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Spanish minister calls for constitutional reform

June 9, 2018

But the socialist-led government will have a hard time succeeding in such a task as it requires a super-majority. The rise of a Socialist leader in Madrid has raised hopes of a possible dialogue with Barcelona.

Spanish Minister of Regional Administration Meritxell Batet during her swearing-in ceremony in June.
Spanish Minister of Regional Administration Meritxell Batet during her swearing-in ceremony in JuneImage: Reuters/J.J. Guillen

Spain's minister for regional affairs, Meritxell Batet, called on Saturday for constitutional reform, saying there was an urgent need for it with regard to the ongoing political conflict between the central government and the regional administration in Catalonia.

Batet made her comments during a public appearance in Barcelona.

"The territorial pact from the '78 constitution is in crisis," she said, "nobody can deny it."

She said the ruling Socialists wanted to amend the Spanish Constitution to move toward a "federal model."

But changing the constitution is a tall order in a legislature in which the Socialists control just 84 of the 350 seats in parliament: It would require the support of a two-thirds majority. But the conservative People's Party, which holds 134 seats, has veto power over any measure and have blocked reforms in the past.

Catalonia, an industrious region in northeastern Spain, held an illegal referendum on secession before making a declaration of independence back in October. The move plunged the country into its worst political crisis in decades.

The then ruling PP responded by taking control of the region, while courts subsequently detained politicians who spearheaded the separatist movement based on the constitutional clause that Spain is an indivisible country.

A new chance for dialogue

Many Catalonian civil servants in power at the time of the unrest are now living in self-imposed exile to avoid detention orders emanating from charges that include rebellion and misappropriation of funds.

The Socialists came to power this past week after the PP's leader and then prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, was toppled in a vote of no confidence.

The Socialists lifted financial controls Friday on Catalonia, and said they would seek dialogue with the regional government in an effort to ease tensions over the independence bid.

Constitutional reform is "urgent, viable and desirable," Batet said during her public comments. She added that a parliamentary commission should be created, an idea originally proposed last year by the Socialists, to investigate how it might be done.

Spain's new prime minister, Pablo Sanchez, is expected to meet Quim Torra, Catalonia's new hard line pro-independence leader later this month, according to a government spokeswoman.

Former Catalan minister Clara Ponsati said the departure of the conservative Rajoy could open a new pathway for dialogue.

"[The Spanish government] has a great opportunity to change their strategy," she said, "but honestly I'm not optimistic."

Read more: Spain's new government lifts financial controls over Catalonia

bik/kms (Reuters, AP)

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