The President of the Government of the Azores criticized the "centralist" decision of the Constitutional Court (CC), which declared unconstitutional the rules of the so-called Maritime Law, warning that the shared management of maritime space is an "indeclinable conviction" of the region.
“It's a centralist attitude. The fact is that the Constitution says what the CC says that it says. But we salute the fact that some judges voted against this agreement, even interpreting the current constitutional standards in force regarding the sea in favor of our thesis", said José Manuel Bolieiro to journalists after a consular ceremony that took place in Ponta Delgada.
The Constitutional Court (CC) declared unconstitutional two rules of the so-called Maritime Law, approved in 2020, which advocate the shared management of maritime space between the Republic and the autonomous regions of the Azores and Madeira.
Bolieiro defended the “importance of a shared management of the sea” between the autonomous regions and the Republic, regarding the “environmental and economic components of the sea”, admitting, however, that “issues related to border sovereignty belong to the State”.
“[The shared management of the sea] is an indeclinable conviction on the part of the Azores and we will insist on its recognition, both within the framework of the law and eventually within the framework of a future revision of the Constitution,” Bolieiro stated.
PSD says decision shows need for constitutional review
PSD/Azores argued that the "centralist decision" of the Constitutional Court, which declared the unconstitutionality of rules of the so-called Maritime Law, "confirms the need to move forward with a constitutional review dedicated exclusively" to Autonomies.
“The CC's ruling on the Maritime Law is just another centralist decision, among many taken by the plenary of that institution whenever it comes to processes aimed at deepening Autonomy,” said João Bruto da Costa, leader of the PSD parliamentary group in the Azorean parliament.
For the member of the parliament, such a decision "proves the need to carry out a constitutional review of the issues related to the Autonomies of the Azores and Madeira", so that the Constitution will "enshrine the right of the Autonomous Regions to have a decisive say in the management and exploration of their sea resources". “It is imperative to clarify, once and for all, the aspects related to the shared management of natural resources, namely the Sea”.
The member of the parliament pointed out that the ruling on the Maritime Law "was the subject of repairs by the President of the CC himself, who stressed the centralist bias of that decision". "It is not only PSD/Azores that considers this judgment a centralist decision. It is the very president of the CC, the judge adviser João Caupers, who states, in his dissenting vote, that the opinions of most of the members reflect the ‘ancestral centralist tendency of the dominant political culture’”, he warns. For Bruto da Costa, “the Autonomy of the Azores and Madeira continues to be viewed with suspicion, instead of being recognized as one of the most important advances of Portuguese democracy”.
The parliamentarian points out that the president of the CC considers this decision to be a "suspicious attitude - and even hostile - towards the Autonomy of the Azores and Madeira". "It is also the president of the CC who emphasizes, in his dissenting vote, that the requirement for binding opinions is common in several areas of public administration, such as urban planning, heritage protection or the environment, among many others. The binding opinion is a very useful instrument to force understandings, as the judge advisor João Caupers rightly points out," Bruto da Costa said.
Successive inspection of the legislation was requested by a group of Members in 2021
The amendments to the Basic Law on National Maritime Spatial Planning and Management were approved by the national parliament on October 2, 2020 and, after promulgation by the President of the Republic, were published in the Official Journal on January 11, 2021.
It aimed at integrating, among others, the actions promoted by the autonomous regions.
After the approval, in January 2021, a group of PS, PSD and PCP parliamentarians joined forces to request the Constitutional Court to successively review the constitutionality of the new maritime law, considering that the integrity of the sovereignty of the State is at stake.
This group of members, headed by the then socialist parliamentarian and former Minister of the Sea Ana Paula Vitorino, considered that the new law compromised “the unity and coherence of the administration in a framework of adequate relationship in the exercise of joint or shared functions between the State and the autonomous regions”.