Fèlix Riera, 7 December 2021
The modern history of Spain is marked by tensions, dreams and territorial claims. Spain is made up of a large number of territorial pieces that seek to unite with each other, as if it were a puzzle that can never be completed. From the end of the 19th century to the present day, the territorial question absorbs a good part of the political, social, economic and cultural energies, to achieve a finished drawing of Spain that is impossible.
History has offered a rich semantic field with terms such as decentralization, centralism, autonomism, postautonomism, historical communities, compound state, plurinational state, territorial diversity, federalism, confederalism, periphery, cantonalism, emptied Spain, among many others, that establish the territorial question as a complex and dynamic element.
The territorial debate is of such importance that aspects such as identity, economic development, demographic decline, immigration or social inequality are observed from a dialectic in tension with the idea and limits of what Spain is thought to be.
Today, the territorial question that must configure a new political and economic identity for Spain in the 21st century is not being raised only from the vision of Catalonia or the Basque Country, but also from Galicia, the Valencian Country, the Balearic Islands, Extremadura, Andalusia, the Canary Islands. , Navarra, Castilla y León, Castilla-La Mancha, Aragon, Principality of Asturias, Cantabria, Community of Madrid, La Rioja, the autonomous cities of Ceuta and Melilla.
Extending the reading of historical demands of Catalonia and the Basque Country new problems are added such as empty / emptied Spain or the existence of a frontal opposition to the unstoppable development of the Community of Madrid. In recent months, the proposal of the president of the Valencian Country, Ximo Puig, that “the only way to create a strong Spain is to create a shared Spain” serves to break against those who have centralist views or those who want to enhance the capital effect of Madrid that implies betting on “a vacuum cleaner of resources towards the capital”.
For their part, Catalonia and the Basque Country are defined in relation to Spain and its territorial configuration from a bilateral relationship with the State that implies the recognition of the sovereignty of both territories and they are located in a position of overcoming the current autonomous framework.
Madrid is now the destabilizing factor and what to fight on the part of the other communities
The initiative of the President of Galicia, Alberto Núñez Feijóo, has managed to gather and agree with seven presidents of autonomous communities, Castilla y León, Castilla-La Mancha, Aragon, Extremadura, Asturias, La Rioja and Cantabria, to claim a regional financing model that takes into account an economic compensation system for “the cost of the services of the extension of the territory, the low population density and the dispersion”. These eight autonomous communities occupy 61.9% of the Spanish territory and only have 24.13% of the total population. Claiming the importance of the demographic emergency is one of its main pillars and shows to what extent the territorial question is also defined by the population that leaves the territories.
We are witnessing new fields of force in the territorial question that seek to establish a renewed account of the traditional conflict caused by centralism, regardless of whatever its economic contribution to the state coffers. Among the two main economic and demographic engines of Spain, which are Catalonia and the Community of Madrid, Madrid is now the destabilizing factor and one that has to be fought by other communities.
This explains the reason why the speech of José Luis Martínez-Almeida, mayor of Madrid, differs from that made by Isabel Díaz Ayuso, president of the Community of Madrid. While the first posits the capital of Madrid as an integral part of Spain that helps define it beyond the city itself, Ayuso argues that “treating Madrid like the rest of the communities is very unfair.”
The territorial question is no longer a conflict only of an identity order, but implies that Spain continues to be an invertebrate, unfinished and changing reality as a State. The underlying issue in all these initiatives and positions is that it is once again the center of political debate to determine what territorial reality is wanted in Spain.