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POLITICS

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

With 2022 drawing to a close, The Local takes a look back at ten events that shaped the news in Spain this year.

REVIEW: Ten stories that shaped the news in Spain in 2022
Wildfires, war in Ukraine, the Melilla migrant tragedy and healthcare protests have all dominated the news in Spain in 2022. Photos: Miguel Riopa, Genya Savilov, Fadel Senna, Oscar del Pozo/AFP

Inflation

Inflation has been a problem the world over in 2022 but one felt particularly hard in Spain, where it reached a 38-year high. Prices of everything from olive oil and cheese to utility bills and petrol have soared and made living costs incredibly difficult for many Spaniards, with experts estimating that people in Spain spent on average €1,100 more on daily costs in 2022 than the previous year.

READ ALSO: Rising inflation in Spain: Six cost-cutting ways to fight it

The EU’s Harmonised Index of Consumer Prices (HICP) concluded that Spain is where the cost difference is greatest, however, especially when looking at the EU’s largest economies: Germany, France, Italy and Spain. 

Driven by the war in Ukraine, Spanish food prices jumped 15.4 percent in October from a year earlier, their biggest increase in nearly three decades, according to the National Statistics Institute. (Photo by PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU / AFP)
 

War in Ukraine

Similarly, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February and the ensuing war have been big news in Spain. Ukrainian flags have become commonplace not only in bigger cities but small towns across the country. The war was one of the causes of the rampant inflation this year, and Spain has taken in over 150,000 refugees, and also sent weapons, health equipment, medicines, fuel, clothing, and even generators.

And rather strangely, towards the end of the year Ukrainian embassy buildings were caught up in the worrying letter bomb trend that involved animal eyes and a booby-trapped letter sent to Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez.

Spanish military personnel trained a group of 400 Ukrainian soldiers as part of the EU military assistance to Ukraine amid the country’s ongoing conflict with Russia. (Photo by Thomas COEX / AFP)
 

Forest fires and heatwaves

Despite torrential rains and a cold snap in recent weeks in some parts of Spain, 2022 was a scorcher – with July being the hottest month in Spain since records began in 1961 and temperatures almost 3C above normal. The mercury regularly reached the high-40s in southern Spain, and the northern regions experienced unusually hot weather.

Sadly, though Spain is renowned for its sunny climate. 2022’s temperatures were fatal for some, with over 4,000 people dying during the Spain’s three olas de calor (heatwaves).

The fierce temperatures also had a knock-on effect, with droughts and forest fires common during the summer months. In fact, 2022 had more forest fires recorded than any year since 2006 – 55 large fires in total that scorched more than 293,155 hectares of land across the country and created quite an apocalyptic feeling at times over the summer.

READ MORE: 

A helicopter drops water as members of the Forest Fires Reinforcement Brigades (BRIF) work to put out a wildfire in the Moncayo Natural Park, Aragon, on August 15, 2022. Photo: ANDER GILLENEA/AFP

 

Health protests

Though the worst effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have subsided (despite masks still being a requirement on public transport), Spain’s internationally renowned healthcare system has struggled in 2022 and seen protests across the country demanding a stop to the deterioration of public services and slow privatisation of the healthcare system.

Thousands of doctors, other healthcare workers and other supporters of Spain’s strained healthcare system have taken to the streets of Andalusia, Madrid as well as other Spanish regions and cities to call for changes.

200,000+ protesters gather at Madrid’s Cibeles square during a demonstration called by citizens under the slogan “Madrid stands up for its public health. Against the destruction of primary health care” on November 13, 2022. (Photo by OSCAR DEL POZO / AFP)
 

Startups Law

Spain’s long awaited ‘Startups Law’ was finally passed in November, aimed at attracting foreign investment, entrepreneurs and digital nomads. It is due to come into force in early 2023 and has arguably been the biggest topic of interest for our foreign readers in 2022.

Here’s the 15 things you need to know about it (from tax perks to a new visa) and a checklist of things digital nomads should consider if they’re consider moving to Spain.

spain startups law
The new legislation includes tax deductions for foreign startups, remote workers and digital nomads as well as a new visa. (Photo by VANO SHLAMOV / AFP)
 

UK driving licence debacle

2022 has been a frustrating year for thousands of UK licence holders living in Spain who since May 1st have not been allowed to drive in the country. It’s a long-foreseen consequence of Brexit but after more than two years of negotiations, Spanish and UK authorities have still not been able to finalise a deal on the recognition of UK licences in Spain and the previous grace periods offered to drivers have run out.

The latest important update from the British Ambassador was in late November when he announced a deal had been reached for the exchange of British licences in Spain, but the legislation still has to make its way through Spain’s bureaucratic maze, which could take weeks if not months.

READ MORE:

Melilla tragedy

In June, the news cycle in Spain was filled with the tragic images of the Melilla tragedy, in which at least 23 migrants died in a single day (NGOs say more) when trying to enter into Spain from Morocco through the Spain’s North African territory of Melilla.

It has since been claimed by Amnesty International that both Spanish and Moroccan border guards ‘contributed’ to the fatalities.

It’s a sad reminder that Spain’s migrant crisis has been ongoing throughout 2022. Since 2018, six people die every day trying to reach Spain.

READ ALSO: Why are Ceuta and Melilla Spanish?

Protestors hold a banner reading “Against the massacre in Melilla” as they take part in a anti-racism demonstration “against the deaths at the borders” in Barcelona. (Photo by Pau BARRENA / AFP)
 

Controversial laws

After having most of their time in office swallowed up by the COVID-19 pandemic, Pedro Sánchez’s PSOE-led government wasted no time trying to make up for it 2022, passing a series of progressive but controversial laws.

One of these were the Trans Law, new gender self-identification legislation that has faced widespread criticism from across the country and political spectrum. 

The other was the new sexual consent law passed in the summer, known as the ‘only yes means yes’ (solo sí es sí) law that has caused outrage by accidentally reducing sentences (and even releasing) some convicted sexual criminals. 

As the year ends, the government is trying desperately to reform the law and recover from the political own goal.

Spain’s Minister of Equality Irene Montero has spearheaded the controversial sexual consent law. (Photo by PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU / AFP)
 

Spanish politics 

2022 was quite the year for politics in Spain. The main opposition party, PP, replaced its leader scandal-ridden leader Pablo Casado with Alberto Núñez Feijóo, a man perceived to be a moderate, steady pair of hands. Yet after an initial poll boost, Pedro Sánchez (who many assumed would be a one-term pandemic Prime Minister) has regained ground in recent months. That is, until the recent political own goals of the disastrous sexual consent law and his politically risky ventures into the Catalonia question.

The centre-right PP won regional elections in traditionally socialist Andalusia in June, and far-right Vox entered into a regional government coalition in Castilla y León in April. Some believe the PP will need to join forces with Vox if they want to take hold of the national government.

With a general election slated for some time by the end of 2023, next year promises to be an eventful one in Spanish politics with much to be won – and lost.

Will 2023 be Pedro Sánchez’s last year in power in Spain? Photo: Kenzo TRIBOUILLARD/AFP.

World Cup debacle

After a promising start to the Qatar World Cup with a 7-0 thumping of Costa Rica, it was certainly a forgettable tournament for La Roja as Spain were kicked out on penalties by neighbours Morocco following a toothless 0-0 draw. For many, it spelt the end of the famed tiki-taka passing and possession game that won Spain the trophy in 2010.

For a country with such footballing pedigree, it came as little surprise to anyone in Spain that coach Luis Enrique was almost immediately sacked.

After struggling to score for 120 minutes against a defensively strong Morocco, Spain’s players missed three penalties in the shootout. (Photo by JAVIER SORIANO / AFP)
 

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POLITICS

Spain’s Sánchez in Morocco to mend fences after crisis

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez was in Rabat on Thursday to reset a "strategic partnership" despite criticism from within his left-wing government that it has caved into Moroccan pressure.

Spain's Sánchez in Morocco to mend fences after crisis

Sánchez and a dozen ministers are set to meet Moroccan Prime Minister Aziz Akhannouch for the first “high-level meeting” of its kind since 2015.

“Today we are consolidating a new stage in relations between Morocco and Spain,” Sánchez told journalists in Rabat, saying there was “enormous unexplored potential” between them.

His visit comes less than a year after he drew a line under a year-long diplomatic crisis by reversing decades of neutrality in the Western Sahara conflict to back Morocco’s position.

But Sánchez has faced criticism from both the left and right for the concession to Morocco, including from his administration’s number three, Labour Minister Yolanda Díaz of the hard-left Podemos party.

She has declined to join this week’s trip, in line with her party’s rejection of Sánchez’s “unilateral” U-turn on Western Sahara.

Spain’s right-wing opposition has also slammed Sánchez over the policy, with González Pons, a member of the European Parliament from the Popular Party, saying there was “no greater humiliation than bowing to the will of Morocco”.

Sánchez has defended his move as essential for Spanish interests.

On Thursday he called for new Spanish investments in Morocco, where his country is already the third-biggest foreign investor.

Investment deals

Around 20 deals were signed on Thursday to boost Spanish investments in everything from renewable energy to education, as well as doubling Spanish state support for firms setting up projects there.

Moroccan Prime Minister Aziz Akhannouch said the two countries “want to establish a new economic partnership in the service of development”.

The crisis between Rabat and Madrid had begun in 2021 when Brahim Ghali, leader of the Polisario Front which seeks independence for Western Sahara, was treated for Covid-19 in a Spanish hospital.

Weeks later, more than 10,000 migrants surged into Spain’s tiny Ceuta enclave as Moroccan border forces looked the other way, an incident seen as a Moroccan move to punish Madrid.

In March last year, Madrid announced a “new stage” in relations and said it backed the North African kingdom’s plan for the Western Sahara of limited autonomy under Moroccan sovereignty.

The following month, Sánchez paid a high-profile visit to Morocco and was hosted by King Mohammed VI.

The Spanish premier came under renewed fire this week for holding a high-level visit to Morocco without being hosted by the monarch.

Conservative newspaper El Mundo said the king “had shown his position of strength by standing Sánchez up”.

However, King Mohammed did this week invite the Spanish premier for a higher-profile state visit in the near future to “reinforce the positive dynamic” in their ties, according to a palace statement.

‘Honeymoon’

Cooperation over clandestine migration and terrorism is also high on the agenda during Sánchez’s visit.

After resuming cooperation with the kingdom, Spain said arrivals of irregular migrants on its territory from Morocco were down by a quarter last year compared with 2021.

Both countries faced criticism from human rights groups after at least 23 migrants died during a mass attempt to enter the Melilla enclave in June 2022.

Spain’s Interior Minister Fernando Grande-Marlaska is set to ask his Moroccan counterpart Abdelouafi Laftit to return deportations of irregular migrants to pre-Covid levels, according to a ministry official.

The visit comes as the European Parliament lifts the immunity of two lawmakers targeted in a Belgian probe into suspected bribery linked to Morocco as well as Qatar.

Morocco has staunchly denied any wrongdoing, but the investigation by Belgian police has sparked tensions between key European states and the North African kingdom.

Moroccan politicians and media have accused France, a staunch ally of the kingdom, of “orchestrating” a European Parliament resolution critical of Morocco’s treatment of the press.

“There’s a honeymoon between Rabat and Madrid, and a cold crisis” between Rabat and Paris, French-Moroccan journalist Mustapha Tossa wrote on news website Atlasinfo.

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