Illustrious and including two frigates will sail for the Mediterranean on Monday at the start of a four-month deployment.  Photo: REUTERS

<!– remove the whitespace added by escenic before end of tag –>

Ben Farmer

By , and Fiona Govan

4:14PM BST 08 Aug 2013

The Navy’s force led by HMS Illustrious and including two frigates will sail for the Mediterranean on Monday at the start of a four-month deployment.

Three ships including the frigate HMS Westminster are due to stop later this month in the port amid a standoff with Madrid over punitive border checks for visitors to Gibraltar.

The visit was announced two days after Gibraltar’s chief minister demanded that warships be sent to stop Spanish incursions into the Rock’s territorial waters. On Thursday, Fabian Picardo told The Telegraph the territory would be delighted to welcome the Royal Navy.

He said: “Gibraltar has a long and close relationship with the Royal Navy and we will be delighted to welcome HMS Westminster and the support ships back to the Rock. It is further proof, if any were needed, of the continuing strategic importance of Gibraltar and its territorial waters.”

Naval chiefs stressed the visit by the nine-vessel Response Force Task Group was part of a long-planned exercise, and not in response to the diplomatic row.

But it was announced as the dispute over the territory continued despite attempts by the nations’ leaders to de-escalate the situation.

The force of four Royal Navy warships supported by five ships of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary is led by the helicopter carrier HMS Illustrious. It will consist of thousands of sailors and Royal Marines.

The deployment, called Cougar 13, will see the force sail through the Mediterranean and on to The Gulf and Horn of Africa, holding joint exercises with navies along the way.

David Cameron earlier this week said he was “seriously concerned” about escalating tensions over the border between Spain and Gibraltar.

Spain has warned it is ready to impose a border tax, close its airspace to planes using the British overseas territory’s airport, and investigate the affairs of Gibraltarians with Spanish economic interests.

The escalation between Spain and the British territory began last month after Gibraltar began building an artificial reef it said would improve fish stocks depleted by incursions by Spanish fishermen.

Downing Street’s claims that Spain had agreed to ease punitive border delays after a call between David Cameron and Mariano Rajoy, the Spanish Prime Minister, appeared premature after Spanish police quickly re-imposed them.

Those entering the Rock quickly found themselves in queues of up to four hours in the hottest part of the day.

Gibraltar’s chief minister, who earlier in the week likened Spain’s stance to “that of North Korea”, said the latest behaviour was just another example of Spanish “duplicity”.

“It’s about time the UK government saw the face of Spain that we see constantly. In Gibraltar we are not so surprised that there was an element of duplicity in the way Spain is going about this,” Mr Picardo said on Thursday.

Following the call between Prime Ministers, Downing Street briefed that Spain had conceded to reduce measures at the border while agreeing the Gibraltar issue should “not become an obstacle in bilateral relations” and that there was a “need to find a way to de-escalate”

However, the Spanish government issued a statement in which it made no reference to any concessions to reduce delays at the border and claimed instead that Mr Rajoy had held his ground over the matter.

“From the two such diametrically opposed briefings from two capitals, it seemed that two entirely different conversations were held,” commented Gibraltar’s Chief Minister.

The front pages of Spanish newspapers on Thursday carried headlines on the “stand-off”.

“There is an obvious defiance displayed on front pages of all the Spanish newspapers today,” said Mr Picardo. “It remains to be seen whether we are going to see that defiance played out on the ground or whether in fact they will talk tough but deliver on de-escalation that the prime minister has sought.”

He commented that perhaps it suited Spain’s ruling Popular Party to keep Gibraltar in the headlines for a few more days yet.

“There is certainly a smoke screen element to all this and the best way for Spanish government to play out August is to have Gibraltar on the front pages and not the scandals that are afflicting them.”

A spokesman for the Ministry of Defence said the annual Cougar deployment was “long-planned and well-established”.

He said: “Gibraltar is a strategic base for UK Defence and as such Royal Navy ships visit its waters throughout the year as part of a range of regular and routine deployments.

“Elements of last year’s Cougar ’12 deployment visited Gibraltar and the forthcoming visit by ships making up Cougar ’13, including HMS Westminster and the Royal Fleet Auxiliary ships Lyme Bay and Mounts Bay, are business as usual. At the same time, other elements of the Task Force will be visiting Spanish ports as part of the exercises.

“The same phase of the deployment will also see port visits in Portugal and throughout the Mediterranean to Spain, Turkey and Malta before onward transit to the Middle East.”


Spain warns ‘the party is over’ as Gibraltar row escalates


UK Foreign Office warns ‘it will not compromise’ on Britain’s sovereignty over Gibraltar

Heather Saul

Sunday, 4 August 2013

The Foreign Office has said today that the UK “will not compromise” after the Spanish Government threatened to take a hard line over Gibraltar.

Spain’s Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo is considering retaliatory measures as part of the escalating dispute over fishing grounds on the border.

Mr Garcia-Margallo suggested a 50-euro border crossing fee, telling the Spanish newspaper ABC that “the party is over” under the current centre-right government.

Under the proposal every vehicle entering or leaving the Rock through its border post with Spain would be charged, with the proceeds donated to Spanish fishermen who have suffered financially because of damage to fishing grounds allegedly caused by Gibraltarian authorities.

Such a fee would affect tourism and Gibraltarians who regularly commute into Spain to work.

Spainish authorities are even considering closing Spain’s airspace to flights heading to Gibraltar, and changing the law so that online gaming companies operating from the British overseas territory have to use Spanish servers and come under the jurisdiction of Madrid’s taxation regime, he said.

Mr Garcia-Margallo also threatened to start tax investigations into 6,000 Gibraltarians who own residences in the country, to fulfil its EU obligations to control “fiscal irregularities”.

Gibraltar, a British overseas territory lying on the southern tip of Spain, has been the subject of a dispute over three centuries of sovereignty, as Spain asserts a claim on the Rock.

The area is home to approximately 30,000 people and is 6.8 square kilometres in size.

The most recent tensions were sparked ten days ago when Gibraltar began placing concrete blocks into the sea to create an artificial reef that it argued would encourage fish populations. In response, Spain argued that the reef would obstruct fishing boats and ramped up border checks, creating long lines and huge delays between Spain and Gibraltar.

On Friday, the British Foreign Office summoned Spain’s ambassador for consultations. Britain argued the delays, from 26 July to 28 July and again on 30 July, were unjustified.

Foreign Secretary William Hague also phoned Mr Garcia-Margallo to complain about Spain ramping up border checks, which forced drivers to wait for up to seven hours in searing heat.

The Foreign Office yesterday summoned the Spanish ambassador to demand assurances that there would be no repeat of the excessive checks. Gibraltar has complained to the European Commission over what it argues are unreasonable controls at the border, saying they violate European Union rules on free circulation.

A UK Foreign Office spokesman said: “We are concerned by today’s comments on Gibraltar, which we are looking into further.

“As we have said, we will not compromise on our sovereignty over Gibraltar, nor our commitment to its people. We continue to use all necessary measures to safeguard British sovereignty.”



Spanish premier denies slush funds allegations / Rajoy in Parliament: Barcenas lied, I will not resign

01 August, 16:06

(ANSAmed) – MADRID – Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy spoke Thursday in Parliament, denying allegations that his Partido Popular had ever held slush funds. Rajoy said that former treasurer Luis Barcenas had told ”lies and accused us to defend himself”, but ”his lies will not damage Spain”. The premier added that he was wrong to have ever trusted the man. Opposition Socialist (PSOE) leader Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba, who spoke after Rajoy, replied that ”You have harmed Spain. For this, Mr. Rajoy, today I ask for you to leave.” He then announced that the party was calling for a vote of confidence.

‘I will not resign’, Rajoy replied. ”We are facing a surprising and imaginative collection of lies, as time and justice will show,” Premier and PP leader said in reference to the statements made in court by the party’s former treasurer, who confessed to illegal funds, tax evasion and cash donations to high-ranking members of the PP. ”The only certain thing,” Rajoy said, ”is the money that Mr Barcenas has in Switzerland and that for the past four years he has not been the treasurer of the PP.” Rajoy denied that any undeclared money had been given to party leaders and said that the party’s accounts ”are all in order”. He added that ”I don’t have to prove my innocence. The accusing party must prove their allegations in Spain.” Rajoy also said that he would not change the reform programme. ”No one, except Congress and the Senate, has the right to interfere in the country’s politics. I will not allow the agenda of a country with six million unemployed to be conditioned by a man accused of crimes.” (ANSAmed).



Crisis-Plagued Madrid Sells Out : ” they no longer resist the foolish things their administration does “

By Helene Zuber in Madrid

In the midst of the crisis, Madrid’s regional government and city administration are hawking their treasures and altering ordinances in order to make the Spanish capital more attractive to investors. The Spaniards are even selling the names of subway lines.

Sol, is the Spanish word for sun. Could there be a better name for the most important square in Spain’s capital. The square, where Puerta del Sol, or the sun gate in the old city wall, once stood, marks Spain’s geographic center. From this ground zero, the national roads lead out into the country, and it’s where the kilometer counting begins. Three subway and two commuter train lines also converge under the square.

But so much for Sol. As of early June, the announcements on the subway identify the famous square as “Next station: Vodafone Sol.” Even the time-honored signs at the metro entrances were replaced. Now the red logo and name of the British wireless group are displayed on new enamel signs. Starting in September, line 2 will simply be called “Vodafone.”

The advertising generates €1 million ($1.3 million) a year in revenue for the capital region, which is deeply in the red. Its government headquarters building is located at the front of the square, where Ignacio González, the conservative president of the Madrid region with the Popular Party (PP), has his office. He finds the new revenue model convincing, and he now wants to offer companies other subway lines as PR vehicles. In the last five, crisis-ridden years, the company that operates the Madrid metro has seen its passenger numbers decline by more than 12 percent, and it has accumulated a record €500 million ($655 million) in debt. González wants to generate additional revenues by privatizing the city bus lines.

Foolish Ideas

Although Madrid residents shake their heads over such tonterías, they no longer resist the foolish things their administration does. After five years of growing unemployment and an economic recession, Spaniards are demoralized. With debts of €7.4 billion, the capital is the most highly indebted city in the country.

Mayor Ana Botella — the wife of conservative former Prime Minister José María Aznar, also with the PP — would like to bring the Summer Olympics to Madrid in 2020, following the city’s third attempt to capture the games. Her predecessors have already invested more than €6 billion in the effort, and she needs at least another €2.5 billion. That might explain why, in recent months, Botella has begun to sell off public buildings and properties — even if she hasn’t managed to raise very much money so far. A Chinese bank snatched up a magnificent building near the Prado Museum at a price discount of almost a third.

The fire sale also included 26 works by Spain’s best-known contemporary artists, which were part of the city hall’s inventory. Botella justified the sale, saying the works had “only decorative value.”

Bending Rules for Eurovegas

Madrilenians feel resigned and, if they are scoffing at anything, it is another bizarre idea: Popular Party politicians want to build Eurovegas, a giant entertainment complex, on a 750-hectare (1,850-acre) site in the southwestern part of the city. Under the plan, skyscrapers would shoot up from the wheat fields in the coming years, to house casinos, hotels and convention centers. Backers claim the project, which would become one of the biggest construction sites in Europe, also has the potential to create up to 10,000 jobs, chicken soup for the soul in a country with 27 percent unemployment, and with 682,000 people out of work in the Madrid region alone.

Madrid region President González inherited the project from his predecessor Esperanza Aguirre, a major People’s Party figure. For years, Aguirre wooed Las Vegas casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, a staunchly right-wing supporter of the Tea Party and advocate of settlement construction in Israel. The €17-billion deal was sealed over cold gazpacho at Aguirre’s house last August. Now there are only a few legal problems standing in the way.

They could be cleared away quickly, the president of the region promised. He hopes to lay the foundation this year so that the complex can open in 2017. But Adelson, who will celebrate his 80th birthday in early August, hasn’t presented any plans yet. He’s still waiting for some guarantees, including one that smoking will be allowed at the gambling tables — a move that would require the lifting of strict anti-tobacco laws.

To sweeten the deal for Adelson, Madrid has already reduced its gambling tax from 45 to 10 percent. The American investor, one of the 15 richest people in the world, was given permission to build his structures as tall as he wishes. Minors, accompanied by adults, will also be permitted to visit the gambling city. All of this would normally have been impossible.

As another incentive for the American billionaire, in late June the regional president gave the go-ahead for a new airport in the area — even though Terminal 4 at Madrid’s main airport, completed in 2006 at a cost of €6.2 billion, is far from operating at full capacity.

To raise money, the government of the Madrid region also decided, in early July, to sell six more public hospitals, equipment included.

But last Wednesday the country’s highest court put a temporary end to the privatization of healthcare. On the past few Sundays, thousands of doctors and nurses in white robes demonstrated against the plan on Madrid’s central square, of course — at Vodafone Station.

Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan


© SPIEGEL ONLINE 2013 All Rights Reserved Reproduction only allowed with the permission of SPIEGELnet GmbH

Spanish ruling party funded itself illegally, says ex-treasurer

Source: Reuters – Sun, 7 Jul 2013 04:28 PM

People hold a giant Spanish flag on the 34th anniversary of the Spanish Constitution at Madrid’s Colon Square December 6, 2012. REUTERS/Susana Vera


MADRID, July 7 (Reuters) – Spain’s ruling People’s Party funded itself illegally through kickbacks for at least 20 years, former treasurer Luis Barcenas told El Mundo newspaper in an interview published on Sunday.

Barcenas, in jail without bail as the High Court continues a pre-trial investigation into profiteering charges against him, is the central figure in two major graft cases which have damaged the credibility of the PP.

Corruption scandals have crushed faith in Spain’s two major parties and angered Spaniards suffering a long-running recession marked by high unemployment, spending cuts and tax hikes.

Barcenas said in the interview with the El Mundo editor Pedro Ramirez, conducted days before he consigned to a Madrid prison because of flight risk, that the PP received kickbacks from construction magnates in return for contracts in regions governed by the party.

El Mundo journalist Eduardo Inda declined to say why the paper had delayed publishing the story in an interview with La Sexta television late on Saturday.

Barcena’s lawyer, Alfonso Trallero, was not available for comment on Sunday. A spokeswoman for the PP declined to comment on the interview.

Barcenas is charged with money laundering, bribery, tax fraud and other crimes in an investigation into a group of businessmen suspected of putting on campaign rallies for the PP in exchange for kickbacks.

In a separate case, he is under investigation for allegedly running a PP slush fund that took donations from companies and distributed them to party leaders in cash.

In January, El Pais published excerpts of two decades of handwritten accounts allegedly recording movements of cash in and out of the secret fund.

In Sunday’s El Mundo interview, Barcenas said the papers were genuine and were a fraction of the documents he had detailing the illegal financing of the party.

Barcenas, who until now had said the documents were not in his handwriting, said he had lied about this as an act of loyalty towards Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, El Mundo reported.

Prime Minister Rajoy, former Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar and other top PP officials whose names appear in the documents have repeatedly denied receiving illegal payments.

Investigating judge Pablo Ruz said when he sent Barcenas to jail last month that the former treasurer, who worked for the PP for nearly three decades, had failed to explain the origin of up to 48 million euros ($61.6 million) held in Swiss bank accounts.

Barcenas said in the El Mundo interview the money in these accounts was completely legitimate and had nothing to do with the PP but was the result of investments in the stock market and other business interests.

Support for the PP has crumbled to 23 percent from 45 percent at the time of the Nov. 2011 general elections, a poll published on Sunday in El Pais newspaper showed.

The Socialist PSOE party has failed to capitalise on the PP’s falling popularity, with just 21.6 percent of those surveyed saying they would vote for the opposition party. ($1 = 0.7792 euros) (Reporting By Sonya Dowsett; editing by Ralph Boulton)



Expat tycoon argues hatred of British weather makes him immune from divorce courts

The estranged wife of an expatriate property tycoon has failed in her bid to secure part of his fortune, after he successfully argued that his loathing of the British climate earned him immunity from the UK divorce courts.

Ex-pat tycoon argues hatred of British weather makes him immune from divorce courts

Ex-pat couple Maria Saward and her husband Paul getting married in Gibralta in 2009 Photo: Champion News

By Jasper Copping

2:24PM BST 04 Jul 2013

Maria Saward had launched a case through the English legal system for a share of her husband Paul’s property portfolio. But Mr Saward, a keen yachtsman, managed to convince a judge that his dislike of the weather on these shores meant he no longer thought of himself as a UK resident.

The couple met in Majorca, married in Gibraltar, in 2009, and lived near Alicante, on Spain’s Costa Blanca, until Mrs Saward left her husband in June 2011, following a row, with her husband vowing “not to pay her a penny”.

Mrs Saward, 63, turned to the English courts for a divorce, because of their international reputation for securing favourable settlements for the ex-wives of wealthy men.

She managed to secure a decree nisi in November 2011 and proceeded to seek a slice of her 66-year-old husband’s property fortune, on the basis that, whilst he was currently living in Spain, his spiritual home was in Hampshire, where he was from.

Mrs Saward cited evidence that her husband had been disparaging about the country in which he had settled, declaring in emails to friends that he regarded Spain as a “—-hole” and had declared, “the Spanish are pure —-.”

She also stressed that bulk of his property portfolio was in Southampton and the surrounding area, where he has six properties, that most of his family were located in the area, and that his yacht was moored there most of the time.

Indeed, it emerged that when his wife began divorce proceedings, Mr Saward had just bought a yacht in Scotland which he had sailed to Southampton and, in June 2011, was living and sleeping on the boat in Southampton harbour.

However, Judge Lesley Newton, sitting in the High Court Family Division in October last year, overturned the decree nisi after ruling that Mr Saward’s permanent residence was in Spain and that the English courts had no jurisdiction over the couple’s divorce.

The judge observed: “Although the husband may well have expressed a dislike of Spain in forceful terms on many occasions, and whilst he may have contemplated a return to the UK, he had made no concrete plans to do so.”

Finding that Mr Saward’s “permanent and habitual fixed centre of interests” was Spain, the judge said that the key piece of evidence was a letter he wrote whilst staying on his yacht in Southampton, in which he stated: “I have no plans of ever moving back here, I could not put up with the weather … only two days left and I will be home.”

“In June 2011 he clearly saw himself as visiting England and his home being in Spain,” Judge Newton concluded.

Mrs Saward asked the Appeal Court to reverse that ruling, but in a ruling on Thursday, Lady Justice Black upheld the High Court’s findings.

She said Judge Newton had “carefully compared all the factors before and against residence in this country” before ruling that Mr Saward’s permanent home and main sphere of interest was in Spain.

The appeal judge concluded: “The most that might be said is that the judge viewed the facts in some way from the wrong end of the telescope, looking at residency rather than interests. However there is no prospect of convincing this court that the judge was wrong.”

Mrs Saward, outside court, said: “I’m very upset. This marriage ruined my life completely.

“As far as I know the court’s decision means I’m now still married. I don’t know whether my husband has undertaken divorce proceedings in Spain or not.”

She added: “In the region where we live in Spain, when a couple split up any property held in joint names is split equally whether they are married or not. But we had nothing in joint names, it was all in his name, even though we were husband and wife.”

She said she had been a successful businesswoman, running her own company, before meeting her husband, but added: “At this moment I have no income; all my savings were invested in the new house we bought in Spain. Now I have nothing.”



Atlas of Prejudices

Each person has a different way of looking at the world, but these views are...

Each person has a different way of looking at the world, but these views are often bundled in the form of prejudices. In his new book, “Atlas of Prejudice,” recently published in Germany, Bulgarian designer Yanko Tsvetskov, 38, has created satirical maps based on national and historical clichés. In Germany, the book has been published by Knesebeck Verlag. An English edition is expected soon. In Germany, apparently, when people think of Sweden, it is IKEA that comes to mind.

According to Tsvetskov's satirical map, when Spaniards think of Germany, it's a...

According to Tsvetskov’s satirical map, when Spaniards think of Germany, it’s a caricature of “Cruella De Merkel” that comes to mind

And when Poles think of neighboring Germany, they think of a "Western Bully"....

And when Poles think of neighboring Germany, they think of a “Western Bully”. It’s perhaps not surprising given that Germany long tried to keep its labor market closed to its Eastern European neighbor.

Yanko Tsvetskov / alphadesigner.com


The Syrian conflict is looking like a replay of the Spanish Civil War, which paved the way for World War II.

Italian DM: Will Syria Boil Over Into Regional Conflict?

Jun. 16, 2013 – 11:10AM   |
Italian Defense Minister Mario Mauro

Italian Defense Minister Mario Mauro   (File photo / Agence France-Presse)

ROME — Italy’s new defense minister has a dire warning for Europe: The Syrian conflict is looking like a replay of the Spanish Civil War, which was fought between 1933 and 1939 and paved the way for World War II.

“Syria is coming increasingly to resemble the Spanish Civil War,” Mario Mauro, who was named defense minister in the Italian coalition government, told Defense News.

“Lebanon could find itself in a big crisis within days due to the presence of Hezbollah, while Turkey is undergoing its own problems. There are all the elements for this regional crisis to explode,” he said.

“There is the conflict between Sunnis and Shiites, but there are also the regional players maneuvering. Muslim fundamentalism is involved, but not central,” he added.

Mauro, whose government took office in April, said the war risked reigniting full-scale hostilities between Shiites and Sunnis in Iraq.

“Don’t forget that Iraqis are fighting with Al Nusra,” he said, referring to the grouping of Sunni fighters in Syria challenging the government of Bashar Al-Assad.

What started out as a local civil war in Spain in 1936 turned global as Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy backed Gen. Francisco Franco’s forces against the Spanish government, which was backed by the Soviet Union, while Europe’s democracies decided against intervention.

Roughly 93,000 people have died in Syria over the past two years after Sunni rebels backed by Gulf states took on Assad, who has been backed by Iran’s Shia government, by Russia and by Hezbollah fighters in Lebanon.

After suffering early defeats, Assad has rebounded with a series of victories and appears set to retake the central provinces of Homs and Hama in a conflict characterized by huge flows of refugees and massacres.

“In a moment in which the US does not want to intervene, the responsibility of Europe increases,” said Mauro, who made his comments days before the US announced it would arm Syrian rebels and further reports that the White House was considering a no-fly zone. “Europe must reflect on what it wants to be. Italy is physically immersed in the Mediterranean, which makes it both vulnerable and strategic for the resolution of these conflicts.”

One analyst was doubtful Europe could do much about Syria.

“At this stage, Europe can do nothing without full US agreement,” said Jonathan Eyal, the director of international security studies at The Royal United Services Institute in London.

“However, Europe may squander any goodwill it built up in the Middle East over Libya, given its inaction here.”

Mauro’s analogy with the Spanish Civil War, which has been made before and disputed by analysts on both sides of the Atlantic, was partly accepted by Eyal.

“The analogy is partly correct, given the number of proxies involved, but the difference is that Syria is a sectarian war, not an ideological war,” he said.

“Additionally, all the players involved have a sense of inferiority. The Arab monarchies are on the wrong foot because of the Arab springs, Iran because it fears it could lose its Syrian ally, Hezbollah because it fears being split from Iran and Turkey because it is worried that a break up of Syria would lead to a Kurdish state,” he said.

“This is not a war where the sides are showing off their prowess, in the way the Fascists in Spain showed they were a force for the future. Here you cannot afford not to be involved.”

An Italy-based analyst said the religious element in the Syrian conflict is getting stronger as the sides use religious ties to pull allies into the fray. “As an example, Shiite fighters arrived from Iran and Iraq to defend the Sayyidah Zaynab mosque, which is an important Shiite place of worship,” said Gianmarco Volpe, the head of the Middle East desk at the Centre for International Studies in Rome.

The enmity generated by religious conflicts outstripped the ideological differences of the Spanish Civil War, he said. “After the political wars in Europe, people from both sides managed to coexist, whereas that could prove difficult in Syria, if Iraq is anything to go by. Religious wars appear to generate even more hatred than ethnic wars.”

Russia’s backing of Assad has meanwhile lent a Cold War element to the fray.

“Russia is furious at the West for using international law to do what it wants, as it did in Libya,” Eyal said, “and there is also the sale of Russian weapons to Syria to protect. The West failed to see the extent of Russian entrenchment in Syria.”

Volpe said Russia’s claim it was selling S300 air defense missile systems to Syria was “a diplomatic gesture” aimed at the West.

Eyal concluded that as the Syria war continues, it could come to mirror another conflict more recent than the Spanish Civil War.

“I believe Assad will not be able to restore the authority he had but could remain in power alongside pockets of resistance,” he said. “Syria could become a proxy war that everyone, from Hezbollah to Turkey has an interest in keeping going. As such, Syria could come to resemble Lebanon in the 1980s.”


Detection of apple juices and cereals which exceed permitted levels of mycotoxins

Contact: Press Office info@agenciasinc.es 34-914-251-820 FECYT – Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology

             VIDEO:   This video discusses the detection of excessive levels of mycotoxins in apple juices and cereals.

Click here for more information.     

Researchers from the University of Granada (Spain) have analysed the presence of patulin, a type of toxin produced by fungi, in several commercial apple juices. The results show that more than 50% of the samples analysed exceed the maximum limits laid down by law. They have also discovered a sample of rice with more mycotoxins than permitted. For their part, researchers from the University of Valencia have also found these harmful substances in beers, cereals and products made from them, such as gofio flour.

They are not very well known, but mycotoxins top the list of the most widespread natural contaminants in foodstuffs at the global level. They are toxic and carcinogenic substances produced by fungi, which reach the food chain through plants and their fruit.

Now new analytical techniques developed in universities such as Granada and Valencia (Spain) show that some foodstuffs exceed permitted levels of these harmful compounds.

Researchers from the University of Granada (UGR) have used their own method of ‘microextraction and capillary electrophoresis’ to analyse concentrations of a kind of mycotoxins, patulin, in 19 batches of eight brands of commercial apple juice. They differentiated between conventional juice, organic juice and juice designed specifically for children.

“The results show that more than 50% of the samples analysed exceeded the maximum contents laid down by European law,” as explained to SINC by Monsalud del Olmo, co-author of the study, which is published this month in the magazine ‘Food Control‘.

The maximum levels of patulin established by the EU are 50 micrograms per kilogram of product (μg/kg) for fruit juices and nectars, 25 μg/kg for compotes and other solid apple products and 10 μg/kg if those foodstuffs are aimed at breast-fed babies and young children.

However, some samples of conventional apple juices had as much as 114.4 μg/kg, and one batch labelled as baby food had 162.2 μg/kg, more than 15 times the legal limit.

Patulin is produced by several species of fungi of the Penicillium, Aspergillus and Byssochylamys varieties, which are found naturally in fruit, mainly apples. They are transferred to juices during processing because of their solubility in water and stability.

The neurotoxic, immunotoxic and mutagenic effects of this substance have been confirmed in animal models. “Even then, it is not one of the most dangerous mycotoxins for health and it is included in group 3 within the categories laid down by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC),” Monsalud del Olmo pointed out.

This WHO agency classifies mycotoxins and other compounds in four groups according to their carcinogenic potential for humans: 1 (carcinogenic), 2 (probably or possibly carcinogenic), 3 (not classifiable as carcinogenic, although it has not been proven that it is not) and 4 (probably not carcinogenic).

Mycotoxins in rice and beer

Some mycotoxins, such as aflatoxins, are in group 1 and can be found in dry fruit, such as peanuts and pistachios, and cereals. UGR scientists have also detected concentrations of this compound above the permitted levels in a sample of rice, and they have already informed the relevant authorities of this.

Other toxins from fungi, such as fumonisins and ochratoxins, are also included in group 2. They are found in maize, other cereals and even beer, as researchers from the University of Valencia (UV) have proven.

A team from that university has used a new technique – called HLPC-LTQ-Orbitrap – to detect the presence of fumonisins and ochratoxins in samples of beer in Germany, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Italy, Ireland, Poland and Spain. The study is also published in ‘Food Control‘.

“They are minute quantities, although we cannot determine whether they are important because beer is one of the drinks which is not directly included in European law on mycotoxins,” said Josep Rubert, UV researcher and co-author of the study.

“What this study does show is that merely controlling the raw material – barley, in this case – is not enough,” added Rubert, “and that these toxins are present throughout the technological process, where it has been proven that mycotoxins that are legislated for can become hidden by joining wit glucose, so this needs to be taken into account for future research”.

The same Valencian team has also analysed 1250 samples of cereal-based products from Spain, France and Germany to see whether there are differences between organic and conventional foodstuffs in the case of fumosins.

One of the most striking findings is that samples of gofio flour, commonly used in the Canaries, had concentrations of this mycotoxin in quantities greater than 1000 μg/kg, the limit established by European law. A couple of years ago, those researchers also identified a consignment of wheat flour with concentrations of ochratoxin above the permitted level.

When the limits laid down by the EU are exceeded, scientists inform the relevant authorities, especially the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). Then the contaminated batch must be withdrawn.

The results of the study of cereal-based foodstuffs show that almost 11% of the organic products examined contain fumosins, whereas in conventional products this percentage is reduced to around 3.5%. This data has been published in the magazine ‘Food and Chemical Toxicology‘.

“The explanation could be that organic foodstuffs do not contain fungicides or other pesticides, so fungi may have a more favourable environment and increase their toxins. However, in any case, there are other important factors such as climatic conditions – heat and humidity benefit these microorganisms – and storage conditions which also influence the production of mycotoxins,” said Rubert, who recognises that analysis must be done on a case-by-case basis.

In fact, in the study of apple juices, the opposite happened, and the organic products had fewer mycotoxins than the conventional ones. What the researchers do agree on is the need to keep defining the toxicity of each of these harmful substances, studying their effects on health and developing more and more exact methods of analysis.



María Dolores Víctor-Ortega, Francisco J. Lara, Ana M. García-Campaña, Monsalud del Olmo-Iruela. “Evaluation of dispersive liquid-liquid microextraction for the determination of patulin in apple juices using micellar electrokinetic capillary chromatography”. Food Control 31: 353-358, 2013.

J. Rubert, C. Soler, R. Marín, K.J. James, J. Mañes.” Mass spectrometry strategies for mycotoxins analysis in European beers”. Food Control 30 (1): 122, 2013.

Josep Rubert, José Miguel Soriano, Jordi Mañes, Carla Soler. “Occurrence of fumonisins in organic and conventional cereal-based products commercialized in France, Germany and Spain”. Food and Chemical Toxicology, 2013.

Unrest may spread across Europe, warns Red Cross chief

Charity boss ‘worried’ by effect of austerity measures on Continent’s poor

Charlotte McDonald-Gibson

Friday, 24 May 2013

Rocketing unemployment and poverty in some areas of Europe could lead to rising civil unrest, unless governments take measures to address the humanitarian consequences of austerity measures, the secretary-general of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has warned.

Bekele Geleta’s caution comes as police battle with rioters in Stockholm, where high unemployment and social deprivation in migrant communities have been blamed for a week of violence.

As Europe continues to grapple with the financial crisis, the situation for many young people is dire. More than half of under-25s are out of work in Greece and Spain. In some areas of Greece, that figure has hit 75 per cent, while in Portugal youth unemployment soared from around 30 per cent two years ago to 43 per cent now.

“If the number does not start being affected and start coming down, the more uneasy people become,” Mr Geleta told The Independent. “I don’t rule out social exclusion, tensions, uneasiness and unrest, because if people don’t have anything to do, and if people don’t see anything in the future, there is mental agitation, there is political agitation.”

Europe is experiencing its biggest depression since the end of the Second World War, with the number of people receiving food aid from the IFRC nearly doubling from 2.3 million in 2009 to 4.1 million today. Twelve per cent of Europe’s workforce is out of a job, while EU figures show that 120 million people – nearly a quarter of the bloc’s population – are at risk of poverty and social exclusion.

“The figures are not going down, said Mr Geleta. “So we are worried, and we would like to warn governments this could be a serious concern.”

Mr Geleta’s comments come amid debate over the true cost of the austerity programmes foisted upon struggling nations by the European Union and International Monetary Fund, in exchange for bailout cash. While proponents argue that the cuts are the only way to get economies back on track, many politicians, activists and economists believe austerity is causing unacceptable levels of hardship while failing to kick-start growth.

In Greece, deep cuts to healthcare and social budgets have led to a resurgence of diseases such as malaria, while the number of suicides increased 26 per cent between 2011 and 2012. Homelessness in Spain is soaring, while in Bulgaria six people have self-immolated to protest against economic hardship.

While Mr Geleta said it was “important not to be divided on the best considered action” for hauling countries out of economic turmoil, he said governments must be willing to deal with the consequences of their policies. “We know that austerity measures will have humanitarian consequences: how we handle this is the issue, that is what worries us.”

He said he would like to see more government investment, as well as funding for the most vulnerable in society.

Asked whether events such as the riots in Sweden could be repeated elsewhere, Mr Gelata said it was impossible to predict. “You can’t rule out anything,” he said.

France ends Austerity measures


Tuesday, 07 May 2013

Finance Minister Pierre Moscovici says French austerity measures are at an end, instead opting for growth. This further complicates the strained relationship between the eurozone’s two largest economies.

“We’re witnessing the end of the dogma of austerity,” Moscovici told Europe 1 radio on Sunday.

“We’ve been pleading for a growth policy for a year. Austerity on its own impedes growth.”

The comments followed German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble’s offer to provide flexibility on deficit cutting, pushing France closer to austerity measures it doesn’t want to implement.

The remarks also coincided with as tens of thousands of far-left French protesters who took to the streets on Sunday to mark President Francois Hollande’s first year in office. Economic conditions have only worsened under Hollande and France has slipped deeper into recession and unemployment has hit a record-high of 10 percent.

President Hollande was elected on a promise to end austerity and has repeatedly complied with Germany’s austerity measures despite complaints from the French people.

France, the eurozone’s second largest economy, showed signs of recovery in the first quarter of 2013, and the EU Commission predicted an overall 1% contraction in 2013.

In comparison, the 17 countries in the eurozone contracted by 0.6% in 2012.

The EU has targeted lower budget deficit of all 17 member states, and France has two years to reach the 3% GDP ceiling, down from its 4.8% mark in 2012. The French government plans to achieve the rate by mid-2014.

President Hollande and France have been tiptoeing around Germany’s call for austerity, stirring a ‘friendly tension’ instead of direct opposition to Chancellor Merkel’s agenda. Hollande has not continued the legacy of ‘Merkozy’, a warm and public alliance between the German Chancellor and predecessor, Nicolas Sarkozy.

France is in a difficult position: either continue its power alliance with Germany and unpopular support for austerity, or break with Germany and instead align itself with Europe’s troubled ‘south’ – Italy and Spain. Austerity is needed, but highly unpopular in France, so Chancellor Merkel provides a convenient scapegoat for government officials.

The eurozone Composite PMI, which measures business activity and is an indicator of the economic climate, isn’t encouraging for either France or Germany. April’s figures have signalled a contraction in manufacturing as well as decline in business activity.

The numbers missed the 50-level benchmark, between growth and contraction. In March the level was at 46.5, and it edged up to 46.9 in April, still shy of the ‘growth’ threshold.

The purchasing managers indexes (PMIs) also showed that Germany is now suffering a contraction in business activity that has long dogged France, Italy and Spain.

In a drastic, but expected move on Thursday, the European Central Bank cut its key interest rate from 0.75% to 0.5%, a clear indication that the crisis is deepening, and not improving. The rate determines the cost of over €850 billion in ECB outstanding loans. In theory the lower rate will bring relief to southern European borrowers, but the lowered rate is actually likely to be more favorable to Germany’s economy, as it will only increase the interest rates small businesses will have to pay on loans.

Small businesses in Spain, Italy and Portugal paid much higher rates for loans than their German counterparts, according to ECB’s January, February, and March monthly reports.



Spain’s jobless rate soars to a record high of 27.16 per cent

In nearly two million homes, every adult is out of work – with no end of recession in sight

Alasdair Fotheringham

Thursday, 25 April 2013

For the first time since modern statistics began, Spain reached the landmark figure of more than six million unemployed – or 27.16 per cent of the working population. And it did so with a vengeance, with a jump of 237,400 in the first quarter of 2013 to a record high of 6,202,700.

Whichever way you look at them, the figures are spine-chilling: youth unemployment is running at 57 per cent; the jobless rate has risen by a shade under 20 percentage points since Europe’s fourth-largest economy began plunging into the worst recession in 50 years in late 2007.

In nearly two million Spanish households, every adult is out of work. Even before the latest jobless figures, 22 per cent of Spaniards were living below the poverty line, according to the Catholic charity Caritas, and another 30 per cent had a hard time financially making it to the end of the month.

“There is nothing: no work for older people, younger, whoever,” says Cristina Moya, 24, a former cleaner who has just lost her job for a second time. She lives in Andalusia – the region which saw the biggest rise in unemployment this spring, by 31,100.

“My two sisters, boyfriend and sister-in-law are all out of work,” adds Ms Moya. “And the situation is getting worse, not better. I don’t know a single family that’s not affected.”

“We’re thinking of heading to Canada, or wherever we can,” says Jose Miguel, 30, a builder from southern Spain. “But the problem is wherever you want to go, you have to have a stash of money to start off with, and nobody’s got that. It’s better to stay with the family where you are a bit safer.”

“Even if you get a job, what is worse is they just harden up the working conditions dramatically,” adds Ms Moya. “They say that if you don’t want the job, there are loads of people out there who will take it.”

Other knock-on effects include a  return to the emigration of the 1960s and 1970s. In January, Spain recorded its first population decline in 17 years – by 200,000 people. Language schools are that rarest of phenomena right  now – a boom industry.

A continuous recession lasting 21 months has led to huge numbers of mortgage defaults: about 400,000 mostly residential properties have been repossessed and tens of thousands of Spaniards have received eviction orders. Meanwhile, a 30.4 per cent drop in property prices since 2007 has left many owing more than their homes were originally worth. Savings levels have dropped to their lowest in 13 years, and 52 per cent of 17- to 34-year-olds still live with their parents.

It is true that, while politicians’ promises that the end of the recession is just around the corner sound increasingly hollow (the International Monetary Fund, for one, does not believe them, and predicts that Spain’s economy will shrink by 1.6 per cent this year), and support for the major political parties has slumped to less than 50 per cent of the total vote, protests have by no means reached the levels of violence seen in Greece.

However, there are growing fears of a repeat of the scenes at one major anti-austerity protest in Madrid last September, which concluded with running street battles between police and demonstrators, and dozens of  injuries and arrests.

Last night, a handful of radical left-wing splinter groups was planning to hold a “Besiege Congress” rally, with the aim of “toppling the government and the fall of the regime”.

… and France is in trouble, too

In a significant blow to President François Hollande, unemployment in France has risen to a record 3,225,000. If part-time working is included, the number of people on state assistance has reached five million.

March saw the 23rd successive monthly rise in unemployment, bringing the total of job-seekers without work of any kind beyond the record of 3,195,500 set in January 1997. In percentage terms, joblessness is expected to reach a new high of 11 per cent by the autumn.

John Lichfield



Wealth tax to pay for EU bailouts

Monday, 15 April 2013

Wealthy households would face new taxes on property and other assets under German plans to prop up the struggling eurozone.

Senior advisers to Chancellor Angela Merkel are pushing for better-off households to pay towards the cost of any future bail-outs for the weaker members of the single currency.

The proposals, from members of Germany’s council of economic experts, raise the prospect of taxes being imposed on property in a country like Spain if its government was forced to seek a bail-out.

The council, known as the “Five Wise Men”, is often used to test new policies that are later adopted officially.

The German suggestion is the latest sign that Berlin is intent on imposing even tougher rules on weaker southern euro members in exchange for using its economic might to support their finances.

As well as inflaming tensions between Germany and its smaller southern partners, the suggestion could also mean that Britons with holiday homes are dragged deeper into the eurozone crisis.

Around 400,000 Britons live or own homes in the south of Spain, which is suffering a deep recession that is hampering Madrid’s attempts to balance the public finances and stave off a bail-out.

Senior figures in Germany are now arguing that some richer home owners in countries like Spain, Portugal and Greece have so far avoided paying their fair share to rescue the euro, leaving Germany paying too much.

Taxes on property or other assets would mark a significant change in Europe’s approach to funding bail-outs for eurozone members. Until now, the cost of rescue packages for countries like Ireland, Greece and Portugal has fallen largely on people who invest money in either those countries’ bonds or – in the case of Cyprus – bank accounts.

Prof Peter Bofinger, an adviser to Mrs Merkel, said that levies on bank accounts are the wrong way of funding bail-outs, because rich people are able to shift their money out of the country.

“The resourceful rich just move their money to banks in northern Europe and avoid paying,” Prof Bofinger told Der Spiegel, a German magazine.

Instead of taxing cash, European Union governments should in future target property and other, less mobile assets, he said.

“For example, over the next 10 years, the rich should give up a portion of their assets,” Prof Bofinger said. Spain was last year forced to seek international help to prop up its banks. Despite recent signs of progress, some analysts believe the Spanish government itself could also have to seek a bail-out in order to pay its debts.



Spain protesters accuse EU of servility to markets

16   Mar    2013

Thousands of protesters marched Saturday in Madrid and other cities in Spain against European Union leaders’ handling of the financial crisis, condemning “an EU that belongs to the markets”.

The marches, organised by Spain’s “indignados” protest movement, came after Cyprus announced it would dip into its citizens’ bank accounts to help save the government from a debt default, part of a 10-billion-euro ($13-billion) EU bailout deal.

“We don’t owe anything. We won’t pay anything,” said a banner carried by protesters in the northern city of Valladolid, a rallying cry echoed at the march in Madrid.

“Get out Troika,” protesters chanted in the capital, a reference to the trio of creditors — the EU, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund — that are overseeing eurozone bailouts brought on by the debt crisis.

A protester holds a placard depicting Spain’s Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and reading, “Wanted: serial swindler,” during a demonstration “for a Europe of the people, against the European Union of the Markets” in Madrid on March 16, 2013.

In Madrid, the protesters marched to Puerta del Sol, a central square that was occupied for several months by the indignados, whose movement was born in May 2011 and inspired Occupy protests in other countries.

Their slogans and banners covered a wide array of issues ranging from austerity cuts to corruption scandals to unemployment.

“We want to condemn the situation in Europe, where they save the bankers but make us all pay,” said Teresa Partida, an unemployed 60-year-old woman.

“They’re swindlers, thieves. They should be ashamed,” said Begonia Crespo, a 52-year-old actress, condemning a scandal in which leaders of Spain’s right-wing ruling party allegedly received envelopes stuffed with cash.

Spain has been hit hard by austerity measures imposed under pressure from the EU to get its accounts in order. The government is aiming for 150 billion euros in savings by the end of 2014.

It cut its deficit from 9.4 percent of gross domestic product in 2011 to 6.7 percent in 2012, but has been unable to cut its 26-percent unemployment rate or halt a grinding recession that saw the economy shrink 1.4 percent last year.



Banks saved, but may have lost an entire generation of young people in the process, the president of the European Parliament said.

Banks saved, but Europe risks “losing a generation”

By Luke BakerPosted 2013/03/11 at 3:37 pm EDT

BRUSSELS, Mar. 11, 2013 (Reuters) — Europe has spent hundreds of billions of euros rescuing its banks but may have lost an entire generation of young people in the process, the president of the European Parliament said.

European Parliament President Martin Schulz answers a question during the Reuters Future of the Euro Zone Summit in Brussels March 7, 2013. REUTERS/Yves Herman

Since the region’s debt crisis erupted in Greece in late 2009, the European Union has created complex rescue mechanisms to prop up distressed countries and their shaky banking sectors, setting aside a total of 700 billion euros.

But little has been done to tackle the devastating social impact of the crisis, with more than 26 million people unemployed across the EU, including one in every two young people in Greece, Spain and parts of Italy and Portugal.

That crippling level of unemployment has led to protests and outbreaks of violence across southern Europe, raising the threat of full-scale social breakdown, including rising crime and anti-immigrant attacks that can further rattle unstable governments.

“We saved the banks but are running the risk of losing a generation,” said Martin Schulz, a German socialist who has led the European Parliament, the EU’s only directly elected institution, since January last year.

“One of the biggest threats to the European Union is that people entirely lose their confidence in the capacity of the EU to solve their problems. And if the younger generation is losing trust, then in my eyes the European Union is in real danger,” he told Reuters in an interview.

Figures released last week showed 57 percent of Greeks aged 15 to 24 are out of work, and a similar scourge is tearing apart the fabric of Spain, where some university graduates in their 30s have never had a job. ( link.reuters.com/dab48s )

European Union heads of state and government will discuss the fallout from the debt crisis at a summit on March 14-15.

There are plans for a “youth employment guarantee”, which would ensure that people under 25 receive either an offer of work, further education or work-related training at least four months after leaving education or being employed.

That is part of a 6-billion-euro initiative to tackle youth unemployment in the worst-hit regions of Europe and head off the prospect of life-long joblessness. But political analysts say it is a case of too little, too late.

Schulz, 57, who finished high school but did not go to university and began his career as an apprentice bookseller, said he had recently taken part in a debate where he was challenged by a Spanish woman over the issue of young people being abandoned for the sake of rescuing wealthy banks.

“She effectively raised the question: ‘You have given 700 billion euros for the banking system, how much money do you have for me?'” he said. “And what is my answer?

“If we have 700 billion euros to stabilize the banking system, we must have at least as much money to stabilize the young generation in such countries,” he said.

“We are world champions in cuts, but we have less idea … when it comes to stimulating growth.”


Over the past 40 years, rising incomes in countries such as Spain, Greece, Italy and Portugal have allowed working class families to invest ever more in education, with the expectation that their children would be better placed as a result.

The ability of young people to study and work anywhere in Europe as part of the EU’s single market ideal was also supposed to deliver vastly improved opportunities for all.

But instead, as a result of the banking and debt crisis that has cast a shadow over Europe since 2008, those sunny prospects never materialized for millions of young people.

“Greece, Spain and Italy have perhaps the best educated generations they have ever had in their countries, their parents invested a lot of money in the education of their children, everything they did was right,” said Schulz.

“And now they are ready to work the society says, ‘No place for you’. We are creating a lost generation.”

Asked how he would tackle the issue, the Socialist party leader said it was in part about cutting through bureaucracy and putting money to work directly where it was needed.

He gave the example of Greece and investment in solar energy. If traditional methods are followed, a decision is made in Brussels, money is mobilized somewhere else, an investment program is drawn up, the money is disbursed to the central government in Athens, then goes to several ministries, and finally ends up with a local or regional authorities to invest.

“By that time, we are much older,” he said.

“In my mind, direct links between the European Union and regional and local authorities is more needed than ever.”

The alternative is a system that puts the social fabric of Europe under ever greater strain, resulting in the dire youth unemployment statistics now prevalent in Greece, he said.

“That is a threat for social cohesion, and if the social cohesion in such countries fails, the country explodes. This is the threat for the European Union as a whole.”

(Additional reporting by Robin Emmott and Charlie Dunmore Editing by Jeremy Gaunt.)



Eurozone breaks record on Jobless level

Friday, 01 March 2013
Italy’s voters gave their verdict on the austerity medicine they’ve been forced to take when they went to the polls earlier this week. By Friday, one of the reasons behind the protest was highlighted when the country’s unemployment hit its highest level in at least two decades.Official figures Friday showed that unemployment in the country in January rose to 11.7 percent from the previous month’s 11.3 percent. January’s figure was the highest since the current way of measuring unemployment was introduced in 1992.
The unexpectedly large monthly spike was one of the key backdrops to the election results earlier this week that reignited concerns over Europe’s dormant debt crisis. No party, or coalition of parties, emerged with enough votes to govern alone, triggering uncertainty in the markets about the future course of Italian economic policy.

The rise in the Italian rate, which comes as the country is stuck in an 18-month recession and after a wave of economic reforms and tight budgetary controls introduced to control the country’s debt, was also the main reason why unemployment across the 17 European Union countries that use the euro rose to a record 11.9 percent during January from the previous month’s 11.8 percent.
Even more dramatic is the rise in the level of youth unemployment for the eurozone to 24.2 percent, which raises the risk of removing a whole generation from the labor force.

Eurostat, the EU’s statistics office, said nearly 19 million people were unemployed in the eurozone following an increase of around 200,000 in January.

The increase was not a particular surprise given that the eurozone economy as a whole is in recession and expected to continue to contract in the first half of 2013. In the final three months of 2012, the eurozone contracted by a quarterly rate of 0.6 percent, with eight countries in recession – officially defined as two straight quarters of negative growth.
Last week, the European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, forecast that that the eurozone unemployment rate was likely to rise further this year and average around 12.2 percent for the year as a whole.

Even if growth does emerge in the eurozone, as some recent economic indicators have suggested, it usually takes time for unemployment to start falling – it is widely considered to be a lagging indicator. And high levels of unemployment make it even more difficult for economies to recover and for governments to get their public finances into shape.

Even though concern in the financial markets over the eurozone’s problems of too much government debt has calmed recently, there appears to be a rising groundswell among people against austerity, which has been prescribed as the main cure. The inconclusive Italian elections were just the latest manifestation of that protest – others include regular protests in Spain and Portugal, as well as the rise of right-wing extremists in Greece.

“High and still rising unemployment rates are probably the single most important threat to the mid to long-term economic stability of the eurozone,” said Marie Diron, senior economic adviser at Ernst & Young. “As electorates fail to see the benefits of fiscal and economic reforms, we could see rising social tensions weakening governments and raising the possibility of a popular vote to exit the euro. In this context, it is essential to emphasize growth-enhancing reforms.”
The overall unemployment rate masks huge divergences across the eurozone.
While Greece and Spain languish under the weight of mass unemployment of over 25 percent, many of the northern economies are operating with relatively low levels around the 5 percent mark. Germany’s jobless rate stands at only 5.3 percent, while Austria’s is only 4.9 percent even after a second straight monthly rise.


Spain’s PM denies receiving secret payments

Feb 2, 2013 19:36 Moscow Time

Spain’s PM denies receiving secret payments

Spain’s Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has denied media claims that he and other members of the governing Popular Party received secret payments.

“I have never received nor distributed undeclared money,” he said at an extraordinary session of his party discussing the El Pais newspaper allegations.

El Pais published photographs of unregistered payments to Popular Party members, including the former treasurer Luis Barcenas who is currently under investigation for money-laundering.

Spanish PM accused of corruption

Spain’s ruling People’s Party has denied accusations of double bookkeeping and setting up a slush fund to finance its leadership.

Spanish EL Pais newspaper published excerpts of handwritten accounts run by PM Mariano Rajoy’s People’s Party, which showed 11 years of payments to Rajoy of 25,200 euros a year.

The fund received donations from companies, mostly building firms, and made regular payments of thousands of euros to several party leaders.

The report came as yet another blow to the reputation 57-year-old Rajoy. Thousand s of Spaniards poured into the streets, chanting ‘Thieves!’ and bearing placards reading ‘Resign Now!’.

Voice of Russia, Reuters, Interfax


Spain’s jobless figures hit record high


Spain’s unemployment rate has climbed to its highest level ever, the Spanish government said Thursday, as a painful recession takes a toll on the debt-stricken nation.

The latest official figures show 26.02% of the population without jobs in the last quarter of 2012, with just over 55% of those aged 16 to 24 unemployed.

The unemployment rate is the highest in the country’s history, according to the Spanish National Statistics Institute, with the total number of jobless people at 5.97 million.

In 2007, before the global economic crisis hit, Spain had 1.9 million people unemployed — 8.6% of the active population. By this time last year, the number had climbed to 5.2 million.

In the eurozone, only Greece, which is facing a sixth year of recession, has a greater proportion of young people out of work.

Spain, the fourth-largest economy in the eurozone, is suffering its second recession in three years, and its ailing banking industry has had to draw on the eurozone’s bailout fund to stay afloat.

But it has stopped short of following in the footsteps of Greece, Ireland and Portugal in requesting a full-blown sovereign bailout.

Successive rounds of austerity measures have prompted angry public protests on Spain’s streets.

Semen quality of young men in south-east Spain down by 38 percent in the last decade

Contact: SINC info@agenciasinc.es 34-914-251-820 FECYT – Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology

The first comparative study on the evolution of sperm quality in young Spanish men over ten years, headed by researchers at the University of Murcia, reveals that spermatozoid concentration in men between 18 and 23 years in the regions of Murcia and Almeria has dropped by an annual average of 2%.

The suspicion that the semen of Spanish men is losing quality now takes force in the case of young men from Murcia and Almeria.

The ‘Andrology‘ journal has published a multidisciplinary and international study, headed by the Department of Preventative Medicine and Public Health of the University of Murcia (UMU), which demonstrates that “total sperm count and concentration has declined amongst young men in the south-east of Spain in the last decade.” More specifically, the decrease amounts to 38%.

The lead researcher, Alberto Torres Cantero, explains to SINC that the study involved “comparing the results obtained by the Medical Research Centre of the University of Granada from the semen of 273 men from Almeria between 18 and 23 years, collected between 2001 and 2002, with those samples collected ten years later by 215 undergraduates from Murcia, all the while ensuring that both sample groups had the same age range and similar characteristics.”

The analysis shows that the number of spermatozoids is significantly lower in the subjects from Murcia compared to the participants from Almeria. Average concentration goes from 72 million spermatozoids per millilitre in 2011 to 52 million/ml in 2011, according to Torres Cantero, professor of Preventative Medicine and Public Health at UMU.

Another relevant result is that “40% of those university students analysed in Murcia suffered from alterations in at least one semen parameter (morphology, mobility). Furthermore, all sperm indicators are below the norm in 15% of the sample,” states Jaime Mendiola, professor at the UMU and first signatory of the study.

Clinic trails are needed

“Before there were no well performed studies to detect a change in sperm quality in Spain,” explains Torres. Its main limitation is that it only makes reference to one geographic area and cannot be extrapolated: “We do not know if the same has occurred in other parts of Spain,” outlines the researcher. There is little likelihood that the study will be carried out in other regions “because there are no similar semen quality studies in the young and healthy population.”

Nonetheless, the fact that semen has worsened does not necessarily mean that the number of infertile men has increased. As Torres clarifies, this study measures semen quality and not fertility, “for which specific criteria established by the WHO are used.”

Despite this, Mendiola feels that these data are worrying because “it has been verified in recognised studies that a concentration lower than 40 million/ml makes conception more difficult. If the rate of loss we have outlines continues, with an average decline in quality of 2% per year, the sperm of young men could reach this danger level of 40 million/ml in a very short space of time.”

For this reason, the authors stress the urgency to promote “clinical trails that identify effective prevention actions for counteracting this negative trend via lifestyle changes.”

“We believe that some prevention actions involving lifestyle improvements, such as a healthier diet, could increase sperm quality,” outlines Alberto Torres. “But we still lack rigorous scientific information to propose them neither in the clinical field nor at a population level. If we could identify those actions, we could improve sperm quality.”


This study enjoyed the participation of the Department of Preventative Medicine of New York’s Mount Sinai Hospital, the Reproduction Department of the University of Copenhagen, the Spanish universities of Granada and Miguel Hernández (Elche) and Dexeus and Fertilidad Roca clinics in Murcia. It was financed by the Fundación Séneca – the Science and Technology Agency of the Region of Murcia – and the Health Research Fund (FIS) of the Carlos III Institute.



Alberto Torres Cantero investigador principal catedrático de Medicina Preventiva y Salud Pública de la Universidad de Murcia amtorres@um.es teléfono: 868 88 46 57



Brussels fears ‘poverty trap’ for half of Europe as North-South gap widens

Unemployment in the eurozone jumped to a record high of 11.8pc in November as the region slid deeper into recession, with alarming rises across the Mediterranean that threaten extreme social distress.

Cracking EU flag

The report said the biggest single cause of the jobs crisis is a ‘demand shock’ to the Euroland economy Photo: Alamy

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7:31PM GMT 08 Jan 2013


The jobless rate has reached an all-time high of 26.6pc in Spain, rising to 56.5pc for youth. It is much the same picture in Greece, where unemployment has spiked from 19pc to 26pc over the past year as austerity bites in earnest, with Portugal not far behind as it follows suit with draconian cuts. There are now 18.8m people looking for work across the eurozone.

“A widening gap is emerging,” said Laszlo Andor, the European Social Affairs Commissioner. “Peripheral states appear to be caught in a downward spiral of falling economic output, rapidly rising unemployment and eroding individual incomes.”

Mr Andor’s unemployment report said the welfare systems of southern Europe are unravelling as governments slash benefits, leaving families exposed to the full brunt of the crisis. The “automatic stabilisers” are no longer functioning properly.

He said there is a rising risk that the long-term jobless will fall into an “enormous poverty trap” if the crisis is allowed to drag on. “Severe material deprivation” has surged to 31pc in Latvia and 44pc in Bulgaria, casting doubts on claims that these two euro-pegged countries have shaken off the crisis .

Spain’s long-term jobless now number 2m, while the country’s GINI coefficient measuring inequality has risen from 31.2 to 34 since the crisis began.

The report said the biggest single cause of the jobs crisis is a “demand shock” to the Euroland economy, deeming other factors to be “less relevant”. The findings reflect deep dissent within the EU policy apparatus over the contractionary policy settings, and undercut claims by hard-liners that labour reforms in the Club Med bloc are enough to pull the region out of slump.

Mr Andor’s grim warnings came a day after Commission chief Manuel Barroso claimed the eurozone crisis had “essentially been overcome”.

Graeme Leach, from the Institute of Directors, said the European Central Bank has bought time with its bond-buying pledge but the deeper economic crisis grinds on with a “terrifying” human cost. “The figures are shockingly bad. This saga is far from over,” he said.

The North-South gap makes it very hard for the ECB to run monetary policy for the whole bloc. Unemployment is just 4.5pc in Austria, 5.4pc in Germany, and 5.6pc in Holland.

Real household income, after tax, had fallen 17pc in Greece, 8pc in Spain, 7pc in Cyprus, and 5pc in Ireland between 2009 and 2011, a slide still gathering speed. Mr Andor said labour market reforms would bear fruit eventually, adding that the jobless rate may be near its peak in Spain.

Jobs data tend to be a lagging indicator so the latest rise in unemployment may reveal much about economic growth prospects for 2013.

Crisis: Greece; jobless rate to hover around 30% by 2014

19 December, 13:18

    (ANSAmed) – ATHENS, DECEMBER 19 – Unemployment in Greece will climb to 29.3% in 2013 and 31% in 2014, the German institute of macroeconomic forecasts IfW Kiel predicted on Tuesday.
The German institute’s economists, as daily Kathimerini reports, also forecast the economic contraction to come to 4% next year and spill over into 2014 at a 1% rate, against a European Commission prediction for 0.6% growth in 2014. In its revision of the Greek streamlining program, published in Brussels on Monday, the Commission had also been more optimistic in its estimates for the jobless rate, putting it at 24% for 2013 (from 23.6% in 2012) and 22.2% in 2014. By contrast, using International Labor Office (ILO) methodology, the IfW Kiel economists expect the unemployment rate to come in at 24.6% at end-2012 before soaring to 29.3% in 2013 – higher even than Spain’s 27.9% rate. A rise in employment usually trails the economic growth rate by at least six months. The IfW forecast mirrors that of the Labor Institute of the General Confederation of Greek Labor, which expects unemployment to top 30% next year.
IfW also sees inflation in Greece reaching 1.1% this year and turning into deflation of 0.6% in 2013. (ANSAmed).

Spaniards ditch mobile phones in record numbers

Reuters | 17-12-12

MADRID – Recession-hit Spaniards ditched mobile phone lines in record numbers in October, with the two biggest operators continuing to haemorrhage market share to smaller rivals offering subsidies on handsets.

Spain, where there are more mobile phones than people, has been hit by a slump that has left one-in-four unemployed and led to a falling number of active phones. Some 486,000 phones were cut off in October, telecoms regulator CMT said on Monday.

Movistar – Telefonica’s mobile operator – lost 284,000 lines in October, while Vodafone, the second-biggest player, shed 278,000 customers, CMT said.

The figures showed a 3.8 per cent year-on-year drop in mobile phone numbers as the country battles sky-high unemployment and its second recession in three years.

“The mobile sector in Spain is not recovering. This marks nine consecutive months of falls … Yoigo and virtual mobile operators are gaining clients but they cannot compensate for the losses at Movistar, Vodafone and Orange,” CMT said.


A mobile price war has heated up in recent months after Telefonica and Vodafone’s market share slipped since their decision to stop subsiding smartphones in the spring.

Almost 2 million Movistar lines have been cut off since March when it stopped subsidies, according to CMT monthly data. The debt-laden company introduced new bundled offers in October in a bid to retain market share.

When Telefonica reported results in November it said 430,000 customers had signed up to its “Fusion” package which offers television, broadband, fixed line and mobile.

Orange and Vodafone have introduced similar offers and Vodafone also decided to reintroduce handset subsidies in November.

CMT said, overall, 475,000 people switched to a rival operator in October.

Telefonica had 37 per cent of the market in October, down from 40 per cent a year earlier, while Vodafone’s share dipped to 27 per cent from 28 per cent.

Orange, the third-biggest player and which did not scrap subsidies, saw its market share rise to 21 per cent from 20 p e rcent in the year to October. It lost 14,870 lines on the month.

Separately on Monday, Dutch telecoms firm KPN said Orange would buy its small Spanish virtual operator Simyo, gaining almost 380,000 clients and taking Orange’s total number of customers to 12.2 million. Orange plans to keep Simyo as a low-cost operator and will not change tariffs.

There was good news for Spain’s fourth biggest operator, TeliaSonera’s Yoigo. Yoigo, up for sale, gained 12,490 lines in October.

The successful sale of Simyo could smooth the way for France Telecom to acquire Yoigo. The firm slashed prices in November and said it would offer the cheapest call rate in Spain from December.

MPs condemn Spanish ‘act of war’ over Gibraltar


Theo Usherwood

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Spain was accused of an “act of war” today after its naval ships repeatedly entered the territorial waters of Gibraltar.

Bob Stewart, Tory MP for Beckenham, said the British Government needed to “respond robustly to this aggravation” after Commons Leader Andrew Lansley said two Spanish naval vessels entered the waters of Gibraltar on Monday.

He said they were given radio warnings before leaving but Mr Stewart, a former colonel, said the incursion was illegal and the Government needed to “do something about it”.

Defence Secretary Philip Hammond and Foreign Secretary William Hague should update the Commons with a statement, he said.

Speaking in the Commons, Mr Stewart told MPs: “May I gently remind the House that an illegal incursion into British Gibraltarian sovereign waters is actually, technically an act of war?

“What is happening at the moment is wrong and we should do something about it.

“Can I ask for an urgent statement by the Secretary of State for Defence and the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs to actually respond robustly to this aggravation?”

His comments came after his Tory colleague Andrew Rosindell, MP for Romford, said Spain needed to be stopped immediately.

In his question to Mr Lansley, he said: “I am sure the entire House will be shocked, angered and dismayed at the continual incursions by the Spanish government into the waters around the British sovereign territory of Gibraltar.

“This is an act of aggression and will you ask the Secretary of State for Defence and Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs to make a statement about what Her Majesty’s Government will do to ensure these illegal incursions into British sovereign waters are stopped forthwith?”

The Commons Leader said the Government had protested to Spain through diplomatic channels.

He told Mr Rosindell: “I can tell you there were two incursions by Spanish naval vessels into British Gibraltar territorial waters on December 10.

“Radio warnings were issued and the vessels departed from those waters.

“We have protested to Spain via diplomatic channels.

“The Royal Navy challenges Guardia Civil and other Spanish state vessels whenever they make unlawful incursions into British Gibraltar territorial waters and we will back those up by making formal diplomatic protests to the Spanish government.

“They will make clear that such incursions are an unacceptable violation of British sovereignty.”

In a written parliamentary question earlier this week, Mr Rosindell discovered that the number of incursions had spiked this year.

Responding to the question, Defence Minister Andrew Robathan said there were 67 instances in 2010 and another 23 last year. But from the beginning of January to the end of November this year there had been 197 occasions when Spanish ships had sailed into the waters of Gibraltar.

Last month a Freedom of Information request from the Press Association revealed that the illegal incursions had prompted a flurry of complaints from the Foreign Office to the Spanish government in Madrid.

There had been 42 formal written complaints to the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs since 2008, half of which were submitted in the last 12 months. The issue has also been raised directly with ministers and officials.



Monti resignation announcement causes fears of renewed euro turbulence

News sees Italy’s borrowing costs rise and share prices fall, and EU leaders worry about possible spillover into Spain

  • The Guardian,              Monday 10 December 2012 16.14 EST
monti resignation eurozone panic

Mario Monti, Mariano Rajoy and Antonis Samaras, the prime ministers of Italy, Spain and Greece, at the Nobel peace prize award ceremony in Oslo.  Photograph: Reuters

European leaders watched Italy with a mounting sense of alarm yesterday as renewed political turbulence threatened to end months of relative calm over the euro and spill over into Spain.

They rushed to shore up the prime minister, Mario Monti, after his discredited predecessor, Silvio Berlusconi, pulled the plug on his support for the reforming technocratic government, sending share prices down in Milan and increasing Italy’s borrowing costs.

The Spanish government worried about the spillover as it came under renewed pressure to seek a eurozone bailout or bond-buying help from the European Central Bank.

With EU finance ministers due to discuss a new eurozone banking supervisor on Wednesday followed by a summit on Thursday and Friday devoted to shoring up the longer-term viability of the currency, the Italian drama shifted to Oslo, where EU leaders, minus David Cameron, had gathered to receive the Nobel peace prize.

Herman van Rompuy, who will chair the summit and was receiving the prize, said there was no alternative to the policies pursued by Monti.

“Mario Monti was a great prime minister of Italy and I hope that the policies that he put in place will continue after the elections. There is no alternative to sound public finances and a competitive economy,” he said.

Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany conferred with Monti in the Norwegian capital as her foreign minister warned of a domino effect from more financial turmoil in Italy.

“Italy can’t stall at two-thirds of the reform process,” said Guido Westerwelle. “That wouldn’t cause turbulence for just Italy, but also for Europe.”

The impact of the weekend events in Rome was promptly reflected in the financial markets, with Italy’s long term borrowing costs rising by 6% and shares dropping by more than 2%.

In New York, Bank of England governor Mervyn King said a “black cloud” of uncertainty in the eurozone had hit any recovery in UK investment spending.

Speaking to the Economic Club of New York, King said he could not see any easy solution to the single currency zone’s problems.

El Pais, the influential Madrid newspaper, pressed the Spanish government to request help from the eurozone so that the ECB in Frankfurt could launch its first bout of promised bond market interventions. Spain’s borrowing costs also rose, by a fifth of a percentage point.

“Every time there are doubts … for example, today in the case of Italy, when there are uncertainties about the political stability of a neighbouring country such as Italy, that immediately affects us,” Luis de Guindos, the Spanish finance minister, told state radio.

The chief of the eurozone’s permanent bailout fund, Klaus Regling, who has generally been upbeat about Europe having seen off the worst of the euro crisis, also worried about a broader setback following Monti’s statement of intent to resign after getting the Italian budget passed this month. “In the last year Italy has pushed through important reforms,” Regling told the Süddeutsche Zeitung. “So far, the markets have honoured that, although they have reacted with concern to the developments of recent weeks.”

As the dust settled on the Berlusconi comeback and the Monti resignation, it seemed Italy would be called to the ballot box on February 17 or 24. Monti refused to be drawn on whether he would run for prime minister.

“I’m not considering this particular issue at this stage. All my efforts are being devoted to the completion of the remaining time of the current government,” he told reporters.

That is no small task: officials warned of “institutional chaos” if a measure abolishing some of Italy’s provinces is not approved before the government falls. The provinces have already been stripped of some responsibilities, so in some parts of the country no one would responsible for schools, roads and rubbish collection.

As business representatives lobbied behind the scenes for a Monti candidacy, the leader of the centre-left Democratic party, Pier Luigi Bersani, warned the prime minister to stay out of the political fray while adding that he could “still be useful”. Bersani did not elaborate beyond referring cryptically to “the need to have an association [with Monti] in the name of Italy”.

Bersani and other centre-left leaders were reportedly concerned that a party led or sponsored by Monti could split the vote and make an already confused situation chaotic.

The outgoing prime minister – a practising Catholic – did, however, get a scarcely veiled endorsement from the church. The leader of the Italian bishops, Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, said: “It would be a mistake in future not to take advantage of someone who has contributed in a rigorous and competent way to the credibility of our country”.

That sentiment was echoed at the ECB, where influential executive board member Jörg Asmussen said Monti had “achieved great things in a short amount of time”.

‘A convinced European’

Silvio Berlusconi on Monday night hit back at critics of his decision to run again for prime minister and suggested that the uproar was part of a plot to buy up Italian companies on the cheap.

In a statement, the 76-year-old TV magnate said comment by some foreign politicians and newspapers was “offensive not so much in relation to me as to the freedom of choice of the Italian people”. He added that he had always been a “convinced European”.

Berlusconi said it would be all to easy to link this interference in Italy’s affairs with “the umpteenth speculative manoeuvre designed to weaken our companies and turn them into easy prey for foreign buyers”.



Give back our money, savers yell at Spain banks


News @ AsiaOne


Furious Spaniards who say banks cheated them of their savings took to the streets demanding that the bailed-out lenders give them their money back. -AFP Sat, Dec 01, 2012 AsiaOne


MADRID – Furious Spaniards who say banks cheated them of their savings took to the streets on Saturday demanding that the bailed-out lenders give them their money back.


“Thieves! Where is our money?” bellowed a crowd of some 1,000 protestors, many of them elderly, outside the central bank in Madrid before marching on the offices of Bankia, the ruined finance giant.


The protestors say Bankia told them it was putting their money in secure savings products but actually sold them “preferential shares” as it scrambled to raise funds after the financial crisis started in 2008.


Now that Bankia and other lenders have collapsed and had to be rescued with funds from Spain’s European partners, customers stand to lose a big chunk of their savings.


The banking consumers’ group ADICAE, which has brought legal action against Bankia, planned similar demonstrations in more than 20 towns on Saturday.


Its president Manuel Pardos said in a statement the customers were “victims of a massive fraud” and were now being subjected to “illegal imposed losses”.


The European Union on Wednesday gave a green light for the payment of the first slice of the rescue aid, some 37 billion euros (S$58 billion), for Bankia and three other Spanish banks.


To meet the conditions demanded by Brussels, Bankia said holders of the so-called “preferentials” would be repaid in shares worth only 61 per cent of the value of the money they put in the bank.


“They want to take away 40 per cent from us,” said one protestor, Paloma, 59, who put 25,000 euros into preferential shares, being told she would get the money back after five years.


“I spent 25 years saving a little each day and now when I need it they won’t give it to me,” said Ms Paloma, who asked not to be identified by her surname.


Spanish banks were brought low by the collapse of a construction boom in 2008 that threw millions into unemployment and poverty. Spain is deep in recession, with one in four workers unemployed.


“They should give back all the money because now in the crisis we don’t have any,” Ms Paloma said.




Eurozone unemployment hits record high of 11.7pc

Recession in the eurozone forced a further 173,000 people out of work during October and pushed the unemployment rate to a record high of 11.7pc.

2:09PM GMT 30 Nov 2012

Almost 26m people across Europe are now out of work, according to the EU’s statistics agency Eurostat, with an 18.7m majority of those living in the eurozone.

The rate has been climbing steadily during the debt crisis. During September the eurozone unemployment rate was 0.1 percentage points lower at 11.6pc, while in the same period in 2011 it was 10.4pc.

The north-south divide in Europe also remains clear, as Austria has an unemployment rate of just 4.3pc, Germany 5.4pc and the Netherlands 5.5pc. Meanwhile, troubled Greece has a rapidly rising rate of 25.4pc and in Spain 26.2pc of people are out of work.

The worst victims of rising unemployment in the eurozone are those under 25. Youth unemployment across the single currency area has now reached 23.9pc, up from 21.1pc in the same month last year. Spain’s youth unemployment rate has soared to 56pc. Greece publishes data a month behind much of the rest of the eurozone, but figures from August show that 57pc of young people were out of work.

Graeme Leach, chief economist at the Institute of Directors, said: “This is extremely bad news – it is clear that the instability in the eurozone is not going away, which will impact negatively on the UK.

“Some will interpret this as a sign to panic and start a tide of spending funded by yet more debt, but that would be precisely the wrong thing to do. With trouble continuing on the continent, it is essential that the Chancellor sticks to his commitment to reduce Britain’s deficit. It’s George Osborne’s role to cut the deficit – it’s the incoming Governor of the Bank of England’s role to stimulate the economy.”


Europe disintegrating into regions

Nov 30, 2012 18:12 Moscow Time

2012 июль коллаж евро крах евро евросоюз европа

© Collage “The Voice of Russia”

The worsening economic situation in Europe may lead to the appearance of new states. The increasing integration of the Eurozone countries has triggered centrifugal trends inside these countries.

Regions are dispersing, and some are demanding political independence, while others are satisfied with economic independence.

The map of Europe might change in the next three or four years. Nationalists in Catalonia, who won the local elections, are preparing to hold a referendum on the secession of their region from Spain. There is a growing probability that the Dutch speaking district of Flandria will secede from Belgium. An agreement on holding a referendum on independence of Scotland in 2014 has been signed. “The Northern League” of Italy is pressing for at least economic independence of the industrial provinces from the “lazy and corrupted” according to their opinion, south. Bavaria has strictly demanded reforms in Germany’s financial constitution saying that it cannot tolerate how its money is being ineffectively used by other regions.

“Regionalism” is the other side of European integration, says president of the National Strategy Institute Mikhail Remisov. Small regions are no more afraid of independence because they are under the “umbrella” of European structures, which have undertaken a lion’s share of states’ functions.

Some experts link the strengthening regionalism to the economic crisis. The Eurozone’s rich participants, Germany and France are unhappy that they are forced to solve the problems of their poor neighbours. Successful regions have no desire to subsidize less developed ones. During the crisis, there is no extra money. However, director of the Centre for German Studies of the Institute of Europe Vladislav Belov insists that the economy is a secondary factor.

“Partially, this is a response to multiculturalism; more attention is paid to native culture. There is a concept of “German culture”, Goethe, Schiller but German culture is still based on regional culture. There is one culture in northern Germany, another one in the south. This is a result of the growth of cultural self-identification that leads people to such conclusions as “we work better and we deserve a better life, we should not feed others,” Vladislav Belov said.

The European authorities still do not know how to respond to the new challenge. They even cannot assess all the possible consequences. Political scientist at Moscow State Institute of International Relations Professor Valery Solovei believes that the strengthening regionalism and a possible disintegration of states are part of global changes that the international community is being pulled into by the economic crisis.

“This is similar to what the world faced in the early 20th century. We are waiting for a tide that is moving towards us. It is growing higher and higher, but we cannot assess neither its scale nor its cause. Or we vaguely see the reason and the nature of these phenomena and sporadically react to them. We press buttons, guessing not knowing if we’ll be lucky or not,” Valery Solovei said.

Economists are discussing a coming change in technological patterns. Political scientists talk about transformation of social and political systems. Some experts believe that regionalism is only an objective process that has to be understood. If the decision on independence is adopted within the framework of democratic procedures, the European elite has no right to disrupt it. Possibly, Europe is offering a new development model the advantages of which have yet to be understood and put to use.


Catalans have set their region on the road to independence, voting in pro-separatist parties that will push for a referendum on breaking away from Spain.

Catalonia poll: Spain’s unity put to the test as voters take step towards independence

Artur Mas casts his vote

<!– remove the whitespace added by escenic before end oftag –>

By Fiona Govan, Barcelona

8:53PM GMT 25 Nov 2012

The incumbent regional president Artur Mas secured a second term and with it a mandate to seek secession from Spain in defiance of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy.

But his centre right Convergence and Union (CIU) party fell short of the absolute majority they hoped for, winning only 50 of the 62 seats they secured in the 135 seat assembly at the last election two years ago.

The separatist left wing ERC party, which also strongly supports self-rule, doubled its share of the vote, securing 21 seats, however.

Acknowledging that his support fell in favour of leftist parties, Mr Mas said alliances would have to be sought.

”From this result we note that we are clearly the only force that can lead this government, but we cannot lead it alone. We need shared responsibility,” the 56-year leader told supporters in Barcelona.

”There must be a period of reflection in Catalonia over the coming days. The presidency must be taken up, but we will also have to reflect along with other (political) forces,” he said.

Overall, with 97 per cent of the vote counted Sunday, pro-independence parties secured 74 seats, making it likely that a Scottish style referendum would be held within four years.

The election results set the stage for a showdown with Madrid, threatening Spain’s conservative Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy with the biggest political crisis since the nation’s transition to democracy.

Mr Mas called the snap elections two years early, centring his campaign on the promise of a referendum on independence for Spain’s wealthy northeastern region.

Polls show up to 57 per cent of Catalans would vote yes to independence, a figure that has nearly doubled since the start of Spain’s economic crisis in 2008.

Anger over “unfair” tax demands from Madrid have fueled separatist sentiment in the industrious and economically important region, as Spain suffers deep economic crisis and unpopular austerity measures.

Many voters believe the region, which boasts a strong cultural identity and its own language and contributes 20 per cent of Spain’s economic output, would fare better economically as an individual state within the European Union.

But the drive for independence risks Catalonia being blocked out of the European Union, threatening devastating consequences for Catalan trade.

There is widespread perception that Catalonia’s resources have been drained by Madrid with the region of 7.5 million residents paying about 15 billion euros more than it gets back from the national treasury every year.

Mr Mas was forced to go cap in hand to Madrid earlier this year to ask for a 5 billion euro lifeline to help meet operating costs in a region with a debt of 48 billion euros.

He has blamed tax transfers to Madrid as the root of the region’s woes and tried to negotiate a new fiscal treaty, a move that was rejected by Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy.

The regional election threatens to set Catalonia further on a collision course with Madrid with the central government warning it will fight any moves that could lead to the break-up of the eurozone’s fourth largest economy.

Mr Rajoy, already battling to avoid an international bail-out for Spain and growing social unrest within a nation suffering 25 per cent unemployment, faces a looming constitutional crisis as his conservative government seeks to use all “available measures” to block such a referendum, which is banned under Spain’s constitution.

There are fears that any move to independence by Catalonia could be swiftly followed by the Basque Country and force a renegotiation of terms across Spain’s 17-semi autonomous regions.

But one of the biggest hurdles ahead is whether a newly independent Catalonia could remain within the European Union and the euro currency. Brussels has indicated that membership would not be automatic and it would have to join the queue. The admission process would likely be blocked by a vengeful Spain.

During weeks of campaigning the region has filled with Catalan national flags in a wave of separatist sentiment.

By 6pm, some 56 per cent of the 5.2 million eligible voters had visited the ballot box, some 8 points higher than in the last regional election two years ago.

”This is an historic moment,” said Jordi Casas, 24, as he cast his vote at a polling booth in Barcelona. “The time has come to say ‘enough’. Madrid doesn’t represent our interests and now we want the chance to decide our own future.”

Others have said the campaigning has focused too heavily on independence, while issues of the economy were set aside.

”I think these elections are a disgrace because countries are there to unite, not divide,” said 65-year-old pensioner Josep.

Catalonia to vote, CIU wants ‘the power we deserve’

Early elections to move towards independence referendum

23 November, 20:23

Catalonia's regional president Artur Mas during an election rally
Catalonia’s regional president Artur Mas during an election rally


(ANSAmed) – BARCELONA – ”Catalonia is the Germany of Spain, but without holding any power. And now we want it,” is how Oriol Pujol, spokesman for the party under Catalonia’s president Artur Mas (Convergencia i Unio’, CIU), summed up the goal of the November 25 early elections.
This is also how it was described by Mas himself over the past few months: a vote on his determination to call a referendum on the region’s independence within the next four years.
The CIU is applying pressure for Catalonia to become a state within the European Union. The polls show Mas likely to win the elections, and he would like to get hold of an absolute majority for his party – which has governed the region for the past 25 years (since 1980 except for between 2003 and 2010).
Now ”enough is enough”, ANSA was told by Oriol Pujol, the 45-year-old son of former president Jordi Pujol (1980-2003).  Madrid’s latest ”no” came in on September 20, when Spain’s Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy refused Mas’s proposal for fiscal sovereignty. ”Like Germany helps other European countries financially and sets down conditions, Catalonia transfers money.
However, it cannot set down any conditions,” he stressed.          Pujol admitted that the crisis had accelerated the process that on September 11 led to hundreds of thousand of people taking to Barcelona’s streets to demand independence. He said that citizens have ”lost their fear”.
The CIU spokesman is certain that Catalonia ”will not remain outside of the EU. If Europe is fighting so that Greece does not leave the eurozone and the EU, what sense would it have to throw out 7.5 million people due to the political will of one of the parties involved?”.     However, Catalonia’s request for sovereignty ”foresees the willingness to – at the same time – hand over a good deal of sovereignty to the EU, and especially as concerns defence and immigration. This is what we call interdependence,” he noted.      If the Spanish government does not agree to the calling of a referendum, ”we will seek out international laws allowing for it, since our aim is to hold a referendum in a legal manner. We believe that Catalonia’s features present the EU with new directions, but this should not prevent it from going in those directions.
Catalonia is not comparable to any other reality. At times it is said that Catalonia is like Padania,” he remarked, ”but Catalonia is not Padania, and the CIU is not the Northern League.” (ANSAmed).


Thousands of police march in Spain austerity protest

MADRID (AFP)About 5,000 police officers marched through the centre of Madrid on Saturday to protest salary cuts and the thinning of their ranks as Spain grapples with its sovereign debt crisis.The officers, who had travelled from across Spain. rallied three days after the nation was gripped by a general strike over the austerity cuts. Health and education workers have already taken part in similar marches.

“Citizens! Forgive us for not arresting those truly responsible for this crisis: bankers and politicians,” read one banner held aloft by a line of officers as they marched to the interior ministry.

The rally had been called by the main policing union SUP.

“Each year, between 1,500 and 2,000 police officers retire and 125 are recruited, which means in three or four years, there will be more insecurity and crime in Spain,” warned  SUP general secretary Jose Maria Sanchez Fornet in a speech outside the ministry.

Anxos Lores Tome, a 36-year-old police officer from Galicia in northern Spain, said her days off had been whittled and with cuts of about 300 euros a month, she is today earning 1,450 euros ($1,845) a month — less than the 1,500 euros she got when she joined up a decade ago.

Juan Manuel Aguado Torres, an officer from Grenada in the south, blamed Spain’s leaders for the ongoing woes.

“If the country is functioning badly, it’s only because of the politicians,” the 60-year-old said.

For 33-year-old Antonio Perez, “the problem is they take from us to give to others, like the autonomous regions and the banks.”

Spain’s eurozone partners in June agreed to extend to Madrid an emergency rescue loan of up to 100 billion euros to help its stricken banks.

The Spanish government has imposed austerity cuts aimed at saving 150 billion euros between 2012 and 2014, prompting an angry backlash that saw hundreds of thousands of people protest in Wednesday’s general strike.

“We are worried about the situation in the country in general,” Anxos Lores added.

“The politicians aren’t creating work and with the cuts they can’t create consumer demand, just the opposite.”


Misery for thousands of British air passengers as anti-austerity strikes hit Europe and angry clashes break out in Oxford Street

  • Around 800  flights to and from Portugal and Spain cancelled
  • Walkouts and protests  planned across Spain, Greece, Portugal and Italy
  • London protests planned  to coincide with European walkouts
  • Unions fighting  cuts demand an end to ‘unbearable’ austerity measures
  • British air passengers  grounded with dozens of flights cancelled
  • Eurostar passengers being  urged not to travel on trains to Brussels

Video Added:

By Daniel Miller

PUBLISHED:05:22 EST, 14  November 2012| UPDATED:11:14 EST, 14 November 2012

Thousands of British air passengers have been  left stranded today as a wave of anti-austerity strikes hit mainland Europe  shutting down airports and bringing many public services to a grinding  halt.

Heathrow has seen 39 cancellations with British Airways axing flights to Madrid  and Barcelona as well as return services to Lisbon in Portugal. EasyJet have  cancelled some UK-Spanish services as well as more than 20 flights within  mainland Europe.

And there were angry scenes as protesters  clashed with police on Oxford Street during a demonstration against the sacking  of 28 Crossrail workers which had been planned to coincide with European  strikes.

Scroll  down for video

Blaze: A car set on fire by protesters on an industrial estate to cut off access to the city Lugo in northwestern SpainSPAIN: A car set on fire by protesters on an industrial  estate cuts off access to the city Lugo in northwestern Spain

Turnout: A large group of demonstrators file though one of the main streets in the Italian city of TerniITALY: A large group of demonstrators file though one of  the main streets in the Italian city of Terni

Haze: A police officer watches a man brandishing a flare during an anti-austerity protest in Lille in northern FranceFRANCE: A police officer watches a man brandishing a  flare during an anti-austerity protest in Lille in northern France

London: Protesters tussle with police on Oxford Street in a demonstration over the dismissals of 28 Crossrail workers being held to coincide with the planned anti-austerity strikes happening across Europe today LONDON: Protesters tussle with police on Oxford Street  in a demonstration over the dismissals of 28 Crossrail workers being held to  coincide with the planned anti-austerity strikes happening across Europe today


Riot police apprehend a protestor during a general strike in Madrid, Spain, Wednesday,Anger: Riot police apprehend a protestor during unrest  in Madrid


  • By 4pm, 82 people arrested and 34 injured in  clashes in Madrid, Valencia, Tarragona, Murcia and the region of  Asturias
  • A couple carrying bomb-making materials  including gasoline, gas bottles, screws and nails arrested in Madrid while a boy  of ten was ‘left bleeding from the head’ after being beaten in a police  charge
  • At least 18 students and pickets were  arrested in valencia as police baton-charge demonstrators
  • In Asturias, two officers were injured as  protester shoot fireworks at a police van
  • Nearly 100 per cent of workers in the motor,  energy, shipbuilding and construction industries on strike, crippling  services
  • More than 600 flights were cancelled while  just 20 percent of long-distance trains and a third of its commuter trains in  service
  • Protesters jammed cash machines with glue  and coins and plastered anti-government stickers on shop windows around Spain  while power consumption dropped 16 percent with factories  idled.


  • Protests turned ugly in Milan, Rome and the  northwest city of Turin. Rallies were also held in Naples, Bologna and  Modena.
  • Police say several officers were injured  during clashes in Rome after students tried to rush a police van. A handful of  protesters were detained briefly.
  • Italy’s biggest union, CGIL, called for a  work stoppage for several hours across the country.
  • The transportation ministry expected trains  and ferries to halt for four hours while students and teachers are expected to  march.


  • Heathrow Airport has seen 39  cancellations
  • And there were angry scenes as protesters  clashed with police on Oxford Street during a demonstration against the sacking  of 28 Crossrail workers.


  • Protests take place in Paris, Lille and  Marseille
  • Five trade unions organised marches in more  than 100 cities but did not call for a strike.

So far only flights to and from  Portugal and  Spain have been affected by with an estimated 800  cancellations – roughly 40  per cent of the daily average.

More than 600 flights were cancelled in  Spain, mainly by Iberia and budget  carrier Vueling. Portugal’s flag carrier TAP  cancelled roughly 45  percent of flights.

British Airways said: ‘We are doing all we  can to minimise the disruption to our customers.’

‘Customers due to fly to or from  Spain today  can rebook to an alternate date free of charge. Customers on cancelled services  can also take a full refund.

‘We are also looking at putting on  larger  aircraft to help as many customers as possible. We are advising  customers to  check ba.com for the latest flight information.

‘We apologise to our customers for any  inconvenience caused by industrial action which is beyond our  control.’

Road block: Protesters form a human chain to block traffic on one side of Oxford Street in a demonstration against austerity measures and the dismissal of Crossrail workersRoad block: Protesters form a human chain to stop  traffic on one side  of Oxford Street in a demonstration against austerity  measures and the  dismissal of Crossrail workers

Solidarity: The Oxford Street protest was held to coincide with planned European strikes in Spain, Italy, Greece, Portugal, France and Belgium against austerity measures and economic reforms

A shop hurriedly closes its shutters as demonstrators shout slogans forcing it to close for business at Barajas airport in Madrid, SpainShutting up: A shop hurriedly closes its shutters as  demonstrators shout slogans  forcing it to close for business at Barajas airport  in Madrid, Spain

Demonstrators set up a barricade of burning tyres at the main entrance of Barcelona's biggest wholesale market part of a wave of anti-austerity protests happening across Europe

Pickets clash with police as they try to prevent buses from leaving a depot in Bilbao, northern Spain

No go zone: Pickets gather on the streets of Barcelona shutting down key transport links No go zone: Pickets gather on the streets of Barcelona  shutting down key transport links

Fury: A protestor hurls a stone at a truck in Barcelona. The General Workers Union said the stoppage, the second this year, was being heeded by nearly 100 per cent of workers in the automobile, energy, shipbuilding and constructions industries

Security: Dozens of police officers stand guard at Madrid's Atocha rail station with the nationwide strike threatening to cripple public transportSecurity: Dozens of police officers stand guard at  Madrid’s Atocha rail station with the nationwide strike threatening to cripple  public transport

A Heathrow spokesman added: ‘Most people seem  to have got the message that some  flights were going to be axed and the  terminals are operating smoothly.

‘Flight cancellations are never good news,  but we do operate around 1,300  flights a day so the figure of 39 is a  comparatively small one.’

A London easyjet flight to Thessalonaki in  Greece was delayed for three  hours 40 minutes with another to Athens held for  two hours 30 minutes. A Manchester-Athens flight was delayed for two hours 10  minutes.

The 10.57am London to Brussels Eurostar train  service was cancelled, with  the company hoping to accommodate the affected  passengers on the 12.57pm service.

‘Further disruptions are possible throughout  the day and customers are advised not to travel,’ Eurostar warned  customers.

Coordinated walkouts and protests  have been  planned across Spain, Greece, Portugal and Italy as part of a  trade-union  organised European Day of Action and Solidarity.

Rome: Italian demonstrators march through the streets as thousands turned out in major cities across the country including Milan and Turin to join the wave of European protests

Leaning to the left: A banner reading: 'Rise Up! We don't pay your crisis' is unfolded by protesting students at the top of the leaning tower of Pisa

Italy: Demonstrators carry placards and shout slogans as they march through the streets of RomeItaly: Demonstrators carry placards and shout slogans as  they march through the streets of Rome

Demonstrators clash with riot police during a protest against Italian Government austerity measures in Rome

Protesters burn an EU flag after storming the regional Palace of the Province in Turin and piling furniture onto the streetProtesters burn an EU flag after storming the regional  Palace of the Province in Turin and piling furniture onto the street

In Spain, the interior ministry said  32  people had been arrested and 15 people treated for minor injuries  after  disturbances including trouble in the capital Madrid where an  evening rally  outside the parliament has been planned.

The General Workers Union said the stoppage,  the second in Spain this year, was being heeded by nearly 100 per cent of  workers in the motor,  energy, shipbuilding and construction  industries.

Bernadette Segol, general secretary of the  European Trade Union Confederation told Radio 4’s Today Programme: ‘The trade  unions in Europe want to show  that these policies will change. That the result  is not what they want  to be.

‘That we have more recession and unemployment  and we want to change these policies.

‘It’s now getting unbearable. It’s high time  to change the aim and the policies.

‘The democratic deficit is quite clear. This  is much more than recommendations. It’s obligations that they have to  apply.

‘Greece don’t want to leave the euro and they  shouldn’t leave the euro.

France: Workers shout slogans and hold a banner during a demonstration against austerity in Marseille
A French worker holds placards reading 'We are all Greek, enough austerity', during a demonstration in Marseille

‘What is being done to make sure that tax  evasion is stopped? We don’t see  anything happening on that front. And it’s  always the normal people who  are paying – so you can imagine their  anger.

‘Just stop the austerity measures. They are  counter-productive. They do have  to pay their debt back – but the way to pay  the debt back is not to have a bigger recession.’

Spain  is the Eurozone’s fourth largest  economy but is in the grip of an  unemployment crisis with one in four adults  currently out of work.

Some five million people, or 22 per cent of  the workforce, are union members in Spain.  Just 20 percent of Spain’s  long-distance trains and a third  of its commuter trains are expected to  run.

However Ministry official Cristina Diaz  played down participation, saying it  was hardly noticeable in goods haulage and  major city wholesale food  markets.

She said electricity consumption, a gauge of  industrial activity, was down only 11 per cent on a normal working  day.

In Portugal about one fourth of the 5.5  million strong workforce is  unionised. Unions have planned rallies and marches  in cities throughout  both countries, with a major demonstration beginning at  6:30 p.m in Madrid.

Lisbon’s Metro will be shut completely and  only 10 percent of all trains will run under court-ordered minimum  service.

The international coordination shows ‘we are  looking at a historic moment  in the European Union movement,’ said Fernando  Toxo, head of Spain’s  biggest union, Comisiones Obreras.

Greece: A banner proclaims: 'Austerity kills dignity - reclaim Europe' during a protest outside the Greek parliament in Athens Greece: A banner proclaims: ‘Austerity kills dignity –  reclaim Europe’ during a protest outside the Greek parliament in Athens

A protest leader outside the Greek parliament building in Athens uses a megaphone to rally other demonstrators

A protester shouts slogans during an anti-austerity march through the streets of AthensA protester shouts slogans during an anti-austerity  march through the streets of Athens

Puppets are raised in the air during an anti-austerity protest outside the Greek parliament building in AthensPuppets and flags are raised in the air during an  anti-austerity protest outside the Greek parliament building in Athens

Spain, where one in four workers is  unemployed, is now teetering on the brink  of calling for a European bailout,  with Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy  trying to put off a rescue that could require  even more EU-mandated  budget cuts.

Passion has been further inflamed  since last  week when a Spanish woman jumped from her apartment to her  death as bailiffs  tried to evict her when her bank foreclosed on a loan. Spaniards are furious at  banks being rescued with public cash while  ordinary people suffer.

‘We’re going to protest because they’re  ignoring people’s rights. People are  being evicted and they’re raising our  taxes,’ said Sandra Gonzalez, 19, a social work student at Madrid’s Complutense  University who plans to  march with friends.

In  Portugal, which accepted an EU bailout  last year, the streets have been  quieter so far but public and political  opposition to austerity is  mounting, threatening to derail new measures sought  by Prime Minister  Pedro Passos Coelho.

His policies were held up this week as a  model by Germany’s Angela Merkel, a hate figure in crisis-hit southern European  countries.

Delay: A sticker reading 'General strike' is stuck on a flight information board at Madrid Barajas airport

Delay: A sticker reading ‘General strike’ is stuck on a  flight information board at Madrid Barajas airport

Protesters burn tyres at the main entrance to Mercabarna, the biggest wholesale market in Barcelona. Similar work stoppages are taking place in Portugal and Greece, to protest government-imposed austerity measures and labor reformsProtesters burn tyres at the main entrance to  Mercabarna, the biggest wholesale market in Barcelona. Similar work stoppages  are taking place in Portugal and Greece, to protest government-imposed austerity  measures and labor reforms

A demonstrator sits next to a barricade in Barcelona. Protestors from a range of social movements are expected to join striking public sector workers to demonstrate against austerity cuts today‘The first ever Iberian strike’ would be ‘a  great signal of discontent and  also a warning to European authorities,’ said  Armenio Carlos, head of  Portugal’s CGTP union which is organising the action  there

Italy’s biggest union, CGIL, called for a  work stoppage for several hours  across the country. The transportation ministry  expects trains and  ferries to halt for four hours. Students and teachers are  expected to  march.

In Greece, which saw a big two-day strike  last week while parliament voted on new cuts, the  main public and private  sector labour unions called for a three-hour  work stoppage and an  anti-austerity rally in solidarity with the  Spaniards and  Portuguese.

Athens police expect 10,000 demonstrators,  small by the standard of protests there.

This will be the first time Spanish unions  have held two general strikes in  one year. Spain’s last general strike, in  March, brought factories and  ports to a standstill and ignited flashes of  street violence.

Direct action: A demonstrator sprays the word 'Vaga' ('strike' in Catalan) over a truck in BarcelonaDirect action: A demonstrator sprays the word ‘Vaga’  (‘strike’ in Catalan) over a truck in Barcelona

Protesters move a concrete block shut off the main entrance to Mercabarna, the biggest wholesale market in Spain in BarcelonaProtesters move a concrete block shut off the main  entrance to Mercabarna, the biggest wholesale market in Spain in Barcelona

Protests against cuts and economic reforms  have since gained even more steam. A  violent march in Madrid in September –  coupled with riots in Greece –  sparked a September 26 sell-off in the euro and  European and U.S. stock  markets.

Spain’s economy, the euro zone’s  fourth  biggest, will shrink by some 1.5 percent this year, four years  after the crash  of a decade-long building boom left airports, highways  and high-rise buildings  disused across the country. Portugal’s economy  is expected to contract by 3  percent.

Every week seems to bring fresh job cuts.  Spain’s flagship airline Iberia,  owned by UK-based International Airlines  Group, said last week it will  cut 4,500 jobs. The prestigious El Pais newspaper  just laid off almost a quarter of its staff.

Portugal has long avoided the street  unrest  seen in Spain and Greece, but that appears to be changing as the  government  continues to seek new measures to shrink a budget deficit.

A strike organised by CGTP in March  had  little impact, but in September hundreds of thousands of Portuguese  rallied  against a government plan to raise workers’ social security  contributions.

Portugal: Workers on a picket line at the entrance to the Mitrena shipyard, south of Lisbon this morningPortugal: Workers on a picket line at the entrance to  the Mitrena shipyard, south of Lisbon this morning

Target: Two policemen guard a bank in Madrid with graffiti reading 'Assassins' scrawled on the wallTarget: Two policemen guard a bank in Madrid with  graffiti reading ‘Assassins’ scrawled on the wall

Arrest: A protester is hauled away by riot police officers after trying to close a bar as part of strike action in Malaga, southern Spain in the early hours of the morningArrest: A protester is hauled away by riot police  officers after trying to close a bar as part of strike action in Malaga,  southern Spain in the early hours of the morning

Thespian revolt: A crowd gathers around the Teatro Espaol of Madrid where actors have locked themselves inside to protest against austerity cutsThespian revolt: A crowd gathers around the Teatro  Espaol of Madrid where actors have locked themselves inside to protest against  austerity cuts

‘This austerity is a never-ending story. We  see no light at the end of the end of the tunnel, just more pain and  difficulties. We have to protest, do something to stop it,’ said Lisbon  pensioner Jose Marques, who plans to march on Wednesday.

Speaking on Radio 4’s Today programme Richard  Corbett, adviser to European Council President Herman Van Rompuy said: ‘A  dilemma is being faced by governments across Europe and it is a challenge. When  you have such high debt levels and still have big deficits you have to address  that question.

‘Greece has been given a low interest loan  but the creditors do want to know that in due course this situation will be  rectified.

‘Greece has a democratic choice. Ultimately  it’s democratic choices that will be made. There does come a limit to how much a  country can sustain a huge deficit.

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Spain’s politicians pledge to stop evictions after suicide

Posted 2012/11/10 at 1:51 pm EST

MADRID, Nov. 10, 2012 (Reuters) — Spain’s conservative prime minister and the leader of the opposition aim to agree measures on Monday to stop banks evicting homeowners after a woman’s suicide before her property was repossessed caused public outrage.

“No one should be without a home for not being able to pay,” Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba, leader of the opposition Socialist Party said on Saturday.

Northern Spanish mortgage lender Kutxabank said it was suspending repossessions after 53-year-old former Socialist councillor Amaia Egana threw herself out of her fourth-storey apartment window in Barakaldo in the Basque Country as court officials came up the stairs to evict her on Friday.

Egana’s death, the second eviction-related suicide in Spain in recent weeks, added urgency to an agreement reached on Wednesday between the ruling conservative People’s Party and the Socialists to seek a bipartisan deal over repossessions.

Graffiti accusing bankers of murder and calling for an end to evictions appeared on some bank branches in the Basque Country on Saturday, Spanish media reported.

“We are living through things that no one likes to see, situations that are competely inhumane,” Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy told a political meeting hours after Egana’s death. “I hope that on Monday we’ll be able to talk about a temporary suspension of evictions for the most vulnerable families.”

One measure would be to grant grace periods, Spanish media reported. Rajoy said the rules would not be retroactive, while Rubalcaba called for previous evictions to be included.

There have been nearly 400,000 evictions in Spain since a property bubble burst in 2008. Unemployment hit 25 percent in the third quarter, a record high and the European Commission expects the economy to contract 1.4 percent this year and next as the second recession since the end of 2009 drags on.

Last week, European Union Advocate General Juliane Kokott issued a non-binding report concluding that Spanish legislation on evictions contradicts European norms for protecting consumer rights. Europe’s highest court will now have to deliver an opinion.

Jose Miguel Domingo, a newsstand owner in Granada, in southern Spain, hung himself on October 25, before he was due to lose his home, local media reported.

The same week an unemployed man in Burjassot, a town in the eastern region of Valencia, threw himself off a balcony on the day his family was to be evicted from their apartment. Reports said the man survived the fall.

(Reporting By Iciar Reinlein; Additional reporting by Fiona Ortiz; Writing by Tracy Rucinski; editing by Jason Webb)



Spain: gov’t to abolish long weekends in 2013

Making the work week more efficient by reforming the calendar

(ANSAmed) – MADRID, NOVEMBER 2 – By the end of the year, the Spanish government will move some holidays that fall during the workweek to other days in order to prevent people from taking long weekends, government spokesperson and Deputy Premier Soraya Sanz de Santamaria told reporters after a cabinet meeting on Thursday.

The government will meet with society, the Episcopal conference and the autonomous regions to work out an agreement to make some holidays fall on a Monday.

Unions and management have already reached a labor reform agreement, to make sure the Assumption of the Virgin (August 15), All Saints (November 1), and Constitution Day (November 6) all fall on a Monday. The reformed calendar will be effective beginning in 2013, Santamaria said. Spain’s bishops will not “anticipate nor reply” until it they have seen the government proposal, an Episcopal Conference spokesperson said. (ANSAmed)



Spain and Italy criticise Berlin plan for EU to police budgets

Europe divided over German proposals for a ‘super commissioner’ who could punish nations with large deficit

in Madrd The Guardian,  Monday 29 October 2012 16.53 EDT

Mariano Rajoy

Spain’s prime minister Mariano Rajoy said about plans for an EU ‘super commissioner: ‘Personally, I don’t like it.”  Photograph: Andres Kudacki/AP

Fresh tensions emerged between Germany and southern Europe as Spain and Italy criticised Berlin’s proposals for a European Union “super commissioner” with powers to police national budgets and punish those with large deficits.

“This is an idea, that considered on its own, I personally don’t like,” said Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy after meeting his Italian counterpart Mario Monti in Madrid.Monti claimed not to have read a Der Spiegel interview in which European Central Bank (ECB) president Mario Draghi threw his weight behind the super-commissioner idea, but nevertheless recalled that, in 2003, Germany has been one of the first countries to break EU deficit rules. “It doesn’t sound very good,” he added. “Markets could take this as a sign that current instruments do not work.”

Both prime ministers claimed their recession-hit countries did not currently need a soft bailout that would allow the ECB to start buying bonds to bring down borrowing rates, though Rajoy was prepared to admit a request might come eventually. “The instrument is there and any country can ask for it if it finds it necessary. And I will do just that,” he said. “When I believe that it is in the interests of Spain to ask for it, I will ask for it,” he said.

Monti said Italy did not need the bailout, but said it was important that at least one country use the eurozone’s new soft bailout mechanism in order to prove to markets that the ECB was serious about defending the euro.

“It is of paramount importance that the instrument is put to work, that it does not remain theoretical,” Monti said, in what seemed to be a reference to Spain.

The plan relates to the ECB purchasing a government’s bonds, which results in a lowering of that country’s borrowing rates in the bond markets.

The size of Spain’s economic downturn was underscored by the prices at which a new “bad bank”, to be set up as part of a eurozone rescue of Spanish banks, will forcibly buy toxic real estate assets from bailed-out banks.

The “bad bank”, known as Sareb, will take between €45bn and €90bn of real estate with discounts on book value varying from 80% to 32%, according to the Bank of Spain.

The minimum discount will still be above the market fall in Spanish real estate prices, which have so far dropped 25% from their peak.

But Italy also appeared to be running into fresh difficulties after former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, sentenced to prison for tax fraud last week, threatened to withdraw support for Monti’s government over the weekend.

As Italy’s bond yields began to rise yesterday, Monti refused to speculate on whether this was a sign of market fear that Berlusconi would carry out his threat.

“You can ask that question to the political parties, and to the markets, but not to me,” he said, claiming his duty was merely to keep governing Italy until the spring.