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The Qualitative Development of the Spanish System of Autonomous Communities: Changes to the Statutes of Autonomy

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The Ways of Federalism in Western Countries and the Horizons of Territorial Autonomy in Spain
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At this stage in the history of autonomy in Spain, it may seem a little out of context to reflect on what meaning the Autonomous Communities, these new territorial public administrations referred to as early as Article 2 and delimited in Title VIII, have for the Constitution, their creator. Yet, we do not feel such a reflection to be out of place when said territorial distribution of political power has proved to be one of the Constitution’s most important and innovative contributions and since the current system now differs so much from the early 1980s, when it was created, and from the 1990s, when the first changes were made. As Professor Cruz Villalon has pointed out, it seems to have taken on another variation of itself. The expansion of certain Statutes of Autonomy (250 Articles in the Andalusian Statute, 223 in the Catalonian, 139 in the Balearic Islands, 115 in Aragon, 93 in Valencia, and 91 in Castilla y León and Extremadura) and the controversy surrounding the revised content thereof bear testimony to the fact that something is changing in the Statutes.

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  1. 1.

    Cruz Villalon (2006), p. 79.

  2. 2.

    All of them, except Organic Law 1/2007, which amends the Statute of the Balearic Islands, contain a single derogatory provision repealing the previous statute. Organic Law 1/2007 is applicable, although with similar effects, to an almost total amendment of the previous Organic Law LO 2/83, as may be interpreted from its single article.

  3. 3.

    See El País newspaper, 1 November 2011.

  4. 4.

    The map of the Autonomous Communities set out by said agreements establishes that the State will be organized into territories in the Autonomous Communities cited: all the Statutes of Autonomy having to come into force before 1 February 1983. Nevertheless, these agreements merely followed the path of Organic Law 12/80, dated 16 December, which rendered provincial ratification of Article 151.1 null and void in the interests of a ratification over “all territories aspiring to self-government”.

  5. 5.

    Ibarra Robles (1982), p. 128.

    This is an example of what was highlighted by Professor Lojendio e Irure shortly after the proclamation of the Constitution: “Between what a Constitution initially is and what it means in its historical context and the subsequent process of developing its normative content, it is common for contrasts to appear which call into question (…) the appropriateness of the rigid mechanisms which sought to ensure it a long life” (1982).

  6. 6.

    Not forgetting the 2006 report issued by the Council of State on constitutional reform, published in the Council of State joint edition/CEPC, Madrid, 2006, particularly page 127.

  7. 7.

    Lasagabaster Herrarte (2005), p. 21.

  8. 8.

    Nor should we forget the report drafted on funding.

  9. 9.

    Aparicio (2005), p. 2.

  10. 10.

    Diaz Revorio (1997), pp. 209–210.

  11. 11.

    BOE no. 13, dated 15 January 2008.

  12. 12.

    Appeal 7288/06 was filed against the whole of Article 17.1; appeal 7289/06 was filed against the second subsection of the first paragraph of 17.1.

  13. 13.

    It should be remembered that despite having statutes of autonomy, these are not Autonomous Communities like the rest, as highlighted by the Constitutional Court in rulings 201 and 202 of 25 July 2000. The political agreements between UCD-PSOE in 1981 with regard to these two cities pointed out, however, that the only two possibilities open to them were to continue as local bodies or to become an Autonomous Community.

  14. 14.

    On 1 February 2005, Congress refused to consider it.

  15. 15.

    Despite the innovative second additional provision known as the Camps clause.

  16. 16.

    Excluding reform in Navarre, which has only effected institutional changes.

  17. 17.

    These were cast by judges: Conde Martín de Hijas, Delgado Barrio, García-Calvo y Montiel, Rodríguez-Zapata Pérez, and Rodríguez Arribas.

  18. 18.

    As Corcuera Atienza has rightly highlighted (2005, p. 65), “the only theoretical justification for anybody used to justify statutory reform which is clearly contrary to the Constitution stems from the latter’s subordination to a well-grounded Constitution, creation of which allows the formal Constitution to be overlooked or devalued”.

  19. 19.

    Portero Molina (2005) cited, p. 40.

  20. 20.

    The author’s reflections cited in Teoría y Realidad Constitucional, no. 20/2007, p. 33.

  21. 21.

    “Unfinished and ambiguous, open to uncertain and conflictive developments.” This perfectly sums up a widely held view concerning the content thereof (Balaguer Callejon 2007, p. 302).

  22. 22.

    A rewriting that, as Aragon reminds us, was soon described as constitutional convention by Vandelli (Aragon Reyes 2007, p. 16).

  23. 23.

    Ruggiu (2007), p. 291.

  24. 24.

    Rousseau (1990), p. 37.

  25. 25.

    I am referring to the case of Italy, particularly to its constitutional law 3/2001, dated 18 October, as has been well pointed out by Prada Fernandez De Sanmamed in “Continuación de las reformas institucionales italianas (enero 2000-mayo 2002)” (REP no. 126/04, p. 338 et seq.), although significant differences may also be found such as the residual clause in favor of the regions (Art. 117.4 of the Italian Constitutional) or its original name given by the government of D’Alema, the driving force behind the “Federal Organization of the Republic”, which was ultimately amended by “Title V of Part II of the Constitution”.

  26. 26.

    “It does not contain all the extremes which might be desirable to derive from within it a territorial model of the State”, Professor Aparicio points out in 2005 already cited, p. 6.

  27. 27.

    A. Rojo Salgado states clearly: “…communities which proclaimed themselves regions and only regions and which fully accepted the autonomous model, now, in clear imitation of nationalisms, profess to be nationalists… at the same time demanding full and identical treatment, both institutionally and in terms of competences, as has been given to historical communities” (2005, p. 237).

  28. 28.

    Anguita Susi (2007), p. 199.

  29. 29.

    Lojendio (1988), p. 33.

  30. 30.

    A thorough analysis of the various positions may be found in Larrazabal Basañez (1997), p. 431 et seq.

  31. 31.

    Although aside from the somewhat sketchily drawn out system, the national parliament has the power to authorize the creation of an autonomous community, authorize or agree to a statute of autonomy, and replace the initiative of local corporations in Article 143.2. All of this is possible if the previously mentioned conditions set forth in Article 144 are met. Some of these are objective (a smaller territorial block than the provincial, nonintegration in the provincial organization), others undetermined (national interest, certain conditions of 143.1) and with the possible paradox, already denounced in constituent instances themselves by senators Zarazaga and Sánchez Agesta, of the imposition of autonomous community initiative, contrary to the will of local corporations (parliamentary records of 12 September 1978).

  32. 32.

    “Each region shall have a statute which, in accordance with the Constitution, determines its form of government and its fundamental principles of organization and self-government…”.

  33. 33.

    Toval (1980).

  34. 34.

    One illustrative example in this regard is the article by Professor Espierrez (2008). See also Aparicio Perez (2011).


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Correspondence to Esteban Arlucea Ruíz .

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Ruíz, E.A. (2013). The Qualitative Development of the Spanish System of Autonomous Communities: Changes to the Statutes of Autonomy. In: López - Basaguren, A., Escajedo San Epifanio, L. (eds) The Ways of Federalism in Western Countries and the Horizons of Territorial Autonomy in Spain. Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg.

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