The necessary regional presence in the European Union: the case of the Balearic Islands

Flag of the Balearic Islands

By Pere Sampol i Mas

First of all, I would like to welcome you to the Balearic Islands, a small country located in the Mediterranean Europe which has been a reception and cohabitation place for different regions, cultures and languages, but it has not lost its personal identity, soul of our self-government.

For us, it is an authentic pleasure to be with you today, here, in our island, to take a step towards the integration of Europe. An Europe which we want for all its citizens, without any type of personal or collective discrimination. An Europe which should not only be the warranty of a major economical programme, but also a vanguard of a model which is based in liberty, democracy, respect to the diversity and social compromise. In short, all those values that determine what it is or what it has to be the welfare society.

Before talking about the real topic of this communication “The necessary regional presence of the European Union, the case of the Balearic Islands”, I am going to mention one of the federal politicians and thinkers who has influenced our ideological approaches. I am referring to Valentí Almirall, who in his work Lo catalanisme, published at the end of the XIX century, he defended the necessity of the coexistence of both the big and small States in a federal relation in order to warranty the best characteristics of both systems.

The small regions represent a model of management similar to the problems of the people, an efficiency model adapted to the demands of the human collectives. Therefore, they constitute a better instrument to apply the concrete policies that try the society to move forward in the social progress.

However, the small State also has limitations. Limitations which make the small State inefficient to comply with the challenges of the modern society, the globalized world, the demand of the governors. Because of these reasons it is basic to achieve the concurrence of these small states in a common and coherent project. The big State which is needed in the European Union.

We claim the federal philosophy which inspires the ancient kingdom of Catalonia and Aragon during the Middle Ages, in which the Kingdom of Mallorca participated, achieving an economic and cultural progress. A philosophy which was finished during the period of Modern Ages. In the case of the Balearic Islands it meant the decadence and the incorporation of our Kingdom to the Spanish Kingdom which was strongly centralised and hispanicized.

Nowadays, we are living an historical moment which it is unlikely to be repeated, we are about of establishing the bases of the Constitution for Europe, and we cannot permit that these federalist ideas are excluded to leave the old ideas of the old state-nation of Jacobin roots being implanted.

In order to build this European model, we have to overcome some reticences, doubts which are considered by many citizens which come from political traditions in which these questions are considered marginal or do not respond to their territorial model. The debate between building an Europe formed by legislative institutions and building an Europe which centralizes the power in a few capitals. Because of that, we understand that when we speak of designing an Europe of the future, we cannot avoid that it is necessary to include the regions that form it, because we do not want a weak Europe to be reformed in few years.

Which are the threats of the European construction for the regions?

As Vice-president of an European constitutional region, the Balearic Islands, I want to mention some examples so as you can understand how we are damaged an European Union which only interprets and develops the principle of subsidiarity to the level of the Member States. I am sure that these examples can also be applied to other European regions.

According to the Spanish Constitution and our Statute of Autonomy (art. 10), we have some exclusive competences, so our regional Parliament can pass laws to the same level as the sovereign states in areas such as Agriculture, Public Works or hydraulic policy. However, you also know that the European Union also legislates on these areas (for example, CAP and the European Network of Transports). In this way, as a regional entity we have transferred to the EU a competence that was exclusive before for us. Unlike the Member states, we cannot be present in the decision-making organisms of the EU when topics which directly affect us and to our competences.

In relation to the regional policy of the EU, which represents the 2nd volume of spending in the community budget, we think that this policy cannot have this name. It is a budget expense addressed to the State and the State delivers it without taking into account the necessities and the will of the regions. For example, the imposition of a model of water management, an scarce good in my country, through the cohesion funds. While the Balearic Government tried to apply a rational and sustainable plan of water use, the Spanish Government imposed an unfortunate model of water management through the regional funds. Because of these reasons, we cannot refer to regional Funds or Policies when it is applied against the will of the regional citizens and governments. This policy cannot be denominated regional policy until the regional governments, together with the EU, can manage it.

Another clear example: the Government of the autonomous region of the Balearic Islands does not have any direct relation to the EU, we cannot address directly to the EU and we don’t have any official mechanisms of information about the EU policies and legislation. In fact, the delegation of the Government of the Balearic Islands in Brussels is not recognised officially, so it is just an entity similar to a business lobby.

The consequences of all of these facts are different: from the loss of a competence which was transferred to us from the Spanish State, passing through a blockade and efficiency of the regional policies in Brussels, or the impossibility of the directly defence in Brussels of facts such as the insularity, which has not been recognised yet.

Our approach

We think that the fact of reinforcing the policy power in Brussels is legitimate. But we also have to take into account the constitutional regions.

The fact of denying the political power of the constitutional regions brings us to paradoxes such as the recognition of our language. The Catalan language is spoken daily by more than 7 millions people and it has not been recognised in the EU yet. Moreover, languages such as Danish and Finnish, and in a short period of time the Lithuanian and Czech, will be recognised officially and the number of speakers are less than 7 million. Is that fact not a discrimination for those who are not State?

We consider that the citizens of the Balearic Islands have the same rights of the citizens of Malta or Luxembourg to participate in the EU. The lack of State structures does not have to mean we are 2nd class citizens.

Difficulties, fears and reservations

Which are the reserves or technical difficulties? I really understand the difficulties when we have to start the regional debate in a blocked EU due to the inefficiency of facts, such as taking decisions between 15 actors, or taking decisions in a future EU when we are 27. If we added the intervention of tens or maybe hundreds of regions, it would become a more inefficient or permanently blocked. However, I should act the following elements:

We have to distinguish in a clear way, we don’t have to cause demagogy: In Europe, the constitutional regions are not so many: German Länders, Scotland, Wales, Flandes and Valònia, Vall d’Aosta, Catalonia, Basque Country, Galicia, Andalusia, Canary Islands, Valencia and the Balearic Islands… So, we are referring to a limited number. It is not just to give political powers to those regions that haven’t demanded these powers. We cannot make a generalisation to all the administrative regions that can exist all over Europe.

We have to remember that we demand, at least the region that I represent, it is not the same political role of the states. We understand and respect the dialogue between the 15 States, in relation to the foreign defence and policy, for example, because our citizens want these. However, we want the others to respect our democratic achievements: the life of our institutions and legislative powers, in the judicial framework of the EU. Being part of Europe does not have to imply the fact of renouncing to be differentiated communities or renouncing to our institutions.

Our proposals

It is important for us that we conclude this debate with concrete proposals. In my opinion, the federalists who are here today represent a real ideological avantguard in Europe.

Our proposals:

The principle of subsidiarity has to include the recognition and respect to the internal policy units of the Member States in the executive, legislative and judicial relations with the institutions of the EU. Because of that, article 5 of the Treaty should be amended.

Presence of the constitutional regions in the Council of the EU and the COREPER (Permanent Representatives Committee). Article 203 of the Treaty should be amended.

Establish the right for the regions with legislative powers to appeal and defence in front of the Court of Justice of the European Communities. Part V, Section IV of the Treaty of the EU should be amended.

Reform the European electoral system in order to guarantee the presence of the European constitutional regions without affecting the principle of proportional representation.

A better recognition and protection of all those languages which are not the 11 official languages of the EU. Article 151 of the Treaty has to be redefined.

All of them, which are just concrete proposals, should have a real materialisation in the European Constitution according to these principles and with the objective of creating a real political federal Union.

Globalisation and European integration

In order to build the Europe we want, we do not just have to take into account our immediate environment, but all the process also has to be set in a context in a more generic environment.

When we are talking about the globalisation and its effects, the Europeans have to be conscious of our historical responsibilities and give answers that make this process to be assumed by everybody from an ethical point of view. This should be done according to the political, economical, social and culture needs of each region or community of the world.

The challenges of competitiveness of the globalisation are stimulant enough to act in a clear and convincing way to build the Europe we want. A strong Europe that has to be a reference point all over the world in order to define a project of economical sustainable progress, integrated from the environmental point of view and basically founded in the welfare. The Europe we want to build is not the Europe of the multinational companies, it is not a satellite of the United States, it is not the Europe of uniformity. It is the Europe of the diversity. It is the Europe that understands that the globalisation is for the man and not the man for the globalisation. And this is the discourse that has to lead Europe.

It is curious that the approaches that claim the critical movements with certain aspects of globalisation (more democracy, sustainable and fair economic growth, a better balance between developed regions and exploded areas, respect for the cultural plurality of the different regions) find a coinciding fitting in the ideas of those who defend the political role of the regions.

Because of that reason, I think that the European federalists have the obligation of bringing these demands into line with feasible political proposals. Only in this way we will be proud of taking part of a political union that will recover the lost dignity in the world sphere.

All the regions, states, public organisms and the civil society, enterprises, workers, and the media are necessary to do this possible.

Those that feel federalists have a difficult task to achieve our objectives, but we are convinced that the future is in our part.


Pere Sampol i Mas is Vice-president of the Government of the Balearic Islands, and Regional Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry. This speech was delivered to a seminar organised by the UEF in Palma De Mallorca on 19 April 2002. The opinions expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of Federal Union.

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