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Spanish PM: Willing to overhaul Constitution, but conditions apply

Catalan crisis is acting as a catalyst for reform, but PM warns that broad consensus is required

The Spanish flag is raised at Plaza de Colón in Madrid to observe Constitution Day.
The Spanish flag is raised at Plaza de Colón in Madrid to observe Constitution Day. EFE

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said on Wednesday that he is willing to reform the Spanish Constitution, on three conditions.

Speaking at a special ceremony inside Congress, where the 39th anniversary of the 1978 Constitution was being observed, Rajoy listed his conditions: there must be broad political consensus, national sovereignty is non-negotiable, and parties must clearly specify which parts of the charter need rewriting.

As far as I’m concerned, whatever affects Spain must be decided by all Spaniards, not just some of them

PM Mariano Rajoy

“I am willing to do this reform, but there are a couple of things I want to make clear. I will in no way accept our national sovereignty being broken up: as far as I’m concerned, whatever affects Spain must be decided by all Spaniards, not just some of them,” said the Popular Party (PP) leader alluding to the Catalan secessionist bid. According to the Constitution, any legal referendum would have to be held at the national level, not just in Catalonia. This voided the controversial independence ballot held in the region on October 1.

“Secondly, it is very important for constitutional reform to take place with a very broad consensus, just like in 1978. A Constitution cannot be overhauled simply with a majority,” added Rajoy.

The Spanish Constitution was approved by 87.78% of voters, including 2.7 million Catalans, at the referendum of December 6, 1978. Catalonia and Andalusia were the two regions where support for the Constitution was most overwhelming.

Leading members of Congress at the 39th anniversary celebrations of the Spanish Constitution.
Leading members of Congress at the 39th anniversary celebrations of the Spanish Constitution. EL PAÍS

Rajoy added that “it is also very important for everyone to say exactly what needs reforming.”

The Spanish leader underscored that a study is already underway to develop a new financing system for the regions. Unequal treatment has led to years-long complaints by many regional leaders, particularly with regard to the Basque Country’s special deal, known as the Cupo vasco.

Faced with criticism on this issue by several regional premiers, most notably Andalusia’s Susana Díaz, Rajoy replied that his party has 137 seats in Congress but that 176 are required to approve a new financing system; the PP leader reiterated calls for the main opposition Socialists to support his project.

English version by Susana Urra.

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