Viva España

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jack femalefocusonlineJournalist and broadcaster Jack Troughton plays ‘Johnny Foreigner’ and casts an eye over Spain and focuses on stories that serve as a gentle reminder he remains an Englishman abroad.

VALENCIA is the latest Spanish city to join the increasingly bitter battle against the rise and rise of holiday rentals in key tourist destinations where the locals find themselves priced out of the market and unable to afford a place to rest their heads.
The natives are increasingly not friendly over the economic pressures; there is no place to call ‘home’ as landlords look to cash in on the easy bucks available by offering rentals to visitors.
Locals say they are unable to afford to live in their own neighbourhoods - and also those that remain in the mean streets complain they are subjected to a bombardment of noise and disturbances from visitors.
And when people get hot under the collar in Spain they take to those same streets and demonstrate to make their feelings known...and along the Mediterranean coast there appear to be an increasing series of ‘light bulb’ moments as politicians get the general idea and look to address the problem.
Naturally, it needs a balancing act rather than a wave of a magic wand; tourism is after all just a tiny bit important to the economy but town and city halls like a challenge and this one is filed under ‘regulation’, with the tried and tested formula of enacting a bylaw or two thrown in.

It does mean taking on the new world giant called technology; it is a market driven by private rentals of property, even if it is just a room with a view in a family home – talk too much about a black economy in Spain these days and it is kind of a red rag to a bull (and everyone knows how unpopular blood sports are!).

Barcelona first felt the pinch as it was targeted by a tsunami of online listings. City hall acted and apparently shut down more than 1,000 apartments and whacked Airbnb and Homeaway across the knuckles with €600,000 fines; apparently Catalonia has collected more than €4 million since 2012.

In Madrid, property owners are given the right to collectively decide right and wrong through community meetings; the local authority want owners of holiday rentals to be made to register for a special licence if a property is let for more than 90 days a year.

In Andalusia owners must register property on a rental database; Mallorca’s Palma has gone for a total ban while other regional governments are looking to stay in charge of a growing trend.

 Valencia – which has also fined rental websites – is looking to control the problem by a system of licensing; the permit to show the property is ‘legal’ will be shown on online listings.

However, the problem is not going to go away and each destination has its own problems and must adapt without risking too much harm to a goose still laying golden eggs.

Sisters beat Big Brother: a Spanish judge has ordered a supermarket to give a sacked worker her job back or pay €19,000 compensation after she was secretly filmed scoffing an ‘empanadilla’ at work.

A spy camera recorded the woman eating the pasty but the court ruled the footage breached her privacy – she was seen eating while serving customers in Cordoba, breaching strict hygiene rules. She was unaware of the hidden camera.

In January, five other women, all supermarket workers, won a similar case at the European Court of Human Rights – Spanish courts allowed covert video evidence showing the five stealing and helping colleagues and customers to do so as admissible; the judges in Strasbourg disagreed; they said under data protection laws, the five should have been informed they were under surveillance.

Again it was ruled this was a breach of their privacy...it seems some people can have their pasty and eat it.

The Rock looks for change: the tiny British territory of Gibraltar has Europe’s harshest abortion laws - with the penalty for breaching the law the risk of life imprisonment.

Termination remains an emotional subject – modern thinking puts a woman’s right to choose first - but campaigners are looking for liberalisation, many fear that crossing to Spain to beat current law will be more difficult after Brexit.

Abortion is legal in Spain up to 14 weeks of pregnancy and in England, Scotland and Wales up to 24 weeks – if a mother’s life is at risk, even beyond this limit. Gibraltar women are fighting a long-standing taboo and are worried back-street terminations will only increase if nothing is done.

While the life sentence has not been imposed in recent times, those backing a change are looking to the European courts to challenge the law and the Catholic conservatism that has refused to address the issue.