As if the illegal self-determination referendum that Catalonia organized in 2017 had not caused enough headaches, Spain is now facing another independence attempt on its own soil, albeit with different characteristics: The Line of the Conception, the border city between Europe and Africa, between the Atlantic and the Mediterranean Sea, wants to organize your popular consultation to get rid of the rest of Andalusia and become an autonomous city.
“We are not considering leaving Spain. We are thinking of a consultation, something similar to a referendum, which is allowed in Spanish law, “he tells Clarion the mayor of La Línea, Juan Franco, that governs this municipality of 70 thousand inhabitants since 2015.
“Our city has some very serious and very serious problems that there is no other city in Spain ”, laments the mayor, who won the elections with his local party, La Línea 100×100, with 67 percent of the votes.
The idea of consulting neighbors about the possibility of become an autonomy It was his workhorse during the electoral campaign and, a few days ago, he got the municipal Plenary to approve it.
“We are 30 kilometers from the coast of Morocco and we are bordering the only Brexit territory in all of continental Europe “, Franco tells about the proximity to the British colony of Gibraltar, from which it is barely separated by a border post.
“About 11 thousand people who live in the city they cross to Gibraltar every day, they work there and they contribute to a foreign pension fund that when they retire will give them very low pensions ”, the mayor lists the sufferings of his people.
The Line, thought by Felipe V as a defensive post and settled on the sandy isthmus that separates the Rock of Gibraltar from the coast, it is also a hot zone for drug trafficking.
“The hashish that enters Europe ends up entering our beaches,” he confesses to Clarion Franco, 45, who was not ashamed to participate in a Netflix documentary about drug trafficking in his city, defining himself as “The mayor with the most problems in Europe.”
Unemployment in La Línea is around 35 percent. And the municipality has one of the lowest income levels in Spain: a large part of the population lives in social exclusion and the economic dependence on British territory is immense.
Why become an autonomous city like Ceuta and Melilla, the two Spanish territories on African soil, would solve the hardships of La Línea?
“We could have a different organizational system, different funding and with own competences that would help us to get out of the jam where we are now ”, explains the mayor.
“Article 144 of the Spanish Constitution establishes that those territories with a territorial scope lower than the provincial one may be constituted as autonomous communities, as long as are affected by certain issues of national interest -Explain-. We understand that questions of national interest occur in our territory and that is why we consider that we could constitute ourselves as an autonomous community. “
For the Yes
In 2019, the City Council commissioned a report from the professor in Constitutional Law at the Complutense University of Madrid, Antonio de Cabo de la Vega, to analyze whether La Línea’s desire to become an autonomous city it was workable.
“There is no constitutional impediment or prohibition, statutory, legal or European law for the conversion of the municipality of La Línea de la Concepción into autonomy, under the autonomous city formula, regardless of whether such process is more or less complex, costly, convenient or opportune “, the report.
And according to a home survey conducted by a local newspaper, 83 percent of the inhabitants of La Línea would vote yes to the question: “Do you think it is convenient for the City Council of La Línea de la Concepción to raise a petition to the government and the Cortes Generales to urge the conversion of the municipality into an autonomous community, in accordance with the provisions of article 144 a) of the Constitution? “
Meanwhile, the mayor does not contemplate the Catalan recipe – which until now has given such a bad result – of opting for the unilateral route. “It doesn’t even cross our minds. We want to make a query that is possible in the Spanish legal system ”, he assures.
“We feel more Spanish than anyone, Andalusians and people from Cadiz. What we are proposing is a different level of organization that to date has not found a solution, ”insists Franco.
If it is approved by the national government, the popular consultation could only take place next year.
If this is achieved, the mayor aspires to achieve “a specific regime for the 11 thousand people who go to work in Gibraltar every day and a special regime for the civil servants, so that they want to come ”.
He describes La Línea as a bleak land where doctors, policemen, teachers do not find it attractive to stay: “A colleague of mine who has an 8-year-old boy who has been in school since he was 6 has already had 15 tutors because the teachers stay for a very short time”, Cites as an example.
Andalusia does not look favorably on the intentions of La Línea to distance itself from its autonomy. Franco retruca: “Andalusia has 87,000 square kilometers. We would reduce only 26 to which, to date, little attention has been paid ”, ironizes the mayor.