The participation process of the autonomous communities has gradually been extended since the creation of the Conference on Issues Related to the European Union (CARUE), which first met in 1989. The most important progress is as follows:
- In 1994, CARUE adopted the “Agreement on autonomous communities’ internal participation in European affairs through sectoral conferences”. With this agreement, the autonomous communities began to participate in the formation of state intent before the European institutions (known as the “ascendent phase” of the process), since up until then, the autonomous communities only participated in the application of European community law (in other words, the “descendent phase”).
- In 1997, Law 2/1997, of 13 March, was approved, regulating the Conference on Issues Related to the European Communities, such that the regulation of the CARUE, its composition, functions, etc, acquires legal status. Subsequently, on 5 June 1997, the CARUE approved its Internal Regulations. During this same year, the CARUE adopted its first agreement on autonomous community participation in the European Commission committees, which established that an autonomous community representative, acting in the name of all of the autonomous communities, would join the Spanish delegation, participating in the committee meetings they attend at the Commission when performing their function of implementing the actions adopted by the Council.
- On 9 December 2004, the CARUE adopted the agreement granting autonomous communities the right to permanently participate in 4 formations of the Council of the European Union, specifically the Council of Ministers of: Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumers; Agriculture and Fishing; the Environment; and Education, Youth and Culture. The system of autonomous region representation is implemented by incorporating one member in the Spanish delegation who is a minister or councillor in a regional government and who will represent all of the autonomous communities in matters affecting their powers. The plenary session of the Sectorial Conferences affected by the subjects that are to be addressed, appoints the regional representative, making sure to guarantee both the stability (each region covering at least six months) and the succession of the representatives proposed by the various autonomous communities.
The appointed regional representative agrees to coordinate with central government, and commits to make the full documentation on the subject available to the rest of the autonomous communities, to keep them regularly informed about the negotiations, and to agree a common position with the other affected autonomous communities. The regional representative is a full member of the Spanish delegation in every respect, and can request permission to speak when matters affecting regional powers are debated and there is a common regional position.
Meanwhile, it must be highlighted that the new generation statutes
, approved from 2006 onwards, detail, although not to the same extent, the relationship between the autonomous communities and the institutions of the European Union, in accordance with domestic legislation. The statutes list certain autonomous community powers where their powers or interests are affected, such as:
- Participating in the formation of Spain’s negotiating position before the European Union.
- Participating in the Spanish delegations before the European institutions and particularly before the Council of Ministers.
- Presenting appropriate observations and proposals to the state concerning European initiatives, proposals, projects, rules and decisions, as well as the right to be informed of such projects.
- Developing and applying the law of the European Union on subjects within their powers.