The Constitution celebrates 44 years without major reforms and without resolving the great territorial problem

More than four decades later, the Constitution is a text practically identical to the one that the Spanish citizens endorsed in consultation on January 6, 1978. This Tuesday the Magna Carta turns 44, a period in which it has hardly undergone major changes, despite that far-reaching debates have taken place on fundamental issues such as the territorial model, the shielding of public services or the form of State.

The experts consulted by Public They attribute this ‘constitutional paralysis’ to the lack of political will and the absence of great social consensus in the current era. The Constitution includes the procedures and steps to follow for its own reform, formulas that require large parliamentary majorities to be carried out (a matter of political will) and endorsed by citizens (a matter of social consensus).

The professor of Constitutional Law at the University of Seville Joaquin Urías He explains that “the problem with our Constitution is that it has not been updated, it has remained standing like a fixed photo from the year 1978, and it is very difficult for Spain to have a consensus to approve anything.”

Ana Valeroprofessor of Constitutional Law at the University of Castilla-La Mancha, assures that there is a “lack of political will, since the reform procedures require the concurrence of at least the two majority political parties. There is one of them whose main The instrument for making political opposition is ‘no’ for an answer. This is also the attitude in relation to the constitutional reform”.

In this legislature there seemed to be a great political agreement (which included, a priori, the PSOE and PP) to reform the Constitution with the aim of eliminating the word “diminished” from the text to refer to people who suffer from some type of disability. Although the reform is being processed in Congress, it has not experienced any progress, something for which Pedro Sánchez and Alberto Núñez Feijóo hold each other responsible.

Valero explains that “a less aggravated procedure could be established to reform the Constitution, but this would not have an impact on the political will, which is the main reason.” In this sense, the expert recalls that in 2011 the PSOE and the PP reached an agreement to reform article 135 and place the payment of the external debt as an absolute budgetary priority, even ahead of the financing of elements such as services public. The reform proposal was made in the middle of August.

Spain and federalism

One of the great questions pending to be resolved, which has not had a solution in all these years, is the problem and the territorial tensions that exist in the State. In 2018, a subcommission was created in Congress (within the Constitutional Commission) for the groups to agree on a proposal for territorial reform through the modification of the Constitution. However, despite the fact that dozens of experts passed through the parliamentary body, in the end there was no such proposal.

It was customary for the PSOE to carry in its electoral programs a proposal for reform of the territory in a federal sense, in which it was committed to reinforcing the powers of the communities and their attributions. However, in the last program, that of 2019, the references to federalism disappeared.

This element was recovered in 2021, during the 40th Party Congress, where the green light was given to several amendments that spoke of deepening a federal system and where express mention was made of the declarations of Granada and Barcelonawhich mention the constitutional reform to modify the territorial model.

For Urías, “the territorial issue is different from the others because the Constitution does not solve it. When it is done in the year 78, it does not even configure the system of autonomies, the autonomies are a later invention that is not in the Constitution; The Constitution provided that some territory could become an autonomous community but it did not provide that all of Spain would be autonomous communities. The territorial model has been built through the decisions of the Constitutional Court and through some pact, such as the Pacts of La Moncloa”.

Urías: “In Spain today we practically have a federal system”

In any case, the expert specifies that “at this point, more than at any other, is where a constitutional reform is needed that puts a reality in writing, and that is that In Spain today we practically have a federal system. You don’t want to use the word, but in practice we have a federal system without a Constitution, and then what the Constitutional Court says is applied to the federal system, which we already know is a body that changes according to the political color of whoever controls it. “.

Valero warns in this sense that “constitutional reform is not going to solve the lack of awareness about basic principles that nobody disputes in federal States: such as solidarity and loyalty.” In the last Council of Ministers, the Government approved taking the headquarters of two state institutions (the Space Agency and the Artificial Intelligence Supervision Agency) to the cities of Seville and A Coruña, respectively.

This transfer of institutional headquarters out of Madrid joins other previous transfers with the aim of “decentralizing the State”. For Valero, “institutional transfer is a symbolic act that can contribute to a greater awareness of decentralization among citizens and among the political class itself.

Urías warns that “Decentralizing headquarters is a way to build the country, but not to structure the territory. The territorial structure is to give powers to the territories to make their own decisions, and the big problem in Spain is that we are not clear about which decisions and how many have to be made in the communities and which in the central State”.

In his opinion, the coronavirus pandemic demonstrated the importance of management by the autonomous communities, which are competent in health matters: “It was the regional management that served to manage the crisis. Here, I think, there is an opportunity to that people truly value what the autonomous communities are, and that is much more important than decentralizing,” concludes the expert.

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