The Spanish model of devolution has failed


Source: CatalansUK

Much of the Spanish Establishment has always opposed devolution, so it has been a difficult and half-hearted process. The resulting system is chaotic, with no clear rules on who does what.

20120728_LDP001_0The process of devolution is so slow and complicated that several powers included in the 1979 law on devolution to Catalonia (the “Statute of Autonomy”) have yet to be transferred; as have others included in the 2006 law (the revised “Statute”). Even when powers are transferred, the rules are usually complicated and unclear; and the financial resources needed to make the new powers effective are not made available. Disputes about invasions of powers have become a regular feature of Spanish politics.

The failures and inefficiencies of the system are now being used by the Spanish Government to justify recentralization, but in fact the decision to make devolution ineffective was taken many years ago. Following centralization and repression under Franco, the 1978 Constitution aimed to deal with the situation in certain territories – especially Catalonia and the Basque Country – by creating “Autonomous Communities” within an otherwise centralised state extending the “Autonomous Community” model to the whole of Spain, creating many new regions overnight.

ESTANQUERA ABAIXBy generalizing a system designed to deal with exceptional cases, devolution was made unworkable. With so many new players, strong bilateral relations between centre and regions (such as those found in the UK) could not develop, but no moves were made to create the structures for coordination among multiple regions which exist in federal states. Moreover, Central Government could justify its reluctance to devolve powers because it now had to consider what would happen if a particular power were devolved throughout Spain, not just to a single region. The “Autonomous Community” model became unable to deal with the very problem which it had been created to solve.

Last but not least, unlike most federal countries, Spain does not count with a bicameral system where territorial entities can effectively participate in the national decision-making process. The Spanish Senate, which is supposed to represent the 17 “Autonomous Communities” as well as two Northern-African “Autonomous Cities”, appears to be a mere consultative institution. Although all legislative proposals need to be passed by both the Congress and the Senate, in case of disagreement, the Congress can easely impose its stance.