Catalan leader complains to Spanish PM over charter changes
The Catalan regional president said he raised with Spain's Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero Wednesday anger over legal changes to a charter that gave his region sweeping powers.
Jose Montilla said he had told the prime minister that last month's Constitutional Court ruling on the four-year-old statute had "attacked the dignity of Catalans".
"Only a strong political initiative will overcome the disaffection and remake the statutory and constitutional pact," he said at a press conference.
"The Catalan society can not be gagged, because we are a nation, nor do I believe Spanish society can cover its eyes."
Montilla met with Zapatero for the first time since the court, responding to a challenge by Spain's conservative opposition Popular Party, struck down 14 of 233 articles in Catalonia's "statute of autonomy" charter and changed more than 20 others.
Most significantly, the court ruled that the use of the word "nation" to describe the region had "no legal value" although it said the article concerned did not violate the constitution.
The charter had expanded the already significant powers of self-rule of the government of Catalonia, where a sizeable minority would like to see the wealthy northeastern region, which has its own language and distinct culture, break away from Spain.
It was approved by the parliament in Madrid in 2006 and endorsed by Catalan voters in a referendum.
More than one million people marched in support of the deal in Barcelona on July 10, according to a police estimate. The procession was preceded by a huge Catalan flag with the slogan "we are a nation, we decide ourselves".
Deputy Prime Minister Maria Teresa Fernandez de la Vega said her government was willing to make "gestures" to develop the charter while "respecting the decision of the Constitutional Court".
The statute was one of the first initiatives of Zapatero's socialist government, which took office in 2004.
Catalonia is home to around seven million of Spain's population of some 47 million and accounts for 25 percent of its gross domestic product.
© 2010 AFP