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PostA Federal System for Spain? It Already Has One in Practice (José Ignacio Soler, Venezuela, 06/26/21 10:46 am)
Today's post from Carmen Negrín inspires some comments.
First of all, I really doubt that the pardons issued to the Catalonian politicians had such an immediate effect on their independence preferences as she points out, and that she seems to attribute to that single event. This trend had already been noticed for months and not precisely because of the pardons. It is most likely that this change has resulted from the economic crisis in Catalonia, precisely because the regional independence policies have reduced confidence in its economy and have caused a decreased GDP and more unemployment in Catalonia, higher than in other regions of Spain. In fact, the importance of the GDP of Catalonia in the overall GDP of Spain has gone in recent years from being one of the first two to third or fourth place. By the way Carmen, I am also happy with the findings of the poll, and there is no need to feel sorry for me.
The second point is related to the importance of tourism in Spain as a contributor to GDP. Let's see, this sector represented in recent years between 11% to 12.5% of GDP, except in 2020 when it barely contributed 5.5%. It remains to be determined what its contribution will be this year, although some economists estimate it to reach no more than 7% or 8%. This is far from representing the sector that contributes most to the GDP, as Carmen affirms. And, please, enough of blaming Franco for all the evils and problems that Spain currently has! This is the favorite mantra of all Spanish socialists. It would be almost the same thing as blaming the Bourbons, since Felipe V in 1700, for the Catalan separatist movement.
Finally, I want to make some observations about the apparent magic solution proposed by the PSOE, of a federal regime to solve the regionalist and independence problems. I affirm that the autonomy regime in Spain is already very close to a federal regime, and there are few differences that would contribute to solving the pro-independence problems.
To begin with, the autonomous entities in Spain have their own regional statutes, as do federal regimes. The autonomies control matters of education, health, administrative management, and have their own executive, legislative and judicial institutions. In many fiscal and tax aspects they also have autonomy. In fact, in federal regimes it is the federal government that decides what the powers of the federated states will be, while in the Spanish Autonomías regime, they are the ones that decide their own powers. As I understand it, article 149 of the Spanish constitution guarantees that the autonomies decide these powers.
The only substantive difference between one regime and another is that, in a federal regime, changes to regional statutes are discussed and approved in a national territorial chamber of representatives, be it the senate or similar, and in the current regime in Spain, these changes are approved by a national legislative chamber where the territorial representatives are present, although they do not have the majority right to approve their own statutes.
To conclude, there is little, or very little, that a federal regime would contribute to solving the territorial problems of Spain, which have deeper and different roots, historical and mainly racist and supremacist.
JE comments: I don't believe Carmen Negrín was implying that the La Vanguardia poll was from after the pardons issued by Sánchez. Regarding Spain's political system, it is already classified as "devolved," which means that the national (central) authority grants powers to the regions. A federation in theory works the other way around: the regions surrender power to the central authority. In practice there is probably little difference, if any.
The best-known federal systems in Europe are Germany and Belgium, although Austria is also included in the list. Nacho, you know both Spain and Germany very well. In your view, in which of the two nations is there more regional autonomy?
Regional Autonomy in Germany and Spain
(José Ignacio Soler, Venezuela
06/28/21 3:31 AM)
In his comments on my last post (June 26th), John E asked me to give a comparative opinion on the differences between the territorial-political regimes of Spain and Germany.
I can add little more to what I already wrote in my reply to Carmen Negrín, but I will elaborate on some details so as not to leave the curiosity of our esteemed editor-in-chief completely unsatisfied.
In Germany, the political and geographical distribution more or less corresponds to regions, the Laenders, with their own traditional identities, as has been tried in Spain with the Comunidades Autónomas. Essentially, there are few differences between the two regional institutions, with more or less similar competencies, powers, administrative and political structures.
According to its constitution, Germany is a federal state where the individual states, the Laender, assume the competences and powers delegated by the central government or Bundes Regierung, in various administrative, legal, economic, tax, and educational aspects. (There are too many to describe all of them here). Spain, according to its constitution, is an Estado de Autonomías (State of Autonomies), although in this case they are the ones who decide which powers they assume, as guaranteed by articles 148 and 148 of its constitutional legislation. In relation to that, I remember when the current constitution was approved, it was colloquially called Café para todos (coffee for all), in the sense that it sought to satisfy all the regions in terms of their political claims and aspirations. And precisely in that sense, the Spanish political regime is more decentralized than the German one.
The German federal state has upper and lower chambers of representatives, the Bundesrat and the Bundestag, where the first is equivalent to a senate of other political systems, which is made up of representatives from each Laender, and where issues that compete to the regional administration of any kind are debated and legislated; the lower house or Bundestag, legislates and controls at the national level everything related to the federated state, the central government and its administrators.
Spain also has two chambers that make up the Cortes Generales, the Senado and the Congreso de los Diputados; the former is not made up entirely of regional representatives of the communities, and in this respect differs from the German Bundesrat. In addition to the fact that the functions of both chambers are complementary, in the case of Spain the Senate also shares responsibilities with the Cámara de Representantes in the legislative and control over the central government.
Regarding the functions related to the territorial management of the Autonomous Communities, the Senate has almost the same prerogatives as the Congress; however, it does not have sufficient functions to guarantee efficient territorial representation, nor to guarantee sufficient cooperation and integration of its Communities.
Technically the Spanish regime is the closest thing to a federal regime, and its differences are more superficial than substantial. Changing the names of their institutions would be nothing more than window dressing with little practical effectiveness, and more likely won't resolve any territorial problem as I already stated.
JE comments: Café para todos is a splendid thing if you can achieve it! Too often, one group gets its coffee only by taking it away from another group.
If Madrid can strike a Grand Bargain and preserve the nation as a federation, it should be worth a try. The unknown is whether additional autonomy will quell separatist sentiment, or open the door to full dissolution.