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Spanish law: Constitution

Subjects: Law

Books: Spanish Constitution

The Spanish Constitution

The current Constitución was passed by the Cortes Generales (Plenary Meetings of the Congress of Deputies and the Senate) on 31 October 1978, then approved by national referendum on 6 December, and received royal assent on the 27 December.

Its contents are grouped into 11 Títulos (titles/parts), which are made up of Capítulos, made up of Artícolos (some of which may have numbered sections) Citation is usually direct to the article number(section number)  eg. Art.16(3) (No established religion.)     

  • Título Preliminar
  • Part I. On fundamental rights and duties
  • Part II. The Crown.
  • Part III. The Cortes Generales.
  • Part IV. Government and administration
  • Part V. Relations between the government and the Cortes Generales.
  • Part VI. Judicial power
  • Part VII. Economy and finance.
  • Part VIII. Territorial organisation of the State
  • Part IX. The Constitutional Court
  • Part X. Constitutional Amendment

The relationship between the Constitution and European Community/Union is usually a topic considered in works considering constitutional law.

Comunidades autónomas: estatutos de autonomia

Autonomous Communities are recognised in Title VIII of the Spanish Constitution, e.g. Art. 143 (2):

In the exercise of the right to self-government recognised in Article 2 of the Constitution, bordering provinces with common historic, cultural and economic characteristics, island territories and provinces with historic regional status may accede to self-government and form Autonomous Communities in accord with the provisions contained in this Title and in the respective Statutes.

Since the democratic transition in the 1970s, some powers have been devolved from the central Spanish government to the autonomous communities. Exactly which powers and to what extent varies according the autonomous community, and is formalised in each autonomous community's Estatuto de autonomía (statute of autonomy).

Each Estatuto de Autonomía has to be approved by a Ley Orgánica from the central Spanish Parliament. The Tribunal Constitucional is the final authority in case of uncertainty as to where the line between the Spanish Constitution and an Estatuto de Autonomía should be drawn. 

El Tribunal Constitucional

The Tribunal constitucional, Spain's constitutional court is not considered part of the court system but an independent institution. It is the supreme interpreter of the Constitution, and final defender of  human and civil rights.

Its decisions - jurisprudencia constitucional - control the validity of legislation. It issues sentencia, autos and declaraciones, all of which can be found in the Boletín Oficial del Estado (BOE, the official gazette). The BOE can be cited in the following manner:

(BOE núm, 16m de 19 de enero de 2011)

Sentencia (judgments) are usually cited according to the formula:

STC [case number]/[yyyy], de [dd] de [month] de [yyyy]

For example:

STC 143/2010, de 21 de diciembre [de 2010]

Autos end the proceedings but make no decision on the subject matter. They are cited in the following way: 

  Auto 1/1980 TC, Sala Segunda, de 11 augusto

Print resources

Repertorio Aranzadi del Tribunal Constitucional (1981- ) Spain 100 A10
Cuadernos Aranzadi del Tribunal Constitucional Spain 510 T821.5a