News from the autonomous communities of Spain

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In Spain, an autonomous community is a first-level political and administrative division, created in accordance with the Spanish constitution of 1978, with the aim of guaranteeing limited autonomy for the nationalities and regions that make up Spain. 


Spain is not a federation, but a decentralized unitary state. While sovereignty is vested in the nation as a whole, represented in the central institutions of government, the nation has, to varying degrees, delegated power to the communities, which, in turn, exercise their right to self-government within the country. limits established in the constitution and its autonomous statutes. Each community has its own set of delegated powers; typically those communities with stronger local nationalism have more powers; this type of devolution has been called asymmetrical. 


Some scholars have referred to the resulting system as a federal system in all but name, or a "federation without federalism. There are 17 autonomous communities and two autonomous cities that are collectively known as "autonomies. The two autonomous cities have the right to become autonomous communities, but neither has yet exercised this right.


This unique framework of territorial administration is known as the "State of Autonomies". 

The autonomous communities are governed according to the constitution and their own organic laws known as Statutes of Autonomy, which define the powers they assume. Since devolution was intended to be asymmetrical in nature, the scope of powers varies for each community, but they all have the same parliamentary structure.


Current situation of the Autonomous Communities

 In Spain they used to talk about the ‘actualidad de las comunidades autónomas’. With the implementation of the Autonomous Communities, Spain went from being one of the most centralized countries in the OECD to one of the most decentralized; in particular, it has been the country where the income and results of the decentralized bodies (the Autonomous Communities) have grown the most, leading this range in Europe in 2015 and being the fifth among the OECD countries in tax returns (after Canada, Switzerland, the United States and Austria). Through the State of Autonomies implemented after the Spanish Constitution of 1978, Spain has been cited as "notable for the extent of powers peacefully delegated in the last 30 years" and "an extraordinarily decentralized country," with the central government accounting for only 18% of public spending, 38% by regional governments, 13% by local councils, and the remaining 31% by the social security system. 


In terms of personnel, in 2010 almost 1,350,000 people or 50.3% of the total number of civil servants in Spain were employed by the autonomous communities; municipal and provincial councils accounted for 23.6% and employees working for the central administration (including police and military) accounted for 22.2% of the total.


Tensions within the system 

Peripheral nationalism continues to play a key role in Spanish politics. Some peripheral nationalists consider that there is a practical distinction that is fading between the terms "nationalities" and "regions", as more competencies are transferred to all communities to approximately the same degree and other communities have chosen to identify themselves as "nationalities" ". In fact, it has been argued that the establishment of the State of Autonomies "has led to the creation of 'new regional identities', and 'invented communities'.


Many in Galicia, the Basque Country, and Catalonia see their communities as "nations," not just "nationalities," and Spain as a "plurinational state" or a "nation of nations," and have made demands for greater devolution or secession.

In 2004, the Basque Parliament approved the Ibarretxe Plan, by which the Basque Country would approve a new Statute of Autonomy that contains key provisions such as shared sovereignty with Spain, total independence of the judiciary and the right to self-determination, and to assume all powers except that of Spanish nationality law, defense and monetary policy. The plan was rejected by the Spanish Parliament in 2005 and the situation has remained largely stable on that front until now.


A particularly controversial point, especially in Catalonia, has been fiscal tensions, with Catalan nationalists intensifying their demand for additional funding during the 2010 decade. In this sense, the new rules for fiscal decentralization in force since 2011 already make Spain one of the most decentralized countries in the world also in terms of budget and taxation, with the basis for the division of income tax in 50/50 between the Spanish government and the regions (something unheard of in much larger federal states, such as Germany or the United States, which retain income tax as an exclusive or mainly federal one). 

In addition, each region can also decide to set its own income tax bands and its own additional rates, higher or lower than the federal rates, with the corresponding income from the region no longer having to be shared with other regions. This current level of fiscal decentralization has been considered by economists such as Thomas Piketty as problematic because, in his opinion, "it challenges the very idea of solidarity within the country and is reduced to confrontation between the two, which is particularly problematic when it comes to income tax, since it is supposed to allow for the reduction of inequalities between the richest and the poorest, beyond regional or professional identities.

Process of independence in Catalonia 

The severe economic crisis in Spain that began in 2008 produced different reactions in the different communities. On the one hand, some began to consider returning some responsibilities to the central government. While on the other hand, in Catalonia the debate about the fiscal deficit (Catalonia is one of the largest net contributors to taxes) led to many who are not necessarily separatists but who are enraged by the financial deficit to support secession. In September 2012, Artur Mas, then president of Catalonia, asked the central government for a new "fiscal agreement", with the possibility of granting his community powers equal to those of the collegiate communities, but Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy refused. But he dissolved the Catalan Parliament, called new elections and promised to hold a referendum on independence within the next four years.

The Rajoy government declared that they would use all "legal instruments" - current legislation requires the central executive government or the Congress of Deputies to call or sanction a binding referendum - to block any such attempt. The Spanish Socialist Workers' Party and its counterpart in Catalonia proposed to reopen the debate on Spain's territorial organization, changing the constitution to create a true federal system to "better reflect the singularities" of Catalonia, as well as to modify the current tax system. 

On Friday, October 27, 2017, the Catalan Parliament voted for the independence of Catalonia; the result was 70 in favor, 10 against, 2 either, with 53 representatives not present at the protest. In the following days, members of the Catalan government fled or were imprisoned.

One scholar summarizes the current situation as follows:

The autonomous state seems to have closed the circle, with reproaches from all sides. According to some, it has not gone far enough and has failed to meet its aspirations for better self-government. For others, it has gone too far, encouraging inefficiency or reprehensible language policies.

At present, it is very important to be informed about the autonomous communities, to see news about the autonomies (noticias sobre las autonomías) is important and to look for a page of news about the autonomous communities (noticias comunidades autónomas) is what you should do

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