"The Council of Mallorca is rapidly becoming its own independent state within the loose alliance known as the autonomous community of the Balearics." These were my words from a few weeks ago. They were within the context of Catalonia and the concerns of the Council's president, Miquel Ensenyat, with the way two Balearic senators were going to vote on Article 155.
There was also reference to the Council taking over responsibilities for tourism promotion. It is to assume these powers in the new year as well as some to do with social services that the government is likewise transferring. Moving on from this handover, there is now further evidence of the advance towards the Council as an independent state. Ensenyat wants public transport to be run by the Council and not the government. He even has a plan already drafted. Talk about pre-emptive.
The government hasn't said a dicky bird about letting the Council make the buses and trains run on time. Had it said anything, this would have been decidedly odd, given that it is in the midst of an overhaul of the public transport network: one that doesn't entail another institution running the show. So why is Ensenyat making his bid for transport and would it matter if the Council were indeed to end up being responsible?
As for the latter question, it probably wouldn't matter. I can't imagine that any of you would be remotely concerned about which branch of local government was in charge. All you would be concerned with would be that there is an efficient service. Both the government and the Council are equally capable of guaranteeing efficiency or making a complete pig's ear. It matters not which one it is.
In Ibiza and Menorca the island councils in effect run the bus services. They fall under the same TIB (Transport Illes Balears) umbrella, but the councils have the responsibilities. There are no train services other than in Mallorca, although El Pi is proposing that Menorca should have one. So as the other councils look after buses and as the rail network is specific to Mallorca, then why shouldn't the Council of Mallorca take over public transport? It hardly sounds like a revolutionary idea.
One can answer the first question in terms of Ensenyat making what appears to be a logical proposal and nothing more. But underpinning this is what he has said in the past about a Mallorca government. Although occasional mistaken references are made to such an institution, it doesn't exist. The Council of Mallorca is a local administration, not a government. Ensenyat, however, would like it to be a government, even if this were limited to the perception of being a government (for the time being at any rate).
There was recent talk about who might emerge as the Més candidate for the Balearic presidency in 2019. Biel Barceló has ruled himself out. Ensenyat, whose reputation has by and large soared since becoming the Council president, has suggested that he's not interested. He's quite happy to stay at the Council. For Ensenyat, one feels, there is a "project", always assuming that the electorate permit him to continue with it, and this is to bolster the Council and to make it a quasi-government.
Underpinning this ambition is clear political intent. It is the Més vision of sovereignty, one which, in the case of Mallorca, comes with its ancient historical connotations. The days are long gone when in mediaeval times Mallorca was - for only a comparatively brief time - an independent entity (kingdom). And back in those mediaeval days there was the forebear of today's Council - the Gran i General Consell.
Transferring public transport to the Council would, on the face of it, be straightforward. There already is a model for this in Mallorca anyway, and that's Palma, which operates its own bus service. But where might ambitions for responsibilities end? Ultimately they would be tied up in statutes that apply to the regional government and to the councils, and these are important. The Spanish government deals with regional governments not with devolved governments within regions. Ah but, what about constitutional reform? Perhaps so, but a federalist model, were it to ever come about, would mean a strengthening of regional governments and not administrations within them.
Setting aside all the history and ideology, Ensenyat is essentially revisiting what has been an underlying tension ever since regional government came into being: the tension between the Council and the government as to respective roles and powers. This has in the past led to colossal duplication, and solely because the Council was allowed to get away with it. Ensenyat has recognised that there was duplication and is aware of the need to avoid it, but it is already beginning to return. Tourism is a case in point. Social services may be another, then there would be transport. After that, what else?