Argèlia Queralt

The Catalan Question and the Spanish Constitutional Court

The Catalan “problem” is an old one but, in the last years, it has returned with tremendous force. Most probably, the turning point is to be found in a decision by the Spanish Constitutional Court in 2010 on the Statute of Autonomy of Catalonia of 2006. This Statute, which is an agreed law, was passed by the Catalan Parliament, subsequently amended and approved by the Spanish Parliament and, finally, ratified by the Catalan voters through a referendum. After its official publication, the Popular Party filed an appeal in front of the Constitutional Court.

That institution not only partly overruled the legal provisions provided by the new Statute but also changed the very way of understanding the role of statutes within the Spanish legal system.
Against its own precedents, the Constitutional Court seemed to reject the constitutional role of the Statutes in developing the open territorial organization system established by our Fundamental Law. In fact, this openness is one of the values as well as one of the weaknesses of our system: the Spanish Constitution does not fix a unique and clear decentralized system; it established rules and procedures to be followed in order to achieve autonomy but, from that point, the Constitution was open. Moreover, for 30 years we have been teaching in the classrooms that both the Constitution and the Spanish Constitutional Court case law recognized a specific constitutional role of the Autonomous Statutes: to develop and to close the constitutional open system. Due to their specific constitutional relevance, the Statutes were considered as special laws, just beneath the Constitution. The decision of 2010 seemed to withdraw this “specialty” from the Autonomous Statutes and to set them as common Organic Law.