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Spain's Central Gov't to have last say on regional foreign policy

Source: El Pais - Tue 27th Aug 2013
Spain's Central Gov't to have last say on regional foreign policy

The government will have the last word on a region's ability to sign international agreements under proposed new legislation that will be presented to Congress.

Although the text of the Treaties Law recognizes the right of Spain's autonomous regions to sign non-legally binding or administrative accords - or memorandums of understanding - in the sphere of tourism, culture, education, etc., it makes plain that the state is the only institution with the legal right to agree on treaties with other states or international organizations.

If a region wishes to enter into an agreement with another state that carries judicial or economic obligations, it must first apply to the Foreign and Public Administration ministries, which will submit the document to legal scrutiny. All approved international treaties will be registered at the Foreign Ministry and administrative agreements published in the official state gazette.

Between 1990 and 2010, Spain's regions signed 277 international accords - the majority memorandums of understanding - with other states, regions and organizations, which under the proposed law would now have to meet with government approval. Regions such as Catalonia have questioned the legality of the current Law of Overseas Action, which obliges the regions to inform the state of all "trips, visits, exchanges and acts with an international projection." The regions must also inform the state of the opening of foreign "embassies," although the latter has no power of veto.

Representatives of the regions can also request to be included as part of any Spanish delegation negotiating an international treaty that affects their responsibilities.

"Brand Spain"

The text also lays out the prominence of "Brand Spain" in the government's legislation. "The official denomination of the Spanish state in international treaties will be Spain," it reads. Thus, the country will cease to be known as the Kingdom of Spain in such agreements, although "it can still be used in treaties that, due to their content or importance, require a greater level of solemnity."

Foreign Minister José Manuel García-Margallo will also have sweeping powers in cases of emergency to "suspend the application of an international treaty, immediately submitting it to the government for approval." High-level treaties will remain subject to approval by Congress before they can be activated or suspended.

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