Ibiza History Culture

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History in Ibiza

History of Ibiza
by Emily Kaufman

Balearic Autonomy Reviewed


Historical Information

Hello and welcome to the history page. Congratulations are in order for Gary Hardy, for this week marks the newsletter's first anniversary. Gary is the creator, editor and sole financial backer of this rather remarkable weekly compendium of island culture, humour and current events. It was through Gary's high-minded initiative that the Ibiza History Culture contributors came together to share their special area of knowledge with an equally special readership. Thank you all for your support. Now, after a year of concerted effort, the resulting cornucopia of Ibiza History Culture Newsletters provides culture vultures with a veritable encyclopaedia about 'this unique island of Ibiza' (as Gary is wont to say). I raise my glass to the man who has provided the framework for this rich tapestry of Ibicenco studies, woven on the colourful loom of local talent.

Turning our attention now to this week's topic, some readers may remember from last year's debut newsletter that 1st March is the Day of Balearic Autonomy. Having returned full circle to this red-letter day, I feel it is only fitting to commemorate the occasion with an examination of its political relevance.

The first question that arises is why Balearic autonomy should be celebrated on 1st March. The answer, simply, is that this was the date on which the Statute of Autonomy went into effect, back in 1983. Only since 1999, however, has the day been set aside as a public holiday.

Autonomy Defined

The second question that may begin to form in the minds of readers is what Balearic autonomy actually is. In the overall picture, the formation of autonomies within Spain's larger political apparatus represents the country's transition from centralized rule to federal government. Under the current system, each of the country's seventeen autonomies (roughly analogous to the provinces of the old order) assumes responsibility for the running of its own affairs, and is invested with its own political apparatus, an exact replica, in smaller dimensions, of the national government. Accordingly, the division of power into three branches (executive, legislative and judicial) is reproduced at the local level with the corresponding institutions of parliament (containing a senate and a congress), law courts, electoral domains and so forth.

Further Divisions

On mainland Spain, each 'autonomy' (e.g. Catalonia, Valencia, Galicia, the Basque Country, Aragon, Andalusia, etc.) constitutes a single political unit. The Balearic Islands, however, differ from this norm for the simple reason that the archipelago's territory is discontinuous, i.e. interrupted by the sea. Because of this geographical separation, each island has, in turn, been invested with its own political apparatus, which, again, mirrors that of the autonomy as a whole.

Therefore, the breakdown of Balearic government into its constituent parts gives us not one but four institutions: the Govern Balear, or the General Balearic Council, as well as three lesser Councils, or Consells Insulars, one serving Majorca, one serving Minorca and one serving the Pitiuses (i.e. Ibiza and Formentera together).

Delegation of Power within the Public Domain

The Govern Balear constitutes the apex of the islands' autonomous political power and concerns itself with broad areas of social welfare that affect the four major islands as a whole. Its areas of administration include education, culture, environmental conservation, the building and maintenance of roads, local law enforcement, zoning, taxation, linguistic legislation, public health, and unemployment benefits. Some of these areas are incumbent to national policies, while others fall under the sole domain of Balearic autonomy.

Each of the three Island Councils has, in turn, been delegated specific 'areas of competence', as they are called. These areas include agriculture, the promotion of local arts and crafts, vehicular inspections (ITV), the upkeep of cultural heritage sites, the creation of museums, the building and maintenance of roads (a function shared with the Govern Balear), health centres and senior citizens' homes.

Hybrid Institutions

The Islands' Councils are, indeed, unusual political organisms in that they function as intermediaries between the general Balearic government and the municipal level of government represented by the Town Halls. To see how this political overlap works out in practice, let look at one 'area of competence'. Zoning laws, for example, fall under the domain of Spain's autonomous governments. In the Balearics, however, the demographic layout of each is unique, making it impractical to impose one general ruling on the entire Balearic populace. Ibiza and Formentera's populations have always tended towards dispersion, while Majorca and Minorca's populations tend to cluster into well-defined nuclei. Therefore, in order to institute zoning legislation that both serves the needs of the local inhabitants and protects their traditional modus vivendi, each Island Council has been delegated the task of regulating its own urban and rural planning.

Case in Point

To this end, representatives from each of Ibiza's five Town Halls have recently been invited by the Island Council to put forth their ideas in a 'zoning forum'. The results of this forum will help create the Plan Territorial Insular, an extensive and complicated piece of legislation that will determine which areas of the island are suitable for commercial activity, industrial production, residential estates, golf courses (!) etc. On an island where foreign capital is the motor that fuels the construction industry, the PTI is an important ordinance that will allow local government to pull in the reigns on rampant speculative land development.


That's all for this week. Have a good holiday. I always celebrate the Day of Balearic Autonomy with exceptional fervour, but I suppose that's because it's my birthday! Join us next week for a chat with Martin Davies, one of the brightest beacons in Ibicencan intelligentsia.

Emily Kaufman