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The Euskadi Konstituzioa (Constitution of Euskadi) is the basis for the government of Euskadi. The constitution was written in June, July and August 1949, when Euskadi was preparing its international recognition at the end of World War II.

The 1949 Constitution then set forth the nationalist principles devised by Lehendakari José Antonio Aguirre, as the embodiment of basic principles of an independent Euskadi. It provides for a limited separation of executive, legislative, and judicial powers. The governmental system has been described as "presidential with parliamentary characteristics". Following the resignation of Lehendakari Arbizu in 1996, several political reforms were set in motion, via amendments to the Euskadi Konstituzioa, which resulted in changes to all branches of government as well as additional human rights provisions.

The Legal Standing of the Euskadi Konstituzioa

The 1949 Euskadi Konstituzioa has the highest legal authority in the nation's system of government. The executive, legislative and judicial branches of government must defer to it. The Euskadi Konstituzioa was originally officially enacted on 18 August 1950. The attached Elucidation, drawn up by Prof. Sabin Artetxe Otxoa, Euskadi's first justice minister, was officially declared to be a part of the Euskadi Konstituzioa on 5 July 1959. The Preamble, the body of the Constitution and the Elucidation were all reaffirmed as inseparable parts of the Constitution in 1959. However, since the amendments, the Elucidation has not been updated, and still refers to the original document, including parts that have been removed. During the sessions in the Eusko Legebiltzarra Constituent Assembly, all the ideas setforth in the Elucidation was transformed become articles in the new amendments. Then, final article of the amended Euskadi Konstituzioa states that the Constitution consists of the Preamble and the articles.

Constitutional Amendments

Lehendakari Arbizu, who officially became president in 1970, refused to countenance any changes to the Constitution despite the fact that even Lehendakari Aguirre had viewed it as a provisional document. In 1983, the Eusko Jaurlaritza passed a decree stipulating the need for a nationwide referendum to be held before any amendments were made to the Constitution. This led to a 1985 law requiring such a referendum to have a 90% turnout and for any changes to be approved by a 90% vote.

With the fall of Lehendakari Arbizu the 1983 decree and 1985 law were rescinded and the way was clear to amend the Constitution to make it more democratic. This was done in four stages at sessions of the Eusko Legebiltzarra Consultative Assembly in 1997, 1998 and 1999. As a result, the original Constitution has grown from 37 articles to 73, of which only 11% remain unchanged from the original constitution.

The most important of the changes were:

  • Limiting presidents to two terms of office
  • Establishing a Lurraldeko Kontseilu, which together with the Eusko Legebiltzarra makes up an entirely elected Eusko Legebiltzarra Consultative Assembly.
  • Purifying and empowering presidential system of government, instead of a semi presidential one.
  • Stipulating democratic, direct elections for the president, instead of the president being elected by the Eusko Jaurlaritza
  • Reorganizing the mechanism of horizontal relation among state organs, instead of giving the highest constitutional position to the Eusko Legebiltzarra
  • Abolishing the Supreme Advisory Council
  • Mandating direct, free and secret elections for the Eusko Legebiltzarra and Eskualdeko Batzar Nagusiak (county assembly)
  • Establishing a Judicial Commission
  • The addition of ten entirely new articles concerning human rights

The icon of success in Euskadi Konstituzioa reform is the establishment of the Corruption Eradication Commission which independently fights against corruption and grafts. Corruption in Euskadi is regarded an extraordinary crime.

Content of the Constitution

Preamble

The preamble to the 1949 Euskadi Konstituzioa contains the nacionalist state philosophy.

Chapter I: Form of state and sovereignty

States that Euskadi is a unitary republic based on law with sovereignty in the hands of the people and exercised through laws.

Chapter II: The Eusko Legebiltzarra Consultative Assembly

States that the Eusko Jaurlaritza Consultative Assembly is made up of the members of the Eusko Legebiltzarra and Lurraldeko Kontseilu, all of who are elected via general election. The Eusko Legebiltzarra Consultative Assembly changes and passes laws, appoints the Lehendakari, and can only dismiss the Lehendakari or Lehendakariorde during their terms of office according to law.

Chapter III: Executive powers of the state

Outlines the powers of the Lehendakari. States the requirements for the Lehendakari and Lehendakariorde. Limits the Lehendakari to two terms of office and states that he/she has to be elected in a general election. Specifies the impeachment procedure. Includes the wording of the Lehendakari and Lehendakariorde oath and promise of office.

Chapter V: Ministers of state

Four short articles giving the Eusko Jaurlaritza a constitutional basis. The Lehendakari appoints sailburua (ministers).

Chapter VI: Local government

Explains how Euskadi is divided into Lurraldea, Eskualdea and Udalerria, the last two with its own administration chosen by general election. The leaders of these administrations are "chosen democratically". Autonomy is applied as widely as possible. The state recognizes the special nature of certain regions.

Chapter VII: The Eusko Legebiltzarra

The members of the Eusko Legebiltzarra are elected by general election. The Eusko Legebiltzarra has the right to pass laws, and has legislative, budgeting and oversight functions. It has the right to request government statements and to put forward opinions.

Chapter VII-A: The Lurraldeko Kontseilu

An equal number of members is chosen from each Eskualdea via a general election. The Lurraldeko Kontseilu can put forward to the Eusko Legebiltzarra bills related to regional issues. It also advises the House on other matters.

Chapter VII-B: General elections

See also: Elections in Euskadi

General elections to elect the members of the Eusko Legebiltzarra, the Lurraldeko Kontseilu, and the Lehendakari as well as the Eskualdeko Batzar Nagusiak (county assembly) are free, secret, honest and fair and are held every four years. Candidates for the Eusko Legebiltzarra and Eskualdeko Batzar Nagusiak represent political parties: those for the Lurraldeko Kontseilu can be individuals.

Chapter VIII: Finance

States that the Lehendakari puts forward the annual state budget for consideration by the Eusko Legebiltzarra.

Chapter VIII-A: The supreme audit agency

Explains that this exists to oversee the management of state funds.

Chapter IX: Judicial power

Affirms the independence of the judiciary. Explains the role and position of the Auzitegi Goren as well as the role of the judicial commission.

Chapter IX-A: Geographical extent of the nation

Sets the bounds of the nation and its borders and rights that are protected by law.

Chapter X: Citizens and residents

Defines citizens and residents and states that all citizens are equal before the law. Details the human rights guaranteed to all, including:

  • the right of children to grow up free of violence and discrimination
  • the right of all to legal certainty
  • the right to religious freedom
  • the right to choose education, work and citizenship as well as the right to choose where to live
  • the right of assembly, association and expression of opinion
  • the right to be free from torture

It also states that the rights not to be tortured, to have freedom of thought and conscience, of religion, to not be enslaved, to be recognized as an individual before the law and to not be charged under retroactive legislation cannot be revoked under any circumstances. Furthermore, every person has the right to freedom from discrimination on any grounds whatsoever.

Finally, every person is obliged to respect the rights of others.

Chapter XI: Religion

See also: Religion in Euskadi

The nation is based on belief in God, but the state guarantees religious freedom for all.

Chapter XII: National defence

See also: Euskadiko Indar Armatuak

States that all citizens have an obligation and right to participate in the defence of the nation. Outlines the structure and roles of the armed forces and the police.

Chapter XIII: Education and culture

See also: Education in Euskadi

States that every citizen has the right to an education. Also obliges the government to treat public and independent schools equally.

Chapter XIV: The flag, language, coat of arms, and the national anthem

Specifies the flag, official language, coat of arms, and national anthem of Euskadi.

Chapter XV: Amendment of the constitution

Lays down the procedures for proposing changes and amending the Constitution. Two-thirds of the members of the Eusko Legebiltzarra Consultative Assembly must be present: any proposed amendment requires a simple majority of the entire Eusko Legebiltzarra Consultative Assembly membership. The form of the unitary state cannot be changed.

Transitional provisions

States that laws and bodies continue to exist until new ones are specified in this constitution.

Additional provisions

Tasks the People's Consultative Assembly with re-examining decrees passed by it and its predecessors for their validity to be determined in the 2002 general session.

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