Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The Law Goes Up In Smoke

No, the title is not a reference to the still popular habit of burning images of the King. An article I saw in Público the other day highlighted a side effect of administrative power being devolved to regional authorities in Spain. Laws which have national coverage are not being applied equally across the country, and in some cases are not being applied at all. In the latter case this is usually because the regional government in question uses its defiance as a demonstration of political opposition to the government. Now, here is your starter for 5 points; which regional government do you think is currently leading the pack in turning its back on government legislation? Alright, I’ll give you a clue; begins with M, ends in D, and is led by E.

Another 5 points, this time for Madrid residents only – who remembers the law intended to control smoking in public places? There is one, believe me, it’s just that Espe didn’t like it and once it became known that she didn’t like it virtually nowhere enforces it. Why should they if they know that nobody is going to do anything to them anyway? There was a brief period after the introduction of the law when it was possible to go to a concert and be able to watch a band in a smoke free atmosphere, not very rock and roll but it did improve the experience. Not any more. The law is not a very good one, but that is not really the reason why it is not being observed.

Let’s move on. One of the major pieces of legislation introduced by Zapatero’s government has been something called the Ley de Dependencia which has as its very worthy objective the provision of financial support to those who are unable to work because they are full time carers of the sick. No fewer than 23,000 households stand to benefit from this measure in the Madrid region alone, but unfortunately the demands of political opposition mean that this assistance is not likely to arrive very soon. In order to implement the measure each region is required to provide the government with details of those eligible for assistance, Madrid and Murcia have decided they don’t want to do that. No law passed by this government which has any chance of being popular will be permitted to succeed. It’s a vindictive attitude towards those who could benefit, perhaps no surprise coming from a regional government that also denies support to the largest association of victims of the Madrid bombings.

There are some more long standing acts of defiance too, in Navarra for example it is impossible for a woman to obtain an abortion; no public or private clinic will carry out the operation. This is despite abortion having been legal for many years. The excuse given is a right of conscience not recognised by the law, and those doctors who are prepared to carry out abortions find that they are not permitted to do so. Now for 100 bonus points, find me a leader of any of these administrations that has not made numerous references at some point to the “rule of law”.


Colin said...

Graeme, Enjoyed this but is the situation any different - in this asymmetrical pseudo-federal state - from the USA? And will things improve if Spain becomes a real symmetrical federal state? Presumably not if the USA fits this description. What's the solution? I think you should run for Madrid president when your nationality papers come through.

Graeme said...

:) They don't even allow me to vote in the elections for Madrid president! Presumably because they know who I wouldn't vote for.