Staff Reporter
THE Balearic Commerce Advisory Board has approved, with an absolute majority, obligatory shop opening on eight public holidays in 2005.
It is also unanimously in favour of the Balearic government lodging official opposition to the new State law imposed by the central government Commerce department.

The Board said yesterday that the new law is unconstitutional because it interferes with the legal right of the regions to assert their own authority in such matters.

Following the meeting, Regional minister for Commerce, Josep Joan Cardona, said that the agreed opening on eight public holidays is adequate, because it “seeks a balance” between the wishes of small and medium sized businesses represented by their association “Pimeco”, and the large hypermarkets.

He saw fit, however, to express his surprise at the decision of Pimeco to opt for opening on five public holidays, purporting to resort to regional Commerce law, when in fact the statute doesn't establish a specific number of days.

The public holidays next year when shops will be open will be: 2 January, 24 March, 17 April, 15 May, 5 June, 15 August, 4 and 18 December.
Neither did the compromise secure the approval of the hypermarket association, “Anged”, who were pressing for permission to trade on 12 public holidays next year.

Bartomeu Servera, president of another small business management organisation, “Afedeco”, criticised the positioning taken by Pimeco at the meeting. Servera reported that Pimeco had claimed that agreement had been reached between the associations on eight opening days, whereas in fact it was not the case. Afedeco's president suggested that Pimeco's “version of events” had been an attempt to appear reasonable.

Meanwhile, Pimeco president, Angel Pujol, defended his proposal of opening on five public holidays in 2005 until the result of a Tribunal which might opt for annulling the Balearic regional Commerce law, is known. “We can't agree on opening on those days which our members categorise as “not being worth it”, said Pujol. He nevertheless accepted the decision of the majority on opening on eight public holidays.

Cardona believed it was “excessive” to think in terms of opening 12 public holidays as proposed by Anged, arguing that this year, some hypermarkets had opened more days that officially allowed and it hadn't always been in the interests of commerce.

Speaking about the possible unconstitutional move made by Madrid in interfering with regional powers, Cardona signalled that an objection in principle would be made against Article 5 of the State law. Clauses make reference to special circumstances where, apart from fixed public holidays, some traders can open their doors on extra days.

Cardona considered that it is the right of regional government “to decide what commercial establishments are eligible to recourse to these special circumstances”, and signalled that the Balearic ministry is carefully studying the whole State law.

On 27 August this year, central government approved a draft bill for commercial opening hours to be dealt with urgently by the Courts. The new statutes pinpointed 12 Sundays and public holidays during which commercial outlets could remain open to the public. They allowed for the regions to increase or decrease this number, depending on circumstance, but that there should be no less than eight public holiday trading days.

According to the text, the Sundays and public holidays chosen by the regions should be commercially attractive. In the case of regional powers opting for not controlling Sunday and public holiday shop opening, it shall be the traders themselves who decide when the 12 days shall be.

The draft bill also recognises the freedom of traders to fix the days and hours of opening, within the framework of the State law. The aim of central government is to establish stable guidelines to replace temporary measures in place since 1996.

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