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Barcelona Said to Be Considered as Site of Spain's Senate

Source: Bloomberg - Mon 24th Nov 2014
Barcelona Said to Be Considered as Site of Spain's Senate

The Spanish government is studying a proposal to move the national Senate to Barcelona from Madrid as part of a program of measures to convince Catalans to remain part of Spain, according to two people with direct knowledge of the discussions.

The government hasn't decided whether to press ahead with the plan, which was first suggested by a lawmaker from the governing Partido Popular a year ago and revived this month by a Catalan civil society group, the people said. PM Mariano Rajoy's government is considering its options to win back public opinion in Spain's biggest economic region, said the people, who asked not to be named because the talks are private. A spokeswoman for Rajoy declined to comment.

Policy makers are looking for ways to demonstrate that Catalonia is a fundamental part of the Spanish state to counteract the separatists' argument that they've been neglected by the national government for decades. The move would help bind Catalonia to Spain by creating hundreds of jobs dependent on Barcelona's role as a center of Spanish government activity.

The Catalans' push for independence has crystallized the challenges facing Spain's 36-year-old constitutional order as the legitimacy of the government is undermined by waves of corruption allegations. Political leaders from across the ideological spectrum are already discussing changing the role of the senate, the relationship between the 17 autonomous regions and the rules for succession for the crown.

Senate Reform

The Senate has the authority to amend legislation passed by the more powerful Chamber of Deputies and to question the government over policy. Successive administrations have discussed increasing the Senate's power and electing its members on a regional basis.

On Nov. 9, 81% of voters backed independence for Catalonia in an illegal ballot. Turnout was 37%.

Spain's 1978 constitution was a grand compromise stitched together after the death of the dictator General Francisco Franco. The deal won support from across the ideological spectrum, including Communists and officials from the Franco regime as well as Catalan nationalists.

Catalans since then have pushed the central government for more devolution. The recent surge in support for independence came after the Constitutional Court struck down parts of a new statute of autonomy granting additional powers to the regional government in Barcelona.

Former PM Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, who had approved the new statute, also transferred the telecoms-market regulator to Barcelona in 2005 in an effort to reduce the concentration of central government institutions in Madrid. The decision prompted the regulator's head to step down and Madrid's regional government protested.

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