A distinct history, with its own tax system and political institutions
Biscay has its own tax system, with which it seeks to create economic value
The political symbol of the people of Biscay is the famous oak tree that stands by Assembly House in Gernika. The General Assembly ["Juntas Generales"] is the highest-ranking body representing citizen participation: it is the parliament of Biscay.
As a parliament, it draws up regulations in the areas over which it holds authority in order to keep Biscay Biscaymoving forward. It plays an especially significant role in taxation, responsibility for which is devolved to the Provincial Council of Bizkaia.
The devolved government of the Historical Territory of Biscay is entrusted to the General Assembly as a parliament and the Provincial Council as an executive body.
Biscay, its own tax system connected to its historical traditions
The roots of the General Assembly date back to beyond the Middle Ages, making it one of Europe's earliest democratic political bodies. It developed democratic instruments such as habeas corpus, a prohibition on torture and the generalisation of "hidalgo" status (under which all men from Biscay were deemed to belong to the nobility) for earlier than elsewhere in Europe.
Biscay's legal charters or fueros were abolished in 1876 but eventually revived in 1979. Since then the General Assembly has taken a leading role in the process of consolidating the institutions of the Autonomous Community of the Basque Country and the recovery of the historical rights of the Basque territories.
Those historical rights were recognised in Article 3 of the Gernika Statute of Autonomy, which states that the Basque territories may maintain or, as the case may be, re-establish and update their own institutions and organisations of self-government.
The core regulation for the fiscal and economic autonomy of Biscay is the so-called "Economic Agreement" [Concierto Económico]. In the wake of the abolition of the fueros following the 2nd Carlist War in the late 19th century, the Economic Agreement was set up as the financial system under which the Basque provinces contributed to the finances of the kingdom of Spain. The provincial councils were empowered to collect their own taxes to meet their own expenses and contribute to the general expenses of the state.
The first Economic Agreement was approved in 1878 and has remained in place with numerous updates ever since, with the exception of the Franco era, when it was suspended in Biscay and Gipuzkoa and eventually reinstated in 1981.
The General Assemblies of the "Historical Territories" (as Biscay, Gipuzkoa and Araba-Álava are known) establish the type and amount of taxes that their citizens must pay. The provincial councils then collect and manage tax revenue. Like the other Historical Territories, Biscay enjoys a high level of fiscal autonomy. For instance, the power to collect corporation tax on businesses whose headquarters for tax purposes are located in the Basque Country is devolved. This means that substantive elements of this tax are established at Historical Territory level.
In Biscay this is intended to serve the population of 1.42 million and help drive institutional mechanisms to assure a dynamic economy, with over 90,000 businesses and establishments which between them generate economic activities drivers to the tune of 40 billion Euros per annum in terms of GDP (2019). This translates to a per capita GDP of €34,145, which is on a par with Europe's most competitive countries and territories.