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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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WOMEN'S RIGHTS

Spanish government divided over proposed menstruation leave bill

Talk of abortion policy reform and proposed menstrual leave has dominated Spanish discourse this week, but it’s also dividing Spain’s coalition government.

Spanish government divided over proposed menstruation leave bill

Spain’s PSOE-fronted coalition government recently outlined proposals that have dominated public discourse in the country.

But the legislation, which would allow women over the age of 16 to get abortions without the permission of their parents and introduce ‘menstruation leave’ for those suffering serious period pains, has not only divided Spanish society but the government itself.

The proposals would make Spain a leader in the Western world, and the first European Union member state to introduce menstrual leave, and changes to abortion law would overturn a 2015 law passed by the conservative People’s Party that forced women aged 16 and 17 to obtain parental consent.

The wide-ranging bill would also end VAT on menstrual products, increase the free distribution of them in schools, and allow between three and five days of leave each month for women who experience particularly painful periods.

READ MORE: What are Spain’s abortion laws for foreign residents and visitors?

Menstrual leave

Ángela Rodríguez, the Secretary of State for Equality, told Spanish newspaper El Periódico in March that “it’s important to be clear about what a painful period is – we’re not talking about slight discomfort, but about serious symptoms such as diarrhoea, fever and bad headaches.”

“When there’s a problem that can’t be solved medically, we think it’s very sensible to have temporary sick leave,” she added.

Cabinet politics

The proposals are slated for approval in cabinet next week, and judging by reports in the Spanish media this week, it is far from reaching a consensus. It is believed the intra-cabinet tensions stem not from the changes to abortion and contraception accessibility, but rather the proposed menstrual leave.

The junior coalition partner in government, Podemos, largely supports the bill, but it is believed some in the PSOE ranks are more sceptical about the symbolism and employment effects of the proposed period pain policy.

Vice President and Minister of Economic Affairs, Nadia Calviño, said this week: “Let me repeat it very clearly: this government believes and is absolutely committed to gender equality and we will never adopt measures that may result in a stigmatisation of women.”

Yet Second Vice President and Minister of Labour, Yolanda Díaz, who is viewed as further to the left than President Pedro Sánchez and other PSOE cabinet ministers, is reportedly “absolutely in favour” of the measure to reform Spain’s “deeply masculinised” labour market.

Sources in the Spanish media have this week also reported that some PSOE cabinet ministers feel the proposed paid leave not only plays up to stereotypes of women, or stigmatises them, like Calviño says, but also places them at a disadvantage in the world of work.

Minister of Inclusion, Social Security and Migration, José Luis Escrivá, stated that while the government should seek to improve women’s employment protections, it should also seek to boost their participation in the labour market under “better conditions.”

In that vein, some feel menstrual leave could be used a form of of employment discrimination similarly to how pregnancy has been historically, and the policy would, in that sense, actually be more regressive than progressive in enshrining women’s workplace rights. 

READ MORE: Spain eyes free contraception for under-25’s

Trade unions

Trade unions are also sceptical of the menstrual leave legislation. Cristina Antoñanzas, deputy secretary of UGT, one of Spain’s largest trade unions, has echoed those in the cabinet who feel the proposals could “stigmatise women.” She added that “it does women a disservice.”

Public opinion

A survey run by INTIMINA found that 67 percent of Spanish women are in favour of regulating menstrual leave, but also that 75 percent fear it is “a double-edged sword” that could generate labor discrimination.

The survey also found that 88 percent of women who suffer from disabling and frequent period pain have gone to work despite it. Seventy-one percent admitted that they have normalised working with pain.

Cabinet showdown

The proposed menstrual leave policy will be debated in cabinet next week when the Council of Ministers debates and approves the broader abortion and contraception reforms. According to sources in the Spanish media, and many cabinet ministers themselves, it seems a consensus on menstruation leave is a long way off.




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