Kurdish Expansion I: Spanish Model “Zonal State” (?)


“Bellum Omniun Mater – War is the mother of all“

While the Gypsy Woman Pilar in “For whom the bell tolls?“ prepares the dinner in the cavity of the cave they are hiding, she cut in Robert Jordan’s words:
-“Have you ever seen how a civil war started in a small town?“
-“No“ says Robert Jordan. Pilar hangs her head down and continues:
-“Then you’ve seen nothing!“

Spanish civil war was started with the rebellion of nationalist forces under General Francisco Franco’s command against the selected Republican “Popular Front“ coalition in July of 1936. The war, lasting for three years and causing a huge disaster in Spain, resulted with the victory of nationalists in the April of 1939. Nationalist Falangists conquered the country leaving behind half million dead people, more than a million banishment and countless destruction, and they started the period of dictatorship that was going to last until the death of Franco in 1975. After Franco’s period, the country prepared a new constitution in order to erase the traces of civil war and the dictatorship and rewrite the common destiny of Spain. The Spanish Constitution of 1978 was accepted by a parliamentary pact attended by most of the political powers. The constitution and the Moncloa Agreement happened to be the main consensus text which political parties accepted as the social, political and constitutional structure of the new system. And this text separated Spain into 17 autonomous governments and 2 autonomous cities.

Frenand Braudel says “War, the mother of all, generated the whole Western Civilization. (…) Modern government arose from the new and mandatory requisitions of war“. Turkey (at least in terms of it’s Muslim elements) has not witnessed a civil war. Fault lines of society did not experience a tough and sudden break. But terrorism, continuing for more than a quarter century, obstructed social integration. Today, “the Kurdish expansion“ has been started by the political power with the aim of establishing social integration at the point that has been reached so far. The expansion will one way or another take us to the questioning of unitary state in Turkey. Shall the unitary structure of state be protected while this questioning is being executed? Or more importantly, shall a “Turkish model“ be built on the burden of history and the diversity of social-political demands?

Today, “unitary state“ is being discussed with all of its negative and positive aspects in the investigation of policies that will enable different social groups of language, religion and ethnicity live in peace under a political roof without breaking their differences.
As a result of this debate the presence of four different models can be mentioned:

1.Spanish Model (Zonal State)
2.Italian Model (State of Autonomies)
3.United Kingdom Model (Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales)
4.French Model (Democratisation of “Republic“ and local authorities)

Apart from France, ethnically differentiating regions benefit from autonomy in the first three states. The autonomy status of these regions are supported by a constitutional guarantee in Spain and Italy. In United Kingdom however, the autonomy of Norhern Ireland, Scotland and Wales is protected by legislations and powerful political traditions, not by the constitution. Another significant guarantee for the autonomous governments of these three countries is the quality of political culture. Because political systems are mostly shaped in accordance with the dominating political culture of the society.

Spanish Model

The distinctive line of the Spanish Model is that each of 17 different regions can prepare legislations. This fact takes us from the classic one political sided unitary state model to the “Zonal State“ model. Zonal state model is a formula in-between unitary and federal state. This model is different from the unitary state in terms of its political autonomy recognized for regions and communities, and it differentiates from the federal state in terms of its foundation and operation systems of autonomous administrations/regions and constitutional guarantees of their authorities. 2nd Act of Spanish Constitution (1978) declares that: “Constitution depends on the unbreakable unity of the nation of Spain and the inseparableness of the common fatherland of Spain; it recognizes and guarantees the autonomy right of nationalities and regions comprising the nation and the solidarity between them“. The constitution (Act 1§2) indicates that “national sovereignty“ belongs to Spanish community. For this reason the Spanish Constitution allows for the principle of “common and inseparable land“ / inseparableness of the country as well as the national unity (one nation) and national sovereignty, but it recognizes the autonomy rights of “nationalities“ and “regions“ within the emphasis of national integrity.
At this point, historical reasons behind the territorialization of Spain should not be ignored. Searches for the protection of regional identities in the country have always been strong. Constitutional experiences of the I. Republic (1873-1874) and II. Republic (1931-1939) are also shaped in respect of regional autonomies. However the period of Franco dictatorship coming right after civil war was a time when regional autonomies were completely eliminated. After the death of Franco, during the democratization process, together with democratization the issue of how regional/nationalist demands, that might turn into independence demands as in the example of Bask/ETA, should be handled did shape the Autonomous State formula of 1978 Constitution.

Every autonomous region in Spain has a “status“ that determines its internal corporate structure, it’s process and the authorities of regional bodies and from this point of these status are qualified as the “constitution“ of that each region. But these status have to be in compliance with the Constitution of primary constituent power which is the expression of national sovereignty both in respect of its procedure and it’s contents. In other words, in order for the status to be valid in law, it has to be in accordance with the legal requirements of the Constitution. That is because the legal base of status is the Constitution itself. So in the Spanish model the use of “autonomy“ provided by the Constitution necessitates the preparation of a status for the region. Again within this framework, the first dimension of political autonomy in the Zonal State model is the ownership of a right to participate in the preparation of their own legal status / constituent legal documents through regional representatives according to the constitutional rules. However, pursuant to the political centralization factor kept secret by the zonal state model, status’s becoming “law“ and coming into force depends on the approval of central political organs in the example of Spain. What differentiates the zonal state model from classic unitary state model is the political autonomy factor, and the other and maybe the main dimension of this factor is that regions have their own legislative prerogative in areas given to them by the Constitution and in accordance with their status. Every region has legislative assemblies/parliaments and their own executive organs. Despite this fact, the principle of the unity of judgment is effective in Spain. That means regions are not given judicial powers. Moreover in every autonomous community in Spain, there is a –governor like- representative assigned by the government in order to keep central (governmental) administrative duties performed, and to enable the coordination between those administrative duties and those belonging to the regions.


And in which areas regions have legislative prerogative? Spanish Constitution lists subjects entering into the areas of jurisdiction of autonomous communities and government in two separate articles. 22 subjects aligned in the 148th Act of the Constitution are in the jurisdiction of regions and 32 subjects aligned in the 149th Act are within the jurisdiction of state. Autonomous communities may accept all or a part of the subjects aligned in the 148th Act as their own authorization by determining them under their status. According to the 3rd article of the 149th Act, authorizations not explicitly recognized to the government by the Constitution can be used by autonomous communities if predicted in their status, but if these kind of authorizations are not involved in their status, they will remain belonging to the government; laws of government will be superior in case of any conflict in those areas. In the Spanish model, foreign policy and international relations; defense and armed forces; jurisdiction; citizenship; foreigners; right of immigration and asylum; currency, foreign currency; state finance and customs procedure are among the subjects which state accepts to be within it’s own jurisdiction. The Constitution states that government is going to set the basic norms in areas such as social security, environmental protection and legal regime for the status of public administrations and public employees. Regions are also authorized to regulate in these areas on condition that they will not act against these basic norms. Maintaining public safety is within the borders of government’s authorization. Government has the power to establish it’s own police forces in regions. The authorizations that autonomous communities can use are urbanization and housing planning, regional transportation, agriculture and forestry, fishery in internal waters, local fairs, regional tourism, heath, social aid, improvement of regional economic development under the framework of national economy-policy, culture and so on. Spanish Constitution (Act 3) specifies that Spanish (Castilian) language is the official language of the state while it agrees that the own languages of autonomous communities / nations are the official languages of related communities. So within this framework, the teaching of their (own) languages is also among the authorizations of autonomous communities. It is possible to say that the sharing of authorizations between state and regions is very similar to the sharing of authorizations between federal state and federate states in the federal model, but a basic difference must be outlined at this point: Federate states can participate in the creation of federal laws. But even though national parliament has two assemblies in Spain, senate is not a body in which regions are represented. Each assembly of autonomous communities assigns a senator for the senate, and has the right to assign one more senator for every population segment of one million too. But different from the federal state model, senate comprises of senators elected with general will at the level of provinces. And if an agreement is not arrived between two assemblies at certain issues that concern autonomous communities, the decision is made by the absolute majority of the members of parliamentary. In the zonal state model legislative prerogative of parliaments of regions is open to the supervision of Constitutional jurisdiction. Regulatory operations of autonomous communities are subject to the supervision of Constitutional court; state, autonomous communities and resolution of authorization conflicts between autonomous communities are also among the jurisdiction of Constitutional Court. 162/2 Act of Spanish Constitution states that the government can object to general regulatory operations and decisions accepted by the bodies of autonomous communities by applying to the Constitutional Court. This application brings the conclusion that related regulation or decision shall be delayed. Spanish Constitution predicts other methods that will let the government supervise autonomous communities alongside judicial supervision methods. If any of autonomous communities may not fulfill its commitments which the Constitution or any other laws ascribe to it, or if it substantially acts improper for the general benefit of Spain, the government makes a complaint about the situation to the head of the autonomous community. And after the complaint, if the communities still progress no satisfactory improvement about the situation, the government may take some necessary binding precautions by taking the approval of absolute majority of senate in order to protect the overall benefit of Spain and make the related autonomous community meet its obligations. The government has the authority to give instructions to each authorities of the autonomous community about the implementation of these precautions. Another way that lets government intervene in autonomous communities is the authority of national parliament to make laws that present principles to harmonize normative regulations of autonomous communities in situations that requires “general benefit“.

As it can be understood from the points that have been outlined so far, in zonal state model political centralization is a distinctive factor that differs it from the federal state model: Zonal State is a model that constitutes by the delegation of a part of political administrative center’s authorities to regions, not by the unity of “constituent units“; the source of regional autonomies is the national constitution; principle of judicial unity is also valid as in the classic unitary state model. Another significant point is that even if authorities given to autonomous regions are covered by the constitution, in the zonal state model the prerogative to change the constitution belongs to the national parliament and regions cannot deterministically participate in this process; the approval of regions for constitutional changes is not mandatory.

Spanish model is basically established on the understanding of unity of state, but it is a model that corrodes classic unitary state’s being a unique political decision centered state with its ethnical and cultural characteristics or common history or political autonomies recognized for regions that differs as a result of economic reasons. However the same model also presents an option that allows working together in the “management“ of conflicts arising from differences.

Can zonal state model be implemented for Turkey? The answer of this question is a topic of another article …

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