by Manuel Gómez Acosta 14.12.2020
Bartolomé Clavero takes part in the Catalonia-Andalusia Dialogues conference held in Barcelona / CG
Spain lives immersed in a scenario of health and economic crisis, with a political confrontation between extremes that feed each other and that is unparalleled in all of Europe. To the above should be added the territorial tensions derived from the challenge to the State by sectors of the Catalan elites that have gone from demanding another distribution of power to openly proposing secession. The current top-heavy Spain demands to correct the centralizing accumulation of power in Madrid, at the same time seeking the solution to a depopulated Spain whose demographic hemorrhage generates injustices and inefficiencies.
Spain is not a uniform and monolithic reality, but rather plural and rich in its heterogeneity.
A federal reform of the Constitution could help develop this plural and heterogeneous reality. This reform should be carried out with the maximum possible consensus, involving not only territories, but also social and economic organizations, adding political wills, achieving broad majorities, subtracting exclusions. It would be necessary to define a federal model that makes it possible to build an alternative country project to the dominant idea and that allows, at the same time, to resolve any conflict of interest to make Spain more cohesive and, at the same time, more efficient and prosperous. The federal model should in no way weaken the State, but on the contrary, strengthen it and make it more operational.
Perhaps the time has come to add physicality to the federal proposal. For this, it would be necessary to build infrastructures that not only favor territorial cohesion, but also generate dynamics that improve economic efficiency and the effectiveness of State management. We understand that an infrastructure such as the Mediterranean Corridor can be a good example that configures the “physicality” of this federal project. At the same time, it can undoubtedly be one of the driving forces behind the post-Covid economy, based on the collaboration of all the peoples of Spain, especially those located in the Mediterranean arc.
A Mediterranean corridor with a double international rail platform that runs along the Mediterranean coast from Algeciras to the French border, linking all Mediterranean cities with each other, with the rest of the country and with Europe. The Mediterranean Corridor is not just a railway work, it is also a shared physical and economic space, a common project of all the Spanish territories on the Mediterranean shore. It is the Hispania structured around the Bética-Tarragona, the railway Via Augusta of the XXI century. At the same time, the trans-European network to which the 3,500-kilometer route will join, concentrates 54% of Europe’s inhabitants, and accounts for 66% of the EU’s GDP.
The Mediterranean Corridor is more than just a physical infrastructure and economic development, it could be a great opportunity to build another Spain. As the president of the Generalitat Valenciana pointed out very well in his speech on December 1 at the Círculo de Economía, the Corridor also represents “an alternative and peripheral Spain, an emotional recognition of the diversity and plurality of Spain”. But the construction of the federal network is not supported only on physical infrastructures such as the one mentioned above, but leads us to reflect on other institutional infrastructures that require a process of geographic de-concentration: transfer of headquarters and work centers from the state administration to different places in Madrid, without the State giving up powers. A de-concentration that does not imply the transfer of powers to lower levels of administration such as the autonomous communities.
Germany is the model of a decentralized and at the same time de-concentrated federal state, where headquarters and work centers are distributed throughout the territory, but not powers. The constitutional bodies are located in Berlin (Parliament, Chancellery), Bonn (Court of Auditors), Karlsruhe (Constitutional Court), the ministries are divided between Berlin and Bonn, the Central Bank in Frankfurt.
In the Spanish case, there is a scarce presence of the State in communities with a strong historical personality such as Catalonia and the Basque Country, which undoubtedly provokes a feeling of abandonment and remoteness on the part of many of its citizens. Added to this is the weak perception of different realities from Madrid on the part of the civil service and political elites of the State. Undoubtedly, territorial de-concentration would have certain advantages, it would alleviate Madrid’s macrocephaly by empowering territories with low demographic density. It could be a good opportunity to modernize the administration, facilitate its digitization and the development of new information and communication technologies.
It is essential to clarify that federalism does not have a path of its own without institutional loyalty and without instruments for strengthening cooperation between territories, not only because it weakens the State, but above all because it harms citizens and ends up affecting the services they receive. What happened during Covid-19 is an example of the above.