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Friday, March 31, 2006

Spain approves more autonomy for Catalonia

ISN SECURITY WATCH (Friday, 31 March: 12.10 CET) – Spain’s lower house of parliament has approved broader political and economic autonomy for Catalonia, the country’s largest regional economy.

The Senate must now debate and approve the plan, which would then be sent to parliament and put to a regional vote.

The Catalan people are expected to have the opportunity to vote on the issue in June, reports said.

Catalan regional Prime Minister Pasqual Maragall hailed the move.

“Catalonia has achieved what it had not achieved in 300 years, with Spain now having recognized the personality of the region,” news agencies quoted him as saying.

If approved, the autonomy deal with give the Catalan regional government greater power to levy income tax collected in the region and value-added tax (VAT). The regional government will also be given greater power over the court system, and will promote the use of the Catalan language and refer to Catalonia as a nation.

According to the new wording in the preamble, the regional Catalan parliament recognizes Catalonia as a “nation”, but made clear that the Spanish Constitution referred to the northeastern region as a “nationality”.

The opposition People’s Party (PP) said the new law would lead to the break up of Spain and demanded the government “hold a referendum for all Spaniards on whether they want Spain to continue being a single nation”.

The party has already attempted to halt the autonomy move through Spain’s constitutional court.

The initial version of the plan was approved by the Catalan regional parliament in September last year, but it was amended to eliminate proposals that would have allowed Catalonia to manage its own ports and airports and to have its own national sports teams.
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