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WHAT CHANGES IN SPAIN

KEY POINTS: What changes about life in Spain in December 2022

From Christmas festivities and public holidays to the latest on the Startups Law and a new Madrid-Valencia train, become a member to find out about all the important changes in Spain in the last month of 2022.

KEY POINTS: What changes about life in Spain in December 2022
What changes in Spain in December from cold snaps to cheaper medicines. Photos: Sushuti (Pixabay), Alvaro Araoz (Unsplash) & Myriam Zilles (Unsplash)

Puentes and Christmas holidays

December is of course the month when the Christmas holidays take place, but even before that there are several public holidays to enjoy. These take place during the week of December 5th to the 11th, with Tuesday the 6th being Spanish Constitution Day and Thursday December 8th the Day of the Immaculate Conception. Both days are national public holidays across all regions.

Because of this, many workers decide to take a ‘puente’ or bridge the two public holidays together and take an extra vacation day in between. This could either be taking December 5th as a holiday and having a long weekend from the 3rd to the 6th or taking Friday the 9th off work and taking a break between the 8th and the 11th.

This year Christmas Day, December 25th falls on a Sunday, so the public holiday will be moved to Monday, December 26th in most regions across Spain.

Medicines are getting cheaper

More than 17,000 different types of medications will be getting cheaper in Spain next month, officially coming into force on Tuesday, November 29th. Spain’s Health Ministry estimates that this could save up to €270.89 million – €229 million in hospitals and €41.75 million in pharmacies. The Minimum Reference Price for medicines will now be set at €1.60.

It’s important to remember though, that people will not see the difference in price in the pharmacies until January 1st 2023, as the distributors will maintain the previous sale price until December 31st 2022.

New Madrid-Valencia train

Iryo, Spain’s brand-new third train operator, kickstarted its operations in the country on Friday November 25th with its Madrid-Barcelona route.

On Friday December 16th, it will launch its Madrid-Valencia line (via Cuenca), which takes 1 hour and 53 minutes to complete the journey.

The average cost per one-way ticket is €18 according to Iryo. Tickets are already on sale.

READ MORE: What to know about Iryo, Spain’s newest high-speed low-cost trains

Flying to Spain in December or at Christmas

Airline strikes by Vueling and Ryanair and an increase in passengers could make travelling this winter a little more challenging.

According to Spain’s airport operator Aena, the number of airline tickets sold for travel to Spain over the winter season is set to exceed the number in 2019-2020, before the Covid-19 pandemic.

Last winter saw the rise of the Omicron variant and some countries introduced new restrictions, so many foreign residents decided not to go back to see their families over the holidays. This means that this year could see more people wanting to return after several years of not having celebrated together with their families. 

Therefore, airports could be particularly busy this December, so make sure you leave plenty of time for getting through security and passport control.

We have a separate explainer on everything you need to know if you’re travelling to Spain in December or at Christmas, covering the rules, the least busy travel times, the strikes, the free travel deals and what you can’t check in.

 

New law about toy advertising 

From December 1st 2022, Spanish toy makers and advertisers cannot stop feature boys exclusively with cars and soldiers, and girls playing with dolls on their packaging and publicity.

The protocol will prohibit the “exclusive association” of girls with toys that reproduce roles of “caregiving, domestic work or beauty” and boys with “action, physical activity or technology”.

READ MORE: Spain moves to end gender stereotypes in toy adverts

Spain could experience Arctic weather

After such a scorching summer with various heatwaves, plus the hottest month since records began in July and the hottest October on record, perhaps it’s time for Spain to experience a cold snap. Weather experts believe that December could see cold air flow from the Arctic, which will produce extended periods of rain.

The spokesman for Spain’s State Meteorological Agency AEMET, Ruben del Campo said that a cold snap “couldn’t be ruled out” and that the Artic weather could arrive “in the coming weeks”. “Right now it’s impossible to say exactly when and where, though,” he continued.

One effect of this cold snap will be heavier and more frequent rains, more like the amount of rain that was seen in the spring of 2018.

EU to reach a gas deal

At the end of November, the EU agreed to postpone its agreement on a price cap for gas purchases between different member states until December. Spain’s Minister of Ecological Transition Teresa Ribera said that she hopes the European Commission can reach a deal on December 13th at the next meeting of the Energy Council.

The EU originally suggested a gas “safety ceiling” of €275 per megawatt hour as the bloc grapples with high energy prices spurred by Moscow’s war in Ukraine and supply cuts. The only time the TTF gas price has gone above the €275 limit, however, was between August 22nd and 29th this year and Ribera has been very critical of the proposal.

These conditions are designed to particularly satisfy Germany and the Netherlands who are very reluctant to sign a deal.

Events in December

The festive month is filled with all kinds of activities and events in Spain besides Christmas. The Carnavalcázar de Alcázar de San Juan in Castilla-La Mancha will take place, being the only town in Spain to celebrate its carnival in December.  

On December 24th the musical performances of Canto de la Sibila will be held in churches across the island of Mallorca, a tradition which has been inscribed onto UNESCO’s list of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

Then on December 28th, Spain celebrates the Día de los Santos Inocentes (Day of the Holy Innocents), its version of April Fools when people play pranks and jokes throughout the day.

New Year’s Eve or Noche Vieja is also a big deal in Spain, with plenty of parties, family dinners and the tradition of eating 12 grapes at midnight to bring good luck for the year ahead.

Could a UK licence deal finally become reality?

On November 18th, the UK Ambassador to Spain Hugh Elliott confirmed that “two outstanding issues” delaying negotiations have now been resolved. 

“What I can’t tell you today is exactly how many weeks those final steps will take,” he added.

The remaining processes include legal checks, securing ministerial approval on both sides, which for Spain is by the Consejo de Ministros (the Spanish Cabinet), and the necessary treaty processes and formal exchanges, explained Elliott.

“At that point (when the law comes into force) you will then have six months to exchange your UK licence for a Spanish one and during that time you will be able to drive using your existing valid UK licence,” he confirmed.

READ MORE: Deal on UK licences in Spain agreed but still no exchange date

Works scheduled on Madrid Metro

Metro Madrid has confirmed that during the month of December it will close line 7 in order to remove asbestos from the tunnels. They will close the station Avenida de América from December 3rd to 18th and a free substitute bus service will run for those commuters affected. 

Other lines that stop at Avenida de América – 4, 6 and 9, will not be affected and will work normally.

The final vote on Spain’s startups law will take place

The final vote on the much-anticipated startups law and digital nomad visa is due to take place on December 1st by the Congress of Deputies. The law was originally proposed back in 2018. 

If it passes, it means that it will enter into legislation before Christmas, paving the way for many startup companies and digital nomads to make their move to Spain in 2023. 

READ ALSO – Spain’s new digital nomad visa: Everything we know so far

Many transport tickets will continue to be free after December 2022

The Spanish government initially stated that multi-journey train tickets would be free across much of Spain on Cercanías, Rodalies and Media Distancia trains from September-December 2022, however, this has been extended into 2023. 

Spain’s Budget Minister María Jesús Montero announced the move in October saying that it will be extended until at least December 2023 when the measure’s economic and environmental impact will be evaluated. 

At the end of November, the Spanish government also announced that many long-distance buses will go from being half-price to free in 2023.

Inflation is showing signs of slowing down in December

Inflation stood at 6.8 percent in November, according to Spain’s National Institute of Statistics (INE) and for the fourth consecutive month it has been falling, since a high of 10.8 percent in July, the highest level seen in 38 years. 

This means that inflation could continue to ease in December, making Christmas shopping just that little bit kinder on our wallets. Of course shopping for Christmas dinner will still be more expensive than in 2021, but will be much more affordable than if we had to buy it in the summer of this year. 

READ ALSO: Which food should you buy early in Spain to save on Christmas costs?

Spain to keep limiting rent increases throughout 2023

The law on limiting the amount landlords can increase the rent by was also due to expire in December 2022, but at the end of November the Spanish government confirmed that this would extend into 2023.

This means that landlords can only increase rent by a maximum of 2 percent throughout 2023, shielding renters from rising inflation.

Prior to this many landlords had the right to increase the price of the rent on a yearly basis based on the Consumer Price Index (CPI), the figure used to measure inflation.

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WHAT CHANGES IN SPAIN

What to expect from Spain in 2023

2023 looks set to be another tempestuous year in Spain. There’ll be high points and low blows, joy and drama — Spain being very Spain, writes Brendan Boyle.

What to expect from Spain in 2023

Spain was Spain again in 2022. This year saw the return of fiestas, festivals, and ferias — such profound economic and emotional stimulants for Spanish society — return in their full capacities, filling the country’s streets and squares with colour, vigour, and alegría (happiness).

REVIEW: Ten stories that shaped the news in Spain in 2022

However, no sooner had the battle with an invisible enemy in Covid-19 begun to wane than Vladimir Putin declared war on Ukraine. Spaniards quickly learned the meaning of cost-push inflation — in July, it hit a 38-year high of 10.8 percent.

As Spain enters a bumper election year, attention will move away from the ideological debates that fill the airwaves and column inches here toward a subject we can all understand: the money in our pockets.

Here is just a flavour of what’s to come in 2023, from the expected to the unexpected.

1. All eyes on Spain
Spain will assume the Presidency of the Council of the European Union for the fifth time during the second half of 2023. Coinciding with the run-in to the general election, there will be lots of nice opportunities for handshakes and soundbites for PM Pedro Sánchez when Charles Michel, Ursula von der Leyen, Emmanuel Macron, and company visit Madrid. Like the French president, Sánchez feels more loved in Brussels than at home, and we can expect him to use these gatherings to cement his position as the face of modern Spain in Europe. Of the four leaders present at the last general election debate in 2019, only Sánchez is left standing — his allies in Europe will be hoping he secures a second term.

READ ALSO: How Spain’s PM Pedro Sánchez is set to become ‘King of the Socialists’

Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez (R) welcomes European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen during the EU-MED9 Euro-Mediterranean Group Summit on December 9th 2022 in Alicante. (Photo by JOSE JORDAN / AFP)
 

2. Election fever
Towards the end of the last decade, Spaniards faced four gruelling general elections in four years. They’ll be sick of the sight of their local polling stations come this time next year. With municipal, regional, and general elections on the horizon, those living in Spain will be force-fed politics for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Will Spain’s first-ever coalition government pass the litmus test? If it doesn’t, the progressive block will be replaced by another coalition — this time from the opposite end of the political spectrum in the form of the conservative Partido Popular (PP) and far-right party Vox. Pedro Sánchez and his PSOE party have bounced back in the polls and the incumbent prime minister looks bullish and ready for the fight. His main rival Alberto Núñez Feijóo (PP), meanwhile, looks content to say little in the hope that the fragmented Left cause their own downfall.

READ ALSO: Who will win Spain’s 2023 election – Sánchez or Feijóo?

Will Alberto Núñez Feijóo govern Spain by the end of 2023? (Photo by OSCAR DEL POZO / AFP)
 

3. Madrid to have a new mayor?
It’s highly unlikely that the conservative Partido Popular will relinquish their grip on the Madrid regional government anytime soon — they’ve been in power since 1995 — but the battle for the mayor’s office looks to be anything but a formality. Rita Maestre of Más Madrid, the region’s left-wing Green party, looks well positioned to build on the impressive momentum generated during 2021’s regional elections and push current mayor José Luis Martínez-Almeida all the way. The municipal elections will be the only opportunity for immigrants without Spanish nationality to vote in 2023, a factor that should not be overlooked, especially in Madrid. Más Madrid have put in the hard yards on the ground to further the interests of many impoverished barrios in the city — their efforts could be rewarded with Maestre as mayor.

Rita Maestre’s has been gathering support in Madrid throughout 2022. Photo: Montserrat Boix/Wikipedia

4. No more talk of tax cuts
“Liz Truss has shown the dangers of tax cuts during times of turbulence. Tax is no longer the go-to play for Feijóó,” said Enric Juliana in La Vanguardia. The devastating market impact caused by Britain’s decision to take from the poor by giving tax cuts to the rich reverberated across Spain’s media. The lettuce was on the news, and prime minister Pedro Sánchez even brought a copy of The Economist to parliament. With Truss and Kwasi Kwarteng on the cover, the title was a pointed message to the opposition’s obsession with trickle-down economics: “How not to run a country.” The Partido Popular hasn’t mentioned tax cuts since. Viva la lettuce!

5. Adiós face masks
With an election year fast approaching, the Spanish government finished 2022 on a positive note. Their package to tackle the cost-of-living crisis included the temporary elimination of VAT on basic foods, a one-off payment to the lowest-income families, and the continuation of caps on rent increases and public transport subsidies. Now, with the third anniversary of the start of the Covid-19 pandemic looming, it appears likely that mandatory mask-wearing on public transport will soon be no more once flu season passes. While they have generally been exceptionally tolerant with regard to face coverings, the move would be greeted with a collective sigh of relief by Spaniards. As Pedro Sánchez seeks to keep the drip feed of good news flowing, this looks like low-hanging fruit for early spring.

READ ALSO: Masks to remain mandatory on public transport in Spain until March 2023

Spain looks almost certain to ditch face masks on public transport in the first half of 2023. (Photo by Gabriel BOUYS / AFP)
 

6. The new-look Santiago Bernabéu
The newly-renovated home of Real Madrid is on track to be unveiled next summer. While locals living in the area will hardly lament the conclusion of the drilling and traffic disruption that began in 2019, the finished project will have been worth the wait for Madridistas. The 81,000-seater arena will have a retractable pitch to facilitate music events and, according to The Athletic, “more iron is being used to hold in place the futuristic retractable roof than is contained in the entire Eiffel Tower.” That said, a recent letter published in El País branded the Bernabéu “an attack on the environment,” citing the construction of new parking lots for 1,600 private cars. It seems that the already congested Chamartín area is about to become even more choked up.

new real madrid stadium 1
Will the new Bernabéu be the best stadium in Europe? Render: Real Madrid

7. New wine to shine
While La Rioja and Ribera del Duero continue to dominate the red wine scene in Spain, 2023 could see consumers look to other regions and grape varieties for something different. Along with red wine from Portugal’s Dão region, the quality and price of Mencía, a grape variety native to northwest Spain, has seen it gain real traction in the Irish and UK wine markets. Guímaro and Algueira — both from Galicia’s Ribeira Sacra region — are just two names that offer outstanding value. For many, wine is art, and throughout history, many artists have had to make a name for themselves abroad before being recognised at home. Might Mencía be the next Joyce or Picasso?

Mencía, known as Jaen in Portugal, is a grape variety native to the western part of the Iberian Peninsula.(Photo by CESAR MANSO / AFP)

8. Year of Málaga
It’s Spain’s worst-kept secret. Chosen by El Mundo as its City of the Year, non-Spaniards are finally realising that Málaga is much more than a pit stop on the way to Costa del Sol resorts. “It’s a well-connected city that combines quality of life, culture, and new technologies,” says El País. This year, Citi announced the creation of a hub for new investment bankers in Málaga, fully confident the allure of sunshine, beaches, fine dining, and cultural offerings would attract top professionals. While the inevitable threat of mass tourism and property market inflation may be a concern for locals, there’s little doubt that Málaga is primed for a big 2023.

READ ALSO: Málaga voted world’s second best city for foreigners

In 2021, Málaga was voted the second best city in the world to live if you’re a foreigner. Photo: David Becker/Unsplash

Brendan Boyle is an Irish journalist based in Pontevedra, Galicia. You can follow him on Twitter: @BrendyBoyle

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