Nicolas Sartorius Adoration Galera, Joan Botella, Alberto López Basaguren, Santiago Coello, President and vice-presidents of the Association for a Federal Spain
November 3, 2021
General view of a control session in the plenary session of the Senate in Madrid. EFE / Kiko Huesca
COVID-19 has uncovered both the strengths and weaknesses of our territorial model. The pandemic has highlighted among other things that a solvent management of problems must count on the Autonomous Communities as necessary actors for the proper functioning of the political system
The experience of these years, already confirmed especially in the period of COVID-19, has taught us that our autonomous system needs a reform that guarantees effective governance through federal deepening, in line with the most solvent federal systems. A cooperative and supportive federalism, based on institutional loyalty and unity in the face of the great challenges we face as a country. The federalism that we defend is, consequently, contrary to any disintegrating or centralizing tendency that would only lead to inequality and conflict.
The move that we propose can only be adequately culminated if we address a reform of the Constitution that, of course, must be based on broad political and social consensus. With the understanding that the federal solution is not a proposal from the left or the right, but the natural and necessary evolution of the autonomous state in Spain. A system in which you can find all the political options that want a better functioning of our democracy within the constitutional framework.
COVID-19 has exposed both the strengths and weaknesses of our territorial model. The pandemic has highlighted among other things that a solvent management of problems must count on the Autonomous Communities as necessary actors for the proper functioning of the political system. Likewise, it has shown that it is essential to have adequate instruments of collaboration, between the different levels of the Administration, that guarantee solid territorial self-governments together with a strong and dynamic “federal” authority, capable of guaranteeing equal rights of citizens as a whole and the effectiveness of public action.
The pandemic and its economic and social consequences make it more urgent than ever to improve the capacities of our social and democratic State. The ambiguity in the distribution of competences and the subsequent mess it causes; the insufficiency of constitutional coordination mechanisms, as is the case with the deficient Senate and the financing of the autonomous system with major problems, are issues that must be addressed without delay. Otherwise, tensions will increase, the judicialization of conflicts or “con-federal” dynamics that are far removed from what government is in a federal system.
The practice of these years has shown that the distribution of jurisdiction is confusing and has led to innumerable appeals before the Constitutional Court. We think that a formula for clarification could consist of precisely establishing the exclusive and non-delegable powers of the State (federation), while all the others could be assumed by the CCAA. With the exception that, in any case, the Constitution clearly establishes the role of the State (federation) in some of those that are transferred to the CCAA, especially those that make up the Welfare State – Health, Education, etc. – The fact that these competences of a social nature are transferred to the Autonomous Communities should not imply that the State-federation ignores its destiny, since in that case solidarity and equality, the foundations of citizenship, could be jeopardized.
In the framework of our autonomous state, institutions that improve governance in a federal sense must be developed, such as the Senate, the Conference of Presidents and the Sectorial Conferences. The current Senate must be transformed into an authentic territorial Chamber (Federal Senate), with legislative powers over norms that directly affect the federal system.
In models of a federative nature, there is the concurrence of two consensuses, one based on the population and the other territorial, both inherent to the system. According to the most current trends in federal systems, the representation of the territories does not have to be identical for all, but with some type of weighting according to their population. The form of election or appointment of those who make up the Senate is a matter to be discussed and agreed upon by the political forces, among the different options offered by the different federal systems.
Central issue in the federalization of our territorial system is to get the autonomic financing model right. Subject that, in principle, does not require constitutional reform, but whose significance is evident. Without going into the details that a future tax reform should specify, we consider that the financing model of the CCAA should contemplate the following issues: maintain a solid fiscal capacity of the State (federation) that guarantees, among other issues, public services quality; guarantee the autonomy and financial sufficiency of the Autonomous Communities; operate under the principle of co-responsibility; that citizens receive similar essential services, under the assumption that the tax burden is also similar; contribute to the convergence between the Autonomous Communities; establish limits that avoid what is called “harmful or unfair tax competition” between the Autonomous Communities; improve the financial capacity of local entities.
During the period of the pandemic, the Conference of Presidents, a typical federal institution, has played an important role, although it has been shown that its operation must improve. It would be convenient to better determine its nature, its periodicity and scope of its agreements, that is, to delimit its place with greater precision in the set of territorial and institutional architecture, avoiding that its virtuality remains in the hands of the Government of the day. In similar terms, the operation and scope of the Sectorial Conferences should be specified.
It seems clear that some of the reforms that our autonomous system requires make changes to the 1978 Constitution so necessary. For this task, it is essential to build consensus. Along this path, we understand that specific partial reforms of federalist governance can be proposed and, in parallel, promote the culture, consensus, complicity and states of opinion that a constitutional reform requires. Being aware that a 21st century federalism must guarantee social cohesion, territorial cohesion and take into account the transformations that the digital revolution is producing. Issues all of them that are pillars of the strength of the institutions and the legitimacy of the social and democratic state of law that the Constitution establishes.