Spain's top court backs most of Catalonia statute

28th June 2010, Comments 0 comments

Spain's highest court approved Monday a modified version of Catalonia's controversial "statute of autonomy", which has been challenged by the main opposition party, a court spokesman said.

It was not immediately clear which elements of the statute were rejected by the Constitutional Court, which has been debating the text for the past four years.

"The decision is being communicated to the parties" involved, the spokesman said, giving no details.

The newspaper El Mundo said on its website that the court voted -- by six to four -- to declare unconstitutional only 13 of the more than 100 articles in the original statute that were challenged by Spain's conservative opposition Popular Party, and made changes to the wording of 24 others.

It said the new text and the court's reasoning behind it may not be released for several days.

The statute was first approved by the parliament in Madrid and endorsed by Catalan voters in a 2006 referendum.

It expanded the already significant powers of the government of the northeastern region.

Most controversially, its preamble describes the region as a "nation" within Spain and makes knowledge of the Catalan language compulsory.

The PP challenged the statute before the Constitutional Court in July 2006, arguing that it could lead to the eventual break-up of Spain as a nation.

Deep divisions between the liberal and conservative members of the court had left it unable to rule definitively on the issue.

The text approved on Monday was seventh presented to the judges.

The statute has the support of the vast majority of political parties in the wealthy region, home to around seven million of Spain's population of some 47 million.

They have threatened massive street demonstrations if it is changed.

Catalonia, like other Spanish regions, already controlled most aspects of government, including health and education, before the statute.

The declaration gave the regional parliament enhanced powers in taxation and judicial matters as well as more control over airports, ports and immigration.

A sizeable minority in Catalonia would like to see the region, which has its own language and distinct culture, break away from Spain.

They complain that Catalonia, which is heavily industrialised and accounts for 25 percent of Spain's gross domestic product, contributes far more to the Spanish economy than it gets in return.

© 2010 AFP

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