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Post Regional Autonomy in Germany and Spain
Created by John Eipper on 06/28/21 3:31 AM

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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.

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