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Spanish Government could take control of Catalan Police for security reasons, new bill states

The Spanish Government gave the green light on Friday for the bill for the ‘Law on National Security’, amid criticism from Catalan political parties. The new text foresees the Spanish Government taking control of police corps run by the Autonomous Community executives, such as the Catalan Government’s Mossos d’Esquadra, and the local police run by municipalities. This shift of powers would happen if a State of Emergency was to be declared in a particular area due to a natural disaster or in order “to defend Spain” or its “Constitutional values”. Thus, PM Mariano Rajoy is passing a law that would allow the Spanish Government to take control of the Catalan Police if the independence process was to go too far for Madrid’s liking. Besides this, the new bill also establishes powers in some important areas such as cyber security, maritime safety and financial security, among others.

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22 May 2015 10:19 PM

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ACN

Barcelona (ACN).- The Spanish Government approved on Friday the bill for the ‘Law on National Security’, amid criticism from Catalan political parties. The new text foresees the Spanish Government taking control, if needed, of police corps run by the Autonomous Community executives, such as the Catalan Government’s Mossos d’Esquadra and the local police run by municipalities. This shift of powers would happen if a State of Emergency was to be declared in a particular area due to a natural disaster or in order “to defend Spain” or its “Constitutional values”. Thus, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy is passing a law that would allow the Spanish Government to take control of the Catalan Police if the independence process was to go too far for Madrid’s liking. Besides this, the new bill also establishes powers in some important areas such as cyber security, maritime safety and financial security as well as the environment, energy, transport and telecommunications.


In the press conference following the weekly Cabinet meeting, the Spanish Deputy Prime Minister, Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría, stated that the new law "ensures the defence of Spain and its constitutional principles and values". According to her, by filling the gap between “ordinary crises” and situations of extreme emergency, the new law aims to improve the state's response to new risks and threats. The Spanish Deputy Prime Minister also assured that in no case will measures which suspend fundamental rights or public liberties be adopted through this law.

The measures contained in the new text will be applied if the Spanish Prime Minister declares that “a situation threatening the national interest” has occurred, which is a pretty broad definition. The law foresees that he or she shall do so through the approval of a Royal Decree by the Spanish Government, which should then be passed by both the Spanish Parliament and Senate. Currently, the People’s Party holds an absolute majority in both chambers, which means that the Royal Decree could be approved with almost zero parliamentary debate and with the entire opposition against it, as has happened during this term with many issues.

The Spanish Government can mobilise resources and police corps run by Autonomies

According to the “spirit of the bill”, the head of the Spanish Government shall resort to this measure when faced with a crisis that cannot be addressed through ordinary means or requires strengthened coordination by different levels of government. However, the situation at stake should not be serious enough for the Organic Law 4/1981 regulating states of Alarm, Emergency and Siege to be applied, which is not modified by the ordinary bill passed this Friday, which is lower in Spain’s legal framework hierarchy.

According to the new bill’s text, the Spanish Government can mobilise public and private resources to address situations which jeopardise “national security” under the scope of the new legislation. The use of these resources shall be carried out on the basis of criteria such as “gradualism and proportionality”, Sáenz de Santamaría stressed.

In addition to this, the new law foresees that Spanish Prime Minister will have the ability to mobilise police corps managed by the Autonomous Community executives, such as the Catalan Government’s Mossos d’Esquadra, and the local police run by municipalities. This shift of power would happen in order to address “challenges” of any kind deemed to represent “a threat to national security” or to defend Spain’s “Constitutional values and principles”.

The new bill may violate the Catalan Government’s exclusive powers

Therefore, with this law, the Spanish PM would be legally entitled to take control of the Mossos d’Esquadra in case the Catalan Parliament or the Catalan Government approve a measure supporting Catalonia’s right to self-determination or independence from Spain. However, the Mossos d’Esquadra are exclusively managed by the Catalan Government, following the Catalan Statute of Autonomy, which is an Organic Law approved by the Spanish Parliament and then approved by the Catalan people through a binding referendum. Therefore, the Catalan Statute of Autonomy is higher in the hierarchy than the bill for the Spanish Government’s new ‘Law on National Security’.

Since the new bill contradicts the Statute of Autonomy, it is quite likely that the Catalan Government will appeal against it and take it to the Constitutional Court. However, the Constitutional Court’s legitimacy and appearance of impartiality has been quite damaged, since a majority of its members have been appointed by the People’s Party (PP) and have strong centralist and Spanish nationalist stances, contrary to the recognition of Spain’s pluri-national reality and against granting Catalonia greater powers or the right to self-determination.

The new law will be of an ordinary nature, contrary to the initial proposal

Following the State Council's opinion (the Spanish Government’s main advisory body), the bill on 'National Security' will be processed as an ordinary law and not an organic one, contrary to what was stated in last January's draft. The change was justified by the Spanish Government, which believes that this measure "does not affect fundamental rights or public liberties" of citizens. A draft of today's bill was already approved by the Spanish Government last January and then sent to the consultative bodies, which recommended some modifications.

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  • The Spanish Deputy Prime Minister, Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría, explaining the new bill (by ACN)

  • The Spanish Deputy Prime Minister, Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría, explaining the new bill (by ACN)