10 Dic The Spanish Constitution at 40: changes are needed to unite a divided Spain
In the third of our series marking the fortieth anniversary of the ratification of the Spanish Constitution, three more Spanish MEPs offer their thoughts on its legacy; both its successes and failures over the past four decades. Does it need to be updated to be brought into the 21st Century? What are the major challenges facing Spain just now and does the Constitution still offer Spaniards the tools to overcome them? Here is what they told Euronews. Be sure to hear what MEPs of all political shades had to say on the subject in the previous articles in the series.
Beatriz Becerra Basterrechea is an Independent Member of the European Parliament
Euronews: Do you think that the Spanish Constitution has met the expectations of those who created it and of the Spanish people who validated it in a referendum held 40 years ago?
Beatriz Becerra Basterrechea: Without a doubt, the Constitution has surpassed all expectations. From every point of view, Spain is today a more prosperous country; more democratic, more European and more pluralist than 40 years ago. According to a survey published this week, only 8% of Spaniards have an unfavorable opinion of the Constitution. That is its success; it has achieved consensus over its validity, on its usefulness as the basis to deal with our discrepancies and differences, by accepting a framework of common coexistence.
It is not incompatible with future reforms to update it, which would allow us to develop a more egalitarian and efficient State. But this reform should always arise from agreement between constitutionalists maintaining the primordial and never as a reaction to those who want to destroy our constitutional order.
Euronews: And now, 40 years later, is the Constitution still relevant to the current situation in your country; the tensions related to the Catalan independence movement as well as the place of Spain in the European Union?
BBB: The Catalan problem has nothing to do with the validity of the Constitution. The secessionist challenge is just one more example of the nationalist populism that is sweeping Europe.
To respond to the threat posed by separatism, which endangers our coexistence and democracy, a strong Constitution is necessary.
Nationalism should not divide us. Through this Constitution, Catalonia has enjoyed very high levels of decentralisation. This Constitution guarantees all the rights claimed by nationalists, such as the right to use the Catalan language. So much so that the various autonomous governments of Catalonia have imposed the language in education and administration, discriminating against Spanish speakers.
Last year, a study carried out by academics from the University of Oxford indicated that Spain ranks as the second most decentralised country in the world behind Germany. But the nationalists do not want more self-government; they want secession to craft a homogenised and monolingual Catalonia separated from Europe and the rest of Spain. Under this Constitution, we all fit – not just those who only feel Catalan but those who want to decide once and all to live in equality with all Spaniards.
Regarding Europe, the result is unquestionable. This Constitution made it possible for Spain to become part of the EU. And thanks to this Constitution and the astonishing democratic change that it bolstered, Spain is now a prominent partner of the Union: the most pro-European member state today.
Euronews: Do you think that changes should be made to the Spanish Constitution, and if so, what should they be?
BBB: After 40 years, we should take a serious, sectarian-free and balanced look at updating our Constitution to address the current challenges and correct the deficiencies it has demonstrated.
In my opinion, it is necessary to end the current territorial model; to make a more egalitarian State, ending the existing discrimination and inequalities between the Autonomous Communities. The Senate should be abolished or converted into a chamber truly representing these Communities.
It is also an opportunity to advance the secularisation of the State, to depoliticise the judicial system to make it more independent of political parties, and end discrimination based on sex in the line of succession to the Crown.
And of course, it is also an opportunity to incorporate a more European character, translating the European project into the Constitution.