Catalan independence demands pass first hurdle
3 November 2005, MADRID — Plans for greater autonomy from Spain by Catalonia are to be considered by Spain's parliament after a vote in favour of discussing the so-called statute.
3 November 2005
MADRID — Plans for greater autonomy from Spain by Catalonia are to be considered by Spain's parliament after a vote in favour of discussing the so-called statute.
The parliament voted 197 in favour and 146 against after a long debate in the parliament.
Now it is expected ironing out a deal over the demands for quasi-independence will take months.
It could be one of the biggest challenges for Spain's Socialist prime minister Prime Minister Jose Zapatero.
Under the proposals, the wealthy north-east region would be called a nation and given the right to control taxation.
But it has caused divisions within the ruling Socialist Party and infuriated conservatives.
The opposition Popular Party has claimed the plan, put forward by Catalan nationalists is "unconstitutional".
Zapatero, who pledged to grant Catalonia greater autonomy before last year's shock election victory, said he will tone down tax demands and calls to class the region as a 'nation'.
But members of his own party have already said the independence plans would create a Spain of "haves and have-nots" because Catalonia would not have offer financial support poorer regions.
Zapatero's ability to make changes is limited by his minority government which depends on the support of two Catalonian parties.
The statute is the set of rules that determines the powers and responsibilities of each of Spain's 17 regions.
The breakaway plans call for Catalonia to run its own police, the judiciary, the prison service, ports and airports.
The administration of European Union funds would be done from Barcelona and Madrid would have to consult Catalonia over any international issues which affected the area.
Critics say that increasing the limited autonomy that the region was given in 1978, after the death of General Francisco Franco, will encourage other regions to press for more powers, especially in the Basque Country.
The debate could take months to decide the final deal which Zapatero is prepared to grant the Catalans.
[Copyright EFE with Expatica]
Subject: Spanish news