Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez on Saturday reshuffled his government for the first time since the left-wing coalition came to power in January 2020.
Sanchez said it represented “a generational renewal” because the mean age of the ministers was now 50 instead of 55.
And women now make up 63 percent over 54 percent in the previous government.
“This will make our country once again the reference for women-men equality,” Sanchez said.
His minority coalition is composed of Socialists and the radical-left Podemos party.
Podemos kept their five portfolios in the 22-member cabinet.
Foreign Affairs Minister Arancha Gonzalez Laya was replaced by Jose Manuel Albares, who was Spain’s ambassador to France. Socialist Carmen Calvo, who was number two in the government, has also left the cabinet.
Sanchez presented the reshuffle to the king earlier in the day.
The Spanish government had been weakened over the past several months.
Early in May, Podemos and the Socialists were routed in regional elections in Madrid by the conservative Popular Party (PP).
The PP has surged ahead of the Socialists in opinion polls following that election — at the end of May, polls showed the PP and the far-right Vox together would win an absolute majority in parliament if a general election were held.
The government’s decision in June to pardon nine Catalan separatists has also drained support.
The pardons have been condemned by Spain’s right-wing opposition as well as by the Supreme Court, but Madrid hoped they would give impetus to talks with Catalonia’s new leader, Pere Aragones, who was more open to dialogue than his hardline predecessor.
Since Sanchez’s coalition came to power, it has relied in part on the support of ERC, a leftist Catalan separatist party, which in return demanded talks on resolving the separatist conflict in wealthy Catalonia.
A week after the pardons, Aragones said separatists would resume talks with the government in the second half of September.
An Ipsos poll in June found that 53 percent of Spaniards opposed the pardons, but 68 percent of Catalans were in favour.
Italy beat Spain 4-2 on penalties after a 1-1 draw in a magnificent Euro 2020 semi-final at Wembley on Tuesday, as Jorginho converted the decisive kick to take the Azzurri through to the final of a tournament in which they have been the outstanding side.
They were not always on top in this game though, with Spain the better team for long spells of an epic contest before Federico Chiesa, the Juventus forward, gave Italy the lead with a fabulous finish an hour into a match watched by a crowd of almost 58,000.
The much-maligned Alvaro Morata, who was dropped from the starting line-up, came off the bench to equalise with 10 minutes of normal time left.
No further scoring in extra time meant penalties again for Spain, who had beaten Switzerland in a shoot-out in the quarter-finals.
They had also beaten Italy on penalties at Euro 2008, but this time misses from Dani Olmo and then Morata saw Spain give up the advantage they had been handed when Manuel Locatelli failed with the first kick in the shoot-out.
The Italians celebrated at the end with a large contingent of their UK-based supporters, and a team that has been rejuvenated under Roberto Mancini continues to dream of winning a first European Championship since 1968.
Now unbeaten in 33 games, they go through to Sunday’s final to face either England or Denmark, who meet in Wednesday’s second last-four tie.
“I have to thank the players because they believed right from day one that we could do something incredible,” said Mancini.
“We haven’t yet done everything we need to though, there is still one step to go.”
It is nine years since Spain mauled Italy 4-0 in the Euro 2012 final in Kiev to win a third consecutive major tournament, and this was the fourth consecutive Euro in which these powerhouses had met.
Spain won the first two of those meetings, but the last two have now gone to Italy.
“It is not a sad night for me by any means,” said Spain coach Luis Enrique.
“We can go home knowing we competed and were among the best teams.”
Wembley comes to life
This meeting took place in the chill of a damp July evening in London, but the atmosphere at Wembley was no damp squib.
There were no travelling supporters, given the obligatory quarantine for all visitors to the United Kingdom.
However, the large Spanish and Italian communities already in Britain meant a combined 20,000 fans of the two teams were in the 57,811-crowd allowed inside Wembley.
They added a noise and colour so sadly lacking at major sporting events since the pandemic began, and that provided the perfect stage.
The football itself was absorbing and of the highest quality, particularly in midfield where Italy’s outstanding trio of Jorginho, Marco Verratti and Nicolo Barella met their match in Spain’s Sergio Busquets, Koke and the brilliant Pedri, a frightening talent at just 18.
Morata from hero to villain
What the game lacked in the first half was drama in front of goal, although Italy’s Gianluigi Donnarumma made one crucial save to deny Olmo in the 25th minute.
Italy missed Leonardo Spinazzola, their outstanding left-back who suffered a torn Achilles tendon against Belgium in the quarter-finals.
Meanwhile Luis Enrique dropped Morata and selected Mikel Oyarzabal to start on their right flank.
Spain had enjoyed the better of the game before Italy went ahead thanks to a goal of the highest quality.
A move that started with Donnarumma’s throw out saw Lorenzo Insigne play Ciro Immobile in behind.
Immobile was thwarted by Aymeric Laporte’s tackle but the ball fell to Chiesa and he picked his spot in the far corner of Unai Simon’s goal on his right foot.
The Italian fans, gathered en masse at that end of Wembley, erupted in celebration.
Spain reacted by sending on Morata and Gerard Moreno, and just as Italy looked to be seeing out the victory, Morata was the man who got the leveller.
After collecting the ball midway inside the opposition half, Morata played a one-two with Olmo as he cut through the defence and slotted in.
It was a deserved equaliser, and Spain had a spring in their step going into extra time, but they could not take that into the decisive shoot-out.
Goalkeeper Unai Simon was the hero as Spain edged past 10-man Switzerland 3-1 on penalties on Friday to set up a Euro 2020 semi-final against either Belgium or Italy.
After a 1-1 draw in Saint Petersburg which saw the Swiss play for 43 minutes a man down, Simon made two saves in the shoot-out to help keep Spain’s bid for a record fourth European crown alive.
“Football was just there. We are deserved winners,” said Simon, who made an embarrassing error in the 5-3 last-16 win over Croatia.
“Just like we had to erase the memory of that mistake in the last match, it’s time to quickly forget this triumph because we face a tough rival in the next match.”
It was heartbreak for Switzerland, who were bidding for reach the semi-finals of a major tournament for the first time in their history.
Spain forged ahead early on when Denis Zakaria put through his own net, but Switzerland were the better side for long periods and Xherdan Shaqiri, standing in for the suspended Granit Xhaka as captain, equalised in the 68th minute.
The Swiss were reduced to 10 men with 13 minutes remaining, though, when midfielder Remo Freuler was controversially dismissed for a tackle on Gerard Moreno.
Switzerland goalkeeper Yann Sommer, the hero of the penalty shoot-out win over world champions France in the last 16, made a string of fine saves in extra time.
But Simon saved from Fabian Schaer and Manuel Akanji, while Ruben Vargas blazed over in a tense finale as Spain snuck through, with Mikel Oyarzabal smashing home the winning spot-kick.
Luis Enrique’s men will take on either Belgium or Italy, who meet in Munich later Friday, at Wembley on Tuesday.
“We have to go into the semi-final fresh, confident and with our heads high. We have to win the Euro now,” added Athletic Bilbao’s Simon.
After scoring 10 goals in their previous two matches, this was a return to the type of profligate performances which saw Spain draw their first two group games against Sweden and Poland.
But the 2008 and 2012 winners had made a dream start to this quarter-final, taking the lead in fortunate circumstances in only the eighth minute.
A corner was cleared only as far as Jordi Alba, whose left-footed volley was diverted past Sommer by Switzerland midfielder Zakaria, only playing in place of Xhaka.
It was the 10th own goal of Euro 2020, more than the other 15 editions combined.
Alvaro Morata wasted an excellent opportunity by heading too close to Sommer when unmarked, but then Switzerland started to grow into the game.
Switzerland had a brilliant chance for a leveller in the 64th minute, as Shaqiri sparked a quick counter-attack which ended with Simon reacting well to keep out Steven Zuber’s stabbed effort at his near post.
But the underdogs found the equaliser they deserved four minutes later, as Freuler latched onto a loose ball after a mix-up in the Spanish defence and squared for Shaqiri to slot into the far corner and score his third goal of the tournament.
The pattern of the game changed in the 77th minute though, when referee Michael Oliver gave Freuler his marching orders for a sliding challenge on Spanish substitute Moreno.
Switzerland managed to keep Spain at bay until the end of normal time with relative ease, but in the third minute of the additional half an hour Moreno should have put Spain back in front, only to miskick Alba’s cross wide from close range.
Switzerland were perhaps lucky not to have another man sent off shortly afterwards, when Silvan Widmer escaped a second yellow card for a cynical foul on Dani Olmo.
Moreno somehow passed up another golden opportunity, denied at point-blank range by Sommer, before the Borussia Moenchengladbach stopper made an excellent diving save from Oyarzabal.
Sommer made eight saves in extra time alone, but his one in the shoot-out from Rodri was not enough, despite Sergio Busquets also hitting the post, as Switzerland missed three of their four penalties.
Alvaro Morata earned redemption with a key role in Spain’s dramatic passage to the Euro 2020 quarter-finals after a difficult time with the national team which led to fans savaging him and his family with abuse.
Juventus forward Morata lashed home a brilliant goal in the 100th minute of an epic match at the Parken Stadium in Copenhagen to put Spain 4-3 ahead after La Roja had thrown away a two-goal lead in the final seven minutes of normal time.
Morata calmed Spanish nerves with the sort of composure which he had lacked in the tournament up to that point, cushioning Dani Olmo’s cross with his right foot before arrowing in a left-footed shot that Croatia goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic could barely see, let alone save.
Mikel Oyarzabal made sure of the win that Spain’s performance deserved three minutes later but it was Morata who coach Luis Enrique singled out for plaudits after the match.
“I’ve been telling you this for months, we do not depend on a single player to score goals,” Luis Enrique told reporters after the match.
“I don’t think there is a single coach in the world who wouldn’t admire or heap praise on a player like Alvaro Morata.”
Morata raised his fist to the Spain fans gathered in the southern corner of the Parken and was greeted by rapturous applause, a stark contrast to the abuse he received after his side’s 1-1 draw with Poland which he said he had kept him up for nine hours in the night.
Spain coach Luis Enrique, who said on Sunday that the police should investigate the abuse, was full of praise for the centre-forward’s qualities.
“He is able to give you superiority, he can defend as if he were a centre-back, he dominates in the air, he scores goals and he is physically powerful,” he said.
“We should be grateful that he is Spanish and that we have Alvaro in our team.”
Spain will now face Switzerland in the last eight in Saint Petersburg after France’s shock exit on penalties, giving Spain a theoretically easier path to the final.
However they will need to cut out the silly mistakes if they are to get past the Swiss, who showed on Monday that they are as capable as Croatia at punishing complacency. And if they get past Croatia, Spain will have no margin for error against either Italy or Belgium who would await them in the semi-finals.
Not only did Spain let a 3-1 advantage slip after dominating in normal time, they also gifted Croatia the lead midway through the first half thanks to a bizarre own goal eventually credited to Pedri.
The 18-year-old’s backpass somehow rolled over Unai Simon’s foot and into his own net as the goalkeeper failed to control the ball.
However Luis Enrique refused to dwell on the error by Simon, who also made some great saves.
“The only mistake that we made in this game was the final 10 minutes of the game, when we were winning 3-1,” insisted the coach.
“We should have continued playing the way we had been playing beforehand and not decide to go to long balls and playing a defensive game because that’s not the way I want to play.
“But I’m pleased we got a second chance and were able to win, and we played out the end of the game the way we need to, which is playing and defending with the ball.”
La Liga can take another step towards normality next season after the Spanish government confirmed on Thursday it has lifted its ban on fans attending stadiums.
The exact capacity allowed in each stadium will be determined by regional authorities, with some restrictions still possible, especially in the north of Spain.
But the government giving permission for supporters to return is an important first step as La Liga clubs begin to recover financially from the Covid-19 pandemic.
La Liga president Javier Tebas said earlier this week he expects stadiums to be at least 70 per cent full at the start of the season in August.
“We can return let’s say to normality in terms of fans being allowed into stadiums,” Spanish health minister, Carolina Darias, said on Thursday, with the announcement applying both to La Liga and Spain’s ACB basketball league.
“It will have to be, as it was before, the regional authorities who determine the capacity,” Darias added.
Fans were allowed to return for the last two rounds of La Liga last season but in only five regions and with a limit of 30 per cent capacity and 5,000 people.
Spain is hosting four Euro 2020 matches in Seville at La Cartuja stadium, where a capacity of 30 per cent has been allowed.
Bilbao was Spain’s original host city but local authorities were unable to commit to supporters attending Athletic Bilbao’s San Mames.
The UK government announced on Tuesday the tournament’s semi-final and final will be able to be played in front of more than 60,000 fans at Wembley, which means the stadium will be at 75 per cent capacity.
Spain and reigning champions Portugal are at risk of a shock early exit from Euro 2020 on Wednesday, while UEFA again defended its decision to stop Munich from illuminating the Allianz Arena in rainbow colours ahead of Germany’s crucial match with Hungary.
The Germans need a draw in the Bavarian capital to reach the last 16 on the last day of group matches but defeat would send Hungary through and possibly condemn Joachim Loew’s side to another group-stage exit, just like at the 2018 World Cup.
That is unthinkable for Germany, who beat Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal 4-2 at the weekend to kickstart their campaign but could be without Thomas Mueller due to a knee injury.
The build-up to the Group F match has been overshadowed by the fallout from UEFA’s decision to block plans by Munich authorities to light the stadium in rainbow colours.
The German city wanted to protest at a law passed by Hungary’s right-wing government banning the “promotion” of homosexuality to minors.
UEFA on Wednesday added the rainbow colours to its logo while defending its decision, insisting that the Munich’s request was politically-motivated.
European football’s governing body said in a statement that Munich’s request was “linked to the Hungarian football team’s presence in the stadium for this evening’s match with Germany.”
Munich’s mayor Dieter Reiter on Tuesday called the decision “shameful” and announced plans to decorate other city landmarks in rainbow colours instead.
Rainbow flags will fly at the town hall and a huge wind turbine close to the stadium and the city’s 291-metre (955-foot) Olympic Tower will be lit up as well.
EU chief Ursula von der Leyen weighed in on the row, saying the Hungarian bill “clearly discriminates against people on the basis of their sexual orientation”.
“It goes against all the values, the fundamental values of the European Union,” she said.
– Portugal in danger –
Other stadiums across Germany are also planning rainbow light displays, including Berlin’s Olympic Stadium, as well as Bundesliga stadiums in Cologne, Frankfurt and Wolfsburg.
In response, stadia across Hungary will be illuminated in the national colours of red, white and green during the match, led by calls from Gabor Kubatov, who is president of the country’s biggest club Ferencvaros and also a vice-president of Orban’s ruling Fidesz party.
The initiative has also been backed by other Hungarian clubs, including those whose management are linked to Fidesz and nationalist Orban, who is a football fanatic and a keen follower of the Hungary team.
On the field in the same Group F, World Cup holders France take on Portugal in Budapest, where the reigning European champions are in danger.
Portugal will be eliminated if they lose and Hungary win but a draw will definitely take the 2016 champions through to the last 16.
The Portuguese face a France side who have already qualified but will want to win to secure top spot, meaning a theoretically easier tie in the next round.
“We’re guaranteed to qualify and that gives us a bit of peace of mind. From experience I’m not getting caught up in the maths, you have to respect the game,” France coach Didier Deschamps said.
Ronaldo needs just two more goals to match the all-time international scoring record of Ali Daei, who scored 109 times for Iran.
– ‘Like a bottle of cava’ –
Portugal’s neighbours Spain are in a similarly tricky position heading into their final Group E game against Slovakia in Seville.
The 2008 and 2012 European champions have drawn both matches so far against Sweden and Poland.
They need to win this time to be sure of reaching the knockout phase, although a draw would be enough to qualify as a best third-placed team, provided Poland fail to beat Sweden in Saint Petersburg.
“I have a feeling that we are like a bottle of cava that is about to be uncorked,” said coach Luis Enrique.
“As soon as we put in one complete performance and get a big victory, the confidence will come and you will start to see the best of us.”
Slovakia need a point to be certain of progressing, while Robert Lewandowski’s Poland have to beat already-qualified Sweden to advance.
At least four people died, including a woman thought to be pregnant and a child and another four were missing after a migrant boat overturned off Lanzarote in the Canary Islands, rescuers said on Friday.
The vessel was carrying 49 people when it hit a rocky area just off the island’s northern shores, with rescuers pulling 41 people to safety, emergency services said.
“Three people died, among them two women, one of whom we believe was pregnant,” Enrique Espinosa, head of Lanzarote’s emergency services, told AFP.
Rescuers searching for five survivors later found another body, he said: “It was a boy, about eight years old.”
Among the survivors were 20 men, 17 women, two children and two babies, the emergency services said.
The boat overturned close to the shore near Orzola, a village on the northern tip of the island, in a stretch of sea that is dangerous to navigate, he said.
“It is a very rocky area and… if you don’t know it well, you will crash straight onto the reef.”
The incident happened late on Thursday when there were a lot of people out in the streets who all rushed to help.
“It was at 10:00 pm on a summer evening and a lot of people were in the street. Thanks to that, everyone jumped into the water to try to rescue them,” he said.
Espinosa said the migrants were sub-Saharan Africans who told rescuers they had set off two days ago from the Moroccan town of Tantan, which lies 250 kilometres (160 miles) east of Lanzarote.
Rescue efforts resumed earlier on Friday but were being hampered by rough seas, he said.
Overnight, another two boats carrying 110 migrants managed to reach two other islands in the Canaries, the emergency services said.
Among them were 96 men, eight women and six minors.
Migrant arrivals on the Atlantic archipelago have surged since late 2019 after increased patrols along Europe’s southern coast dramatically reduced crossings to the continent via the Mediterranean.
10 boats missing at sea
At its shortest, the sea crossing from the Moroccan coast is around 100 kilometres (60 miles), but it is a notoriously dangerous route because of strong currents. Vessels are also typically overcrowded and in poor condition.
Last year, the International Organization for Migration said 850 people had died en route but Caminando Fronteras, Spanish NGO which monitors migrant flows, said it was twice as many, giving a figure of 1,851.
On May 31, the NGO, which serves as a crucial contact for alerting the coastguard to vessels in trouble at sea, raised the alarm about 10 boats that had set sail from Western Sahara and Senegal carrying 481 people.
“They have disappeared,” a spokeswoman for the NGO told AFP on Friday, saying there had been no trace of the boats, four of which set sail from Dakhla, five from Laayoun and one from Senegal.
“We have spoken to relatives and even in some cases with the boats which are missing at sea. We know the weather in the last few weeks has been quite rough in the area and that many boats have disappeared.”
Last year 23,023 migrants reached the Canaries, a figure eight times higher than in 2019, interior ministry figures show.
So far this year, 5,734 migrants have survived the perilous journey to the Spanish archipelago, more than double the number for the same period last year, figures to June 15 show.
Gerard Moreno missed a penalty and Alvaro Morata squandered the rebound as Spain’s scoring woes struck again on Saturday, a 1-1 draw with Poland leaving them facing a fight to reach the last 16 of Euro 2020.
Morata poked in from close range to put Spain in front but Robert Lewandowski’s excellent header, his 60th goal of the season, pulled Poland level before Moreno’s penalty came back off the post.
The rebound came quickly to Morata but with Wojciech Szczesny committed down to his right, the goal was open for the striker to score his second.
Instead, the ball flew wide and Spain were made to settle for another disappointing draw in Group E that means they might have to beat Slovakia on Wednesday to avoid an embarrassing early exit.
The whistles that accompanied Morata in the opening stalemate with Sweden last week were saved for the whole Spanish team at the final whistle.
Poland, meanwhile, formed a huddle on the pitch before going to over to salute their supporters in the stadium, with the deadly Lewandowski coming up trumps again to keep his team’s hopes of progress alive.
Luis Enrique had launched a passionate and prepared defence of Morata on Friday as he said the team would be “Morata and 10 others”.
But he also replaced Ferran Torres in the starting line-up with Moreno, the Villarreal striker whose 23 goals was second only to Lionel Messi last season in La Liga and who many believed should have been replacing Morata.
Instead, they both played and both were culpable in the game’s decisive moment, even if Moreno had otherwise been bright, his shot teeing up Morata’s opener.
– Dangerous Poland –
Morata almost gave away an early penalty with an overly-zealous challenge in the box, while Mateusz Klich rippled the top of the net with an effort from distance soon after.
Spain were the better side in possession, with Morata attempting a delicate chip when power might have been better, but Poland were dangerous on the break, Lewandowski tearing away after a poor pass by Rodri only to be marshalled out by Jordi Alba.
Morata’s best moment came in the 25th minute and it could hardly have been easier, even if a little shuffle put him in the right position to poke in Moreno’s shot from the right.
The offside flag went up and Spain’s players appeared to expect the cancellation but instead the goal stood, prompting Alba to fling his arms around Morata, who then dashed over to his coach, a show of thanks for the faith placed in him.
Poland came again though and twice went close before half-time, Karol Swiderski hitting the post with a curling shot that came back for Lewandowski, but he smashed at Unai Simon, who saved.
Lewandowski made no mistake nine minutes after half-time, peeling to the back post, nudging Aymeric Laporte to make the space and glancing a deft header into the corner.
Spain should have restored their lead after being gifted a dubious penalty for Klich leaving a late foot on Moreno.
Moreno stepped up but drove his penalty against the post and with the goalkeeper committed, Morata could have scored too but he scuffed the rebound wide.
Moreno was taken off not long after while Torres, on as a substitute, headed wide when free in the area. Morata could not sort his feet out on one chance, before Szczesny flapped at a corner and then saved Rodri’s drive.
The openings kept coming for Morata as Torres chested down to him but Szczesny smothered the finish and the collision caused Spain’s striker to hobble off with four minutes left.
He was applauded off this time but the whistles for the team came shortly after.
An international cruise ship carrying German tourists docked Tuesday in Malaga, southern Spain, the first such arrival in more than a year, officials said.
On June 7, Spain’s transport ministry lifted a ban on international cruise ships that had been imposed at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic in March 2020.
The ban was lifted after the virus began to ease in Europe, where most cruise passengers come from, and also owing to rising vaccination numbers.
“This is the first international cruise ship,” a spokesman for Spain’s port authorities told AFP after the Mein Schiff 2 docked in the southern resort.
The liner, which belongs to travel giant TUI, has 1,275 German tourists on board, a company spokesman told AFP, saying all had passed “two obligatory Covid tests” before embarking.
“After 15 months in which our ports have stood empty, of waiting for these ships, we’re all committed to making it an unforgettable experience for the passengers,” Carlos Rubio, president of Malaga’s port authority told RNE.
He said the visitors were being allowed off in organised groups however to ensure Covid safety regulations were adhered to.
“With these first cruises, the excursions are going to be in bubbles, meaning people won’t be able to walk around freely but I hope within a few months, as the vaccination progresses, things can get back to normal.”
Rubio said Malaga was expecting to receive around 50 stopovers this year, describing it as “a good start”.
The vessel arrived from Gran Canaria in Spain’s Canary Islands and is to sail later Tuesday to Mallorca in the Balearic islands, the port authority said.
Before the pandemic, Spain was Europe’s second-most popular destination for cruise ship stopovers.
In 2019, international cruises contributed around 2.8 billion euros ($3.4 billion)to Spain’s economy, accounting for 50,000 jobs and 1.5 billion euros in wages, according to Cruise Lines International Association.
With more than 80,000 deaths and 3.6 million infections, Spain has been badly hit by the pandemic but the number of cases has slowed significantly as its vaccination programme has gathered pace.
Spain opened its borders to vaccinated travellers from all over the world on Monday, hoping an influx of visitors will revitalise an all-important tourism sector that has been battered by the coronavirus pandemic.
The opening kicks off what many are hoping will be a busy summer tourism season in Europe as vaccine rates pick-up across the continent.
On Monday morning, with the mercury already high, tourists from Germany, Ireland and Belgium could be seen passing through the arrival gates at Malaga airport.
At least 20 international flights landed in the morning at the most important tourist gateway in the southern Andalusia region.
Visitors arriving in the sun-soaked Spanish resort of Malaga were happy to finally be able to hit the beach after more than a year of lockdown misery.
“We’re thrilled, delighted. We love Spain, the sun, the food and everything about it,” said Irish holidaymaker Gillian Ford, who arrived from rainy Dublin having had her second vaccination.
“You only live once so you need to get out of here and enjoy,” she said before heading off to the beaches of Marbella with her husband Edward.
Under the new rules, Spain from Monday is allowing visitors in who have been fully vaccinated for at least 14 days.
Non-vaccinated Europeans — who could previously enter Spain with a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours can now take a cheaper antigen test within the past 48 hours instead.
For some, the new rules allowed for long-overdue trips.
“I haven’t been out of Belgium for a year,” said Rose Huo, a 73-year-old Belgian who came to spend a month with her sister.
“Everyone is happy I think. We are still very careful but it’s a start,” she said.
– Hopeful for recovery –
Heavily dependent on its tourism industry, Spain was one of the Western economies worst hit by the pandemic, seeing a 10.8 per cent fall in its GDP in 2020.
The Spanish government has set an objective of drawing 45 million travellers by the end of the year.
But by the end of April, the country had only seen 1.8 million visitors, according to official statistics.
Regardless, those in the tourism sector are still hoping for a summer surge of visitors.
Jose Luis Prieto, president of Spain’s travel agents’ union (Unav) is hoping for a “spectacular recovery” after a punishing year.
According to him, over the last few weeks tour operators in Britain, France and Germany — Spain’s three main markets — have been receiving a large number of enquiries.
Across the country, from the Costa del Sol to the Canary Islands, hotels and restaurants have reopened after months of closures, and airlines have restarted routes dropped during the height of the pandemic.
Spain will also begin allowing cruise boats into its ports again from Monday.
– ‘Disappointing’ UK rules –
Despite Spain’s easing of measures, the United Kingdom, a huge tourism market for the country, has not yet removed Spain from its list of at-risk countries.
That means British travellers will have to quarantine on their return home as well as pay for expensive Covid-19 tests.
The British normally make up the largest contingent of tourists to Spain — in 2019 over one-fifth of Spain’s 83.5 million arrivals were from the United Kingdom.
Britain’s decision to keep Spain on its amber list was, however, “disappointing”, Health Minister Carolina Darias said.
Spain had put several measures in place to lure British tourists to its shores, such as allowing them to enter without having to present a PCR test from late May.
Against the backdrop of uncertainty, major travel operator TUI has cancelled all its flights to Spain until June 13.
London will not revisit its decision for another three weeks, losing precious time for those in the hospitality sector hoping to recover.
Spanish police said Monday they had arrested 20 alleged human smugglers operating through the Ceuta exclave bordering Morocco.
They are thought to be responsible for a February shipwreck in which four migrants drowned and are accused of trafficking migrants in rickety boats, each carrying between seven and 10 people, between North Africa and Spain.
Their victims, mostly underage Moroccans, were approached in Ceuta, police said in a statement.
They then travelled the few kilometres to the Iberian peninsula, paying an average of 2,500 euros ($3,000) apiece.
In the bust, some 150 police officers backed by Europol agents seized three boats, five firearms, ammunition, and cash.
Death by drowning is frequent in the western Mediterranean where 330 died last year, according to the International Organization for Migration (OIM).
In the first three months of this year, 4,377 migrants arrived in Spain by sea, of whom more than half reached the Canary Islands, where arrivals have increased steadily since late 2019..
Spain’s parliament will give final approval to a law legalising euthanasia Thursday, becoming one of the few nations to allow terminally-ill or gravely-injured patients to end their own suffering.
The legislation, which will take effect in June, follows growing public pressure generated by several high-profile cases, including that of Ramon Sampedro whose plight was immortalised in the Oscar-winning 2004 film “The Sea Inside”.
Speaking to AFP, Ramona Maneiro, a friend of Sampedro’s who helped him die, hailed the move as a victory “for those who can benefit from it” and “for Ramon”.
At the time, she was arrested but released due to lack of evidence, only admitting her role years later when the statute of limitations expired.
The move will see Spain become the fourth country in Europe to decriminalise assisted suicide, alongside the Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg.
Although Portugal’s parliament passed a similar law in January, it was blocked this week by the Constitutional Court.
The Spanish legislation will permit euthanasia in which medical staff intentionally end a life to relieve suffering, and assisted suicide in which it is the patient who carries out the procedure.
Various other countries permit the second option, as well as so-called “passive euthanasia” in which life-saving medical treatment is halted.
– Strict conditions –
Backed by left-wing and centrist parties, the legislation will allow anyone with a “serious or incurable illness” or a condition which is “chronic or incapacitating” to request help dying, thereby avoiding “intolerable suffering”.
But it imposes strict criteria: the patient — a Spanish national or a legal resident — must be “fully aware and conscious” when they make the request, which must be submitted twice in writing, 15 days apart.
The request can be rejected if it is believed the requirements have not been met; it must be approved by a second medic and by an evaluation body.
Any healthcare professional could withdraw on grounds of “conscience” from taking part in the procedure that would be available through Spain’s national health service.
The move has been hailed by patients and right-to-die campaigners.
“It doesn’t make any sense that people… would choose to live an undignified life,” said Sofia Malagon, 60, who has Parkinson’s and worries what will happen if she gets dementia.
“I don’t want to be left like a vegetable,” she told AFP.
– ‘Form of murder’ –
But the move has been roundly rejected by the Catholic Church and Spain’s right-wing parties, with its promulgation also raising questions among some medical professionals.
Euthanasia “is always a form of murder since it involves one man causing the death of another,” said the Episcopal Conference, which groups Spain’s leading bishops and has accused the government of going from “defending life to being responsible for causing death”.
“Doctors don’t want anyone to die — it’s in their DNA,” said Manuela Garcia Romero, deputy head of the Medical College Organisation (OMC), expressing doubts over implementation of the law.
Since the mid-1980s when euthanasia entered the public debate, Spain has experienced several high-profile cases.
The most famous is that of Sampedro, who became a bedridden tetraplegic after breaking his neck and fought an unsuccessful 30-year court battle to end his own life with dignity.
He died in 1998 with the help of his friend Maneiro, his story immortalised in “The Sea Inside”, a film starring Hollywood actor Javier Bardem that won the 2005 best-foreign language Oscar.
Another case was that of Luis Montes, an anaesthetist accused of causing the deaths of 73 terminal patients at a Madrid hospital. A court dropped the case against him in 2007.
More recently, pensioner Angel Hernandez was arrested in 2019 and is awaiting trial for helping his wife end her life after decades suffering from multiple sclerosis.