Spain’s new government and Catalonia’s ice skaters.

Today is the last day of the old legislature. At One O Clock the PSOE will sign an agreement with all politicial parties represented in the House except the Popular Party. One of Zapatero’s election promises was that if he won the elections he would lead a parliament which would give all elected parties a voice and would put democratic debate and consensus above unilateral party decisions. He argued that during the past four years (when the PP had an overall majority and did not need to seek consensus with any other party to approve new legislation), the Spanish Parliament had ceased to be a place where the ideas of other political representatives were respected by Government.

This week proposed that both major party conced some of their parliamentary posts to a smaller party, so that the minority groups would have some role in parliamentary organization. However on Tuesday the PP announced that it would not participate in the negotiations to distribute parliamentary posts and intended to retain all its posts and to embark on its new role of what the PP party spokesman describes as a firm, unrelenting opposition.

Zapatero decided to go ahead with his policy even without the support and participation of the PP, and the PSOE has conceded two of its seats on the parliamentary committee to smaller parties, even though this means that the ruling party loses its majority on this committee which decides who forms part of special parliamentary commissions during the next four years. Most of the Spanish media have aplauded the decision, and the Popular Party is beginning to receive criticism from newspapers which are usually loyal to the party.

Meanwhile, this week the International Ice Skating Federation has approved an application put in by the Catalan Ice Skating Federation for its skaters to be able to compete under Catalonia’s flag in international competitions.

This decision is bound to have repercussions on a national and regional level in Spain, as applications will probably now be put forward by Catalonia and the Basque Region from other sports federations and although each one will obviously be treated individually, the Skating Federation decision certainly sets a new precedent. For the first time an international federation has recognised the status of an automonous region as a “nation within a nation”.