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Spain’s constitutional about-turn

2 November 2004

MADRID – In an about-turn, the Spanish government said on Tuesday it planned to consult the country’s Constitutional Tribunal or court on the compatibility of the Spanish constitution before a referendum on the new EU constitution.

Secretary of State for European Affairs Alberto Navarro told the Senate (or upper house of parliament) cabinet ministers would, at their weekly meeting on Friday, address the possibility of taking the matter to the Tribunal.

Previously, the Socialist government had planned to allow the vote on the EU constitution to go ahead and address the compatibility issue afterwards.

But the Council of State said last week that before a referendum, the Tribunal, which is a court, should first examine compatibility between the two texts.

The move prompted demands from opposition parties for the government to alter its stance.

At last week’s cabinet meeting a government spokesman said the EU referendum could proceed and potential changes to the national constitutional text amended later date in the context of reforms already being discussed.

Assuming the vote on the EU’s first constitution goes ahead as planned on February 20, Spain would, as things stand, become the first country to have a popular vote on adoption of that text, which all 25 EU states must ratify for it to come into effect.

Navarro said on Tuesday he was convinced the constitutions were compatible but that the government would consult the Tribunal, which he forecast would give its ruling by year’s end, well in time for the February vote.

The government reacted after the conservative opposition Popular Party and the United Left pro-communist group demanded it submit the matter to the Tribunal before the referendum.

The Spanish government of Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero said in its manifesto prior to taking office in April that it had already undertaken to look at constitutional amendments to give the regions more power.

One possible source of conflict between the two texts is the Spanish constitution’s article 9, which says “citizens and public authorities are subject to the constitution and to the body of law” already prevalent.

But that could pose a contradiction with article I-6 of the EU text, which states that EU laws would prevail over those of member states.
[Copyright EFE with Expatica]

Subject: Spanish news