A royal decree is a provision with the rank of regulation developed and implemented by the executive power that needs the approval of the king as head of state.
A royal decree is nothing more than a decree that has been approved by the king, this would be the simplest definition regarding the term. Although it is necessary to make some clarifications.
The phase of the king’s approval is merely formal, the Constitution, or the law that regulates it, establishes that the king has to sign it, but lacks the capacity to modify them unilaterally. It is the council of ministers and the president, that is, the executive branch, in charge of drafting and approving the articles and the meaning of the content of the royal decree.
It should also be mentioned that, in Spain, the decrees are issued by the Autonomous Communities, and the royal decrees by the national government, thus establishing a clear hierarchical situation in favor of the latter.
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The law of any country follows a hierarchy, in order to establish which provisions are more important than others. The meaning is that the norms of a lower nature do not contradict the most important ones, such as a Constitution.
The royal decrees, which have the character of government regulations, are located at an intermediate height. Below legislative decrees and decree-laws, but above laws approved by subnational bodies, such as the Autonomous Communities in Spain.
This implies that no royal decree can contradict either a Royal or Legislative Decree Law, or an organic law, much less the Constitution. Nor to the obligations derived from International Treaties.
Differences between royal decree and royal and legislative decree law
These concepts tend to be confused due to the similarity that they have in their names. For this reason, it is necessary that, briefly, their differentiation be established.
The royal decree has regulatory power and is approved by the executive as a consequence of its activity. An example of this is its internal organization, that is, the configuration of the ministries or the delegated commissions is carried out through the royal decree.
On the other hand, the royal decree law or the royal legislative decree have the force of law, and need a very specific field to validate their approval. The decree law, for example, requires that there is an urgency to resolve, not having the due time to approve it through the conventional procedure.
Even so, thirty days are available for this decree law to be submitted and approved by Parliament. The royal legislative decree, for its part, is a delegation made by Parliament in the Government for the development of a certain law.
Examples of royal decrees
In Spain there are an infinite number of royal decrees, we are going to name some of them:
- Royal decree (…) by which the Regulation of pension plans and funds is modified, (…), for the promotion of employment pension plans. This royal decree was approved by the Ministry of the Presidency, and simply modifies some articles of the previous decree that regulated said matter.
- Royal decree (…) by which the statutes of the Royal Academy of Fine Arts of San Fernando are modified. The competent department is the Ministry of Science and Innovation. The royal decree modifies aspects such as the commissions, the academy table, the functions of the librarian and the delegates or the appointment of assistants and coordinators.
- Royal decree (…) establishing the organization and minimum teaching of Compulsory Secondary Education. Drafted by the Ministry of Education and Vocational Training. It establishes everything regarding the ESO call: objectives, competences, evaluation criteria, homework, learning process, etc.