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Constitutional Law and Regionalism

A Comparative Analysis of Regionalist Negotiations

Vito Breda

This topical book analyses the practice of negotiating constitutional demands by regional and dispersed national minorities in eight multinational systems. It considers the practices of cooperation and litigation between minority groups and central institutions in Australia, Britain, Canada, New Zealand, Italy, Spain, and the U.S. and includes an evaluation of the implications of the recent Catalan, Puerto Rican and Scottish referenda. Ultimately, the author shows that a flexible constitution combined with a versatile constitutional jurisprudence tends to foster institutional cooperation and the recognition of the pluralistic nature of modern states
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Chapter 3: Spain: constitutional negotiations and ethnocentric nationalisms

Vito Breda


In this chapter, I will discuss the process of accommodation of identity-based constitutional demands in the Kingdom of Spain. Spain is a multinational society and, as a democratic constitutional system, it is the youngest of the legal systems considered in this book. The process of accommodation of identity demands in the Spanish constitutional system is, as per the rest of the legal systems considered in this book, multidimensional. There are, however, two distinctive drivers of change that condition the process of the recognition and negotiation of identity-based constitutional demands. Firstly, the constitution includes a flexible process of accommodation of identity-based constitutional claims called the dispositive principle. The 1978 constitution has a strict and formalist process of constitutional reforms, but in relation to its system of territorial governance, regional communities have the prerogative to alter their institutional partnership with central institutions in a way that mirrors the sociological and economic development of regional communities. Secondly, the Spanish process of the accommodation of identity-based constitutional claims occurs in an institutional setting that appears to favour an ethnocentric conception of ‘national’. The idea of the centrality of the Spanish nation has the effect of stabilizing the process of the accommodation of identity-based constitutional claims, yet it tends to feed the political arenas with ethnocentric narratives which favour, as in the recent case of the 2017 Catalonian referendum, radical political stances. The chapter is divided into two sections, and is preceded by an introduction and followed by a conclusion. In the first part, I will introduce the distinctive features of the Spanish constitutional system and the dispositive principle. In the second part, I will discuss the effect of an ethnocentric conception of the nation-state in the process of the accommodation of identity claims in the Basque Country and in Catalonia.

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