Hello and welcome
to the history page. Congratulations are in order for Gary Hardy, for this week
marks the newsletter's first anniversary. Gary is the creator, editor and sole
financial backer of this rather remarkable weekly compendium of island culture,
humour and current events. It was through Gary's high-minded initiative that
the LiveIbiza contributors came together to share their special area of knowledge
with an equally special readership. Thank you all for your support. Now, after
a year of concerted effort, the resulting cornucopia of LiveIbiza Newsletters
provides culture vultures with a veritable encyclopaedia about 'this unique
island of Ibiza' (as Gary is wont to say). I raise my glass to the man who has
provided the framework for this rich tapestry of Ibicenco studies, woven on
the colourful loom of local talent.
attention now to this week's topic, some readers may remember from last year's
debut newsletter that 1st March is the Day of Balearic Autonomy.
Having returned full circle to this red-letter day, I feel it is only fitting
to commemorate the occasion with an examination of its political relevance.
The first question
that arises is why Balearic autonomy should be celebrated on 1st
March. The answer, simply, is that this was the date on which the Statute of
Autonomy went into effect, back in 1983. Only since 1999, however, has the day
been set aside as a public holiday.
The second question
that may begin to form in the minds of readers is what Balearic autonomy actually
is. In the overall picture, the formation of autonomies within Spain's larger
political apparatus represents the country's transition from centralized rule
to federal government. Under the current system, each of the country's seventeen
autonomies (roughly analogous to the provinces of the old order) assumes responsibility
for the running of its own affairs, and is invested with its own political apparatus,
an exact replica, in smaller dimensions, of the national government. Accordingly,
the division of power into three branches (executive, legislative and judicial)
is reproduced at the local level with the corresponding institutions of parliament
(containing a senate and a congress), law courts, electoral domains and so forth.
Spain, each 'autonomy' (e.g. Catalonia, Valencia, Galicia, the Basque Country,
Aragon, Andalusia, etc.) constitutes a single political unit. The Balearic Islands,
however, differ from this norm for the simple reason that the archipelago's
territory is discontinuous, i.e. interrupted by the sea. Because of this geographical
separation, each island has, in turn, been invested with its own political apparatus,
which, again, mirrors that of the autonomy as a whole.
breakdown of Balearic government into its constituent parts gives us not one
but four institutions: the Govern Balear, or the General Balearic Council, as
well as three lesser Councils, or Consells Insulars, one serving Majorca, one
serving Minorca and one serving the Pitiuses (i.e. Ibiza and Formentera together).
Delegation of Power within the Public Domain
Govern Balear constitutes the apex of the islands' autonomous political power
and concerns itself with broad areas of social welfare that affect the four
major islands as a whole. Its areas of administration include education, culture,
environmental conservation, the building and maintenance of roads, local law
enforcement, zoning, taxation, linguistic legislation, public health, and unemployment
benefits. Some of these areas are incumbent to national policies, while others
fall under the sole domain of Balearic autonomy.
Each of the
three Island Councils has, in turn, been delegated specific 'areas of competence',
as they are called. These areas include agriculture, the promotion of local
arts and crafts, vehicular inspections (ITV), the upkeep of cultural heritage
sites, the creation of museums, the building and maintenance of roads (a function
shared with the Govern Balear), health centres and senior citizens' homes.
Councils are, indeed, unusual political organisms in that they function as intermediaries
between the general Balearic government and the municipal level of government
represented by the Town Halls. To see how this political overlap works out in
practice, let look at one 'area of competence'. Zoning laws, for example, fall
under the domain of Spain's autonomous governments. In the Balearics, however,
the demographic layout of each is unique, making it impractical to impose one
general ruling on the entire Balearic populace. Ibiza and Formentera's populations
have always tended towards dispersion, while Majorca and Minorca's populations
tend to cluster into well-defined nuclei. Therefore, in order to institute zoning
legislation that both serves the needs of the local inhabitants and protects
their traditional modus vivendi, each Island Council has been delegated
the task of regulating its own urban and rural planning.
Case in Point
To this end,
representatives from each of Ibiza's five Town Halls have recently been invited
by the Island Council to put forth their ideas in a 'zoning forum'. The results
of this forum will help create the Plan Territorial Insular, an extensive and
complicated piece of legislation that will determine which areas of the island
are suitable for commercial activity, industrial production, residential estates,
golf courses (!) etc. On an island where foreign capital is the motor that fuels
the construction industry, the PTI is an important ordinance that will allow
local government to pull in the reigns on rampant speculative land development.
That's all for
this week. Have a good holiday. I always celebrate the Day of Balearic Autonomy
with exceptional fervour, but I suppose that's because it's my birthday! Join
us next week for a chat with Martin Davies, one of the brightest beacons in