Spain’s parliament has voted to accept a controversial plan for more autonomy for Catalonia for further discussion. After more than 10 hours of debate, parliament voted 197-146 to send the statute to its constitutional committee, where it is expected to be amended over the next two months. Following the overnight vote, Prime minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero said:“The government is not afraid of debate or reform.”
Spain’s regions have varying degrees of autonomy under the 1978 constitution, with the Basque Country and Catalonia enjoying broadest powers. The opposition Popular Party has portrayed the Catalan plan as a threat to Spanish unity.
Party leader Mariano Rajoy said: “Faced with a text that meets none of the required conditions- it’s neither a reform nor a statute and it’s unconstitutional- we must send it back so its authors can correct it, in accordance with the constitution.”
The text defines Catalonia, a wealthy north-eastern region, as a nation within Spain.
Prime minister Zapatero is expected to try to have the word “nation” changed to “national entity”.
The statute also calls for Catalonia to collect its own taxes and exercise more control over ports, airports and immigration.
It is particularly sensitive for Zapatero as the Catalan nationalist parties which created the plan are his allies in the Madrid parliament.