Spanish Government suggests limited constitutional reform to strengthen its own powers but not Catalonia's
The Spanish Minister of Justice, Rafael Català, proposed this week "to study a constitutional reform" that is very far from making any concession to Catalan claims and meet them halfway. In fact, it seems that the Spanish Government's real intentions are to consolidate the recentralisation of powers and cultural homogenisation undertaken in the last few years that have trimmed Catalonia's self-rule and attacked Catalan culture and language. The Spanish Justice Minister stated this week that he is ready to discuss a limited reform of Spain's Constitution that would not affect its core aspects – such as Spain's territorial model – and which would apparently only address secondary matters, such as the prevalence of men over women in the Crown's succession or the definition of the Spanish Government's exclusive powers. However, the aim is to put an end to the decentralisation trend that started in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
Barcelona (ACN).- The Spanish Minister of Justice, Rafael Català, proposed this week "to study a constitutional reform" that is very far from making any concession to Catalan claims and meet them halfway. In fact, it seems that the Spanish Government's real intentions are to consolidate the recentralisation of powers and cultural homogenisation undertaken in the last few years that have trimmed Catalonia's self-rule and attacked Catalan culture and language. The Spanish Justice Minister stated this week that he is ready to discuss a limited reform of Spain's Constitution that would not affect its core aspects – such as Spain's territorial model – and which would apparently only address secondary matters, such as the prevalence of men over women in the Crown's succession or the definition of the Spanish Government's exclusive powers. The aim is to better define government levels and who does what, which would put an end to the possibility of the Spanish Government delegating greater powers to the Autonomous Communities, a decentralisation trend that started with the Transition from dictatorship to democracy in the late 1970s and early 1980s. In addition, he also talked about eliminating additional and transitional dispositions included in the Constitution's text referring to how territories become an Autonomous Community, as according to him there is no need for it any longer. However, these dispositions are the only place where the "historical rights" of some specific territories are recognised in the Constitution and their elimination without recognising them elsewhere would undermine recognition of Catalonia's historical nationhood. Therefore, Català's reform would not be a series of minor amendments but in fact would strengthen Spain's recentralisation and the concept of the Spanish nation as the only one existing within Spain.
In the context of the current debate on Catalonia's independence, the reform that the Spanish Government says it "would study" for the first time – which does not mean it will ultimately undertake it – represents continuing with its unilateral no-to-everything attitude regarding the claims expressed democratically and en masse by Catalan citizens. 80% of Catalans are in favour of holding a self-determination vote and support for full independence has been hovering between roughly 40% and 55% for the past three years. In addition, around 75% of Catalans also want to grant Catalonia's self-government institutions greater powers (ranging from greater fiscal powers to full independence), while less than 5% of Catalans want to reduce Catalonia's powers of self-rule.
However, the constitutional reform envisaged by the Spanish Government and the governing People's Party (PP) would not grant Catalonia greater powers, neither would it address its chronically underfinanced public institutions, protect Catalan culture and language from Spanish nationalism's homogenisation attempts, nor recognise Catalonia's nationhood status and its right to self-determination. On the contrary, the Justice Minister explicitly ruled out a federalisation of Spain and criticised the Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE) for their vague proposal on this issue.
No real third way initiatives launched during the last 3 years
In fact, in the last two years, despite the fact that tension regarding Catalonia-Spain relations has been increasing and that the Catalan Parliament elections called for this coming 27 September are to be transformed into a 'de facto' referendum on independence, not a single specific and detailed proposal has been made by any Madrid-based or Barcelona-based politician to better fit Catalonia within Spain, despite this issue having been on the table since September 2012. In contrast to Scotland's case, there has not been a "better together" campaign or even any type of attempt to seduce Catalan citizens with detailed proposals about in which way they could feel more comfortable within Spain. There have only been vague initiatives to launch a constitutional reform and to create a truly federal system within Spain, recognising Catalonia's "specificities" but without acknowledging its right to self-determination nor its nationhood status.
The Spanish Government and the PP have been blocking any broad constitutional reform
On top of this, the Spanish Government and the PP have during the past two years been ruling out a broad constitutional reform that would transform Spain into a truly federal country. Now, the Justice Minister opens the door for the first time to a limited constitutional reform but which would go precisely against making any concession to the Catalan claims. Therefore, it seems that this reform aims to allow the Spanish Government win the current conflict by K.O. and rules out a third way between Catalonia's full independence and the current 'status quo'. The indirect effect is that, ironically, the Spanish Government's proposal strengthens the plebiscite nature of the forthcoming Catalan elections as they make such a third way more uncertain.
The Catalan Government considers the reform as wanting to create confusion
The Catalan Minister for Public Administration, Meritxell Borràs, expressed her doubts and those of the Catalan Government about the reform suggested by the Spanish Justice Minister. Borràs feels that the PP and the Spanish Government do not have "the firm will" to face a reform that would satisfy the demands from the Catalan people. Instead, the possibility of opening the door to a reform of Spain's Constitution is more related to a strategy of creating confusion, she said. Furthermore, she also underlined that the Spanish Government has blocked many initiatives coming from Catalonia to find a better relationship, such as the Economic Agreement, which was immediately rejected by the Spanish Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy, without providing an opportunity to hold any negotiation.