Spain. According to COUNTRYAAH, Spain has the population of 46.94 million (2019). The economic situation continued to be difficult in Spain even as growth turned up among Europe’s other major economies. The country’s credit rating was lowered due to the high loans. The government launched crisis measures in a row to reduce the budget deficit: cuts, tax increases, increased retirement age, lower wages and frozen pensions. Unemployment remained close to 20 percent. Many were forced to leave their homes, which resulted in the banks being the owners of around 200,000 homes. The banking sector was swaying; In May, the state had to step in and save a second regional bank from bankruptcy. The government successfully sold government bonds in installments, but interest rates rose and reached alarming levels towards the end of the year.
The Social Democratic minority government worked against the wind and pushed through the austerity measures by a small margin. The opposition demanded new elections and unions protested. Public servants carried out one-day strikes in June and the Madrid subway stopped for a few days. The industry was crippled by a general strike in September, the first since 2002. A strike among air traffic controllers in November caused flight chaos but was stopped when the government took an emergency permit and forced the strikers to return to work.
The Socialists suffered a stinging defeat when elections were held in Catalonia in November. The Catalan nationalist party CiU (Convergència in Unió) returned to power and the right-wing party PP (Partido Popular) made its best choice so far in the region.
In April, the Supreme Court indicted Judge Baltasar Garzón, who was accused of violating his powers by investigating abuses during the civil war of 1936-39 and the subsequent Franco- rian. The target raised by right-wing groups linked to Franco’s phalangists has strong political explosiveness. Many demonstrated in defense of Garzón’s right to investigate human rights violations.
In June, the Constitutional Court annulled parts of Catalonia’s constitution adopted by the region in 2006. Catalonia does not have the right to call itself a “nation” or allow Catalan to take precedence over Spanish, according to the court. Over one million people in Barcelona took part in a protest against the court ruling in July.
A comprehensive corruption trial was opened in Malaga in September. Among the 95 defendants, there were two former mayors and several other politicians accused of a scandal in the real estate industry in Marbella in the 1990s.
In September, the Basque separatist guerrilla ETA announced a one-sided ceasefire in its fight for an independent Basque country. The government felt that the new play had no credibility, earlier ceasefires had been broken. In addition, ETA was considered to be greatly weakened. Many ETA members were arrested during the year, including several who were reported to have a leading position.
Some economic recovery during the third quarter
The Spanish economy recovered somewhat during the third quarter of the year when society reopened after the spring shutdown. GDP rose by almost 17 percent, but growth for the year was still negative, – 9 percent, according to the Spanish statistical agency INE. In the second quarter of 2020 alone, GDP fell by just under 18 percent. Tourism is particularly hard hit, with the number of foreign tourists falling by 75 percent during the summer months.
At least 140 migrants are said to have died in a boat accident
At least 140 people die when the boat they are traveling in a wildfire sinks off the coast of Senegal near the city of Saint-Louis. About 60 people are rescued by Spanish and Senegalese naval vessels and fishing boats. The boat with about 200 migrants is on its way to the Canary Islands when the accident occurs. According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), this is the sinking this year that has claimed the most lives. The number of migrants trying to get to the Canary Islands has quadrupled in 2020 compared to the year before. So far this year, about 11,000 people have managed to get there. The information is later questioned by the Senegalese Interior Ministry, which says that two rescue operations were carried out in the past week, but that no fatalities had been discovered then. However, Senegalese fishing boats have reported that six bodies have been found floating in the water.
Congress approves the extension of the emergency
The Spanish House of Representatives, Congress, approves a six-month extension of the new national emergency introduced by the government on 25 October. 194 MEPs are voting for an extension, 53 against and 99 abstentions. The members of the Conservative People’s Party (PP), who had only wanted to approve an extension until Christmas, abstain. The PP has been critical of the emergency, which the party describes as an “abuse of power”. The far-right Vox, which votes no to the extension, says that the party should turn to the Constitutional Court, to have it tried if the emergency is contrary to the Constitution. Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez is criticized, among others, by the bourgeois Ciudadanos, who are voting in favor of an extension, because he is not in the House before the vote,
Spanish regions close borders
Another five Spanish regions close their borders before and during All Saints’ Day for all unnecessary travel. These are Madrid, Castile and Leon, Castile-La Manch, Murcia and Andalusia. Navarre, La Rioja and the Basque Country had already decided on a closure, and several others are under way (only Extremadura, Gallicia and the Canary Islands are not planning a border closure). How long the borders will be closed varies. In most cases, Halloween is a big travel weekend as about six million Spaniards travel to other parts of Spain.
New national emergency in Spain
Through a decree, the Spanish government announces a new national emergency, which covers the entire country except the Canary Islands. The emergency aims, among other things, to provide the Spanish regional authorities with instruments to be able to limit mobility within and between the regions. It also includes a night curfew between 23 and 6 in the morning (however, the regions are given some authority to move forward or backward time). The state of emergency is initially valid for 15 days, after which Parliament must be able to approve it until May. People are now not allowed to meet socially in groups larger than six people. The government says the emergency is a response to an appeal from ten regions and the city of Melilla. Unlike this spring, the government does not decide to close the border to the outside world.
Over one million cases of covid-19 in Spain
Spain is now one of six countries in the world that have had over one million confirmed cases of covid-19. The others are the United States, India, Russia, Brazil and Argentina. The government will now gather the regions to decide how to proceed when it comes to fighting the pandemic. At the same time, the far-right party Vox has issued a motion of censure against the Spanish government, which will now be debated in Congress, the second chamber of parliament, for two days. Vox leader Santiago Abascal accuses the government of destroying Spain and its constitutional order. However, the Spanish government survives the no-confidence vote on October 22 without any problems, with 298 members voting for the government and 52 against, ie no party other than Vox will vote to overthrow the government.
Former police chief in Catalonia released in court
Josep Lluis Trapero, former head of the Catalan police force Mossos d’Esquadra and three other Catalans acquitted by the Special Court, Audiencia Nacional, in Madrid on charges of incitement in connection with the Catalan independence referendum held by the Catalan regional government in autumn 2017 (see October 2017). Prosecutors had demanded that Trapero be sentenced to ten years in prison for failing to intervene with the Catalan police’s vote, which had been banned by Spanish courts. However, the judges believe that Mossos d’Esquadra acted “proportionately” in an already tense situation so that the violence would not escalate further.
Criticism of planned legal reform
The Spanish government plans to change the rules for appointing the country’s Supreme Court judge, so that in future only a simple majority will be required for both houses of parliament to approve the members of the Judicial Council, CGPJ (Consejo General del Poder Judicial), which appoints the country’s supreme judge. Today, two-thirds of MPs have to give their approval (according to the reform proposal, a two-thirds majority is required in a first round of voting, while in a second vote 176 of the 350 members of Congress are enough, and 134 of the 266 members of the Senate support a candidate). However, it is criticized by the Spanish Bar Association, but the European Commission also has objections and, according to the newspaper El País, expresses concern that the judiciary may lose its independence and risk being politicized.
Continued conflict over coronary restrictions in Madrid
The dispute over the coronary restrictions between the Spanish government and the bourgeois regional government in Madrid continues. The latter now accuses the Spanish government of presenting false figures to justify the harsh restrictions in parts of the Madrid region. At the same time, new statistics are presented that indicate a reduction in the spread of infection – with approximately 460 covid infections per 100,000 inhabitants – as an argument for easing the restrictions. The Spanish government says that the target is now 100 infected per 100,000 inhabitants for relief to be made.
The judges in the Gürtel affair are stuck
The Supreme Court rules against 29 people, many of them from the conservative PP, who in 2018 were convicted of corruption in the so-called Gürtel affair (see 24 May 2020). In one case, PP’s former treasurer Luis Bárcenas, however, the sentence is reduced from 33 years in prison to 29 years.
Car-borne protesters are demanding the resignation of the government
Supporters of the right-wing populist Vox gather in cars and motorcycles in Madrid, to protest how the Spanish government has handled the corona pandemic. They demand the resignation of Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez and his government. The demonstration takes place on the same day as a large military parade is usually held in the capital. Similar car protests are also being held in Valencia, Seville and Malaga.
Catalonia and Navarre face new restrictions
The regions of Catalonia and Navarre are now tightening restrictions in order to reduce the spread of the virus that causes covid-19. In Navarre, this means that a maximum of six people can meet at the same time and that all bars and restaurants must close at 10 pm. Bars, restaurants, cinemas, libraries and theaters may only accommodate 30 percent of the visitors who normally can be accommodated, for grocery stores 40 percent applies. This is happening, among other things, since 453 new cases are reported in one day, the highest figure since the pandemic began. In Catalonia, everyone who can is encouraged to work from home for 15 days. During the same period, universities are asked to have all teaching online.
The flow of migrants to the Canary Islands is increasing
More than 1,000 African migrants arrive in the Canary Islands in one day. So many migrants have not come to the region since 2006. Some of the migrants suffer from dehydration, but most of them are in good health. More and more people are trying to get to Europe this way since it has become more difficult to get there across the Mediterranean, since Morocco has tightened security along the coast. According to the organization for migration IOM, at least 252 people have drowned from the turn of the year until 17 September.
Spanish government facing emergency in Madrid
The Spanish government decides to impose a 15-day health emergency (estado de alarma) in those parts of the Madrid region where the spread of the new coronavirus is most widespread. This is despite strong opposition from the bourgeois regional government in the Madrid region. A court in Madrid, the Supreme Court of Castilla y León, ruled on October 8 that the regional government ruled that the freedom of movement of people in the area concerned could not be curtailed and those who violated it could not be fined unless an emergency was imposed. The Spanish government had given regional president Isabel Díaz Ayuso until noon to voluntarily agree to the restrictions, but she was not heard from. The restrictions affect 4.5 million people, and mean that they are not allowed to leave their residential areas if they are not going to work, go to school or for medical reasons.
Sánchez promises 800,000 new jobs
Spain hopes to create 800,000 new jobs in three years, thanks to EU grants and loans. This is what Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez says when he presents the government’s plans for the coming term. Sánchez promises a modernization of the Spanish economy in a way that will reduce the gaps in the country. He points out several special priority areas: green transition, social and territorial unity, digitalisation and gender equality. Spain is expected to receive a total of € 140 million in EU funding. Just a few days earlier, the government announced a forecast indicating that Spain’s GDP will fall by more than 11 percent in 2020, as a result of the corona crisis, which is 2 percent more than the government predicted in May. Unemployment is also expected to rise to over 17 percent.
Record high government debt due to corona
The Spanish government debt has increased rapidly during the corona crisis, 1.29 trillion euros, which corresponds to 110 percent of the country’s GDP. This is the highest figure since the turn of the millennium. At the same time, the deficit in the state budget has increased to over 6 percent.
Decision on new restrictions via decree
The Spanish government decides, by decree, to quarantine the capital Madrid and nine surrounding municipalities with high infection rates of covid-19. This is done by agreement between most of Spain’s regions. However, Madrid, Catalonia, Andalusia and Galicia oppose this, as they believe that this is not the best way to deal with the ongoing corona pandemic. The Conservative regional government in Madrid says it will implement the measures, but that it will appeal the decree in court. Unlike the restrictions already imposed by the Madrid regional government, the new rules will apply to entire municipalities and not just certain districts. Those who will be covered are areas where more than 500 per 100,000 inhabitants are infected with covid-19. The restrictions take effect within 48 hours.