A formal end to violence in Euskadi

It's rather hard to imagine why a group that includes Kofi Annan, Bertie Ahern, Gerry Adams, Jonathan Powell (standing in for Tony Blair) former French Minister of Interior and Defence Pierre Joxe and former Norwegian Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland would be meeting in Donostia / San Sebastian today unless some special announcement was to be made.

That announcement is that ETA is about to take the final steps towards disbanding, and declare that the struggle for Basque independence will now be conducted by exclusively peaceful, political means. There are details in these two articles:

     Annan and Adams top list of experts at Donostia Peace Conference
     Eta expected to announce definitive end to four decades of violence

This marks the culmination of all round effort by several organizations, but perhaps especially the International Contact Group led by Brian Currin. For those that want some background information, I wrote at some length about the situation when Sortu was set up in this post and in the discussion that followed.


Nobody in their right mind would do anything other than welcome this decision, though it hasn't occurred in a vacuum. I'm sure some will stress that ETA has been effectively defeated by the Spanish and French security forces, and that has indeed been a major factor. But an equally important factor has been that the pro-independence left has finally been allowed to stand in elections.

The Spanish State had previously used the flimsiest of pretexts to ban such parties from standing, and they did indeed ban Sortu too, attracting international criticism because of it. However the pro-independence left reacted not with violence, but instead put together a different group by the name of Bildu which did not get banned, and were rewarded with a spectacular breakthrough in the municipal elections in May. This, perhaps for the first time, was a concrete demonstration that the Spanish authorities could not continue to use the tactic of preventing people from voting for such parties, and this has been a big step in persuading those who had used violence that a democratic solution is now possible.

Although there is a Spanish general election next month, the big test will come in 2013, when the next elections to the Parliament of the three provinces that form the Basque Autonomous Community are due to be held. The big prize is that enough deputies from nationalist parties on both the left and the right of the political spectrum will be elected to either declare independence or force a referendum on the subject. With ETA finally out of the way, the Spanish State will find it that much harder, and perhaps impossible, to prevent it happening.

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Anonymous said...

This is good news. Despite the reasons for the foundation of ETA in the later 1950 during the Franco era and despite the fact that ETA was right to say that Spain would never allow the Basques to hold a referendum on independence and that the Spanish military (through an article in the Constitution) reserves the right to use military might to surpress an act of secession, by the end ETA were the Spanish state's greatest asset.

The Spanish nationalists - PP or PSOE would say that independence = terrorism and that was it.

By turning their back on military operations/terrorism ETA is allowing Basque democratic and public opinion the opportunity to express and campaign for independence. Somewher between 55%-60% of Basque society (in the three provinces of Euskadi) vote for pro-independence nationalist parties. Put it another way - that's stronger than the SNP in Scotland or the combined Sinn Fein/SDLP vote in NI. It's the mainstream view.

The Spanish state, PP or PSOE will find it harder to outlaw, delegitimise people campaigning peacefully for independence. That's why the Spanish state was so keen to keep ETA going and to see any excuse to imprison or deligitimise the pro-independence vote.

This is a very significant event, especially when coupled with the current recession in Spain at a time when the Basque country is better off and could easily be 'self-sufficient'. They already collect their own taxes and decide themselves how much to give to Madrid. No argument about the Basques 'being too poor to afford independence' here!

A good day for democracy, positive nationalism and Basque language and culture in general.


MH said...

Quite agree, M. There's a good article by Paddy Woodworth in the Irish Times on Currin's group and the Irish involvement.

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