Boris Becker was slapped with two years and six months in prison. | EFE
Car Use Up
Palma residents are using private cars more than before the pandemic, says a national survey carried out by the Mobility Forum. 73% of Palma dwellers now opt for the car, compared to 62% in 2019. This puts the Balearic capital in third place for car use, behind Toledo with 84% and Badajoz with 77%. In Madrid (55%) and Barcelona (40%) car use is much lower, but this perhaps reflects the wider offering of alternative transport. Only 2% of Palma residents surveyed said they used public transport on a regular basis.
There’s hardly a news outlet on the planet that hasn’t covered ‘furious’ British holidaymaker Jason Walker who was left ‘upset’ by the Balearics’ ‘new’ all-inclusive six-drink-per-day rule. He’d jetted to Mallorca to celebrate his cousin’s birthday and, despite believing he could drink and eat as much as he wanted, was ‘angry’ to discover that there were limits on alcohol consumption. In 2020, in an attempt to crack down on binge tourism and antisocial behaviour, the Balearic Government imposed limits in certain trouble spot areas of Playa de Palma, Magalluf and San Antonio in Ibiza. This included a maximum of six all-inclusive alcoholic drinks per person per day - three during lunch, and three during dinner. Other measures banned happy hours, bar crawls, and the sale of alcohol in shops between 9.30pm and 8am. Travel agents and airlines are hastily issuing statements to remind their clients of the rules.
Dry Menu del Día
To add insult to injury, there were whisperings that the Ministry of Health was about to get tough on the inclusion of alcohol in the sacred menu del día. The Interterritorial Health Council met last week to approve the Cardiovascular Health Strategy (ESCAV) and one of the ideas under discussion was the removal of wine and beer from fixed-price restaurant menus. Certain media led with ‘booze ban’ headlines, provoking instant public outrage. The Ministry quickly responded, saying: "We reiterate that it is false information that bars and restaurants are going to be forced not to offer wine or beers on their menus… restaurant establishments should promote the Mediterranean diet as a model of heart-healthy eating”. Nonetheless, the Ministry of Health pointed out that cardiovascular diseases are: “the main cause of mortality and the second cause of hospitalisation" in Spain, despite the fact that it has achieved one of the highest life expectancies in the world.
Right to Vote
Last Thursday, campaigners were celebrating British expats’ lifelong right to vote in British parliamentary elections. Previously, expats weren’t permitted to vote if they’d lived outside of the UK for more than 15 years. The law would now be changed to allow Brits to vote in the constituency where they last featured on the electoral roll, or in the place where they were previously resident. It’s a victory for the many expats who still have property, family, and pay taxes in the UK and wish to have their say in politics ‘back home’. The 15-year rule was introduced under Tony Blair’s Labour government and repeatedly challenged on the simple grounds that it was a breach of human rights for Brits living abroad.
On Friday, Boris Becker was slapped with two years and six months in prison after being found guilty of four charges under the Insolvency Act. Speaking at Southwark Crown Court, sentencing Judge Deborah Taylor noted that the 54-year-old former tennis player had shown no remorse or acceptance of guilt. With good behaviour, Boris can serve half the term on probation.
Hasta Luego McManamans
Also on Friday, we read that England, Liverpool, Manchester City and Real Madrid legend, Steve McManaman, was selling up his Mallorca home. Steve and his wife Victoria, whom he married in Palma Cathedral in 2002, bought in the Beverly Hills of Mallorca, Son Vida, back in 2000, but have sadly fallen out of love with the Island. Having savoured years of quiet anonymity and uninterrupted vistas of the Bay of Palma, they feel that excess construction has shattered their peace, privacy and views. Victoria said: "It was not a decision we took lightly. We have had such wonderful times here… it will leave a huge hole in our lives".
NATO ships are currently taking part in exercise ESP MINEX 22 in Balearic waters. The fleet of 14 ships, a helicopter, and more than 700 troops, hail from nine countries, and include nine vessels from the Spanish Navy, two from the French, one Italian, one Greek, and one German, as well as teams from Belgium, the United States, Romania and Latvia. The objective is to detect and deactivate simulated mines around Balearic ports using Unmanned Underwater Vehicles (UUVs) and Diving Units specialised in Mine Warfare, Mine Countermeasures and Clearance Diving. The routine exercise ends on Friday.
UK Driving Licence Furore
The deadline for British citizens to drive in Spain on their UK licence came and went at midnight on Saturday April 30. This meant that those Brits who’d been resident in Spain longer than six months were banned from driving on now-invalid UK-issued licences. The rule does not apply to holidaymakers. The British Government has been advising people to switch to a Spanish licence throughout the transition period, but many failed to make the swap and now face theory and practical tests. The former can be taken in English, but the practical can only be conducted in Spanish. Spain is the ninth most expensive country in the world to get a driving licence - plus the cost of any necessary language classes. There are also long waiting lists at driving schools, exacerbated by the COVID-19 backlog. In the meantime, the UK Government is continuing to urge its Spanish counterpart to bring forward interim measures allowing UK residents to make a straightforward swap from a UK to Spanish licence without a test. The UK already has similar arrangements in place with 24 other EU countries.
More than 8,000 cyclists took part in this year’s Mallorca 312, each pedalling one of three distances: 167km, 225km or 312km. Among them were some famous faces from the world of professional cycling, such as Italian Ivan ‘The Terrible’ Basso, Irish legend Sean Kelly, two-time Tour de France winner Spaniard Alberto Contador and record-breaking five-time Tour de France winner fellow Spaniard Miguel Induráin. Belgian cyclist Olivier Godfroid was the fastest cyclist to complete Saturday’s long course in a time of 09:01:10, while the winning female was The Netherlands’ Joke van Wijk in 10:35:55.
Liga Winners Decided
On Saturday afternoon, Real Madrid secured their 35th La Liga title with a resounding 4-0 win over Espanyol. Madrid holds the record for the number of titles, nine more than Barcelona and 24 more than Atlético Madrid - last season’s champions. At the other end of the table, Real Mallorca will fight for its top-flight life at home to Granada on Saturday. The Club is doing all it can to rev up the Son Moix crowd, by dishing out free pre-match paella and 10,000 flags to fans as they arrive at the stadium for the 2pm kick-off. Tickets are also available at reduced prices. Mallorca’s last three matches are against Sevilla (A), Rayo Vallecano (H) and Osasuna (A).
World’s Biggest Cruise Ship
On Tuesday we had a visit from the biggest cruise ship in the world – Wonder of the Seas. The newest in the Royal Caribbean fleet, her inaugural passenger sailing was on March 4 from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, before she crossed the Atlantic to spend summer in the Mediterranean. She has capacity for 6,988 guests and, with a crew of 2,300, a grand total of 9,288 passengers. Not everyone in Palma was happy to see her. Campaigners Platform Against MegaCruises criticised Wonder’s arrival saying she was in addition to another mega-cruise ship and three smaller cruise ships. "For three years we have been demanding that this type of tourism, which the city can no longer bear, be brought to a halt," they said, "but just when the season begins we see that the agreements are systematically breached". The ‘agreements’ they are referring to are the Balearic Government’s 2021 pledge to limit arrivals, where possible, to three cruise ships a day, with one of them allowed to be a mega-cruise liner carrying more than 5,000 people. This was due to start in 2022.
And finally, on Wednesday the Balearics were celebrating chart-topping April employment levels. President Armengol said last month was the ‘best ever’, with 518,282 people signed on to social security - 20% more than in April 2021 and the highest ever for an April. The 7.5% unemployment rate was the lowest since April 2007 and the third lowest at any time. She said that these "historic figures" made the Balearic Islands the undisputed leader in job creation in Spain. The "negative cycle" of the pandemic has been broken.