There have been celebrations in the Catalonian Parliament after members voted in favour of declaring the region a nation within the nation of Spain. The new statute states that Catalonia will in future collect all its own taxes and pay the central government its share – the reverse of the current system. A similar arrangement in the restless Basque Country, another of Spain’s 17 autonomous regions, leads to regular disagreements about how much the region owes Madrid.
Catalonia, a region of 7 million people bordering France and the Mediterranean, has long tested relations with the central government in Madrid. But it must approve the changes for them to be legally valid and such a prospect looks unlikely. Spain’s Deputy Prime Minister, Maria Teresa Fernandez de la Vega, made it clear there would have to be changes to the text and called for more talks with her Catalonian Socialist colleagues.
The region’s opposition conservative Popular Party voted against the measure. They also questioned whether the statute on autonomy is constitutional, warning that it could push Spain towards a US federal system. The other contentious element in the new statute gives Catalonia power over its own courts and establishes the regional high court as the highest judicial authority instead of the constitutional court in Madrid. Catalans account for 16 percent of Spain’s population and 18 percent of the economy, making it one of the wealthiest regions.