By Humphrey Carter

THE Balearics yesterday celebrated 20 years of autonomy and the statutes of local government. Parliamentary speaker, Maximiliá Morales, addressing regional MPs, called for a united Europe, with its own voice and powers which “in crucial times such as these can fight for the global status quo and work for peace.” On the home front, Morales said that the Balearic statutes have, over the past 20 years, proved to have been a “valid, useful and necessary tool in the path to democratic self government." Just months away from the May elections, Morales used yesterday to look back at the past four years of left-wing coalition government, saying that at the 1999 elections, the electorate was presented with a real alternative government. He admitted that forming the coalition government was “not an easy moment” as it had never happened before in the Balearics, but added that the experience has been extremely important “considering the Balearics faces a future in which clear political majorities are unlikely.” More importantly, Morales believes that having a coalition government has enriched the regional political process as it has forced all parties involved to listen to and respect one another in decision making over the past four years. Party politics aside, Morales said “there is nothing better than the possibility of home rule to encourage a common feeling of nationalism in the islands and no longer feel manipulated” by outside interests.

Only last week Balearic President Antich said the Balearics needs to be able to defend its own interests with Europe. Morales said that slowly but surely the Balearics is being granted greater powers of self government by Madrid, but highlighted the controversial tourist tax as one of the principal pieces of legislation passed by the present government because of the socio-economic impact and benefits he and the government believe it will bring the Balearics.

Morales's calls for greater home rule echoed what President Francesc Antich said on Friday night, when Balearic Day celebrations got underway. Antich called on all “local political and social forces” to work together in establishing a more independent and self-goverened Balearics and a reform of the autonomous statutes. His deputy, Minister for Commerce Pere Sampol, picked up the independence torch yesterday, backing Antich's proposal for “a large nationalist pact” to push ahead with the notion of home rule. Sampol said that parliament should start discussing reforming the Balearic statutes this very Tuesday. The deputy president added that a new Balearic statute will also have to clearly establish between what Madrid is responsible for and Palma's responsibility “in order to bring an end to this constant discussion between regional and central government.”


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