Diversity and ‘Frontier Effect’: The So-Called Shielding of the Basque Economic Agreement
The Basque Autonomous Community enjoys a peculiar institutional and competence organisation based on the first additional provision of the Spanish Constitution, the most remarkable element of which is that the tax relationship between the State and the Basque Country is regulated by the ‘sistema foral tradicional de concierto económico o convenios’ (traditional special law system of economic agreement). It is easy to understand that to integrate in the whole of the Spanish State this singularity, specificity, or ‘hecho diferencial vasco’ (Basque differential fact), which does not exist in any other of the Autonomous Communities (except for Navarra), is a challenging issue, even if this singularity is backed by certain historic criteria or explicitly admitted in our Constitution. In any politically decentralised model, this would be a cause for strain, political and legal conflicts, demanding a delicate balance weighing equality and unity against autonomy and diversity.
Now then, the process known as the ‘blindaje del concierto económico vasco’ (the ‘shielding’ of the Basque Economic Agreement) has emphasised this issue in an extreme manner, even if the legislative reform implied by this ‘shielding’ has had more limited effects than what its name would suggest. However, the so-called shielding poses, on the one hand, serious doubts concerning its compatibility with the present constitutional framework and, on the other hand, additional difficulties because it enhances the singularity of the Basque Autonomous Community in a sensitive domain, such as the economy, thereby increasing the already remarkable and widespread feeling of suspicion that the status of this community usually creates.
This work tries to emphasise the need to integrate and harmonise the diversity represented by the Basque and Navarra Autonomous Communities in the whole of the Spanish State, specially bearing in mind the neighbouring Autonomous Communities, which, generally speaking, have always considered themselves as being harmed by the ‘frontier effect’, regardless of legal arguments. In this situation, we believe that the so-called shielding does not seem to contribute greatly towards integration, as it is hard to avoid that this ‘shielding’ may be regarded as simply a means to circumvent the most effective means of control that the neighbouring Autonomous Communities could use, which was the appeal to the ordinary courts.
KeywordsBasque Country Autonomous Community Economic Agreement Competence Organisation Spanish Constitution
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