Spanish Constitutional Court cuts back Catalan Statute of Autonomy

14 articles have been abolished and 27 will be reinterpreted · Language, judiciary, taxes and self-recognition as a ‘nation’, the most affected areas · President of Catalonia José Montilla declared he is ‘disappointed and angry’ and summoned people to demonstrate ‘in defence’ of the Statute · Most of Catalan political parties will join the rally.

The Spanish Constitutional Court finally issued the decision on the Statute of Catalonia after 4 years of deliberation. The Statute was approved by the Catalan Parliament on 30 September 2005, the Spanish Congress on March 2006 and ratified by a majority vote in a referendum. The Court decided on the constitutional appeal against the Statute filed by PP (Partido Popular, conservative Spanish nationalists) and ruled out that 14 articles are not constitutional and 27 are to be interpreted by the magistrates.

The judiciary system, Catalan language status, powers on immigration, taxes, vegueries (new Catalan administrative divisions) and the right to call referendums are the areas that have been most severely cut back. To start with, the ruling states that the preamble of the Statute -in which Catalonia is referred to as a ‘nation'- has "no legal validity", while certifying the "indissoluble unity of the Spanish nation" up to eight times in the ruling.

The ruling has dealt language a severe blow as judges abolished preferential status for Catalan in the administration and public mass media. Other language-related aspects, such as the "right of citizens to address constitutional bodies and the Spanish judiciary in Catalan" or the right of citizens to be responded, as consumers or users, in any of the official languages -Catalan, Occitan and Castilian-, will be subject to interpretation. Catalan judiciary powers and Catalonia's Council of Justice have also been thoroughly reduced and even questioned altogether.

Exclusive powers granted to Catalonia, as well as the article regulating popular consultations, are also affected by judicial interpretation.

Repercussion in Catalan political parties

Only one hour after the ruling was issued, Catalan president José Montilla appeared before the media to express his "disappointment and indignation" and to call for a full implementation of the Statute. He also summoned the Catalan people to demonstrate and defend the Statute.

Most of Catalan parties criticized the ruling. Artur Mas, leader of Convergència i Unió (CiU, Catalan pro-autonomists), said it cuts back the Statute's "vital organs" and shared Montilla's view on the people's demonstration.

Joan Puigcercós, leader of Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (ERC, pro-independence leftists) declared his party would not comply with the ruling and further added ERC would promote a self-determination referendum for 2011 because the ruling suggests Catalans "do not fit" in Spain.

Iniciativa per Catalunya-Verds' (IC-V, ecosocialists) officials agreed on the demonstration and proposed the holding of a referendum on the altered Statute.
Catalonia's Popular Party (PP, conservative Spanish nationalists) expressed satisfaction over the court's decision. Its president Alicia Sánchez Camacho considered the debate on the Statute was finally over.

Joint rally on July 10

Only today Òmnium Cultural -one of the most prestigious Catalan cultural organizations- issued its call to demonstrate on July 10 with the slogan "We decide. We are a nation". The rally will be backed by CiU, PSC, ERC and IC-V parties, UGT and CCOO trade unions and Institut d'Estudis Catalans, among many other organistions. Muriel Casals, chairperson of Òmnium Cultural, said the aim of the rally is "to defend the will of the Catalan people rather than to defend this Statute".

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