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Flight bans to visas – what does the EU’s Ukraine response mean for Spain?

Over the weekend the EU agreed to a further package of measures in response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine. From flight bans to entry rules and financial sanctions, here's how these will apply to those who are in Spain or want to come here.

Flight bans to visas – what does the EU’s Ukraine response mean for Spain?
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy give a joint press statement on further measures to respond to the Russian invasion of Ukraine at the European Commission in Brussels on February 27, 2022. (Photo by Stephanie LECOCQ / POOL / AFP)

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced further measures on Sunday, adding more pressure on Russia on top of previous economic sanctions in response to their invasion of Ukraine.

Her full statement did not go into much detail on exactly how the new rules will apply. 

It’s likely that there will be further clarifications in the days to come, but here’s what we know so far;

Visa rules

EU member states will discuss on Monday using a little-known rule called the Temporary Protection Directive to allow Ukrainians to stay within the Bloc for up to a year without a visa. 

Since 2017, Ukrainians have benefited from the 90-day rule, which means they can spend 90 days out of every 180 in the EU or Schengen zone without needing a visa.

“We need to be prepared for day 91,” EU home affairs commissioner Ylva Johansson said on Sunday.

This change would not affect entry to the Bloc – the 90-day rule means that Ukrainians can already enter without having to show a visa – but once here they would not be required to make an application for asylum.

Ursula von der Leyen said: “We welcome with open arms those Ukrainians who have to flee from Putin’s bombs and I am proud of the warm welcome that Europeans have given them.

“We are mobilising every effort and every euro to support our Eastern Member States – to host and take care of these refugees.”

Spanish Interior Minister Fernando Grande-Marlaska said on Sunday that his administration is fully committed to welcoming Ukrainian refugees to Spain.

For years children from Chernobyl have spent summers and Christmases with families in Spain thanks to NGO schemes that also exist for minors from Western Sahara. Many of these same Spanish families are now calling for a safe travel corridor to bring the children to Spain so they can house them permanently or until the conflict ends.  

Flight ban

Russian-owned, Russian-controlled or Russian-registered planes are now barred from all EU airspace, including the airspace over Spain. They will not be able to take off or land anywhere in the EU, or fly over EU airspace. This includes commercial airlines and private jets.

READ MORE: Spain joins allies in closing airspace to Russian planes

All flight connections between Spain and the Ukraine have been cancelled, and Ukraine has also closed its airspace.

There is, however, no travel ban on Russia, so people can still travel between Spain and Russia on either a non-Russian airline or by road, rail or sea. 

Spain’s Foreign Ministry on Sunday said it recommended that travellers delay non-essential travel to Russia and asked Spanish residents in Russia to stay informed about the conflict in Ukraine.

Spain’s Covid-related travel rules are still in place meaning that as non-EU nationals tourists from Russia must be fully vaccinated in order to travel to Spain, although Spain does not recognise the Sputnik vaccine.  

 

SWIFT/Russian central bank sanctions

If you have any financial dealings with organisations or individuals in Russia, these could become difficult in the coming days. 

The EU has agreed to disconnect Russia from the Swift network, which is a communications network used for making international money transfers, and von der Leyen also announced sanctions on Russia’s central bank 

Shipping ban 

If you have recently ordered anything from Russia you may find there are delivery issues even if your payment goes through without problems. 

Economic sanctions mean that certain cargo from Russia can be seized or blocked from entering the EU. 

Spain has also proposed that European ports be completely closed to Russian ships as well as for companies with capital in the eastern superpower.

Russia Today ban

The EU has also banned Russian state media outlets including Russia Today (RT), Sputnik and their subsidiaries. Exactly how this will work is not yet clear, with Von der Leyen announcing that the EU is “developing tools to ban their toxic and harmful disinformation in Europe”.

Both RT and Sputnik have Spanish-language versions.

Asset seizures

The Spanish government hasn’t published stats on the Russian oligarchs that live or have assets in Spain, nor have they announced any sanctions aimed at them as the United Kingdom and the United States have done.

However, the EU has proposed sanctions on Russia’s wealthiest tycoons so it may be only a matter of days before ‘oligarcas’ in Spain feel the pinch.  

Among the most notable assets that Russian millionaires own in Spain are mega-yachts docked in Barcelona, Marbella and other upmarket coastal locations, as well thousands of mansions in exclusive locations. 

Roman Abramovich and Vladimir Putin himself, as well as several other oligarchs, are reported to have ordered their exclusive yachts to be moved from the Spanish ports where they were docked in recent days due to fears that they will soon be seized by Spanish police.

Russian and Chinese nationals make up the bulk of foreign luxury buyers in Spain, as the acquisition of a home worth €500,000+ gives them access to EU residency through the so-called golden visa scheme.

READ ALSO: How much influence does Russia have over Spain?

Price rises

Previously announced economic sanctions on Russia are likely to lead to price rises throughout Europe, particularly for oil, gas and petrol. 

A meeting of EU energy ministers on Monday is going to look at ways of controlling price rises. 

READ ALSO: How Spain could be impacted by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine

Thanks to the fact that Spain gets most of its natural gas from Algeria, the country is less reliant than other EU countries on Russian gas, but it does import a large amount of maize and other grain from Ukraine.

In February 2022, an already high inflation rate reached 7.4 percent in Spain, the highest level in 33 years. This, combined with the crisis unfolding in Ukraine, will impact the price of food, non-alcoholic drinks and fuel in particular, economists say.

Eurovision

And if you’re a Eurovision fan, don’t expect to see a Russian entry at the contest in May, the European Broadcasting Commission has announced that Russia is barred from the 2022 event.

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WHAT CHANGES IN SPAIN

KEY POINTS: What changes in Spain in July 2022?

July sees the start of the summer holidays in Spain and brings with it new crisis handouts, VAT cuts on energy bills, travel chaos and a possible deal on UK driving licences. Join The Local Spain as a member to find out about this and plenty more.

KEY POINTS: What changes in Spain in July 2022?

€200 crisis payment available in July 

As part of their new draft of measures to help those struggling with the rising cost of living, the Spanish government announced they would give a one-off €200 handout to the most vulnerable individuals.

The payment plan is set to be activated this month and you can find out who is eligible and how to apply for it here.

According to Spain’s Tax Minister María Jesús Montero, approximately 2.7 million people in Spain will be able to benefit from the scheme. Individuals can request the €200 payment, as can families, but only one payment per household is allowed.

VAT on electricity bills cut by half 

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez recently announced that the government would apply a further reduction in VAT on electricity bills, which has now been approved by the cabinet. This means that a VAT reduction, from 10 to five percent, will be applied to electricity bills from July onwards.  

Find out how much you could save on your electricity bill with the new VAT discount here

Travel chaos continues

In the lead-up to the summer holidays, there has been travel chaos across Europe, including in Spain, due to flight cancellations, staff shortages and strikes. Unfortunately, the travel misery is only set to continue into July as several Spain-based cabin crew, including those from easyJet, Ryanair and Lufthansa have announced strikes.

EasyJet staff are scheduled to go on a nine-day strike on July 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 15th, 16th, 17th, 29th, 30th and 31st. Meanwhile, the Ryanair strike, which started on June 24th will continue on July 1st and 2nd. Over 54 flights have already been cancelled by the low-cost airline and more than 300 have been delayed.

German carrier Lufthansa and its budget airline brand, Eurowings are also planning to cancel more than 3,000 flights this summer due to both staff shortages and strikes. This is expected to affect flights from the hubs of Frankfurt and Munich to Spain, among others. 

Could there finally be a deal on UK driving licences?

The British Ambassador to Spain Hugh Elliott recently shared his latest update on the driving licence negotiations between the UK and Spain, indicating a possible agreement to have affected drivers back on the road by the end of July 2022.

“The UK and Spain are now in agreement on the core issues that have been problematic and we’re now very close to finalising the actual text of the agreement,” he explained.

This will be a great relief for many British residents in Spain who were unable to exchange their licence for a Spanish one and haven’t been allowed on the roads since May 1st 2022.

Scorching weather returns to Spain in July

After a brief respite from the mid-June heatwaves, the hot weather is set to return in July. According to the weather site Meteored, the first week of July will see storms and unpredictable weather in the north of the country, while temperatures could reach over 40°C in the south of the country around Córdoba and Seville.

The middle of the month from July 11th to 17th is set to see temperatures rise again. It’s likely that much of Extremadura and Andalusia will experience temperatures around 40°C, while it could also reach 38°C in Bilbao and Madrid.

The last two weeks of July will get even hotter with Meteored predicting the hottest temperatures of the whole year. Temperatures are expected to be above normal in all regions apart from along the Cantabrian coast and in the Canary Islands.

Summer sales go into full throttle

July 1st sees the official start of the summer sales throughout much of Spain, although many stores have started even earlier. With rising costs due to inflation, this is the time of year to benefit from some of the biggest discounts.

Amazon has two days scheduled for its sales from July 12th-13th, while H&M and all the retail stores belonging to Spanish clothing giant Inditex (Zara, Massimo Dutti, Bershka, Pull & Bear and Stradivarius) are also due to have their sales this month.

After the start of the sales, you’ll see signs for “segundas rebajas” (second sales), then “terceras rebajas” and finally “remate final” (final push), where discounts progressively go from 30 percent to 40, then 50 and finally down to an incredible 70 percent price reduction. 

Imserso holiday scheme for pensioners kicks off 

Imserso is a social scheme offering holidays to the elderly, which aim to offer subsidised trips to pensioners. Applications for the vacation scheme this year are open from June 27th to July 19th and usually run during the low season from October. Find out how to apply here.

Depending on the dates you go and the type of accommodation you stay in, you will usually have to pay between €115 and €405 for the trip.

Vehicles in Spain need to have Intelligent Speed Assistance

New cars sold in Spain and across the EU must have automatic Intelligent Speed Assistance technology from July 6th as part of the General Safety Regulation.

All newly launched models will need to have Intelligent Speed Assistance systems installed as standard. The idea is to limit speeds and warn drivers to slow down if they’re over the legal speed limit.

Festivals in Spain in July

July sees a whole host of festivals and celebrations across the country. Most famous are the San Fermín Running of the Bulls, held in Pamplona from July 6th – 14th and the Fiestas de Santiago Apóstol, held in the Galician city on July 25th.

Other festivities taking place in July include Bilbao’s BBK music festival from the 7th to the 9th and the Moors and Christians parades in Villajoyosa from the 23rd to 24th, commemorating the battle of 1538.

Pride celebrations are also set to return in July. Madrid’s LGBTIQ+ festival will take place from July 1st to 10th throughout many areas of the city but concentrated around Chueca.

New law to improve rights of domestic workers

A new law could be approved this month to improve the rights of domestic workers so that they have the same rights as other workers, such as the right to unemployment benefits and proper wages.

A third of the 536,100 domestics (mostly women) who work in Spain are not signed up to Spain’s social security system, according to the country’s Labour Force Survey. Two out of every three have earnings around the minimum wage bracket.

Early last year the Spanish government sent out letters to Spanish households who employ workers to warn them of their obligations.

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