autonomous communities

autonomous communities
   Though the modern nation-state we call Spain is often dated from the union of the crowns of Castile and Aragon in 1479, there was still, up to modern times, considerable internal diversity among the different regions, in language, fiscal arrangements, and the structure of government. The Basque, Catalan and Galician languages remained vigorous within their own territories, Catalonia retained its own civil law in matters like inheritance, and the Basque provinces have traditionally enjoyed a large measure of administrative and fiscal autonomy.
   Overall, however, political decision-making was concentrated in Castile, and Spain became increasingly centralized throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The fact that Catalonia and the Basque country were also the most economically advanced areas of the peninsula made them increasingly resentful of domination by the centre, and when the opportunity presented itself during the Second Republic (1931–9), they achieved the status of self-governing units, with their own autonomous parliaments legislating on internal matters. At the end of the Civil War, however, the Franco regime swept away all vestiges of autonomy and imposed a strictly centralist system of government. The militarist, Catholic tradition Franco represented was predicated on a unitary, Castilian-centred view of Spain, with no concessions made to the existence of other cultures. Four decades of rigidly authoritarian rule made it inevitable that the restoration of democracy after Franco's death would be seen in terms of self-determination, both for the people of Spain as a whole and for those regions which had historic claims to autonomy.
   The democratically elected government which assumed office in 1977, dominated by the Union of the Democratic Centre (UCD), a broad coalition ranging from centre-right to centre-left, was not instinctively sympathetic to autonomist aspirations. Its leader, Adolfo Suárez was, however, shrewd enough to recognize that some concessions to Catalan and Basque sentiment were politically necessary, if the fledgling democracy was to survive. It was not only regional nationalism that threatened to destabilize the new parliamentary regime, but the attitudes of right-wing elements, especially in the armed forces, for whom any concession to "separatism" meant the dismemberment of Spain. The difficult task of balancing these opposing points of view fell to the working party which drafted a new constitution, approved by parliament in November 1978 and overwhelmingly endorsed by popular referendum in December (see also constitution of 1978). In its first article, the constitution proclaimed the essential unity of Spain, which largely calmed the fears of all but the extreme right. A later section stipulated, in very general terms, the conditions under which regions might accede to limited selfgovernment. The specific provisions designed to solve the problems of the "historic regions" (Catalonia, the Basque provinces and Galicia) were contained in an addendum which permitted regions which had had Statutes of Autonomy in the past to proceed immediately to assume interim powers of self-government and draft new Statutes. Aspirations towards self-government were not, however, confined to those regions which had their own languages and a history of separate institutions, for not all the historic diversity within the peninsula was politico-cultural in this sense. There were economic imbalances which affected, principally, Andalusia, which also had its own claim to distinctiveness because of its long subjection to Moorish influence, and its geographical coherence. The constitution envisaged a number of arrangements which could enable other regions to gain a measure of autonomy if there was sufficient support within the region. What was called the "fast route" entailed holding a referendum in which the Statute of Autonomy had to be approved in all the provinces making up the proposed region. The "slow route" involved initial approval by the municipalities in the region, but thereafter extension of the degree of autonomy necessitated negotiation over a substantial period of time. Faced with the prospect of a rash of autonomy demands, in 1981 the UCD government, with the support of the PSOE, a party with basically centralist instincts, drafted legislation which would have had the effect of slowing down the autonomy process, by giving the central government powers to override the legislative prerogatives of the regional assemblies. The Basques and Catalans successfully challenged the measure in the Constitutional Tribunal, and by the end of 1983, every province in the peninsula belonged to one of the seventeen autonomous regions: Andalusia, Aragon, Asturias, the Balearic Islands, the Canary Islands, Cantabria, Castile- La Mancha, Castile-León, Catalonia, Euzkadi (the Basque provinces), Extremadura, Galicia, La Rioja, Madrid, Murcia, Navarre, and Valencia. This arrangement was a uniquely Spanish solution to a Spanish problem. Unlike, say, Canada, the USA or Germany, where the powers exercised by the provinces, states or Länder are standard across the federal territory, the competences of the individual autonomías, as they came to be called, vary. Certain structural features of the Estado de autonomías (State of Autonomies) are standard, such as the existence in each region of a prime minister, parliament and a high court of justice. In general, however, the "historic" and "fast route" regions have more freedom to determine their own internal affairs, while the "slow route" regions are more regulated by central government. The system is far from tidy, but by making the relationship between each region and the centre analogous to a separate contract, it avoids the appearance of a federal state, which would have been unacceptable to the armed forces. Though the arrangement can be described as a modest political success, albeit in an ad hoc way, a high price has been paid in administrative and financial terms. A further tier of bureaucracy has been inserted into the already cumbersome Spanish administration. Furthermore, the system of funding favours the regions with the largest measures of self-government, who are compensated for the range of the devolved responsibilities they fulfil by block grants from central government. A limited regulatory mechanism exists in the form of the Fondo de Compensación Interterritorial (Inter-Regional Compensation Fund), introduced by the PSOE government in 1985. However, since 1993, when minority governments (first PSOE, then PP from 1996) have had to be propped up by regional nationalist parties, the leaders of these parties, notably Jordi Pujol, have been able to negotiate larger transfers of fiscal independence, thereby widening the gap between the wealthier regions and the poorer ones.
   Further reading
   - Hooper, J. (1995) The New Spaniards, Harmondsworth: Penguin (chapter 30 offers an excellent, concise account of the development of the autonomy process).
   - Newton, M. with Donaghy, P. (1997) Institutions of Modern Spain, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press (an excellent reference work).
   - Ross, C.J. (1997) Contemporary Spain: A Handbook, London and New York: Arnold (chapter 3 provides a detailed and clear account of the various issues arising from regionalism).
   EAMONN RODGERS

Encyclopedia of contemporary Spanish culture. 2013.

Игры ⚽ Поможем решить контрольную работу

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Autonomous communities of Spain — Autonomous community Category Autonomous area Location Spain Created by Spanish Constitution …   Wikipedia

  • List of Spanish autonomous communities by population — Here is a list of the autonomous communities and autonomous cities of Spain in order of population (2005). Rank Name Population Percentage Density (/km²) 1Andalusia7,849,79917.9%89.952Catalonia6,995,20615.9%217.823 …   Wikipedia

  • Coats of arms of the autonomous communities of Spain — This gallery of Coats of arms of the autonomous communities of Spain shows the distinctive Coat of arms of each of the 17 autonomous communities of Spain and the two autonomous cities …   Wikipedia

  • List of Spanish autonomous communities by area — Here is a list of the autonomous communities of Spain in order of area. Rank Name Area Percentage 1Castile and León94 223 km²18.6%2Andalusia87 268 km²17.2%3Castile La Mancha79 463 km²15.7%4A …   Wikipedia

  • Flags of the autonomous communities of Spain — This gallery of flags of the autonomous communities of Spain shows the distinctive flags of the 17 autonomous communities of Spain (constitutionally they are the regions and nationalities in which Spain is territorially organized) …   Wikipedia

  • Anthems of the autonomous communities of Spain — Several of the 17 autonomous communities of Spain have their own anthems, ranging from the quase national anthems of the historical nations to songs virtually unknown even in their own region. Below is a list of those songs …   Wikipedia

  • Autonomous area — An autonomous area is an area of a country that has a degree of autonomy, or freedom from an external authority. Typically it is either geographically distinct from the country or is populated by a national minority. Countries that include… …   Wikipedia

  • Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao —   Region   Seal …   Wikipedia

  • Groups of Spanish autonomous communities — Nomenclature of Territorial Units for StatisticsIn Spain, the areas belonging to NUTS 1 level are not governed or controlled by a specific national entity. This division was only made with statistical aims. The NUTS 1 regions of Spain are on a… …   Wikipedia

  • autonomous regions, prefectures, counties and banners — These are the three main levels of autonomous administrative areas for the PRC’s minority nationalities. There are five autonomous regions (zizhiqu), which are equivalent in level to provinces. They are the Inner Mongolian Autonomous Region (set… …   Encyclopedia of Contemporary Chinese Culture

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”