Autonomous Communities of Spain

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Kanarische Inseln Portugal Andorra Frankreich Vereinigtes Königreich Marokko Algerien Galicien Asturien Kantabrien Baskenland Navarra La Rioja Aragonien Kastilien und León Katalonien Madrid Kastilien-La Mancha Valencianische Gemeinschaft Balearische Inseln Extremadura Andalusien Murcia Kastilien und León Ceuta Melilla
Autonomous Communities of Spain

As autonomous communities ( Spanish Comunidades Autónomas , abbreviated CCAA) 17 regional authorities are called that represent regions of Spain . Article 2 of the Spanish Constitution of 1978 stated that the Spanish nation is composed of "nationalities and regions". Accordingly, the autonomous communities were autonomy statutes competencies in legislation and enforcement assured. Which rights these statutes confirm in each case differ from community to community.

Title VIII of the Spanish Constitution regulated in Articles 143 and 151 the formation and existence of the 17 regions of Spain. Seven of the 17 autonomous regions consist of only one province, the rest of several (up to nine) provinces . There are also the two “autonomous cities” ( ciudades autónomas ) Ceuta and Melilla .


Historical regions of Spain from 1833
Older outline (map from 1728)

Even after the unification of Spain under a monarchy through the marriage of the Catholic Kings (1469), the individual kingdoms of the crowns of Castile-León , Aragon and Navarre retained their own legal systems, institutions and administrations. These were only abolished at the beginning of the 18th century under the Bourbons and Spain was organized as a central state on the basis of the Castilian legal system (with continued special foral rights for Navarre and the Basque territories). This remained until the Second Republic (1931-1939).

Statute of Autonomy for Catalonia (1932) and the Basque Country (1936) came into force during the Second Republic . The Statute of Autonomy for Galicia was also adopted by referendum in this region, but no longer came into force because of the outbreak of civil war .

Under the Franco dictatorship (1936–1975) the autonomies were abolished and the aspirations for autonomy were rigidly suppressed up to the prohibition of the use of the Catalan , Basque and Galician languages in public.

The provinces existed as territorial structures with a purely administrative function since 1833.

Pre-autonomies 1978

Regions with pre-autonomy regulations

After Franco's death , the transition to democracy ( transición ) began, with the restoration of the autonomy rights from before the Franco dictatorship being one of the main points of contention. The views ranged from maintaining the unitary state to establishing a federal system to striving for independence in the Basque Country and Catalonia.

In the first free elections to the Cortes Generales in 1977 , the regional parties (in Spanish usage: “nationalists”) in Catalonia and the Basque Country achieved high proportions of votes (Catalonia: PDPC, UDC and EC-FED together 27% of the vote and 14 of 47 seats; Basque Country: PNV and EE together 35% and 9 out of 21 seats.)

Under the influence of these results, the government issued a legislative decree initially for Catalonia (September 1977) and the Basque Country (January 1978) with provisional autonomy regulations (“pre-autonomies”). In order to put the special position of these two parts of the country into perspective, pre-autonomies were set up in a further eleven regions (Galicia, Aragon , Canary Islands , Valencia , Andalusia , Balearic Islands , Extremadura , Castile-León , Asturias , Murcia and Castile-La Mancha) from March to October 1978 ).

The organs of the pre-autonomy all only had executive and not yet legislative powers.

The formation of the pre-autonomies took place parallel to the process of drafting the new democratic constitution.

Constitutional framework

Article 2 of the Constitution of December 29, 1978 reads:

"The constitution is based on the indissoluble unity of the Spanish nation, the common and indivisible fatherland of all Spaniards, and recognizes and guarantees the right to autonomy of the nationalities and regions that are part of the nation and solidarity between them."

Thus, a middle ground between the extreme positions - unitary state on the one hand and federal state on the other - was chosen, the "state of autonomies" ( Estado autonómico ) . The elaboration of this principle in Articles 143 to 158 of the Constitution represents a minimal consensus of conflicting interests. It is not a detailed, final regulation, but rather the specification of a flexible framework for future, ultimately open development.

This begins with the fact that the autonomous communities are not constituted by the constitution itself, but only the process of their later formation is regulated. The already existing “pre-autonomies” (see above) were not updated, but a different structure was also conceivable. There is also no final distribution of competencies between the state and the autonomous communities, but this remains reserved for the statutes of autonomy to be adopted later.

Theoretically, according to the constitution, completely "autonomy-free" parts of the country are just as conceivable as the coexistence of autonomous communities with purely executive powers and those with extensive legislative powers as well as the area-wide division of the national territory into powerful autonomous communities in which the state only has its own competences exclusively assigned by the constitution remain.

In the vote on this constitution on December 6, 1978, however, almost half of all voters in the Basque Country voted no or did not even go to the polls. Across Spain, on the other hand, participation was two-thirds, of which 87% had agreed.

Distribution of competencies

The distribution of competences between the state and the autonomous communities results from the statutes of autonomy, which determine which competences the respective region assumes. The constitution provides the following framework for this:

Art. 149.1 contains a list of the areas of competence reserved exclusively for the state.

In all other areas, the Autonomous Communities can assume executive and legislative powers, provided that their respective statutes of autonomy so provide. Art. 148.1 contains a list of those areas of competence which the Autonomous Communities can (do not have to) take over when they are first constituted. This initial restriction does not apply to the “fast track” Autonomous Communities, for which only the limit of Art. 149 applies when they are founded. The remaining Autonomous Communities can only acquire competences other than those provided for in Art. 148.1 after five years have elapsed since their constitution through reform of the respective Statute of Autonomy.

Since both the initial adoption of the Statute of Autonomy and its reform require the approval of the state organic law, the definition of the distribution of competences is a process in which both the respective autonomous community and the state are involved and thus ultimately requires a consensus on both levels .

The distribution of competences between the state and the individual autonomous communities therefore results from a synopsis of the constitution and the statutes of autonomy, which in legal parlance in this context are collectively referred to as bloque de constitucionalidad .

In the implementation of this competency order, three competency levels have emerged in the statutes of autonomy for the various subject areas:

  • exclusive competence: the legislative and executive branches lie with the autonomous community;
  • “Shared” competence: the Autonomous Community can fill in the framework legislation of the state through its own laws, and it is also entitled to implement it through its administrations;
  • pure enforcement competence: the autonomous community is only responsible for the implementation of state laws through its administrations.

For example, Aragon has exclusive authority in the field of consumer protection, “shared” authority in the field of environmental protection and only enforcement authority in the field of occupational safety.

According to Article 149 of the Constitution, the judiciary is reserved for the state. Unlike in Germany, where all courts - with the exception of the federal courts - are regional courts , i.e. are sponsored by the Länder, in Spain all courts are sponsored by the (central) state and not by the autonomous communities. The Spanish model is in agreement with the Austrian model, which also only knows courts of the central state.

Finally, according to Art. 150, the state can also transfer or delegate state powers to the autonomous communities outside the system of the Statute of Autonomy by means of individual statutes.

Formation of the Autonomous Communities

Constitutional process of an autonomous community of the "slow way"

According to Article 143.1 of the Constitution, the following can be constituted as autonomous communities:

  • neighboring provinces with common historical, cultural and economic conditions
  • the island areas (Balearic and Canary Islands)
  • Individual provinces with their own regional-historical identity

The constitutional process differs according to whether the aim is to achieve “full autonomy” from the start without being restricted to the competence matters of Art. 148.1 (see above) (so-called “fast way”) or not (so-called “slow way”). As for the process itself, the formation of an Autonomous Community of the “fast way” is more cumbersome than one of the “slow way”.

A distinction is made between the initiative phase and the phase of drawing up the Statute of Autonomy:

The initiative phase only consists in taking decisions to form an autonomous community consisting of one or more provinces. In order to take the “slow road”, the relevant decisions must be taken by the representative bodies of all the provinces that are to form the future region and by two thirds of the communes concerned with at least half of the inhabitants of each province (Art. 143.2). For the "fast way" are necessary: ​​Resolutions of the representative bodies of all provinces, which are to form the later region, and of three quarters of the affected municipalities with at least half of the inhabitants of each province and confirmation of the initiative in a referendum with a majority in each of the provinces (Art. 151.1). For regions with pre-autonomy regulation (see above), the following simplifications apply: in the case of the “slow path”, a resolution by the representative body of the pre-autonomy can replace the approval of the provinces (but not that of the municipalities); in the case of the “quick route”, in the regions in which a statute of autonomy was already adopted in a referendum under the Second Republic (i.e. Catalonia, Basque Country and Galicia), all that is needed is a resolution by their respective representative body, which has the approval of the provinces, municipalities and the Referendum replaced. In both cases, the initiative has failed and can only be repeated after five years if the requirements are not met within six months (counting from the first relevant decision).

Constitutional process of an autonomous community of the "fast way"

The draft of the Statute of Autonomy is then drawn up by a special assembly which, in the case of the “quick route”, consists of the deputies and senators of the Cortes Generales elected in the provinces concerned and , in the case of the slow route, additionally of the members of the representative bodies of the provinces.

In the case of the "slow way", this draft will be dealt with by the chambers of the Cortes Generales (ie the whole Spanish parliament) according to the rules applicable to an organic law (ie changed or adopted unchanged or finally rejected).

In the case of the “fast track”, the draft of the Statute of Autonomy is forwarded to the Constitutional Committee of the House of Representatives, which advises it together with a delegation from the Assembly that had drafted the draft, with the aim of reaching an agreement on possible points of dispute. If these deliberations result in an agreement on a final version, this will be submitted to a referendum in the provinces concerned, with a majority in each of the provinces required for adoption; Finally, both chambers of the Cortes Generales then have to ratify the draft (i.e. accept or reject it unchanged, without the possibility of changes). If the constitutional committee and the delegation of the deputies and senators of the provinces concerned cannot agree on a joint draft, the original proposal will be dealt with by the chambers of the Cortes Generales according to the rules applicable to an organic law (i.e. amended or adopted unchanged or finally rejected); the final version passed afterwards then needs to be adopted in a referendum in the provinces concerned, which requires a majority in each of the provinces.

The Autonomous Community only came into being when the Statute of Autonomy came into force.

Statute of Autonomy and its amendment

The Statutes of Autonomy are twofold: on the one hand, as organic laws approved by the Cortes Generales , they are part of the national legal order, on the other hand, as the highest norm, they are part of the legal order of the respective autonomous community and as such take precedence over other legal norms of the autonomous community.

The procedure for changing the Statute of Autonomy at a later date after it has come into force is determined in the Statute itself. In any case, the approval of the Cortes Generales by means of an organic law (Art. 147.3) and, in the Autonomous Communities of the “fast way”, confirmation by a referendum in this is necessary (Art. 152.2).

Internal Constitution of the Autonomous Communities

For the autonomous communities of the “fast way” (see above), Art. 152.1 of the constitution provides that they must have a parliament elected by proportional representation (Asamblea Legislativa), a prime minister elected from among its members and a government headed by this parliament . The details are regulated in the Statutes of Autonomy.

After the agreements of the Autonomy Pact of 1981, this organizational model was also adopted in all other statutes of autonomy.

Senators of the Autonomous Communities

The Senate in Madrid consists of 208 directly elected members and currently 58 members from the Autonomous Communities. The senators appointed by the regions are elected by their parliaments on the basis of proportional representation.

In contrast to the German Bundesrat, for example, it is not the regional governments but the senators elected by the regional parliaments that are represented in this chamber of the Cortes Generales. And this part of the senators only makes up about a fifth of the members of the Senate. The participation of the autonomous communities in national legislation is therefore much less developed than that of the federal states in the German constitutional system.

Creation of the autonomous communities

Autonomous Communities of the "Fast" and "Slow Path"

In the period from 1979 to 1983, the 17 Autonomous Communities were formed when the respective statutes of autonomy came into force, four of them (Catalonia, Basque Country, Galicia, Andalusia) choosing the "fast route" of Art. 151 of the Constitution, the remaining the " slow "Art. 143. a special case Navarra is that his continuing even during the Franco era Foralorgane by the law on the restoration of Foralordnung reformed. Nonetheless, although Navarre has the title of a “formal community”, according to the case law of the Constitutional Court, despite some peculiarities, it has the status of an autonomous community.

The resulting autonomous regions are very heterogeneous. The two smallest regions, the Balearic Islands and La Rioja , are only about 5000  km² in size, while the two largest, Andalusia and Castile-León , are each about 90,000 km² larger than Austria . The population is also very different (301,000 in La Rioja, almost 8.5 million in Andalusia).

Development since 1979

Initially, there was a large skill gap between the “fast track” Autonomous Communities and the rest of the regions. The further development is characterized by a partial alignment of competencies and a gradual expansion of competencies for all Autonomous Communities.

Thus a model prevailed that brought extensive autonomy not only for the historical "nationalities" (Basque Country, Catalonia, Galicia, limited Navarre, Valencia, Balearic Islands, Canary Islands, Andalusia), but also for all regions and that in Spanish usage is often referred to with the catchphrase des café para todos ("coffee for everyone").

Spain is therefore now regarded as one of the most decentralized states in Europe, although - due to the lack of statehood of the autonomous communities - it is not a federal state. One problem that has not yet been fully resolved is in particular the system of financial relations between the state and the autonomous communities, which on the one hand has to take into account the still existing differences in competencies between the individual regions and on the other hand has to understand the general expansion of tasks.

18th December 1979 Adoption of the Statute of Autonomy for Catalonia and the Basque Country. Both provide for extensive autonomy, u. a. the formation of own police units.
March 1980 Elections in the Basque Country and Catalonia. Nationalist parties achieved high shares of the vote (Basque Country: PNV 38%, HB 17%; Catalonia: CiU 28%, ERC 9%). In these two autonomous communities, the PNV and CiU have remained the strongest party in the regional parliament to this day.
April 6, 1981 Adoption of the Statute of Autonomy for Galicia.
July 31, 1981 The center-right government and the strongest opposition party, the social democratic PSOE , signed the first autonomy pact in Madrid

(acuerdos autonómicos) in which they agreed on the basis of further development with the aim of harmonizing the autonomy processes:

  • Area-wide formation of 17 autonomous communities as they exist today
  • Agreement on the “slow road” (see above) for all regions except Catalonia, Basque Country, Galicia and Andalusia
  • All statutes of autonomy come into force by February 1983
  • the Autonomous Communities of the “slow road” are given all the competences contained in the catalog of article 148.1 of the Constitution
  • Regulation of the internal constitution of the autonomous communities of the "slow way" according to the model of Art. 152.1 (see above: Parliament, Prime Minister, Government)
  • Agreement that in the uniprovincial Autonomous Communities (Asturias, Cantabria , La Rioja , Navarra, Balearic Islands, Murcia, Madrid ) the provinces will be merged into the Autonomous Communities
  • Agreement on the procedure and the time frame for the transfer of competences from the state to the regions
  • Agreement on funding and an “inter-territorial compensation fund” for the benefit of the economically weaker Autonomous Communities

The Autonomy Pact is an extra-parliamentary agreement without the force of law. However, due to the dominant position of the powers that be, implementation was guaranteed both in Spain as a whole (together over 80% of MEPs) and in the individual regions (except Catalonia and the Basque Country).

20th October 1981 Elections in Galicia. Election victory of the conservative ( Alianza Popular ) and center-right parties ( UCD ).
December 30, 1981 Adoption of the Statute of Autonomy for Andalusia, Asturias and Cantabria.
May 23, 1982 Elections in Andalusia. PSOE election victory.
June 9, 1982 Adoption of the Statute of Autonomy for La Rioja and Murcia.
July 1, 1982 Adoption of the Valencia Statute of Autonomy.
August 10, 1982 Adoption of the Statute of Autonomy for Aragon, Castile-La Mancha, Canary Islands and the “Law on the restoration of the formal order” (Navarra).
August 10, 1982 On the basis of an agreement of the Autonomy Pact of 1981, the Canary Islands and Valencia received further competences going beyond the catalog of Art. 148.1 through a state organic law (transfer within the meaning of Art. 150.2).
February 25, 1983 Adoption of the last statutes of autonomy: Extremadura, Balearic Islands, Madrid and Castile-León.
May 8, 1983 First elections in the 13 remaining Autonomous Communities.
1980-1991 During this time, in the course of the gradual transfer of the competencies provided for in the Statutes of Autonomy, 432,000 administrative jobs were transferred from the state to the Autonomous Communities, which at the beginning of 1992 had a total workforce of 593,000 employees. The share of the regions in total government spending rose from 6 to 21%. Numerous decisions were made by the Constitutional Court on the relationship between the state and the autonomous communities.
February 28, 1992 Second Autonomy Pact

on the further development, this time agreed between the PSOE government and the strongest opposition party, the conservative PP . In it, the two leading political parties agreed to expand the competences of the Autonomous Communities of the “slow” way, in particular the transfer of the “shared competence” (see above) in the education system. The Conferencias Sectoriales (comparable to the German ministerial conferences ) were institutionalized as coordination bodies between the state and the regions. The background to this agreement was a. that the strong gaps in competencies between the individual Autonomous Communities in the political and legal fields had proven extremely impractical.

December 23, 1992 The expansion of competencies agreed in the Second Autonomy Pact was initially implemented by way of a transfer law in accordance with Art. 150.2 of the Constitution.
March 24, 1994 By changing the Statute of Autonomy, the new competencies agreed in the Second Autonomy Pact were incorporated into it.
Public administration staff (as a percentage; 1996-2009)

In the particularly personnel and financial-intensive areas of education and health care, the responsibility for the institutions (schools, hospitals, etc.), including staff, was also transferred to the autonomous communities of the “slow way”. In 2001, the autonomous communities had a workforce of one million, exceeding those in the state sector (600,000 including armed forces, civil guard and police).

2004-2011 A number of statutes of autonomy (Valencia, Catalonia, Andalusia, Balearic Islands, Aragon, Castile-León and Extremadura) were reformed. The focus was not so much on expanding competencies, but on a more precise delimitation of responsibilities and adaptation to developments that had occurred since the 1990s (relations with the EU , financial relations, etc.). However, there were also controversial issues in the competence area, especially with regard to responsibility for water resources. The draft laws adopted by the regional parliaments of the Canary Islands and Castile-La Mancha to amend their statutes of autonomy were withdrawn by them after it was clear that the extension of powers they envisaged would not find a majority in the Cortes Generales . With regard to the new Statute of Autonomy of Catalonia, symbolic issues such as the designation as a “nation” were highly controversial. The reform draft passed by the Basque Parliament went the furthest, which envisaged putting the relations between this autonomous community and the state on a completely new basis (principle of "free association", recognition of the right of self-determination of the Basque people; see plan Ibarretxe ). This was rejected by the House of Representatives of the Cortes Generales on February 1, 2005 by 319 votes to 29 (the Basque, Catalan and Galician nationalists: PNV , ERC , CiU , EA , Na-Bai and BNG ).

In recent years there have been increasing voices calling for a reform of the constitutional regulations governing relations between the state and the autonomous communities. The social democratic PSOE has been advocating conversion into a real federal state since 2013. The open system of competencies in the 1978 constitution, which is based on a compromise, is often criticized as being out of date, and calls for a final definition of the distribution of competencies in the constitution.

Financial relations between the state and the autonomous communities

The financing and distribution of taxes between the State and the Autonomous Communities follow two different models: the general system ( régimen común ) applies to most of the Autonomous Communities, while the foral system ( régimen foral ) applies to the Basque Country and Navarre .

In Navarre, taxes are collected by the Autonomous Community and in the Basque Country by the provinces ( Territorios Históricos ). These then transfer an amount (the so-called cupo ) to compensate for the powers exercised by the state in these autonomous communities. In the régimen foral , the tax legislation is largely in the hands of the Autonomous Communities or Territorios Históricos , as is the tax administration.

In the autonomous communities of the régimen común, on the other hand, tax legislation essentially lies with the state. The taxes are collected by the state tax offices. The autonomous communities then receive from the state the income from taxes collected on their territory in part (in particular 50% of income tax and value added tax) or in full (e.g. wealth tax ). In the régimen común there is also a system of financial equalization , the funds of which are raised by the state and the autonomous communities.

Financial deficits of the regions

In 2011, the regions' budget deficits exploded like never before. The regions have (as of the end of 2011) debts of more than 140 billion euros (plus 17.3% in 2011). The debts in the regions were (as of the end of 2011) as high as 13.1% of the total gross domestic product (GDP) of Spain. At the end of 2011, the local authorities' debt was:

Financial deficits of the regions
Autonomous Communities Provinces
(in the Canaries / Balearic Islands: Island Councils)
and other municipal associations ( comarcas , special purpose associations ) or subdivisions (local districts)
(all local authorities)
region in € million in% GDP per
(in €)
in € million in% GDP per
(in €)
in € million in% GDP per
(in €)
in € million in% GDP per
(in €)
Andalusia 14,314 9.8 1,699 1,247 0.9 148 4,528 3.1 537 20,089 13.8 2,384
Aragon 3,403 10.2 2,528 152 0.5 113 1,070 3.2 795 4,625 13.9 3,436
Asturias 2,155 9.1 1.993 453 1.9 419 2,608 11.0 2,412
Balearic Islands 4,432 16.3 3,982 222 0.8 199 611 2.2 549 5,265 19.4 4,730
Canaries 3,718 8.8 1,748 666 1.6 313 780 1.8 367 5,164 12.2 2,428
Cantabria 1,293 9.3 2,180 218 1.6 368 1,511 10.9 2,548
Castile-La Mancha 6,587 18.0 3,144 262 0.7 124 792 2.2 374 7,641 20.9 3,612
Castile and Leon 5,476 9.4 2.140 442 0.8 173 1,069 1.8 418 6,987 12.0 2,730
Catalonia 41,778 20.7 5,541 539 0.3 71 5,197 2.6 689 47,514 23.5 6,302
Extremadura 2,021 10.9 1,822 112 0.6 101 278 1.5 251 2.411 13.0 2.174
Galicia 7.009 12.3 2,507 277 0.5 99 649 1.1 232 7,935 13.9 2,838
La Rioja 900 11.2 2,787 127 1.6 393 1,027 12.8 3,180
Madrid 15,447 7.9 2,380 7,594 3.9 1,170 23,041 11.8 3,550
Murcia 2,806 10.1 1,909 718 2.6 488 3,524 12.7 2,397
Navarre 2,446 12.9 3.810 320 1.7 498 2766 14.6 4308
Basque Country 5,536 8.1 2,534 2,312 3.4 1,058 652 1.0 298 8,500 12.4 3,891
Valencia 20,762 19.9 4,057 503 0.5 98 3,009 2.9 588 24,274 23.3 4,743
Ceuta 207 13.5 2,513 207 13.5 2,513
Melilla 113 8.2 1,440 113 8.2 1,440
total 140.083 13.1 2,979 6,734 0.6 143 28,385 2.7 604 175.202 16.4 3,726

Central government debt at the end of 2011 was 560 billion euros (up 14.5% in 2011; 52.1% of GDP; 11,855 euros per capita). This results in a total public debt level of 735 billion euros at this point in time (68.5% of GDP; 15,574 euros per capita). Spain is thus still well below the European average (82.2% of GDP); However, the dynamism with which debt has grown since 2008 is a cause for concern.

On July 20, 2012, the Valencia region was the first to apply for help from the Spanish state. She wants to apply for at least two billion euros. A few days later, Murcia announced that it would be soliciting or applying for low-interest loans (between 200 and 300 million euros) from the recently established state rescue fund Fondo de Liquidez Autonómica (FLA). The FLA is endowed with 18 billion euros.

Up to and including October 2012, a total of eight other regions applied for aid loans: Catalonia , Andalusia , Valencia , Castile-La Mancha , the Canary Islands and Murcia , then the Balearic Islands as the seventh region and Asturias as the eighth . According to the Kölner Stadtanzeiger, these requests for aid would use up more than 90% of the funds.

Historical areas and concept of nationality

Galicia , the Basque Country , Navarre and Catalonia , as so-called "historical areas" (of which the Basque Country even has several), have a particularly extensive need for autonomy and (like other "historical areas" of Spain too) have a certain special position ) Are formal law areas. For example, the last three regions mentioned have set up their own police bodies ( Ertzaintza in the Basque Country, Policía Foral ( Spanish ) and Foruzaingoa ( Basque ) in Navarra and Mossos d'Esquadra in Catalonia). The special role of the "historical territories" is primarily due to the independence of these areas guaranteed by formal rights granted in the Middle Ages and their later, through centuries of tutelage by the central government in Madrid and the temporary violent suppression of all attempts at independence, especially under the fascist regime of Francisco Franco , shaped history. The regional languages, which were suppressed during the dictatorship and which today serve as a national identifier in some historical areas, also play an important role.

After the death of Franco and the restoration of the monarchy , the creation of the autonomous regions was intended not least as a means of preserving the fragile unity of the Spanish state. This is also served by the fact that the Spanish Constitution, in its Article 2, adheres to the “indissoluble unity of the Spanish nation ” despite the statement that the Spanish nation consists of “nationalities and regions” .

In the dispute between the representatives of national autonomy (and in some cases also independence) aspirations of individual population or ethnic groups or territories and the supporters of a (more) centralistically organized Spanish nation state , called “integralists” in Spain , and was the question of the nationality of the inhabitants of Spain and its historically grown landscapes is a particularly controversial and emotionally charged point. In the constitutional process, the (otherwise seemingly insoluble) dispute about the existence of a nationwide Spanish nation (which some "nationalists" deny) or the existence of other historical peoples in Spain (which was completely negated especially by the former fascist rulers) resolved by a conceptual compromise: The term “nation” ( nación ) should be reserved for the “Spanish nation”, while Basques, Catalans, Galicians and other groups allowed a quasi-national existence as so-called “nationalities” ( nacionalidades ) within Spain has been. This compromise formula allowed the adherents of both ideologies to support the de facto restructuring of the central state into an autonomous state. However, it was clear to all those involved that this was a conceptually less than convincing construct, since the highly “vague” differentiation between “one nation” and “many nationalities” is not based on any justifiable political or ethnological concepts. It was therefore a pure language regulation, but due to the emotional charge of this topic, it was considered inviolable for the time being.

In this area of ​​tension between autonomy and unity, the draft of a new statute of autonomy for Catalonia in 2005 and 2006 caused ongoing political disputes, as it referred to a “Catalan nation”. After being signed by King Juan Carlos I on July 19, 2006, it came into force on August 9, 2006. In the preamble of the Statute of Autonomy, after several changes to the text, it now states that “the Parliament of Catalonia (...) defines Catalonia as a nation”. In the rest of the text of the Statute of Autonomy, however, Article 1 states that “Catalonia as a nationality is self-governing”. For the critically oriented critics of the national independence of individual Spanish autonomies, the term “nation” is still tied to the state sovereignty of a commonwealth and is therefore reserved for the entire Spanish state. The conservative Spanish People's Party has u. a. therefore sued against the Catalan statute before the Spanish Constitutional Court. In its judgment of June 28, 2010, the court ruled that the use of the term “nation” was not unconstitutional. At the same time, however, it has expressly stated that it does not have any legal function (for example in the sense of a special position of Catalonia compared to other autonomous communities).

Comparison between the autonomous communities and the German federal states

The autonomous communities are not constitutionally autonomous , since the adoption and amendment of their statutes of autonomy requires the approval of the Spanish parliament, which is why, unlike the federal states of Germany, they do not have statehood. In addition, the regions of Spain differ from each other in a different way than the countries of the Federal Republic by a different degree of autonomy, although not as pronounced as in the beginning.

The most important practical constitutional difference is that the Spanish constitutional system does not allow the autonomous communities to influence national legislation, as in Germany the federal states can exercise it through the Bundesrat .

Legally, however, the autonomous communities of Spain and the German federal states are very similar in practice today, while the differences are predominantly theoretical. What they have in common is that they have a similar level of legislative competence and are the most important public administration bodies in both countries. Just like the German federal states, the autonomous communities are also very heterogeneous in terms of size.

At the societal level, however, there is a crucial difference: unlike in Germany, there are regions that have their own national self-esteem (particularly Catalonia and the Basque Country, and to a lesser extent the other Catalan-speaking areas and Galicia). Linguistically, there is now practically a state of bilingualism . In the political field, there is a parallel party system with the pan-Spanish parties Partido Socialista Obrero , Partido Popular and Izquierda Unida and also a separate spectrum of “nationalist” parties (in Catalonia: the bourgeois Convergència i Unió and the left Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya ; in the Basque Country : the bourgeois Eusko Alderdi Jeltzalea-Partido Nacionalista Vasco , the left Eusko Alkartasuna and the banned successor organizations of the ETA-affiliated Herri Batasuna ; in Galicia the left Bloque Nacionalista Galego ). Regional parties of various sizes are also represented in the regional parliaments in Navarre, the Canaries and Asturias, Aragon, Cantabria, Castile-León, La Rioja, Valencia and the Balearic Islands.

In terms of numbers and seriousness, supporters of independence from Spain, which should not be neglected, exist only in the Basque Country and Catalonia. The situation is made even more complicated by the fact that precisely these two regions, due to their earlier and more intensive industrialization than the rest of Spain, continued well into the 20th century. in were the goal of strong immigration from other parts of the country and one can therefore speak of “minorities within the minority regions”.

Autonomous cities: Ceuta and Melilla

On March 13, 1995, the Spanish exclaves Ceuta and Melilla, located in North Africa and not assigned to any province, were also given statutes of autonomy. However, according to the case law of the Spanish Constitutional Court, these Autonomous Cities are not Autonomous Communities. The court justified this with the fact that the statutes of autonomy of the two cities were passed by the Cortes Generales in the regular procedure for organic laws on the basis of the authorization of Art. 144 b) of the constitution without any special participation of the cities or the deputies and senators elected there, and also with the fact that in this legislative process amendments aimed at expressly designating the cities as autonomous communities were rejected. In addition, there are the following legal peculiarities: The change of the statute of autonomy of the two cities, unlike in the 17 Autonomous Communities, can be carried out solely by the state legislature without any involvement of their “parliaments”. In addition, Ceuta and Melilla have no legislative competence, but only the power to issue ordinances to the extent determined by state law.

List of autonomous communities and cities

Name of the autonomous community Capital Official language (s) Provinces map Area
GDP / capita (EU27 =
(Spanish Andalucía )
Seville Spanish Almería , Cádiz , Córdoba , Granada , Huelva , Jaén , Málaga , Seville
Localización de Andalucía.svg
000000000087268.000000000087,268 km²
92 82
(Spanish and Aragonese Aragón,
Catalan Aragó )
(span. Zaragoza )
Spanish, Aragonese , Catalan Huesca , Teruel , Saragossa
Localización de Aragón.svg
000000000047719.000000000047,719 km²
27 112
(Spanish Asturias
Asturian Asturies )
Oviedo Spanish, Asturian Asturias
Localización de Asturias.svg
000000000010604.000000000010,604 km²
101 94
Balearic Islands
(Spanish Islas Baleares ,
Catalan Illes Balears )
Palma Spanish, Catalan Balearic Islands
Localización de las Islas Baleares.svg
000000000004992.00000000004,992 km²
206 115
Basque Country
(Spanish País Vasco ,
Basque Euskadi )
Vitoria-Gasteiz Spanish, Basque Araba , Gipuzkoa , Bizkaia
Localización del País Vasco.svg
000000000007234.00000000007,234 km²
296 136
Extremadura Merida Spanish Badajoz , Cáceres
Localización de Extremadura.svg
000000000041634.000000000041,634 km²
26th 71
(Spanish Galicia ,
Galician Galiza )
Santiago de Compostela Spanish, Galician A Coruña , Lugo , Ourense , Pontevedra
Localización de Galicia.svg
000000000029574.000000000029,574 km²
94 88
Canary Islands
(Spanish Islas Canarias )
Santa Cruz de Tenerife and
Las Palmas de Gran Canaria
Spanish Santa Cruz de Tenerife , Las Palmas
Localización de la Región de Canarias.svg
000000000007447.00000000007,447 km²
271 95
(Spanish Cantabria )
Santander Spanish Cantabria
Localización de Cantabria.svg
000000000005321.00000000005,321 km²
108 104
Castile and León
(Spanish Castilla y León )
Valladolid Spanish, Leonese , Galician Ávila , Burgos , León , Palencia , Salamanca , Segovia , Soria , Valladolid , Zamora
Localización de Castilla y León.svg
000000000094223.000000000094,223 km²
27 100
Castilla-La Mancha
(Spanish Castilla-La Mancha )
Toledo Spanish Albacete , Ciudad Real , Cuenca , Guadalajara , Toledo
Localización de Castilla-La Mancha.svg
000000000079463.000000000079,463 km²
25th 83
(Spanish Cataluña , Catalan Catalunya )
Barcelona Spanish, Catalan , Aranese Barcelona , Girona , Lleida , Tarragona
Localización de Cataluña.svg
000000000032114.000000000032,114 km²
224 124
La Rioja Logroño Spanish La Rioja
Localización de La Rioja.svg
000000000005045.00000000005,045 km²
62 111
(Spanish Comunidad de Madrid )
Madrid Spanish Madrid
Localización de la Comunidad de Madrid.svg
000000000008028.00000000008,028 km²
755 136
(Spanish Región de Murcia )
Murcia Spanish Murcia
Localización de la Región de Murcia.svg
000000000011313.000000000011,313 km²
123 89
(Basque Nafarroa )
Pamplona Spanish, Basque Navarre
Localización de Navarra.svg
000000000010391.000000000010,391 km²
58 132
(Spanish Comunidad Valenciana , Valencian Comunitat Valenciana )
Valencia Spanish, Valencian ( Catalan ) Alicante , Castellón , Valencia
Localització de la Comunitat Valenciana respecte a Espanya.svg
000000000023255.000000000023,255 km²
210 96
Ceuta Spanish
Localización de Ceuta.svg
000000000000018.500000000018.5 km² 000000000076343.000000000076,343
4.127 97
Melilla Spanish
Localización de Melilla.svg
000000000000020.000000000020 km² 000000000068795.000000000068,795
3,440 95

See also

Web links

Commons : Autonomous Regions of Spain  - Album with pictures, videos and audio files


  1. Archive link ( Memento from June 20, 2011 in the Internet Archive ) Spanish Ministry of the Interior: Results of Spanish elections since 1977 (Spanish)
  2. Boletín Oficial del Estado: Real Decreto-ley 41/1977, de 29 de septiembre, sobre restablecimiento provisional de la Generalidad de Cataluña (Spanish)
  3. Boletín Oficial del Estado: Real Decreto-ley 1/1978, de 4 de enero, por el que se aprueba el régimen preautonómico para el País Vasco (Spanish)
  4. ^ A b Dieter Nohlen: Spain: Economy - Society - Politics; a study book , 2nd edition, 2005, p. 279.
  5. Spanish House of Representatives ( Congreso de Diputados ): German translation of the constitution of December 29, 1978
  6. Biblioteca Virtual Miguel de Cervantes: Text of the acuerdos autonómicos of July 31, 1981. (No longer available online.) Formerly in the original ; Retrieved January 18, 2011 (Spanish).  ( Page no longer available , search in web archivesInfo: The link was automatically marked as defective. Please check the link according to the instructions and then remove this notice.@1@ 2Template: Dead Link /  
  7. a b Biblioteca Virtual Miguel de Cervantes: Text of the acuerdos autonómico s from February 28, 1992. Archived from the original on August 30, 2011 ; Retrieved January 18, 2011 (Spanish).
  8. ^ Ministerio de Política Territorial: Boletín Estadistico del Personal al Servicio de las Administraciones Públicas. January 2010, archived from the original on October 11, 2010 ; Retrieved October 13, 2010 (Spanish).
  9. The figures for the autonomous communities alone are only comparable to a limited extent. There are seven Autonomous Communities that are not divided into provinces, in which the Autonomous Community also fulfills the tasks that are performed by the provinces in the other Autonomous Communities. In the Basque Country, however, the provinces (Territorios Históricos) and in the Canary Islands the island councils perform many tasks that are carried out by the autonomous community in other autonomous communities.
  10. Comunidades Autónomas - Protocolo de déficit excesivo. Bank of Spain , accessed June 8, 2012 (Spanish).
  11. Deuda viva de las Entidades Locales. Spanish Ministry of Finance, archived from the original on June 21, 2012 ; accessed on June 8, 2012 (span.).
  12. Deuda viva de las Entidades Locales. Spanish Ministry of Finance, archived from the original on June 21, 2012 ; accessed on June 8, 2012 (span.).
  13. AFP: Euro crisis: Spain pays record interest on new loans. In: Zeit Online. July 23, 2012, accessed August 15, 2012 .
  14. La Comunidad Valenciana pide la adhesión al fondo de rescate autonómico
  15. July 22, 2012: Two Spanish regions are facing bankruptcy
  16. Kölner Stadtanzeiger October 19, 2012: Mallorca asks for millions in aid
  17. ^ Decision of the Constitutional Court v. July 25, 2000, ATC 201/2000 (re. Melilla) ( Memento of February 10, 2012 in the Internet Archive )
  18. ^ Decision of the Constitutional Court v. July 25, 2000, ATC 202/2000 (re.Ceuta) ( Memento of February 10, 2012 in the Internet Archive )
  19. Instituto Nacional de Estadistica (PDF file; 65 kB), 2006
  20. Unlike Catalan or Valencian in Catalonia, Valencia and the Balearic Islands, Basque in the Basque Country and parts of Navarre and Galician in Galicia, Asturian or "bable" in Asturias does not have the status of an official language within the meaning of Art. 3.2 of the Spanish Constitution , but enjoys protection and support from the Autonomous Community according to Art. 4.1 of the Statute of Autonomy
  21. a b the Leonese language does not have the status of an official language in the sense of Art. 3.2 of the Spanish Constitution, but in the province of León it enjoys special institutional protection in accordance with the amended version of the autonomous status of Castile-León in the sense of Article 5.2 of particular value within the linguistic heritage of this community. It also states that their protection, use and promotion are regulated. In the city of León , Leonese has meanwhile been introduced into the curricular planning of state schools. According to Art. 5.3, Galician also enjoys special protection in the regions bordering Galicia in which it is spoken, but without being an official language.