Catalonia firefighters were starting fires rather than putting them out this week during a demonstration held in Barcelona.
The emergency workers clashed with riot police while protesting over austerity cuts in the recession hit Catalonian capital.
Hundreds of firefighters, sporting yellow helmets and red jackets, grappled with police amid concerns over the latest proposed budget cuts.
by DEREK THOMPSON
Europe’s job market is a historic disaster.
The EU unemployment rate set a new all-time high of 12.2 percent, according to today’s estimates. But it’s the youth unemployment crisis that’s truly terrifying. In Spain, unemployment surged past 56 percent, and Greece now leads the rich world with an astonishing 62.5 percent of its youth workforce out of a job (graph via James Plunket).
Spain’s Bankia Decimates Savers As Stock Plummets; Police Officer Stabs Banker Who Sold Him Shares ~ Forbes
by Agustino Fontevecchia
‘While investors across the globe applaud Bernanke and other central bankers for pushing stock markets to record highs, retail investors and savers in Spain are facing massive losses. Markets appear to have forgotten Europe’s sovereign debt crisis and the woes in Spain: on Tuesday, new shares in nationalized financial institution Bankia began trading, closing the day at €0.57 ($0.74), marking a more than 80% drop from their floating price in 2011 when the banking group was formed. The average Spaniard is suffering, and the situation has gotten to the point where on Sunday, a police officer stabbed a former Bankia employee four times after a heated discussion related to the sale of preferred shares in the failed banking group.’
by Roberto A. Ferdman
‘[...] After spending nearly one-third of a $3 billion budget to build four of the world’s most advanced submarines, the project’s engineers have run into a problem: the submarines are so heavy that they would sink to the bottom of the ocean.
Miscalculations by engineers at Navantia, the construction company contracted to built the S-80 submarine fleet, have produced submarines that are each as much as 100 tonnes (110 US tonnes) too heavy. The excess weight sounds paltry compared to the 2,000-plus tonnes (2,205 US tonnes) that each submarine weighs, but it’s more than enough to send the submarines straight to the ocean’s floor.
Given the mistake, Spain is going to have to choose between two costly fixes: slimming the submarines down, or elongating them to compensate for the extra fat. All signs point to the latter, which will be anything but a breeze—adding length will still require redesigning the entire vessel. And more money on top of the $680 million already spent.’
by Charlotte McDonald-Gibson
‘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.”’
Another elected official is confirmed for Bilderberg 2013, this time the Spanish Minister of Economy and Competitiveness and former Lehman Brothers advisor, Luis de Guindos. The minister will be attending at the request of Bilderberg’s Spanish steering committee member Juan Luis Cebrián.
Only last week I confirmed the newly elected leader of the Swedish social-democratic party, Stefan Löfven, has received an invite to the exclusive meeting planned for Hertfordshire in the beginning of June. De Guindos will be the second confirmed elected official participating in the event. These announced participants will be followed up by many more elected officials asked to join the secretive club at the Grove Hotel, at taxpayer’s expense of course, even if Bilderberg itself describes the annual meetings as “private”.
The attendance of De Guindos at this year’s confab is interesting in the fact that Spain is one of the first nations that found themselves on the wrong end of the financial stick after the crisis hit home in Europe- as was possibly arranged at last year’s meeting. As Daniel Estulin reported on in 2012:
“The key message from the (2012) meeting: come hell or high water, it is imperative to preserve the functioning of the banking system. Spain´s Vice President received a dose of humility when she tried to push the issue of “responsibility” telling her high powered German Bilderberg colleagues that they should issue Eurobonds to save the system. The reply was more than telling: “go pound sand, little girl.””
It’s important to make clear that the current Spanish Minister of Economy and Competitiveness was an adviser to Lehman Brothers up to 2007, making him partially responsible for the mess that Spain is finding itself caught up in a few years after.
It’s significant that a member of Bilderberg’s steering committee (Juan Luis Cebrián) is inviting De Guindos to the table this year. It reveals that Bilderberg wants to make sure their pro-Euro policies will be properly communicated to Spanish officials, who can then sell it to the nation as a painful but necessary thing. Just like their Greek counterparts, Spain’s elected officials are summoned to Bilderberg to streamline the global objectives by a group of international bankers with the preferred policy measures they would like to see implemented. One could say that these elected officials are committing a treasonous act, as they cannot disclose what has been decided. Being a former Lehman Brothers adviser, the Spanish minister probably won’t need too much encouragement to execute these objectives.
To illustrate the involvement of the Spanish power structure in the annual Bilderberg meetings, just check out the royal family’s Wikipedia page, noting that all of the prominent members of the family are members of Bilderberg. Queen Sofia attends Bilderberg on a very regular basis, as does her husband King Juan Carlos. Now elected officials get to go behind the backs of the Spanish people as they swear alliance to an unelected and unaccountable body.
‘As Spanish unemployment reaches another record high, the residents of rural Marinaleda could be forgiven for feeling a little smug. In the small village in deepest Andalusia, the joblessness remains firmly – and almost certainly uniquely within Spain – at zero.
[...] Marinaleda is run along the lines of a communist Utopia and boasts collectivised lands (1,200 previously unused hectares, seized by a mass land-grab in 1990 from an aristocrat’s estate) which offer every villager the opportunity to work the fields, tending to root crops and olive groves. In Andalusia, where jobs are currently being lost at the rate of about 500 a day, any work is good work.
Marinaleda’s mayor, Juan Manuel Sánchez Gordillo, has gained national notoriety and has even been dubbed the “Robin Hood of Spain” after he and a group of labourers refused to pay a supermarket for 10 shopping trolleys filled with food, which they distributed to the area’s food banks, sparking headlines in countries as far away as Iran.’
‘The European Parliament president says measures to revive the European Union’s economy and create new jobs cannot be delayed until Germany’s September elections.
“The European Union has no time to wait until the German elections,” Martin Schulz said on Friday.
Schulz further called on the EU leaders to address youth unemployment, which is especially high in southern Europe, especially in Greece and Spain.’
‘Banks seized a total of 39,167 homes in Spain in 2012 as a result of foreclosure proceedings, according to a central bank survey of lenders published Friday.
The Banco de España study showed that in 83 percent of the cases the homes were primary dwellings.
The survey also revealed that more than half of the homes were turned over voluntarily by families. Of them, roughly 75 percent were handed over under the so-called “dacion en pago” procedure, whereby the lender fully discharges the borrower of the debt.
Banks seized the homes by court order in the other cases, with police intervention required on some occasions.’
‘A Spanish court on Tuesday suspended charges against Princess Cristina, saying there was not sufficient evidence that King Juan Carlos’s daughter had been an accomplice in an embezzlement case involving her husband.
Cristina, 47, was charged last month in the case, the first time a member of the royal family had been the subject of criminal proceedings since the Spanish monarchy was reinstated in the 1970s.
Tuesday’s ruling by the High Court of the Balearic island of Mallorca overturned an earlier judgment by Examining Magistrate Jose Castro, of a lower court. The charges could be reinstated if further evidence is unearthed, the High Court said.
The case, along with a number of other high-level corruption scandals – has deepened public discontent with the royal family and with alleged graft among the rich and powerful while many Spaniards struggle with 27 percent unemployment and a long-running recession.’
‘The first downloadable gun has gone viral.
The plastic firearm that can be churned out on a 3-D printer and easily assembled was downloaded at least 50,000 times Monday, according to the self-described anarchist who made it available for free online.
Cody Wilson of Defense Distributed, a collective of gun advocates, said the most downloads were done in Spain followed by the United States.
The prospect of terrorists getting hold of the guns by clicking a computer mouse chilled NYPD Commissioner Raymond Kelly to the core.’
by Paul Day
More than six million Spaniards were out of work in the first quarter of this year, raising the jobless rate in the euro zone’s fourth biggest economy to 27.2 percent, the highest since records began in the 1970s.
The huge sums poured into the global financial system by major central banks have eased bond market pressure on Spain, but the cuts Madrid has made in spending to regain investors’ confidence have left it deep in recession.
Unemployment – 6.2 million in the first quarter – has been rising for seven quarters and the latest numbers will fuel a growing debate on whether to ease off on the budget austerity which has dominated Europe’s response to the debt crisis.
“These figures are worse than expected and highlight the serious situation of the Spanish economy as well as the shocking decoupling between the real and the financial economy,” strategist at Citi in Madrid Jose Luis Martinez said.
The collapse of a property boom driven by cheap credit has seen millions in the construction sector laid off since 2009 and private service sector, worth almost half gross domestic product, has followed as Spaniards tightened purse strings and investment plummeted.
The malaise has been made worse by billions of euros in state spending cuts and tax hikes to reduce one of the euro zone’s highest deficits and convince nervous markets Spain can control its finances.
A wave of corrosive political scandals at a time of economic woe is exacerbating the outrage of European citizens, who are channelling resentment into street protests or at the polls.
Italy, Spain and Greece have all been hit by fraud or graft cases allegedly involving the top brass. France joined the ranks of scandal-hit nations this week after its former budget minister was charged with tax fraud.
“Everything is coming together to reinforce populist theories — the theory that ‘they’re all rotten’,” said Eddy Fougier, a researcher at the Paris-based IRIS think tank, which analyses international issues.
In France, outrage over the budget minister scandal has yet to erupt into popular protests.
But in some countries of southern Europe, which for several years have been hit by austerity measures more severe than in France, fury has coiled into potent blowback.
by Will Hutton
There was a time when to live a life virtuously was well understood. It embraced personal integrity, commitment to a purpose that was higher than personal gain, a degree of selflessness and even modesty. Those at the top may have got there through ruthlessness and ambition, but they understood that to lead was to set an example and that involved demonstrating better qualities than simply looking after yourself.
No more. Perhaps the greatest calamity of the conservative counter-revolution has been the energy it invested in arguing that virtue, whatever its private importance, has no public value. The paradox, the new conservatives claim, is only through the pursuit of self-interest can the economy and society work best. Responsibilities to the commonweal are to be avoided.
The retreat of virtue has become the plague of our times. Greed is legitimate; to have riches however obtained, including outrageous bonuses or avoiding tax, is the only game in town. But across the west the consequences are becoming more obvious. Politics, business and finance have become blighted to the point that they are dysfunctional, with a now huge gap in trust between the elite and the people.
The drama playing itself out in France is a classic example. François Hollande was elected president of France less than 12 months ago, promising an “exemplary” administration after the sleaze of the Sarkozy years. Then came Jérôme Cahuzac. Until four weeks ago, he was the French socialist budget minister, leading the crusade against tax avoidance. It now transpires that he himself had hidden ¤600,000 in a secret Swiss account. He has resigned, but it has triggered not just a crisis for the French president, but for the entire French political class and political system.
Already two former presidents – Chirac and Sarkozy – have been mired in charges of embezzlement and illicit campaign financing respectively. But the Cahuzac affair goes further – with illegality intertwined with hypocrisy. Already beaten into third place by the National Front in a recent byelection, Hollande’s socialists now face the charge not just of incompetence and lack of political direction but of cheating and lying. Who understands the need for public virtue?
With the mainstream political right in disarray and no less compromised, the danger is that the major beneficiary will be France’s National Front, riding the disillusion not just with politicians but with the entire elite. There is one rule for them, it seems, and another for ordinary people who confront austerity, declining living standards and unemployment at a 16-year high.
The extreme right’s pitch is clear – France can no longer trust its leaders. It must assert its republican virtues against its own elite, foreigners, immigrants, Muslims and even the interference of Brussels. Vote National Front.
Meanwhile in Spain, the prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, was recently alleged to have hidden €250,000 from the tax authorities. Now King Carlos’s daughter, Cristina, faces trial over her role in her husband’s allegedly nefarious business affairs. In Italy, Beppe Grillo‘s anti-elite Five Star Movement won nearly 30% of the vote as a protest against a political class that is corrupt from top to bottom. Grillo at least is not a quasi-fascist. Less comforting is the prospect that if he fails to get the constitutional changes he calls for, the unstable forces he has unleashed could easily manifest themselves in a much uglier form.
In these countries, what is needed are credible, clean politicians with a credible programme to take on the super-rich, restore virtue to public life and relaunch their stagnating economies. But popular opinion knows the new rules of the world of tax havens, bankers’ bonuses and corporate self-interest along with the ideology that justifies them.
Today, the state is seen as ineffective and repressive. The rich have no compunction in hiding their wealth and avoiding tax because selfishness is legitimate, even indeed a moral obligation. Electorates doubt not just their politicians, but their capacity to do anything even if they were minded.
Britain is also captive to these trends. The MPs’ expenses scandal may not have exhibited hypocrisy and corruption on the Cahuzac or Italian scale, but it has similar roots. Lawyer Anthony Salz (a member of the Scott Trust that owns the Observer and Guardian), in his report into the culture at Barclays, inveighed against the ethical “vacuum” of the seriously overpaid 70 top bankers over the last decade. The promotion of their own interests trumped those of the bank or even basic ethics. Centrica, custodian of the near-monopoly British Gas, felt justified in creating a bonus pool of £15m for five executives running essentially a risk-free business. Senior police officers are jailed for accepting bribes from tabloid newspapers. Disproportionately of reward, preoccupation with one’s own interests and diminishing public virtue disfigure Britain, too, and into the trust gap marches populist Ukip.
We know the precepts of a fair society – a proportional relationship between reward and effort, helping each other when bad luck strikes and sharing the benefits of good luck. But this sort of society needs to be led by people who live by those virtues. Up until 50 years ago, belief in God underpinned our public morality: even if the elite behaved badly at least it knew it behaved badly. Today, we are living through the revolt of the elites as historian Christopher Lasch warned nearly 20 years ago. The moral code undergirded by Christianity and which supported fairness has been enfeebled by secularisation and the precepts of free market economics. Nor are there powerful labour movements, informed by a belief in the feasibility of socialism, to keep the elites honest.
Lasch’s view was that there was only one way forward – the reaffirmation of democracy. What we need is not the democracy of the one-off referendum. We need the deep democracy of transparency and accountability, along with constitutional mechanisms and processes that hold our private and public leaders to account day by day.
In this respect, Grillo in Italy may foretell a better future – the insistence that Italian politics is completely opened up has to be right. We are also learning more about who is doing what, thus Cahuzac’s fall. But this is only the first foundation of what is necessary to bridge the trust gap. We need even more openness, with the same principles extended to our businesses and banks. There needs to be a new understanding of the legitimacy of the public domain and public intervention. The time has come to hold our leaders – in the public and private sector alike – to account for their actions.
French President Francois Hollande has promised sweeping new anti-corruption measures, a day after his former budget minister admitted having had a secret foreign bank account containing hundreds of thousands of euros.
In a taped television address Wednesday, Hollande said he would introduce legislation requiring government ministers and members of parliament to declare and publish details of their personal wealth, and would take steps to strengthen the independence of the judiciary.
He also said that public officials convicted of fraud or corruption would be permanently banned from holding public office.
On Tuesday, Jerome Cahuzac, who resigned as budget minister two weeks ago, was formally charged with “laundering the proceeds of tax fraud” after admitting he had held an undisclosed Swiss bank account containing some 600,000 euros ($770,000).
Cahuzac, who had previously denied the charges, said he had the account for around 20 years.
France is not the only European country currently embroiled in a high-level corruption scandal.
Spain’s Princess Cristina was named Wednesday as a suspect in a corruption case against her husband, who is accused of involvement in the embezzlement of million of euros in public funds through a charity he headed.
Three small Spanish banks reported multi-billion euro losses on Wednesday, showing the scale of the country’s problems with its property market.
The three banks – Banco CEISS, BMN and Caja 3 – which have all been rescued by the government, had to take big write-downs on bad property loans and assets.
Spain has forced its banks to recognise their property losses to try to clean up the sector after the country’s property boom collapsed in 2008.
Banks without a strong enough capital base, such asCEISS, BMN and Caja 3, turned to the state for support, forcing Spain to take 41 billion euros in European aid for its banking sector.
British savers in Spain and Italy could be next to suffer a Cyprus-style raid on bank accounts if those struggling economies fail again, it was warned today.
Investors have reacted nervously in the two countries after it emerged the Cypriot rescue deal could be used as a template for other bail-outs.
Both are seen as the most likely contenders for any future bailouts.
Spain is in recession, having suffered badly from souring property loans, and data points to a further deterioration that will hamper Madrid’s efforts to rein in public finances and keep government borrowing under control.
In Italy, concern is focused on the fall-out from inconclusive elections a month ago that left the eurozone’s third-largest economy battling to form a government, raising worries that reform efforts would be impaired.
Matt Basi, head of sales trading at CMC Markets, told MailOnline: ‘The general perception is that were Europe to take another turn for the worse, they (Spain and Italy) are the two largest economies most susceptible.’
He added: ‘This (Cyprus) bail-out is a potential template for other bail-out packages.
‘It is a natural consequence of the way markets have evolved and the way finance ministers have taken a stance against publicly funded bail-outs.
‘People are more averse to governments pumping money into banks and taking the burden.’
Under the Cyprus deal, bank customers with more than £85,000 of savings will have a chunk of their cash – possibly as much as 40 per cent – seized to bail out troubled lenders.
Spanish and Italian bond yields rose yesterday after remarks from the head of the eurozone’s finance ministers, Jeroen Dijsselbloem, suggested it could be used as a blueprint elsewhere in the region.
There are an estimated 750,000 Britons in Spain and 30,000 in Italy.
Both countries were bailed out in a £600billion deal last year and are again showing signs of uncertainty.
The Spanish government will impose heavy losses on investors at nationalized banks and hire external advisers to help it manage these banks’ assets, its latest efforts to overhaul a financial sector battered by the collapse of a decadelong housing boom.
Forcing shareholders and bondholders to share the cost of restructuring the country’s five nationalized banks was a politically costly step for the government of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, but one that was required under the terms of a European Union bailout of Spain’s ailing lenders. The decision to solicit advice in drafting a long-term strategy for these lenders came after the state-backed Fund for Orderly Bank Restructuring failed to sell one of them, midsize Catalunya Banc SA.
The bailout fund, known as the FROB, has decided to hire consultancy McKinsey Co. and investment bank Nomura International PLC as advisers, say people close to the situation.
Representatives for the FROB and Mckinsey weren’t immediately available to comment on the decision. A Nomura spokeswoman declined to comment.
Overhauling the banks is a key part of the government’s efforts to turn around an ailing economy, now in its sixth consecutive quarter of recession. Bank credit is shrinking and unemployment has shot past 26%.
by Robert Watts
The UK Independence Party leader said that the European Union had “crossed a line” by trying to extract funds from savers under the terms of the abandoned Cypriot bail-out.
Mr Farage said: “Even I didn’t think that they would stoop to actually stealing money from people’s bank accounts.
“There is going to be a big flight of money and that flight of money won’t just be from Cyprus, it will be from the other eurozone countries, too. There are 750,000 British people who own properties, or who live, many of them in retirement, down in Spain.
“Now that we see the EU are prepared to resort to anything to keep alive their failing euro project, our advice to expats living down in the Mediterranean must be, ‘Get your money out of there while you’ve still got a chance’.”
Mr Farage urged George Osborne, the Chancellor, to rule out any such levy on British savers.
It is the powerhouse of global football, home to its greatest players and a World Cup-winning national team, but Spain‘s soccer bubble looks set to explode as European authorities prepare to halt public funding of debt-ridden clubs.
In a move that threatens to provoke the partial collapse of a football system built on unsustainable piles of debt, competition authorities in Brussels want Spain’s government to explain why it has allowed clubs to build up vast, unpaid tax and social security debts.
With many clubs in the top two divisions already having trouble paying bank debts totalling some €3.5bn (£3bn), the move would likely force some clubs into liquidation. Historic names such as Deportivo de La Coruña or Racing Santander could simply disappear. Other top clubs, such as Valencia, will have to sell players and face years of decline.
Indignant MEPs are already demanding to know why Spain is happy to request €40bn in aid from eurozone taxpayers for its banks while allowing the clubs to build up a tax debt of €692m.
“This is unfair since all other Spanish taxpayers, as well as the other European football clubs, must, of course, be up to date with their tax payments,” said Willy Meyer, a Spanish MEP for the United Left coalition, in a recent question to the competition commissioner, Joaquín Almunia. Meyer pointed out that while clubs pay multimillion-euro salaries to star players, the cash-strapped government of Mariano Rajoy has imposed cuts on public services.
“It is incomprehensible that while taxes such as VAT are being increased and hospitals and public companies are being privatised as a means of generating short-term resources, these private, recreational bodies are receiving preferential tax treatment,” he said.
Other European soccer clubs are also crying foul. “This beggars belief. We pay hundreds of millions of euros to keep Spain out of the shit and then they let the clubs off their debts,” Uli Hoeness, the president of the German side Bayern Munich, complained when debt figures were made public last year.
A spokesman for Almunia said a formal investigation – similar to one looking at public subsidies to Dutch soccer clubs – must wait until the Spanish government has replied to its inquiries.
Analysts warn that action from Almunia to force Spain’s tax authorities to recover debts will expose the chronic financing problem in Spanish soccer.
by Tyler Durden
Something extreme is happening in Europe. Since Sunday, Bloomberg Businessweek reports a trio of Bitcoin apps have soared up Spain’s download charts, coinciding with news that cash-strapped Cyprus was planning to raid domestic savings accounts to pay off a $13 billion bailout tab. “This is an entirely predictable and rational outcome for what’s happening in Cyprus,” says ConvergEx’s Nick Colas. “If you want to get a good sense of the stress European savers are feeling, just watch Bitcoin prices.”
The value of the virtual currency has soared almost 30 percent in the last two days. ”One hundred percent of that is due to Cyprus,” says Colas. “It means the Europeans are getting involved.” As German economist Peter Bofinger warned in an interview with Spiegel Online: “European citizens must now fear for their money.”
The same apps download data, however, showed that Italians aren’t ready to abandon commercial banking, remarkable as many Italians still recall that black day in 1992 when they woke up to a levy on their savings accounts to prop up the nation’s teetering finances.
The EUR price for a Bitcoin has jumped from around EUR37 to over EUR50 in the last two days as reality hits… and look at the volume…
Nassim Taleb (On Reddit) – via Mike Krieger (@LibertyBlitz):
“Bitcoin is the beginning of something great: a currency without government, something necessary and imperative.”
As a financial scandal engulfs the royal family and politicians begin to call for his abdication, Spain‘s King Juan Carlos faces one of the worst weeks in his 37-year reign, with prosecutors set to ask a judge to formally name his daughter Princess Cristina as a suspect in a multimillion-euro fraud and money-laundering case.
The request, which would be a preliminary step to a possible indictment, is poised to be made next week and will be based on the testimony of Diego Torres, a former business school lecturer who became the partner of Cristina’s husband, Iñaki Urdangarin.
Juan Carlos’s nightmare week starts in Palma de Mallorca , when Urdangarin must appear before an investigating magistrate who has demanded that he and Torres post a joint bond of €8.1m (£7m).
The size of the bond points to the millions of euros that – via a foundation in which the princess served as a board member – the two men allegedly obtained from fraudulent deals with politicians keen to bathe in the reflected glory of royalty. Part of the money was allegedly then laundered through offshore accounts.
by Allison Crawford
A 46-year-old man in Alicante, Spain took his own life after he was threatened with eviction. He is the fourth person to commit suicide over eviction in Spain this week. The man was found by police who arrived to evict him after he failed to respond to several phone calls.
On Tuesday a retired couple were also found deceased in their home on the island of Mallorca. The couple’s son found their bodies along with a note that said they were going to lose their home.
Earlier in the week a 56-year-old man in Basauri Vizcaya committed suicide because he couldn’t pay his mortgage.
This latest strain of suicides has spurred public outrage and demand for reform of current eviction laws. Protesters in Madrid Tuesday evening shouted: “It’s not eviction, it’s murder!”
Members of parliament agreed to debate a bill to protect homeowners from eviction on Tuesday, and on Wednesday both the governing conservative Popular Party and the opposing Socialists decided to make the bill a top priority, cutting the usual time required to bring legislation to vote in half.
“People who undergo eviction not only lose their homes but get saddled with a large part of the debt, condemned for life to be excluded from credit,” read the petition that spurred the bill. The petition was brought before parliament by the Platform of Those Affected by Mortgages (PAH), a popular campaign for housing rights. According to PAH, hundreds of thousands of people now face eviction due to the housing collapse of 2008. The resulting recession has hit Spain hard, with unemployment currently at a staggering 26 percent. Many homeowners are unable to pay mortgages on homes that are now worth much less than when purchased.
by Pascale Harter
‘There is fury in Spain after accusations that politicians have been lining their pockets while ordinary people are making painful sacrifices in the name of austerity.
[...] For the last few months the corruption scandals have been so numerous that the television news began lumping them together in a swift round-up, rather than reporting on each one. They had to leave room for other news items – like the effects of austerity cuts and rocketing unemployment.
There is now a regular spot on Spaniards who used to have a job and a home, but do not have either any more. One featured a man who now lives in his car outside his former home.
[...] Economists say that without the black economy there would be rioting on the streets. People are getting by. They are just not telling the taxman.
But suddenly the corruption scandals have become too big, and the justice system is seen as too slow when it comes to punishing those with power.’
Authorities said the 68-year-old man and the 67-year-old woman, who took an overdose of prescription drugs on Tuesday in their home, stated in a suicide note that they have killed themselves because they were unable to pay their debts and were soon going to be evicted.
Hours after the suicides, Spain’s parliament voted in favor of reviewing the country’s tough mortgage and eviction laws. The legislation pending in the house would allow bankrupt homeowners to write off their debts by giving up their property. However, the discussions could last for months or even years before any amendments are made.
Under the current law, evicted homeowners are still liable to repay huge amounts even though the value of their house has plunged during the past four years.
In November 2012, Spain’s government passed a two-year moratorium on evictions in response to popular protests and reported suicides. The moratorium, however, has stipulations that cover a very limited number of Spanish families.
Spain’s governing Popular Party was battling Thursday to defend its honor by denying fresh newspaper reports of regular under-the-table payments to leading members, including Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy.
Party secretary general Maria Dolores de Cospedal, one of the alleged recipients, told a press conference that “we have absolutely nothing to hide,” adding that the allegations had produced great indignation among party members.
She said the report was aimed at damaging the reputation of the party and the prime minister but did not accuse anyone of being behind it. Leading newspaper El Pais published what it called the “secret accounts” of former party treasurer Luis Barcenas, with copies of alleged records from several years ago showing names and amounts received. The money was allegedly paid by businesses, many in the construction sector, via Barcenas.
In a statement, the party denied the existence of hidden accounts or “the systematic payment to certain people of money other than their monthly wages.” Socialist opposition party leader Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba said the case was now so serious that Rajoy himself must give an explanation. Others called for fresh elections and Rajoy’s resignation.
The scandal broke when the National Court reported recently that Barcenas amassed an unexplained €22 million ($30 million) in a Swiss bank account several years ago. Cospedal said the party and each of the members mentioned in the report, including Rajoy, would be taking legal action against media outlets publishing the allegations.
She said the papers cited in the report had nothing to do with the party’s accounting. However, she said some of the entries published corresponded to payments made within the group while others were false.
The parliament of Spain’s powerful northeastern region of Catalonia has approved a largely symbolic declaration stating the region is a sovereign entity, paving the way for a referendum on independence from Spain.
The proposal was carried Wednesday by 85 votes in favor, with 41 against and two abstentions.
Though symbolic, the declaration sets up a potential showdown with the central government in Madrid, which has said it will block any move toward Catalonian independence in the courts.
The declaration was backed by the region’s governing Convergence and Union group and the Republican Left. It was opposed by the Catalonian Socialist Party and the Popular Party that governs Spain.
Polls show Catalonians are evenly divided over independence, but a majority opposes it if it means exiting the European Union.
by Andrea Gerlin & Alex Morales
Carlos Hernandez Sonseca studied six years for a bachelor’s degree and couldn’t find a job near his home outside Madrid when he graduated in 2011. Last year, he took an increasingly well-worn path to the U.K.
The 27-year-old journalist now washes and chops vegetables eight hours a day at the Vital Ingredient salad bar in London’s financial district, making 260 pounds ($418) before taxes in a 40-hour week. Thirteen other Spaniards are among a workforce of 17, said manager Francisco “Chico” Baumle, a Brazilian.
U.K. fast-food jobs and other low-wage roles have been dominated by Poles and others who arrived after the European Union expanded eastward in 2004. Now they’re joined by young Spaniards who can’t find work at home, where unemployment hit 25 percent last year. In the financial year to April, 30,370 Spaniards registered to work in the U.K., up 25 percent from the previous year, and more than double the 2009-10 levels, according to data from the Department for Work and Pensions.
“We are a lost generation, for sure,” Hernandez Sonseca said. “Spain has nothing to offer us, so we go abroad and we work as salad makers and kitchen porters. They are losing money and they are losing skilled people.”
The newest workers have it toughest in Spain’s labor market, where the jobless rate among adults under 25 reached 52 percent in the third quarter of 2012, according to the most recent data from Spain’s National Institute of Statistics.