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Spain split over more autonomy for Catalonia

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Spain split over more autonomy for Catalonia

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A debate opens in Spain’s parliament today on whether to grant the rich region of Catalonia greater autonomy. Under the breakaway plan, Catalonia would control its own taxes and most aspects of its economy, as well as the judiciary, the police, ports and airports. The charter, which won majority approval in the regional parliament in September, has divided the country. Some of Spain’s poor regions such as Extremadura in the south-west say it will create a Spain of “haves and have-nots”.

The debate represents a serious challenge for prime minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, who faces calls from within his own Socialist Party to water down the text. However, the prime minister will have to tread carefully as his minority government greatly depends on Catalan nationalist parties and cannot afford to lose their support. The leader of the opposition conservatives, Mariano Rajoy, has dismissed the statute as unconstitutional.