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WHAT CHANGES IN SPAIN

NEW LAWS: What changes about life in Spain in March 2022?

As March begins in Spain, we look at the new traffic fines, updated travel rules, changes to mask wearing, tax deadlines and other important changes that affect life in the country.

NEW LAWS: What changes about life in Spain in March 2022?
The indoor mask requirement, Russia's invasion of Ukraine and Spain's new traffic fines are the three of the most important changes to expect in Spain in March 2022. Photos: Jon Nazca, Pau Barrena, Miguel Riopa/AFP

Two years of Covid in Spain 

On March 14th 2020, Spain’s 47 million inhabitants went into full lockdown as the country and the world realised they were entering a global pandemic. It was a surreal time for all of us as we spent two months in strict home confinement, glued to the news and only allowed out for essential reasons as health workers battled to save lives with a virus they did not fully understand.

A lot has changed since: six coronavirus waves, almost 100,000 deaths, more than 10 million infections, countless rules changes, 82 percent of the population fully vaccinated and 51 percent with a booster shot. 

Two years on and Covid is still with us but Spain is slowly heading towards a ‘new normal’ where restrictions don’t dominate our lives and Covid-19 infections are less rampant. Here’s to hoping the situation continues on the same track. 

End of indoor face mask requirement?

Even though experts and epidemiologists recently suggested that face masks will continue to be mandatory in indoor public settings until at least the summer of 2022, on February 28th Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez announced that the long-lasting Covid rule will be lifted “very soon”.

Sánchez did stress that the decision will be based on “consensus” between the regions and the advice of health professionals and the regions. 

Neighbouring France will lift the indoor face mask rule on March 1st, as have other European nations already, and Spain has put the worst of the Omicron variant and the sixth wave behind it, with the infection rate dropping by more than 2,000 points in February.

So unless Covid-19 cases start picking up again, it could well be that in March the indoor mask requirement is lifted in at least some indoor settings.

 

Asset declarations deadline and new fines

If you live in Spain and own assets abroad, you have to submit the ‘Modelo 720’ if you have bank accounts, assets/private pensions or a property abroad which are worth more than €50,000. 

If income or assets abroad are not declared to the Spanish taxman between January 1st and March 31st, they will be treated as an unjustified capital gain.

Spain has just eased the fines for wrongdoers from 150 percent of the value of the undeclared amount down to a maximum of 50 percent following staunch criticism from the Court of Justice of the European Union, whose judges referred to Spain’s penalties as “extortionate” and in breach of EU rules. 

You are not required to complete the Modelo 720 every year but you will need to complete it again if your assets have changed during the course of the last calendar year.

READ MORE: How Spain’s foreign asset declaration laws are finally changing for the better

Spain and EU to keep looking to Ukraine

Thousands of people have been taking to the streets of cities across Spain day after day to denounce Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, a scenario that’s likely to continue in March unless Russian troops leave the eastern country.

Spanish politics will no doubt continue to focus on Ukraine if the conflict escalates and in March Spain will welcome potentially thousands of Ukrainian refugees that have been forced to leave their homes.  

PM Sánchez on Monday said he would set up a system which allowed the 100,000 Ukrainians already living in Spain to continue to easily  and “legally live and work” in Spain without having to meet the usual criteria for residency and work permits for non-EU applicants. It remains unclear if this offering would also be made to newly arrived Ukrainian refugees.

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

Prices to keep rising 

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine could have a considerable impact on Spain’s economy, with the price and supply of energy and certain food products already affected.

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.

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

New travel rule for non-EU tourists

Spanish authorities have eased the travel rule which previously only permitted fully vaccinated non-EU/EEA tourists to visit the country, now also allowing those who’ve had Covid-19 and can prove it with a recovery certificate to enter.

That means that in March tourists from third countries who have recovered from Covid-19 in the past six months will be able to visit Spain even if they haven’t been fully vaccinated against Covid or if their Covid vaccination certificate has expired because they haven’t had a booster shot.

READ MORE: Spain allows entry of non-EU travellers if they have recovery certificate

New road rules and fines

On March 21st Spain’s DGT traffic authority will implement a new set of rules and fines which aim to improve road safety and toughen some rules imposing stiffer fines.

The most important changes are as follows:

Holding the phone while driving will be punished with a €200 fine and the loss of 4 points off one’s driving licence, even if you are not actually using your mobile.

Not using your seat belt or doing it incorrectly will be punished with a €200 fine and the loss of 4 points; one more than previously.

It will be mandatory to change lanes when overtaking cyclists, as long as the road has more than one lane in each direction.

Throwing objects on the road such as cigarette butts will carry a penalty of 6 points and €200 instead of the current 4 points.

It will no longer be possible to surpass the speed limit of carreteras convencionales (secondary roads) by up to 20km/h when overtaking other vehicles. 

Spain’s furlough scheme ends

The Spanish government recently agreed with unions and business groups to extend its furlough scheme for workers affected by the Covid pandemic once again, this time until the end of March 2022.

There is no saying whether the costly ERTE scheme, which was first introduced in April 2020 and has since been extended several times, will be kept after that date, given that the epidemiological situation is improving but Spain’s economy is being hit by high inflation and the impact of the Ukraine crisis.

Back to full capacity

From March 4th onwards, Spanish football clubs will be allowed to open their stadiums up to 100 percent capacity after national restrictions brought in to combat the Covid-19 pandemic were lifted by Spain’s Health Ministry.

However, regional authorities will still have a say on whether local sports grounds should be allowed to operate at 100 percent capacity. 

New Valencia-Madrid train

Great news for those in the Valencia region who fancy a city break in the capital in March, and for Madrid residents in search of some sun, sea and fun on the Costa Blanca.

Avlo, the low-cost subsidiary of Spain’s public rail provider, has just launched a new high-speed train route between Madrid and Valencia, with tickets going for as little as €7.

There’s a new low-cost high-speed AVE train that will link Valencia and Madrid which launched on February 21st.  

There will be three daily services in each direction, representing 2,200 seats in total over the six daily journeys. 

The Avlo trains leave from Valencia to Madrid at 9.28am, 4.15pm and 9.10 pm. The Madrid-Valencia routes will depart at 6.30am, 12.40pm and 6.40pm from the Spanish capital. 

Rewind the clocks

Daylight saving time (DST) will begin at 02:00 am on Sunday March 27th, when mainland Spanish clocks will go forward an hour. Sunrise and sunset will be about one hour later and there will be more light in the evening.

DST will end on Sunday October 31st at 03:00 am.

Hoping for spring rain 

The Iberian Peninsula has had an exceptionally dry winter, with very little rainfall in January in particular causing extreme drought in both Spain and Portugal. 

READ MORE: ‘Spain needs to change its ways’: Scientists warn over worsening drought

Many in Spain will be hoping for rain by the time spring arrives on March 20th, and the forecast for early March is promising at least, as the north and east of the country are likely to experience their most ample rainfall so far in 2022. 

A considerable drop in temperatures is also expected for Thursday March 3rd onwards, which will result in snow in higher altitude areas.

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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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