Autonomous Community – What it is, definition and concept

An Autonomous Community is a territorial entity made up of one or more provinces. It is one of the three administrative levels and has numerous exclusive powers, as well as others assigned by the State.

The Autonomous Communities constitute the middle level of the Public Administration of the Spanish State. They were created after the approval of the 1978 Constitution, which provides its legal framework.

Each of them is made up of one or more neighboring provinces that, after a voluntary process, decided to unite and unify numerous services. A factor that also united these provinces was the sentimental one.

Spain is a highly decentralized, almost federal, unitary state. That is why the Autonomous Communities have numerous powers and scope for action on a multitude of issues. This allows each territory to have a space for self-management and that they can pursue the administrative model that best suits each one of them.

These Autonomous Communities are seventeen: Andalusia, Aragon, Asturias, Balearic Islands, Canary Islands, Cantabria, Castilla y León, Castilla-La Mancha, Catalonia, Valencian Community, Extremadura, Galicia, Community of Madrid, Region of Murcia, Navarra, Basque Country, and The Rioja. In addition to the Autonomous Cities of Ceuta and Melilla.

Creation of the Autonomous Communities

To see how and when the Autonomous Communities were created we have to go back to the 19th century, although they were created almost one hundred and fifty years later. The current provincial model is the same since 1833. Year in which Javier de Burgos, the architect of this territorial division, was appointed Secretary of State for Public Works. It happened during the regency of María Cristina before the recent death of her husband Fernando VII.

This model consisted of forty-nine provinces, where Ceuta and Melilla did not count as such, while the Canary Islands were the only province. As for the regions, that is, the territory resulting from the union of several provinces, there were fifteen, and many remain today, such as the Valencian Community, Andalusia or Extremadura.

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It is in 1978 when, with the approval of the current Constitution, the bases that will later configure the creation of the Communities are created. The constitutional text established two routes for its creation, the fast and the slow:

  • Slow track: It is included in article 143 of the Constitution. The initiative corresponds to the interested councils. 2/3 of the municipalities are needed and their population represents the majority of the census in each province. The term is six months after the first agreement adopted in this regard by any of the interested local corporations. If it does not succeed, you can try again after five years. It took five years to expand their powers.
  • Fast Track: It is included in article 151 of the Constitution. The initiative corresponds to the councils. 3/4 of the municipalities of each of the provinces are needed and they represent the majority of the census in each of them. In addition, its approval in a referendum by an absolute majority in each province. Those territories that already had a Statute of Autonomy in the past, the absolute majority of their collegiate bodies is sufficient. By fast track they accessed Andalusia, Catalonia, the Basque Country and Galicia.

Legal framework of the Autonomous Communities

The law that enables and regulates the existence and development of an Autonomous Community is the Spanish Constitution of 1978. Specifically, it is Article 2 that enables it: “The Constitution is based on the indissoluble unity of the Spanish Nation, the common and indivisible homeland of all Spaniards, and recognizes and guarantees the right to autonomy of the nationalities and regions that comprise it and solidarity among all of them ”.

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As we can see, “it recognizes and guarantees the right to autonomy of the nationalities and regions that comprise it”, this is the part that enables the existence of the Communities, whose purpose is to guarantee a certain self-government, and that historically particular territories can carry it out. . Always within the common framework.

It is in the third Chapter of the Eighth Title of the Constitution where everything concerning the Autonomous Communities is particularly developed: ways of creation, Statutes of autonomy, exclusive and shared powers, their control, etc.

Competences of the Autonomous Communities

There are two general types of powers of the Autonomous Communities, exclusive and assigned. Article 148 of the Constitution includes those that can be fully assumed by the Communities, some of them are the following:

  • Organization of its institutions of self-government.
  • Land planning, town planning and housing.
  • Public works in its own territory.
  • Railways and roads.
  • Agriculture, fishing and environment.
  • Museums, libraries, and many other cultural areas.
  • Sightseeing.
  • Health and hygiene.

Next, article 149 includes those over which the State has jurisdiction, but can share functions with the Communities. That is, the State transfers some of its powers to a Community, performing a shared performance. The State usually keeps powers such as basic legislation, legislation or even all the powers. Some of these competencies are:

  • Commercial, labor and civil legislation.
  • General Finance and State Debt.
  • Sea fishing.
  • Railways.
  • Public healthcare.
  • Basic rules on radio and television press.

A very common model is the development of basic legislation by the State and its execution by each Community.

Bodies of the Autonomous Communities

The Autonomous Communities are organized around bodies. These are provided for in article 152 of the Constitution:

  • legislative Assembly: Incarnates the Legislative Power of the Community. It is made up of regional deputies and they are in charge of legislating in the terms allowed by its Statute and the Constitution. These deputies represent the citizens of the Community and are elected by universal suffrage, whose electoral system is the D’Hondt formula. They are elected every four years. In addition to the legislative function, they have others like the Cortes Generales, such as the budget or control of the autonomous government.
  • government council: They have the executive and administrative function of the Community. They are part of the Assembly and it is made up of the president, the vice president and the directors of each of the ministries. They are susceptible to the motion of censure and can drive the issue of trust.
  • President: He is elected, as is the case at the national level, by the deputies of the Assembly by an absolute majority. He is the head of the Governing Council and who represents the Community at the state level. Like the Council, it is politically responsible to the Assembly.
  • high Court of Justice: Culminates the judicial organization in the territorial scope of the Autonomous Community. It is its Statute that decides its assumptions and its forms of participation, although it is not a body that forms an autonomous judicial power. It has three chambers: civil and criminal, contentious-administrative and social. They are made up of a president, chamber presidents, and magistrates.
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