October 3, 2023

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Spaniards have a tendency to focus problems from an emotional or ideological point of view, which takes us away from the pragmatism necessary to find the solution

Mireia Esteva Writer

In the CIS barometer, which has been published for years, one of the questions asked of the respondents refers to the territorial organization of the State in Spain and the interviewee is asked to say with which organizational model they more in agreement. The proposed models are the following:

1. A State with a single central Government without autonomous communities

2. A State in which the autonomous communities have less autonomy than at present

3. A State with autonomous communities like today

4. A State in which the autonomous communities have greater autonomy than at present

5. A State in which autonomous communities were entitled to the possibility of becoming independent States.

One of the questions we can ask ourselves is: How has the response of citizens evolved in the last year and a half? Have these preferences been influenced by the events occurred in autumn 2017 in Catalonia: with the approval in September of the disconnection laws, the celebration of the pseudo-referendum of 1-O, the subsequent declaration of independence and the application of Article 155 of the Constitution?

To make the analysis, we have preferred to simplify the data, grouping the first two responses as a preference to centralize and the last two as a tendency to decentralize the territorial model. Answer number 3 would maintain the current status quo.

Apart from specific centralizing or decentralizing reactive responses, in general we see that during this time there has been a general tendency to increase the value of the state of autonomous communities; an initial tendency to increase centralization, which seems to have diminished until it approaches the initial values ​​and a certain general decrease in preferences towards decentralization. Perhaps citizens are learning to value what we have, hence the valuation of the Autonomous State has a tendency to grow, although this cannot mean in any way to stop correcting what seems to us dysfunctional.

However, the question does not help us to detect what needs to be corrected, because it does not relate to anything making it specific. A person on the left has a tendency to answer that you have to decentralize, and a person on the right just the contrary: to centralize. Centralize or decentralize for what, why, what? It is obvious that there are decentralized powers that need to improve the harmonization between autonomous communities, others that have been transferred improperly or incompletely, and some are applied outside the law, without anyone appealing against them. Depending on what we look for the most, or care about more, we will answer the survey, but we will not solve the underlying problem.

Spaniards have a tendency to focus problems from an emotional or ideological point of view, which takes us away from the pragmatism necessary to find the solution.

Territorial problems are conflicts of power and competences. Perhaps, in order to solve them, we must apply the subsidiarity principle that federalism advocates: the competences that should be exercised by the agency that can do it more efficiently, because we are not talking about matters of faith, and in the end what matters is to give a better service to the citizen. In my opinion, we should maintain the competences basically as we have them, but modifying in a pragmatic way what does not just work. Therefore, it is about clearing the problems, one by one and finding the solution that best meets the objective. Sometimes the solution will involve improving coordination, in other cases it will imply that the Spanish government takes the reins of the conflict and in other cases, that it goes further in the transfer and rearranging of what is dysfunctional because it is still halfway in that process.

It’s simple if we change the prism with which we analyze things. It is simple if we learn not to tear our clothes every time an adversary makes a solution proposal. It is simple if we convince ourselves that to negotiate and establish pacts, it is essential to question our initial positions. It’s simple if instead of looking at their navel, politicians look at the citizen.



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