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ETA violence and the Basque Country: Does federalism offer a solution?

ETA violence and the Basque Country: Does federalism offer a solution? BY GURUTZ JAUREGUI Spanish system of regional and federal models of government. The problem of territory autonomies has had very positive effects Its complex and ambiguous nature is a The Basque region is located for the Basque Country. The progress constant source of clashes between the geographically in Spanish and French made over the years in the recovery of federal and community governments. territory. Traditionally, the strategic Basque identity has been very significant. Rather than a list of powers, the aspiration of Basque nationalism hasThe system, however, has been unable to Constitution establishes a distribution of been to establish an independent Statesolve the ‘Basque problem’. The conflict functions. In many areas, the Constitution that covers the whole territory. between Basque separatists and Spain qualifies the functions of the autonomoushas left hundreds dead, and has caused Not only is the division between France regions with phrases such as ‘in the untold suffering. and Spain a contentious issue, butframe of’ or ‘according to’ (other there are also problems regarding the Today’s conflicts between the Basque authorities). The upshot is that the federal territorial boundaries of the Basqueregion and the Spanish government are government has established regulations, region inside Spain. chiefly, although not exclusively, based on directives and controls that have led to a three aspects: distribution of powers, terri-real reduction in the powers of the The Autonomy Statute identifies the tory, and the right to self-determination. autonomous regions. provinces of Alava, Guipuzcoa and Vizcaya as comprising the Basque region, The regions have very few possibilities and also mentions Navarra, giving it the Distribution of powers for participating in overall federal choice of joining this region. Basque government activities. The Senate— The Spanish Constitution of 1978 nationalism holds that Navarra is anwhich is theoretically representative established a system whereby power integral part of the Basque homeland. of the different territories—is, in fact, is distributed among seventeen autonodominated by national political parties. Basque nationalism, however, is very mous communities. It is a hybrid that weak in Navarra. As a result, Navarraesestands mid-way between regional cancelled all Basque autonomy and persecuted those who the Bay of Biscay to the Pyrenees, comprises approximately he Basque Country, divided between Spain and France from sought to keep the Basque language and culture alive. In 1978, after Franco’s death and the advent of democracy in Spain, the Spanish government adopted a new constitution. Basque-speaking people lived in the region at the time of the 2.5 million people. It stated that the Spanish state is indivisible, but it also Roman incursion into the area, but it is possible that their established a system of autonomous regions. Two of these ancestors had lived there as far back as the time of Croregions are: the Autonomous Community of the Basque Country Magnon habitation in the area. (the provinces of Alava, Guipuzcoa, and Vizcaya); and Navarra. The Basque Autonomous Community has an elected parliament been unable to show any connection between it and any other The Basque language, Euskara, is unique and scholars have with legislative powers, an elected President, and its own police language group. Euskara is a key component of Basque force. It has taxing powers, and the Basque parliament appoints nationalist identity. representatives to the Senate of Spain. A number of Basque political parties and organizations Kingdom of Navarre. After the dissolution of Navarre in the During the Middle Ages, Basques were the majority group in the reject the 1978 constitution and argue for full political 1500s, the Basques lived under Spanish and French rule. In independence for the Basque Country. Most important Spain, the Basque Country was afforded a significant measure among these is the military group ETA (acronym for Basque of self-rule under a system of fueros—local laws and customs Homeland and Freedom), and its political wing Herri Batasuna guaranteed to be free from state interference. After the Carlist (Popular Unity). Wars (1833-39 and 1874-76) the fueros were abolished. Since 1968, the ETA has perpetrated terrorist attacks such as During the Spanish Civil War, Basques put up strong resistance assassinations and bombings to further its ends, resulting in to the Fascists, and suffered greatly after the victory of Franco’s approximately 800 deaths. The year 2000 was particularly forces. Franco’s centralizing and homogenizing regime violent—nineteen people were killed in violence related to the conflict. Federations volume 1, number 2, january 2001 politicians decided not to join the Basque Country, but instead to have their own autonomous community. These are just some of the problems surrounding how the Basque territory is defined. The right to self-determination and the European Union From the standpoint of Basque nationalists, the main political problem is the demand for recognition of the Basque people’s right to self-determination. Even though this right could theoretically take the form of very different political options —autonomy, federalism, confederation, an independent state, etc.—Basque nationalism has traditionally identified self-determination with the right to an independent national state. Yet globalization is quickly doing away with the classical conceptions of borders understood as lines of separation, and replacing it with a new concept, where borders are understood as privileged meeting points for international cooperation. This challenges the classical concept of sovereignty. International relations are no longer the exclusive concern of nation-states, since they now extend to many other institutions and organizations. Outstanding among them are the regional institutions, which are acquiring great importance in this new emerging Europe. In light of all these changes, what form and content will the right to selfdetermination take in the 21st century? Can the idea of an independent sovereign Basque state be replaced with one that would permit the Basque region to maintain its own identity within the European Union? This new idea would signify the inclusion of Basque society in Europe, rather than its separation, as often implied in radical nationalism. As well, a policy to include an adequate institutionalized presence of the Basque region in the European Union could easily be adopted by nationalist and non-nationalist political forces alike. In this way, a definitive solution to the ‘Basque problem’ could be closely linked to the evolution of the institutions of the European Union. Adequate Basque participation in the process of building Europe could defuse some of the most serious conflicts. Some European States, such as Germany, Austria, and Belgium, have been able to solve similar problems through formulae adapted to the circumstances. In Germany, where a perfectly symmetrical federalism exists among various homogeneous Länder, decisions are made through multilateral and symmetrical relations between the government and the Länder. In Belgium, where there are virtually two ‘nations’ in a single state, relations are bilateral. Turning to Spain, it must be kept in mind that the establishment of the Spanish autonomous communities had two main causes: regionalism and nationalism. Regionalism is based on the principle of organizational efficiency—the distribution of powers among administrative units. Nationalism’s objective is to demand or guarantee the principle of ‘difference’. To ensure efficiency, you need to institute multilateral or symmetrical relations among constituent units. To guarantee ‘difference’, it is sometimes necessary to establish bilateral, asymmetrical relations among the various autonomous groups. In Spain’s case, to do both it would be necessary to establish an asymmetrical federal system that would combine multilateralism with some bilateral relations. * * * Nationalism and political independence have gone hand-in-hand in modern history. However, from the perspective of the new millennium and a new Europe, nation states are undergoing a sweeping process of change leading to a gradual shift of power in favour of new supranational power structures. The Basque region has two possible alternatives. One, the traditional alternative, is to demand an independent state. The second is to demand that local territorial collectives, such as the Basque region, be included alongside states in building the new Europe. The Basque region is split at present into various political divisions (Autonomous Basque Community in Spain, Navarra, and the Basque region in France). Today, Key Dates in the Basque Conflict 1937 Francisco Franco occupies the Basque Country, cancelling Basque autonomy and persecuting Basques 1959 ETA founded 1968 First ETA political killing 1973 Spanish PM Admiral Luis Carrero Blanco assassinated by the ETA. 1975 Death of Francisco Franco 1978 Spanish government approves a new constitution providing for regional autonomies. 1978 Herri Batasuna, ETA’s political wing, established 1979 Spain passes the Statute of Autonomy, which sets out the provisions of Basque autonomy. 1995 Failed attempt to assassinate opposition leader (now PM) José Maria Aznar 1997 ETA kills a Basque counsellor, sparking widespread protests in Spain against ETA violence 1997 23 members of Herri Batasuna are jailed for collaborating with the ETA. 1998 ETA announces indefinite cease-fire 1999 Spanish Government and the ETA meet for the first and only time 1999 ETA ends 14-month cease-fire 2000 19 people killed in violence related to the conflict. it is impossible to demand the integration of Navarra or the unification of the Spanish and French regions. It is much more appropriate to establish instruments for cooperation designed to solve mutual problems (in such spheres as economics, culture, or technology), based on mutual respect and autonomy. In fact, there has been excessive reliance on political solutions to problems, while social, economic and simply human aspects have been neglected. The development of a country, however, does not come solely from the exercise of political power. Social, cultural, and economic relationships also determine the character of a country. The emerging Europe offers new, unheard-of-before opportunities for the Basque region and other communities looking to have greater control over the factors that affect their lives. Federations volume 1, number 2, january 2001