Thursday, November 01, 2018

Thoughts from Hamburg, Germany: 1.11.18

Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable. 
- Christopher Howse: A Pilgrim in Spain. 

If you've arrived here because of an interest in Galicia or Pontevedra, see my web page here. Garish but informative.

Matters Hamburg/German
  • Yesterday, I was completely museumed out by 6pm. First an ethnology museum and then the major Art and Trade(?) - Kunst und Gewerbe - museum, with a walk along the Alster and a hurried chicken curry at the main railway station in between. I'll have to return to the latter another day to do it justice. Probably when entry isn't free and half of Hamburg isn't inside it.
  • Public holidays in Germany depend on the dominant religion of your region. So, yesterday's Reformation Day was celebrated far more here in the Protestant north than in the Catholic south, but for today's All Saints' Day the situation is reversed. If you're up on your German regions, yesterday was a holiday in these: BB, HB, HH, MVP, NDS, SH, SN, ST, and TH. Whereas shops and office are shut today in these: BW, BY, NRW, RLP, and SL. Now you know.
  • Given that many English and German words are the same or very similar, it's hard to know whether what you're reading is genuine German or infiltrated English. For example, Hand-frei. But not, I suspect, 'Workshop'. Which probably should be Werkstatt.
  • Here's a shot of some of the restored warehouses in Hamburg which put Liverpool's to shame:-

Matters Catalan
  • Below is an overview of the current situation/impasse.
Matters Spanish
  • The Spanish police are thinking of getting very serious about stopping drivers from using their mobile phones. Or at least about fining them, if they do. Don't you just love the comment that the initiative has not been altogether well received down on the street. One interferes with the Spanish love of talking at one's peril! Here's The Local on the subject
  • Bad news for the many quacks who operate in Spain.
  • Now, this is an interesting poll . . . People were asked, by a reputedly good company, if they thought their culture was superior to all others. In something of a surprise, the most modest Western European countries were Spain, at 25%, and Sweden, at 26% - contrasting with (smug?) Norway at 58%. In between were Holland and France, at 31and 36%, and a group of countries including the UK and Germany at 45-47%. Oddly, Eastern European and Russian folk are far more 'arrogant' than Western Europeans. Perhaps they were more afraid of being honest . . .
  • Here's a list of someone's view of Spain's 15 most beautiful seaside towns. If the other 14 places are anything like Galicia's entry, they'll already have been rather spoilt by tourism. IMHO:-
  1. Cadaqués  Girona province, Catalonia
  2. Sitges, Barcelona province, Catalonia
  3. Peñíscola, Castellón province, Valencia
  4. Altea, Alicante province, Valencia
  5. Mojácar, Almería province, Andalucía
  6. Nerja, Malaga province, Andalucía
  7. Tarifa, Cádiz province, Andalucía
  8. Combarro, Pontevedra province, Galicia
  9. Cudillero, Asturias
  10. Comillas, Cantabria
  11. Lekeitio, Vizcaya province, Basque Country
  12. Port de Sóller, Mallorca, Balearic Island.
  13. Fornells, Menorca, Balearic Islands
  14. Garachico, Tenerife, Canary Islands
  15. Puerto de Mogán, Gran Canaria, Canary Islands
  • And here's someone else's list of the main myths about Spain. Given the obsession with capital letters, I'm wondering if the writer is German:-
  1. The Whole of Spain Loves Flamenco
  2. Tapas are a Kind of Dish
  3. It's Summer Throughout the Year
  4. Spaniards Love Sangria
  5. Spaniards are Notorious & Passionate Lovers
Comments on each one here.
  • If you're a Brit living in Spain, you might be interested in the second article below, courtesy of Lenox Napier's Business Over Tapas.
Matters UK
  • If you watched yesterday's film clip, you'll have seen British policemen of the 1950s. And perhaps wondered why they were dressed in a simple uniform and not outfitted as if they'd just stepped out of an armoured car in Iraq or Afghanistan.
  • When, back in the day, I was a kid, we had none of the American Trick or Treat nonsense. For us, 31 October was Duck Apple Night. When we tried to bite apples floating in a sink bath or dangling from the ceiling. The apples, not us. See Wiki on this quaint – and quite possibly defunct - tradition here. Given that it's Celtic in origin, I'm surprised the Galicians haven't re-invented it, big time.
  • As for Brexit, Richard North fears that an incompetent Tory politician, Nick Boles, has killed off the last chance of a successful Norway/Efta deal. If nothing else, says North, Brexit is exposing the irrationality of British politics, where fantasies are given free rein and reality is held at arm's length.
  • Talking of British fantasies . . . This morning I read yet another article about how inadequate it is merely to throw more vast sums at the very-much-not-the-envy-of-the-world NHS. All the writers of these are good at description but poor at prescription. Though they're right to say the UK has a lot to learn from other countries about co-payment. For example, topping up your free services with things you pay for. Possibly financed by insurance. But Hell will freeze over before things change in the UK, as with all highly politicised issues on which the truth cannot be spoken. That said, for several decades immigration used to be one of these.
Matters USA
  • Here's a Guardian reporter's insight into Fart's politics-as-showbiz rallies. One woman's comment:- He’s a better leader than he is a person. I don’t agree with his personality but he gets stuff done. There's a few other leaders in history of whom this could be said, of course. One that arguably doesn't spring immediately to mind is Winston Churchill. Maybe Margaret Thatcher is a second. On the other hand . . .
  • Word of the day: Soso. Another one I regularly forget the meaning of.
© [David] Colin Davies, Hamburg: 1.11.18


1. Catalan Independence One Year On: Andrew Brociner

A year has passed since the Catalan independence vote and the short-lived declaration of making the region an independent state. It is remarkable that one year later, its political leaders are still either in exile or in jail. Even though Pedro Sanchez has a more reconciliatory tone than his predecessor, which could hardly be difficult, he has not made a move to release any of the prisoners or revoke charges against those in exile, saying it is something for the judiciary. Seven Catalan leaders remain in exile. Seven other leaders are detained in a male prison about 70 kilometres from Barcelona, and two women leaders are still held in two other prisons. Supporters reportedly visit these leaders in prison each week.

It is clear that no progress will be made from this stalemate without freeing these leaders. No matter how much more autonomy the central government offers the region, the new Catalan leaders will not negotiate until this matter is resolved. In fact, how can one have dialogue with leaders in jail or in exile?

And now, in the latest move, Spain’s Supreme Court has ordered 18 former Catalan leaders to stand trial for declaring independence last year. Puigdemont, along with the other exiled leaders, will not be affected as Spain does not try people in absentia and Germany, where the former Catalan President found himself on the way back to Belgium, refused to extradite him on these charges. However, this latest move is only going to stoke more protests and lead to more pro-independence drives. The Catalan President, Quim Torra, has already said that should the leaders be found guilty, a protest march could take place which would start in Barcelona and go to other European cities to apply international pressure. Luis Puig, the former Catalan culture minister who accompanied Carles Puigdemont in exile to Brussels, is assessing the possibility of taking the case to the European Court of Human Rights. And Puigdemont was in Geneva recently attending a conference with world leaders, where the Forum President, Jean-Paul Cateron, stated: “It is inadmissible in the European Union in the 21st century that politicians are persecuted for their ideas”. The Catalans are now clearly gathering more international support.

Catalonia remains deeply divided on the issue of independence. Letting the people have a free and legal democratic vote would settle the issue. It lets people who only want to exercise their democratic right to have their say. As support for independence is not likely over 50% in any case, the referendum would not necessarily lead to independence. It would certainly not lead to an overwhelming majority, based on current polls. However, postponing this process further only leads to more frustration which adds to the indignation suffered last year. And now, trying leaders will only foment this sentiment with perhaps more people joining in the cause. Freeing prisoners and allowing a referendum seems the only sensible thing to do. However, it is very unlikely that the central government, even this new one, will do it. The PM, in fact, has said he is against a Catalan referendum. And so, even though both governments have changed, the situation still remains unsettled.

2. I’m British and living in Spain – how can I prepare for Brexit?: Madrid-based lawyer Margaret Hauschild Rey.

While the flood of confusing news stories about Brexit continues apace, Britons currently living in Spain are faced with a series of uncertainties and questions. What rights will I have after Brexit? Will I have access to healthcare in Spain? What will happen to my work contract? And my pension?

Coming from a law firm specializing in British citizenship, we are constantly receiving questions like these.

Given that the negotiations over the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union are ongoing, it is not possible either for us or the authorities to offer all the answers. But based on our experience, we can offer British people advice on what you should do to be prepared in case you have to prove that you genuinely live in Spain. Bear in mind that this is just advice, and that we do not know how the Brexit process will conclude. But in order to play it safe, we recommend you do the following:

Ensure that on your green residency card, it says: “Residente comunitario con carácter permanente” (permanent EU resident). This will justify on an official basis that you have been living in Spain for more than five consecutive years, which currently gives you the right to have permanent residency as a European citizen. If the card does not say this and you have lived in Spain for more than five years, get an appointment to renew your residency card and make sure that the new version states that you are a permanent resident.

Register at your town hall. Make sure that you are on the padrón, or municipal roll, at your local town hall as a resident. Remember that a certificate of empadronamiento is valid for three months. As such, if you have an old certificate or you don’t know where yours is, ask for it in your local town hall. You need to request a “Certificado de Empadronamiento,” and the certificate needs to be signed. This will serve as proof to demonstrate your residency in Spain.

Register your property. If you have bought property in Spain, but you didn’t register it, we advise you to do so at the Property Registry. It will be another way to prove your link with Spain. If you registered the property or can’t remember whether you did or not, request a “Nota Simple” from the Property Registry, and they will send you a document that shows that the property is in your name.

If you have a Spanish spouse, and/or Spanish children, make sure you have your marriage certificate and/or the birth certificates of your offspring. You can request these at your local civil registry for free, and they will prove your links to Spain.

If you belong to a parish, a club or a Spanish association, ask them to give you a certificate that states when you joined and what your role is there. This may help you to prove your links to Spain, but bear in mind that the certificate will be unofficial and its value may be less for this purpose. That said, we still advise you to do so.

“Vida Laboral” from Social Security. If you have been working in Spain and paying Social Security, request your “Vida Laboral” from Social Security, which will detail your employers and the years you worked there. You can do this online.

Driving license. If you still have your British driving license and have not swapped it for a Spanish one, you should do so right away at the DGT traffic authority. It will be easier for you to do this now given that you are still currently from an EU country. If not, you may have to sit a driving test in Spain after Brexit.

Inheritances. As a European citizen, you can choose if your last will and testament is subject to the laws from your home country, or the country in which you live. If you are a British citizen and you want your will to be drawn up in accordance with Spanish law, tell your notary or lawyer this as soon as possible. Remember that, if your will is drawn up under Spanish law, two-thirds of your estate will automatically go to your children, and this cannot be changed. But remember, this will only be the case if you choose to draw up your will under Spanish law.

Other issues regarding family life

If you are British and you are married to someone who is from a non-EU country, currently your partner has the right to a residency card for a family member of a European Union citizen, something that gives them the same rights as EU citizens. Once British people are no longer citizens of the European Union, your spouse will not have the right to hold this card. That said, it is still not clear what will happen in this respect – whether there will be a transitory period of adaption or not.

Your children: Remember, if your children are under the age of 18, they were born in Spain and they are legal residents here – i.e. they have a NIE, and have had that NIE for more than a year – they can request Spanish nationality.

Another option open to you is to request Spanish nationality, as long as you are a legal resident in Spain, and you meet the conditions set out under Spanish law in order to apply.

Official advice

The British embassy in Spain urges all UK nationals living in the country to ensure they are correctly registered and to stay up to date with the latest news, by signing up for email alerts, visiting the Living in Spain guide on gov.uk and following their Brits in Spain social media channels, including on Facebook.

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