Financing and national identity, the two big conflict issues between Catalonia and Spain
DIPLOCAT – A research study on intergovernmental conflicts, presented today in Sevilla during a conference organised by the Public Diplomacy Council of Catalonia
The success and failures of the Spain of autonomies have been debated today at the University Pablo de Olavide of Seville at one of the academic conferences organised on a regular basis by the Public Diplomacy Council of Catalonia (DIPLOCAT). The conference entitled “Intergovernmental Tensions in Spain: Towards a New State Model?” (Tensiones intergubernamentales en España: ¿Hacia un nuevo modelo de Estado?) also served to present to the public the conclusions of a study on this question, undertaken by a research group of the university. Some 300 attendants filled the auditorium and participated actively in the debate.
At the first round table intergovernmental tensions were discussed, and the research project was presented. César Colino, Professor at the Spanish National Distance Education University (UNED) talked about the intergovernmental relations within Spain, which he qualified as little transparent, and in which the executive power clearly dominates. Jean-Baptiste Harguindéguy, Professor of Political Science at UPO, explained that most of the conflicts arise in areas where there are shared competences, especially the financing and management of social rights, as well as those relating to national identity. There have been periods of major conflict when absolute majorities at the Spanish Parliament in Madrid and nationalist governments in Catalonia, the Basque Country and the Canary Islands have coincided. Finally, Emilio Rodríguez López, PhD Student DASP/UPO, said that Catalonia is source of the double of constitutional conflicts at the Constitutional Court than the Basque Country.
Contrasting views on state model
As expected, the highlight of the day was the second round table, where politicians from different parts of Spain and different political parties confronted their contrasting views on the state model in an equally passionate and civilised way: Iñaki Anasagasti, spokesman of the Bask Group in the Spanish Parliament and member of the Spanish Senate (2004-2015); Juan Carlos Rodríguez Ibarra, President of the Government of Extremadura (1983-2007); Joan Tardà, spokesman of the Esquerra Republicana Group in the Spanish Parliament; and Manuel Gracia, President of the Parliament of Andalusia (2012-2015).
Anasagasti explained that the Basque Country stopped addressing the Constitutional Court because it considered that it was a “home referee and a guillotine”, and that this surely explained the lower number of Basque cases at this Court. He also referred to the artificiality of the Spanish autonomous communities and the inability of the state to accept its plurinationality and multilingualism. He argued that the Basque and Catalan claims have a clear historical basis, and recalled that in 1978 neither Madrid nor Extremadura asked for autonomy.
Rodríguez Ibarra, confronting the pro-independence views, said that he defends the view to rethink the State, and admitted that the Spanish were not ready for “an attack on the system from inside the system”, which is what Catalonia is doing at the moment. He also explained that he does not want Catalonia to remain inside Spain for having a particular esteem for it, but because it permits to construct the “balanced project” he defends for Spain. Regarding the referendum he said that the problem is that “there are questions that cannot be asked.
Joan Tardà warned that he would go straight to the point and started by announcing that Catalonia wants to proclaim an independent republic and will do so if the majority of Catalans so wish. He insisted repeatedly in the concept of “democratic will”, asked for negotiation by the State instead of “judicial violence”, and asked himself whether the solution consists in imprisoning all Catalan independentists. As for the referendum, he said that “Catalonia has already asked for it 19 times wind will not continue to do so, at the utmost it will consider a hypothetical proposal by the Spanish government.
Manuel Gracia made a negative assessment of the last four years, but asked not to confound the Spanish political system with an absolute majority of the PP, which he accused to conduct a policy against the interests of all autonomic communities, not just the Catalan one. He also defended Zapatero, saying that he did not take into account that the Catalan Statute proposed by the Catalan Parliament would go beyond what he was ready to accept. According to him, the only alternative would be a negotiation involving all the parties and if a question has to be voted on, this has to be done by all Spanish.
The event was opened by Professor Harguindéguy, Dean of the Faculty of Law at the UPO, María Serrano, who appreciated the opportunity to discuss a topic of such relevance at the university, and Manuel Manonelles, General Director of Multilateral and European Affairs of the Catalan Government, who spoke about the difficulty of fitting Catalonia within Spain, a problem that has existed for a long time and is of political nature, so that it will not be solved by simply giving legal answers.
This event forms part of DIPLOCATs objective to stimulate the debate on the right to decide with academic circles in Spain. After recent events in Bilbao, Madrid and Seville, the next debate will take place in Zaragoza on 21 April.