Opinion : The missed opportunities by the spanish goverment in Basque Country

4 min 29Approximate reading time

Four years ago, the International Conference for the resolution for the Conflict held in Donostia (Conference of Aiete) opened in the Basque Country the opportunity and hope for the definitive resolution of the conflict. After consultations with all stakeholders, and as part of a carefully designed choreography, well known international figures made a call both to ETA and the Spanish and French Governments. Days after the Conference, and ETA announced the definitive cessation of its armed activity. [1]

The steps taken since then, in view of the international community and in a unilateral way, opened the way for a definitive peace. These times of hope, however, have known numerous difficulties, during all these years the Government has denied any attempt to move forward, has kept on arresting Basque citizens, violating prisoners' basic rights and opposing any attempt of dialogue.

During these four years of complete fulfilment of its commitments, ETA has clearly stated and shown its willingness to destroy its weaponry and has also announced steps to dismantle its structures, completely dismantling its offensive capabilities. It has even taken steps, unilaterally, along with the International Verification Commission, to put weapons beyond operational use. And it has done all this despite the ongoing attacks and barriers set by state forces.[2]

Basque political parties have also stated the need to change the Government policy regarding Basque Prisoners and regarding the end of ETA.

Nevertheless, the Government ignores the international and local calls for a positive approach and keeps an unheard-of attitude in front of an organization that has repeatedly called for dialogue, the Government maintains an absolute nonsense blocking attitude on all these issues and against the resolution process.

And so the real truth is that now, after PP's four years term in office, the situation is at the same starting point on which the Government found it. This Government has failed to solve one of the historic problems of Spanish modern history, the violent conflict in the Basque Country. And furthermore, this Government has missed a number of opportunities, playing a risky game for its own political interest and jeopardising the process with its provocative and unhelpful attitude, only ETA's internal cohesion and complete attachment to its commitments has avoided a return to the previous scenario or splits inside the organisation.

ETA's attitude has brought us to a no return scenario. But everybody knows that to resolve the consequences of the conflict there is a need to address three main issues: the process of decommissioning and dismantling of ETA, the process of reintegration of Basque prisoners and the issue of the legacy of the confrontation period.

There is no lasting solution to the conflict, without dealing with these issues properly. And anyone, with a bit of political sense, knows that to solve those issues there is a need to engage with the key stakeholders.

The PP Government has acted regarding this issue (like with the Catalan one) with absolute lack of Statehood. Four years later we face the same challenges and the same or bigger difficulties. The only outcome of these four years is the absolute commitment of the Basque pro-independence movement to keep on with its strategy for peace despite all the attempts to derail it, the absolute commitment to close this page of our history, with the responsibility that the Basque society requests from us.

Few days ago, the Government identified the last arrested in France as members that would play central roles in ETA’s leadership. Those sources identified them as ETA’s spokespersons on the announcement of the definitive cessation of armed activity in 2011. This shows that the Spanish state keeps its irresponsible policy, confronted with a possible change in Government come the December election, they are applying a scorched earth policy to hinder in as much as possible any possible solution process that might come.

Fortunately, despite the attacks and after those arrests, ETA publickly stated that it remains committed to the generation of new scenarios and keeps all its commitments. They state that have sufficient capacity to meet them, but at the same time alert also about the severity of the attacks being suffered by process, They consider Spanish Gov. is even putting in question the model for the ordered destruction of weapons and dismantling of stockpiles.

Let´s do not stress also that in order to keep on this fight against a non-existing threat Spanish Government spends priceless resources (funds, intelligence…) that should be used without doubt against real threats. Those four years have been, in that sense also, a waste of resources and funds that should be used on a better fight against the real enemies international community faces today.

The Spanish Government must give a positive response to the demands that arise from Basque Country and Catalonia also. A policy of no dialogue, no talks, no negotiation cannot be accepted. We are sure that the International Community understands that to solve these issues there is a need to open channels of dialogue. We are very close to the end of this Government's term, whoever arrives to Government at the end of this year will have to face those same matters. Closing eyes is not the way to solve problems.

[1] The Conference was chaired by Kofi Annan, Gro Harlem Bruntland, Bertie Ahern, Gerry Adams, Pierre Joxe and Jonathan Powell, and their recommendations were subsequently endorsed by Tony Blair, Jimmy Carter, George Mitchell and more than ten latin american former Presidents. The panel made a public declaration including the following recommendations:

  1. We call upon ETA to make a public declaration of the definitive cessation of all armed action and to request talks with the governments of Spain and France to address exclusively the consequences of the conflict.

  2. If such a declaration is made we urge the governments of Spain and France to welcome it and agree to talks exclusively to deal with the consequences of the conflict.

  3. We urge that major steps be taken to promote reconciliation, recognize, compensate and assist all victims, recognize the harm that has been done and seek to heal personal and social wounds.

  4. In our experience of resolving conflicts there are often other issues that, if addressed, can assist in the attainment of lasting peace. We suggest that non violent actors and political representatives meet and discuss political and other related issues, in consultation with the citizenry, that could contribute to a new era without conflict. In our experience third party observers or facilitators help such dialogue. Here, such dialogue could also be assisted by international facilitators, if that were desired by those involved.

  5. We are willing to form a committee to follow up these recommendations.

[2] On September 2011 the International Verification Commission for the ceasefire in the Basque Country (IVC) was presented to contribute to the verification of ETA’s ceasefire through a serious and rigorous process, this Commission is formed by: Ronnie Kasrils, Aracelli Santana, Chris Maccabe, Ram Manikkalingam and Lieutenant General Satish Nambiar. The Commission, without support fo Spanish gov., has verified that ETA has sealed and put beyond operational use a specified quantity of arms, ammunition and explosives as part of its willingness to move forward.