PEACE, DEMOCRACY AND DECISION MAKING IN THE BASQUE COUNTRY (2008) (Report for foreign university teachers) (2008)

 Elkarbide was formed in 2003 on the initiative of a sector of the Basque university teaching staff who advocated plural and normalised coexistence, as well as a sober political debate on all of the essential questions affecting Basque society.

Following different activities, it was formally constituted on March 16th 2005 as an association and current of opinion, with a founding manifesto signed by 400 lecturers from different universities (University of the Basque Country – UPV/EHU, University of Deusto, University of Mondragón, Public University of Navarre, Universities of Madrid, Barcelona, Santiago, Pau, Reno…)[1]. It set itself the task of recovering the rigorous reflection, rationality and tolerance that should preside over university activities, in this way facilitating constructive contributions based on respect for human and collective rights.

Since then, Elkarbide has continued to develop its public activity. Based on its conviction of the centrality of the right to decide, it has worked to support the resolution of the Basque national conflict. It defends a humanised, democratic, peaceful, identifiable, integrating, ecological, supportive and dignified Basque Country. Here, we will only be making reference to the political facet of the Basque conflict.

Note: For an introduction to the demography, society, economy and institutional model in the Basque Country, see the ANNEX.


Thirty years have passed since the Political Transition. The world has changed (we belong to the European Union, the Berlin Wall has come down, we are living in a process of globalisation…), some of the uncertainties overshadowing the Transition have cleared (threats of a coup d’etat…), experience has been gained concerning what does and doesn’t work and concerning the transfer of self-government powers and breaches of agreement in that respect; there are new generations who, having taken no part in creating the political model, have the right to improve it. It seems that the time has come to draw a balance that will make it possible to rectify the course taken and resolve outstanding issues, and one of these is the nationalities question.

The so-called “Basque question” is a political conflict originating in the maladjustment of a plurinational state that does not recognise itself to be one, and the negation of the right to self-determination. That is to say: the right of the people who reside in the Basque Country to decide the form of articulating their relations with other communities and peoples and with the states in which the Basque Country is located. The exercise of this right should include dialogue and negotiation with those other communities and states and, of course, the right of consultation of the Basque citizens.

Today, the Statute of Gernika is in force in the Autonomous Community of Euskadi, as it has been since 1979; the political system is organised in conformity with this Statute. But it has run its course and the existing model of self-government and relations with the State is exhausted. It has reached a limit where some problems are being exacerbated rather than resolved. The Autonomy Statute is on the political agenda and being subjected to a process of revision because this is something advocated by a majority of Basque public opinion, at least in the Autonomous Community of Euskadi.

The deep dissatisfaction of the Basques derives from several circumstances.

In the first place, there has been a failure to comply with the statute, due to the non-transferral of certain significant areas of responsibility contained in the Autonomy Statute (social security, science and technology…). Several general or fundamental laws of the State (University, Education, Budgets, Television…) have made the Statute into an increasingly empty norm that is in the process of regression. The Constitutional Court has been lavish in rulings that undermine the Statute. In sum, self-government is at a standstill and is now a hindrance to economic development and Basque social energy, which require regulatory, not merely managerial, self-government.

In the second place, the passage from an industrial society to one that aspires to be a player in the new post-industrial model in a diverse and global context has its requirements. One of these is to achieve peace and the recognition of cultural and political identity, as a starting point for becoming a society that is visible, cohesive and active. Another is to have the decision-making capacity to obtain and manage the decisive resources of our time, on the basis of self-government endowed with public policy tools for managing welfare (social security, social policies), knowledge (science, technology, immaterial added values) and internationalisation (infrastructure, international relations…). It is the above, and not some supposed Basque insatiability, that is spurring change.

In the third place, there is the determination to leave the Basques with an unmanageable country where no solution is possible. On the one hand, a country sacrificed to the centralist, authoritarian and repressive understanding of the State and, on the other, to the intervention of ETA, which is functional as a lesser evil for the State, so that it can avoid facing the underlying problem, and even refuse to allow the citizens to review their thought through an ad hoc consultation.

With that experience of three decades and the demand for a greater decision-making capacity on the Basque side, a period of revision of the state of relations between Spain and the Basque Country has been entered. This conforms to criteria linked to modern principles of self-determination, or the right of democratic decision-making, while historical aspects have a complementary, legitimising function. That is why there is a debate at present about replacing the current Statute in Euskadi, either with a different one framed in terms of association with Spain on the basis of a free decision, or through reform of the existing Statute.

The Basque Parliament of the 2001-2005 legislative period pronounced itself in favour of the first alternative. On December 30th 2004, by an absolute majority (39 against 34), it passed an Act calling for the negotiation of a new Etatute with the Government of Spain and to formalise a political pact of institutional relationship. It urged the Spanish State to recognise that it is a plurinational State, instead of the mono-national model that the Constitution appears to consecrate and that in 1978 received scant (34%) Basque popular support.

That Act for a “Political Statute of the Community of Euskadi” was defined as involving “free association with the Spanish State”. With more powers than the one presently in force – it comes close to being a federal/confederal model for a plurinational Spanish State – it placed special emphasis on bilateral mechanisms for verifying compliance with commitments, on considering the Basque People to be a political subject with the right of decision-making, and the duty to negotiate with the central State. It was rejected by the Spanish Congress of Deputies (parliament) without even being discussed, but its contents form part of the new Basque debate on self-government in the legislative period that began in 2005.

The much repeated argument that the proposal divided Basque society was not a reasonable one. Why should it disturb voters of the PSOE (Socialist Party) or the PP (Popular Party) if there is more self-government, an administration that is closer to the citizens, or international representation – which would include Basque international sports teams? The principle of subsidiarity is something that is today shared by the whole of society. The problem resides in the political apparatuses, in the parties, which have their own interests that they use to shield themselves against the claims proceeding from the society; and thus they refuse to resolve the problems that they were created to resolve.

Besides, in Spanish democracy there is a horror of asking questions, of consulting. It is a contradiction in terms. Forced union without the right to even count how many citizens at a given time agree, or disagree, with the form that union takes (this is not a question of independence), is not a patrimony of free peoples – neither of the people whose aspirations are blocked, nor of the people in whose name consultation is prevented. Spanish democracy is a democracy of low quality, one that is deteriorating. The long experience of Francoism and the form taken by the democratic Transition, which involved a pact the Francoist elites and the democratic forces, cast a long shadow over the democratic sensibility of the Spanish elites, which use regulations as straitjackets against democracy and national identities.


 The Basque conflict long predates the existence of ETA, but that organisation’s armed violence has accompanied the conflict since the 1960s. Although it seeks to justify itself by pointing to the democratic deficit or the antidemocratic behaviour of the State, ETA violates essential rights, dehumanises citizens’ relations and causes a degeneration of democratic freedoms. The fact that armed activity has lasted for nearly half a century provides it with no justification at all, either moral or political.

Nor, however, is it honest to use the violence as an excuse for not dealing with deeply-rooted problems until after the former has disappeared. The Basque conflict can and should only be resolved in the space of political action and citizens’ decision-making.

The last case of violence in Europe

It is calculated that over 1,000 deaths occurred in circumstances of political violence between 1968 and 2006. Of these, 800 were caused by ETA and the rest – especially during the late Franco period and the Transition – in confrontations, demonstrations, police stations, resulting from the actions of para-police groups… While in the 1980s there were close to 100 deaths in some years, in the 1990s there were frequent murders of elected representatives and indiscriminate bombings.

Indeed, during this time there have been especially painful episodes, such as ETA’s murder of José María Ryan and Ángel Pascual – engineers working on the Lemoiz nuclear power station, which was stopped as a result , the bombs in the Vizcaya Bank in Bilbao, in the Hipercor supermarket in Barcelona, in the Civil Guard barracks in Zaragoza or Vallecas (Madrid), the foretold execution of town councillor Miguel Ángel Blanco, the murders of the socialist leaders Juan Mari Jauregi and Fernando Buesa or the kidnapping and captivity of the prison warder Ortega Lara. Following the latest truce, two people were murdered at Barajas airport in December 2006; later on, two civil guards were murdered in France; and two days before the general elections of March 9th 2008, the former socialist town councillor Isaiás Carrasco was murdered. To this must be added numerous acts of street violence (kale borroka) against people and property.

Regrettably, the principal part of radical nationalism, the civil and political Nationalist Left, remains silent facing those outrages and has permitted ETA to play a “vanguard” role, imposing situations on the whole of the social-ideological current that calls itself the Basque National Liberation Movement. An the electoral level, the principal part of the Nationalist Left obtains between 100,000 and 150,000 votes, some 10% of the electorate, although in the 1990s this figure was much higher.

On the side of the State, those responsible for the crimes committed under Francoism were never purged or brought to trial. These crimes included the final episodes of the dictatorship, such as the execution of Juan Paredes (Txiki) and Ángel Otaegi in 1975, or the police repression of 1976 in Vitoria-Gasteiz in which five workers died. There were murders during the transition to democracy and afterwards (Xabier Galdeano, Santi Brouard, Josu Muguruza…) carried out by the Spanish Basque Battalion, by the GAL death squad (Anti-Terrorist Liberation Groups)– sponsored by the Socialist leaders in the 1990s – or by the extreme right. Similarly, several ETA militants died as a result of torture in police stations (Joxe Arregi, José Antonio Lasa, José Ignacio Zabala and Mikel Zabalza).

There have been innumerable cases of police torture, a practice which has continued up until the present. Indeed, in the year 2007 alone – a year when there was an ETA truce – there were 42 reports of torture. The reports by Amnesty International or the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture testify to this. One of the most shocking cases was the testimony of the editor of the newspaper Berriak – Martxelo Otamendi – arrested by the Civil Guard when the installations of the newspaper Egunkaria were closed down.

Institutions and social movements, political parties and organisations, church bodies, groups of relevant personalities and even international observers have made several proposals for the eradication of the violence. The unanimous sentiment expressed in these proposals is the need for a definitive end to the violence and for the humanisation of associated phenomena (the transfer to Basque prisons of the over 600 prisoners linked to ETA who are dispersed in distant jails…).

The latest experience of negotiation

March 2006 brought the good news of ETA’s declaring a “permanent ceasefire”. Throughout these years the Basque Country has been in a state of trauma, and it seemed that light could be glimpsed at the end of the tunnel. The truce, which began formally in March 2006 (although there had been no deaths for some time before), ended in March 2007. But in December 2006, ETA fortuitously murdered two people at Barajas airport. The processes of dialogue that had taken place were broken off. These had involved two committees, with different interlocutors and contents: the Committee on Violence (Socialist government-ETA) with authorisation from the Congress and the support of the European Parliament; and the Political Committee related to the normalisation of the underlying political problems, involving the main Basque political forces (Socialist Party, Basque Nationalist Party [PNV] and Batasuna). The latter left an important but inconclusive document: the draft agreement of Loiola, of October 31st 2006, which was entitled: “Foundations for Dialogue and Political Agreement”. It forms a starting point for new meetings.

The attempt was made but it was not to be. The immaturity and militarist authoritarianism of ETA (when a draft agreement open to improvement was in existence, it planted the bomb at Barajas airport); the slowness of Rodríguez Zapatero – in spite of the real involvement of the Socialist Party; the recklessness of an over-politicised and right-wing Judicial Power; the boycott of the Partido Popular (PP – the highly nationalist right-wing Spanish party), had all undermined the process until the moment when ETA decided to dynamite it. The experience can, however, be learnt from: with respect to future methodologies – which must be different from what hasn’t worked on this or other occasions – or the methodology of meetings achieved this time.

The prior experiences of negotiation

In the past, numerous avenues had been explored (Algeria Talks, Ajuria Enea Agreement, Ardanza Route, Lizarra Agreement, Project for a Political Statute) which it seems cannot be repeated.

The unsuccessful talks in Algeria (1989) between ETA and the Socialist government, with a truce of only three months, dealt with political contents approached from very distant political positions.

The path of the Ajuria Enea Agreement (1988), which lasted ten years as a platform of encounter between Basque parties, with the exception of Batasuna, acquired a purely antiterrorist character without bringing any changes; and the “Ardanza Route” (1996) was annulled by the Socialists (Nicolás Redondo and Rosa Díez were the leaders of the Basque Socialists at the time) when they opted for an anti-nationalist pincer movement with the PP.

Nor did the Lizarra Agreement work. This had involved the whole nationalist spectrum, the United Left and the trade union majority. It followed the Irish model, but the confusion between pacification and normalisation gave an almost blank cheque to ETA, whose immaturity and impatience brought about its ruin. On this occasion, the truce lasted formally from September 1998 to November 1999.

The Proposal for a Political Statute passed in the Basque Parliament on December 30th 2004 was rejected outright in the Spanish Parliament, and remains as reserve material that is open to revision.

Don’t wait, prepare

At present the peace process has been suspended, broken. ETA has continued attacking people and property and, throughout 2007 and 2008, the process of deterioration of democratic rights and freedoms has continued. In such circumstances no process of resolutive dialogue is possible. But with time such dialogue is inevitable, because ETA is unable to continue – it has even lost its legitimacy before the Nationalist Left itself – and the door cannot be closed on the future of a country for much time.

For that reason, it does not seem sensible to wait resignedly for ETA to declare a unilateral truce. That might happen – depending on its state of mind or perverse logic – tomorrow or in five years time. Similarly, the State can continue to justify its immobility for a long time while ETA is active.

The argument of waiting involves a double illusion: the certainty that ETA will give up due only to delegitimation and repression; and that the State will change from being mononational in character to being plurinational, out of conviction or by magic. The effect is to give ETA the justification for continuing its activity and a determinant role in defining politics; and to give the State an excuse for not moving and for preventing any change -, while ETA continues its “punch-bag” role, useful to the State as an argument for immobility and for blocking the right to decide.

One of the effects of this blockage is the paralysis of the Nationalist Left. On the one side, it has been banned by the State and expelled from the institutions; and, on the other, it is unable to legitimise its political activity due to its uncritical attitude towards ETA and its actions, and it lacks the cohesion to pursue a course of its own and definitively assume leadership of the political current it represents.

Suitable initiatives must be taken, simultaneously but separately, in the two fields (peace and normalisation): so that ETA does not steal the agenda from the real society, the parties and institutions; and so that the State does not block change to the juridico-political framework. Such blockage will make this stateless nation into the hostage of an institutionalisation it does not support (the Constitution) and of an exhausted route (the old Statute of Autonomy), which no longer serves for its present challenges.

The conditions of change must be prepared. In the immediate future it will be necessary to re-establish political dialogue by means of initiatives that return us to the scheme that nearly all of the political forces accepted in the last ETA truce. This involves the absence of violence – with the declaration of a definitive ceasefire – and a radical separation between the negotiation between the central Government and ETA on the demilitarisation of the conflict, and the negotiation amongst all of the Basque political forces on the contents that will lead to a democratic solution of the conflict.


 The new Law of Political Parties (Organic Law 6/2002 of June 27th) and the antiterrorist regulations form a spider’s web that, when required, can encircle different organisations or leaders that are awkward to the system, reaching far beyond the Nationalist Left. The judicial abuses under the presidency of Rodríguez Zapatero, on the political urging of the General Prosecutor or the judges themselves, have been very worrying.

The antiterrorist legislation

The Socialist government of Felipe González, with the approval of Organic Law 9/1984 of December 26th – against the activity of armed gangs and terrorist elements – laid the basic foundations of the Spanish antiterrorist fight. It contained a worrying restriction of the procedural rights of the individual.

From the year 2000 onwards, the government of Jose María Aznar (Partido Popular) further hardened the existing and already restrictive antiterrorist legislation (police, penitentiary and judicial). Thus the new reform of the Penal Code of January 2003 established, amongst other measures, the raising of the maximum sentence for terrorist offences from 30 to 40 years of prison, or preventing individuals sentenced to over 5 years from acceding to the third penitentiary degree (conditional freedom) until a “safety period” had been effectively served, which corresponded to a minimum of half the sentence imposed.

Other measures that reformed the Law of Criminal Indictment were restrictive of the basic rights of the individual: a person could be suspended from holding a public post by virtue of a simple prosecution order; prolongation of the period of governmental detention for 5 days incommunicado[2]; the possibility of extending provisional imprisonment[3], which involved a de facto advance application of the sentence without an executable ruling[4] ; in some cases, violation of the home and the interception of private communications without judicial authorisation[5] and for an unlimited time are possible; application of “urgent procedures” for terrorist offences[6]; cases of terrorism to be investigated and tried exclusively by a special court, the National Court, created in 1975, independent of the legal place of residence of the accused.

The top authorities on trial

 The sentence of two years banned from public office and fines of 108,000 euros handed down to Juan María Atutxa, member of the PNV and President of the Basque Parliament at the time, and to the former members of the Basque Parliament, Gorka Knörr (Eusko Alkartasuna) and Kontxi Bilbao (United Left), by the Plenary of the Penal Court of the Supreme Court, for disobedience to the same body[7], is an example of the scope of the antiterrorist legislation or of the restrictive Law of Political Parties, which can even affect people or authorities that are totally opposed to terrorism. They are also a proof that antiterrorism can involve a loss of citizens’ rights and procedural guarantees.

Similarly, the President of the Basque government, Juan José Ibarretxe, and the leader of the Socialist Party of Euskadi, Patxi López, have been indicted for meeting with leaders of Batasuna in the search for peace, contravening an abusive, generic judicial prohibition on political parties having relations with the Nationalist Left. In the procedural aspect, the political interest and double standards of the judges close to the Ermua Forum[8] has been made evident. Not wishing to dismiss the case, promoted only at the instance of the “popular accusation” (Ermua Forum and Dignity and Justice) and against the criterion of the prosecutor, the Botín Doctrine is inapplicable according to their understanding. The Supreme Court has made that interpretation its own[9].

The closure of newspapers

The antiterrorist strategy of the Partido Popular, seconded by the Socialist Party, resulted in the closure of two newspapers. In June 1998, judge Garzón “preventatively” closed the newspaper Egin, accused of forming part of a business conglomerate “controlled by ETA”. On July 14th 1998, the same judge decreed through an order the immediate cease of activities of the Orain group, which published Egin.

On February 19th 2003, the examining magistrate of the National Court, Juan del Olmo, through an order, authorised the Civil Guard to search the installations of Euskaldunon Egunkaria, the only newspaper to have been published since 1990 entirely in the Basque language. One day later, the “temporary” closure of this newspaper was ordered, because of its alleged links to ETA, which – the frankly delirious order asserted – controlled the company that published the newspaper. The Prosecution Office itself contradicted and criticised the order and did not present an accusation. Following the closure of the newspaper Egunkaria, a group of managers and journalists were arrested and held incommunicado. Following their release, Martxelo Otamendi and other detainees declared that they had been tortured by means of the “bag” method (asphyxiation using a plastic bag), exhausting physical exercises and mock executions.

A report drawn up by a group of international jurists concerning these closures[10] indicated that the preventative closure of a mass medium meant the sacrifice of the basic right to the freedom of expression, both in its individual facet and from a collective perspective, that is, the right to receive any information and to know the expression of someone else’s thought. While already unnecessary at the moment of its imposition – there are other alternatives without interrupting informative activity – temporary closure meant in practice definitive closure, and negation of the constitutional right to freedom of expression, which constitutes a violation of articles 10 and 15 of the European Convention on Human Rights, as well as of article 20 of the Spanish Constitution that only authorises suspension of the right to information and of expression in cases of states of exception or siege (article 55.1) and not in cases of terrorism (article 55.2).

The banning of political parties: Batasuna and, in the offing, EHAK and ANV

 In 2002 and the new Law of Political Parties was approved. This is a special law that is applied on the basis of intentions and not conduct, and not to all of the citizenship equally, but to one segment (article 9 in its entirety is drawn up to persecute specific citizens of a specific ideology, for whom rights and guarantees are in fact suspended, becoming permanent alleged culprits)[11].

This Law of Political Parties was not needed to protect democracy, given that the Penal Code, which did not contain all of its premises, was sufficient. It is thus a redundant law intended for political use against dissidence – starting with the Nationalist Left – since the real value to be protected is the “democratic system”, although only in the modality defined in the Constitution.

The Basque Government lodged an appeal with the Constitutional Court against the Law of Political Parties, considering that it violates certain basic rights, since not condemning ETA’s actions does not mean support for, or approval of, such actions and, consequently, is not a motive for banning a representative political party. While the Court accepted the appeal for consideration on October 17th 2002, the appeal was rejected five months later with the Constitutional Court supporting the decision of the Supreme Court on this question[12].

In application of that law, on August 6th, the Government of Spain sent a report to the General Prosecutor that contained the basic arguments for proceeding to ban Herri Batasuna, Euskal Herritarrok and Batasuna[13]. On March 17th 2003, the Supreme Court made them illegal and ordered that they should be dissolved, considering that these formations had violated the Law of Political Parties.

So that ANV (Basque Nationalist Action) and EHAK (Communist Party of the Basque Lands) could not present lists of candidates in the General Elections of March 9th 2008, these formations were suspended by the Supreme Court and the National Court. In application of the Law of Political Parties, the bank accounts of ANV and EHAK[14] have been seized, their offices closed and they are banned from carrying out any organisational or public activity. This is the announcement of two new bannings. It was argued that these parties did not condemn ETA’s violence, that they were the same thing as Batasuna (an already banned party) and that they were contaminated because of their relationships. Therefore they too were a part of ETA. The circle of the law’s application has widened.

Judicial trials

The judicial system, especially but not only the National Court, provides increasingly less guarantees.

According to the Basque Lawyers’ Association “Eskubideak”, under the cover of “the antiterrorist fight, the Spanish state is violating the rights of opinion, expression, association and demonstration inherent to associations, social and popular organisations, political parties, and private individuals, in short [it is] an attack on the opposition and political dissidence and an aggression on the plurality of ideas”.

Apart from other indictments (18/01, 33/01, 15/02, 35/02, 44/04 and 6/03) which are also due to this political initiative, the most striking case is the ruling of the 18/98 macro-indictment. In 18/98[15] each of the fifty persons, some of them belonging to different groups, has been sentenced to prison terms of over 10 years. Belonging to different social and political groups, it was concluded that they belong to ETA because they take part in ETA’s plans although they themselves are unaware of it and have nothing to do with ETA’s violence. Unidirectional contamination is sufficient. To that is added the fact of accepting police reports as sufficient evidence, when these are no more than the opinions of a police civil servant.

Arbitrariness in this indictment reached a high point in the case of the group condemned for belonging to the Zumalabe Foundation. The basic argument of the ruling was as follows: since in its internal publications ETA had in its day spoken in favour of “civil disobedience” as another form of struggle, and since the members of the Foundation had organised a conference on this question, they were therefore the same thing; it concluded that the Foundation was an appendix of ETA, although it was unaware of this. A real display of rationality and scientific rigour, and a blatant case of judicial error given the composition and aims of that Foundation.

A diagnosis

On the one hand, the suspension of ANV and EHAK, the arrest of the leaders of Batasuna, the use of torture in police stations, the indictments without guarantee such as 18/98, the closure of mass media, the forthcoming trials of Egunkaria and Udabiltza[16] , or the judicialisation of politics – the Atutxa/Knörr/Bilbao case, the indictment of the Basque President and Patxi López – are not tolerable from a position of respect for democratic principles and political rights.

On the other, there is no political room for armed violence or sabotages as forms of struggle in democratic regimes. Furthermore, ETA’s violence, besides killing and forming a permanent threat to human rights, encroaches on civil rights such as the right of all persons and political options to freely defend their positions.

Of course, ETA knew that breaking the truce would bring the banning of any political representation of Batasuna. And, due to its militarism, it broke it. But that does not make the present Law of Political Parties, nor the indiscriminate, repeated and politicised judicial actions into legitimate instruments in defence of democracy. Not everything goes under the excuse of antiterrorist efficacy: it degrades a State based on Law.

The argument that everyone who does not expressly condemn ETA is also from ETA, is pure nerve that flies in the face of common sense and judicial objectivity. In order to exclude Batasuna from the public political space, the only thing that should count is verification of its participation in armed actions against persons, property or rights. It is evident that this has not happened. The new de facto judicial concepts - condemned by 300 European jurists of the “Initiative of International Observation” – are an injustice: “peaceful terrorism”, “unarmed terrorism” and the “terrorist without being aware of it”.

The set of legal measures, judicial resolutions and police actions against the majority section of the Nationalist Left constitute a political strategy that violates basic democratic rights and, especially, the right of an option to defend its proposals, and that it should be society that supports it or denies it support. To remove it from the system, when in the past what was sought was its participation, is a gamble appropriate to a democracy that does not believe in itself and that exudes short-term electoral interests.

But besides, that strategy knows no limits. Nothing is safe from its uncontrolled shock wave (Zumalabe Foundation, Egunkaria…). Not even the highest Basque institutions. Obstacles are placed, day after day, in order to demoralise Basque society and to avoid facing the underlying problems.

The National Court and the Supreme Court, in the name of defending democracy, compete with the Government itself to see which can exceed every democratic limit. The exception is now the rule. Allowing for the differences between the governments of Zapatero and Aznar on the question of dialogue for peace, both have ensconced themselves, with respect to freedoms and rights linked to the Basque conflict, in the wake of George Bush’s preventive antiterrorism since 9-11.

All of this must be stopped before a black hole becomes consolidated in which freedoms and rights are degraded without any restraint at all. The worst thing that could happen to us as citizens is that, tired of unsuccessful gestures – between the Government and ETA to achieve peace and between the parties for democratic normalisation – we should cease to express ourselves in the public sphere. If we wish to avoid an interminable prolongation of the conflicts, we must raise the tone and volume of the voice of civil society. The question of the right to decide is not a terrain belonging to the institutions, nor should civil society view it as something alien.


Formal recognition of the right to decide passes by way of its exercise in practice.

Consulting the citizens on relevant and clearly formulated questions that condition the future development of institutional resolutions is a fundamental element in an advanced democracy. The two conditions of a consultation – relevance and clarity –do not replace the normal forms – essentially elections – of the system of decision making. But, besides strengthening and complementing those other channels of institutional decision making, consultations are especially opportune when additional legitimisation is required, representing a high quality exercise in democracy.

The “road map” (September 2007), announced by the Basque President before the Basque Parliament, set out dates, relevant requisites, and was cleary formulated.

A new road map

Six months after ETA ended its last truce, in the debate on General Policy in the Basque parliament on September 28th 2007, the Basque President presented a new road map with the double aim of “achieving peace and dealing with the solution of the Basque conflict”. He announced that he would consult Basque society on October 28th 2008. This would either be to ratify an agreement to have been reached with the Spanish President on questions of pacification and normalisation, or, in case of disagreement, to carry out a consultation providing non-binding authorisation that would give the parties a social mandate to seek agreements. This was conditional on a majority of the Basque parliament supporting such a consultation; if not, elections would be brought forward.

The content of the questions to be submitted to the first consultation concerned the appropriateness of dialogue for demilitarisation, on the one hand, and of political negotiation amongst the parties on political solutions, on the other. The first consultation would be a simple verification by the citizens that there is a double problem of violence (ethical principle) and of negotiated juridical recognition of our national reality (democratic principle). In fact, it would reiterate support for a decision of the Spanish Parliament (an end to the violence through dialogue in the absence of violence) and point towards an agreement amongst parties to go deeply into the model of relations between Euskadi and Spain.

If the first consultation receives authorisation from the Basque Parliament (25/6/08) and finds a broad positive response (25/10/08), a process of agreement amongst the Basque parties, or in the Basque parliament, would be set underway on a model of self-government that would be substantially different from the present one. This would be ratified through a second consultation that, in order to have juridical value, would have to be authorised by the Central Government according to the Constitution.

The second consultation – to be held in three years time – would also deal with something obvious: an agreement of Normalisation, which would not be very different from the draft agreement of Loiola (PSE-EE, PNV and Batasuna). That is, with respect to its content, it could be signed by the majority of the socialists and the nationalist left. The latter would accept that concerning the Foral Community of Navarre and the citizens of the Basque Country in France, only their institutions or their citizens can and should be consulted, should they so wish, but not the Basque parliament.

Thus far the proposal of the Basque President.

Critique of criticism

We do not know if this calendar will or can be carried out, but this road map has been unjustly criticised as a challenge to the State, as untimely, as illegal…

In the first place, in a low quality democracy (J. M. Colomer dixit)[17], born from a amnesiac Political Transition, there is a predominance of “democrats” who are afraid of democracy. The Spanish model is plagued with unilateral limits, with embarrassing exceptional legislation, ultra-politicised spheres of Justice, permanent restrictive interpretations of progressive legislation…

The argument employed is that the consultation is “juridically impossible”. And yet there is no juridical problem with a consultation. The Zapatero Government can decide not to ban it, and can stop the National Court, the Supreme Court or the Constitutional Court from preventing it. A provisional transference of the right to consultation, is conceivable through an appeal to Historical Law, so that the Basques can decide on the future of their community. Also conceivable is the application by analogy of the course of consultation already existing in the Spanish juridical code, approved in the Autonomy Statutes of Catalonia and Andalusia. It is no more than question of willingness.

If there was an agreement between Madrid and the Basque Autonomous Community (the first step proposed by Ibarretxe), not even the strictest reading of the Constitution could prevent the process from being set underway. If there is no agreement, the Basque President himself has recognised that the consultation will have no juridical value, instead it would be an authorisation or citizens’ mandate for a return to the dialogues for peace, normalisation and articulation of Basque society’s right to decide. Why should the Basque parliament not take such an initiative, saying yes or no to an agreement with the Spanish Government or to the conditions of that non-binding consultation that would break the impasse, if all the ideological options are to be found in its chamber, which is where the popular sovereignty of the Autonomous Community resides? Why should a merely consultative consultation be illegal, if it is something that is already recognised in the Catalan and Andalusian legislations?

In the second place, the underlying problem is that there is a problem of recognition of the national subject. The term nation appears in the preamble of an autonomy statute (Catalonia) or is called a “national reality” (Andalusia), but it is not accepted that a de facto plurinational State should be so de jure. The majority parties with their “we live together, we decide together”, manage the State with the crushing mathematics of the single nation and are alien to the philosophy of the capacity for decision making regarding that coexistence. The two party alternation in office (PSOE and PP), on the scale of the 42 million inhabitants of the Spanish State, will always guarantee a majority that says NO… hence, Spaniards by obligation. The majority of “democratic” constitutionalists have specialised in that literal interpretation. They are experts in giving juridical justification to what is a democratic impossibility: a mononational State within a plurinational country; experts in justifying that the stateless nations should be hostages of the unitary, indissoluble and indisputable State. Besides, this is something that cannot be asked in a referendum – in spite of repeated surveys that reflect the unease of the majority in each nation concerning the present model.

On a different level, the hypothetical consultation has been criticised because it does not include Navarre. Of course, the institutions of the Basque Autonomous Community cannot, and should not, take resolutions that supplant Navarre. Obviously, they can put forward – with the due respect – opinions or proposals. Beyond that it corresponds only to the institutions and political and social forces of Navarre to open the process – and to the citizens to resolve it – concerning another model of political articulation, with the Basque Autonomous Community for example.


Double standards must not be applied. We cannot consider only one side of the question, whether this be the violence, the deterioration of freedoms, or the capacity to decide. All sides must be taken into consideration.

Peace process and process of normalisation or democratic solution

 These are not processes that must mutually condition each other; instead they should be approached unilaterally and separately, although their qualitative development will take place under conditions of advance along both paths.

Attaining peace is a priority that involves categorically separating the peace process and the process of normalisation, as completely autonomous paths. Together with the absence of violence, peace also involves humanising the conflict in relation to the victims of the violence and of the prison system. It would be a welcome development if ETA were to seek a future agreement on the sequels of the violence, but, under no circumstances, can it set itself up as the interpreter of the common destiny – this is the sole responsibility of a society without tutelage from anyone.

But the definitive development of peace will be guaranteed by deepening democracy, justice and the suturing of conflicts, not at their cost, and by assuring that all political projects can take material form in conditions of equality along political, peaceful and democratic paths.

Four simultaneous and different initiatives 

It is possible to prepare the conditions by means of simultaneous and unilateral initiatives so that those processes succeed. In our opinion, there are four conditions:

a)      An end to the deterioration of democratic rights and liberties.

For a sector of the population (the majority sector of the Nationalist Left), liberties have been suspended in application of the Law of Political Parties and this legislation is being judicially applied against Basque political and cultural aspirations (indictment of the Basque President, the Basque Parliamentary Committee). This is an obstacle to the channelling of a peace process and for the resolution of the political conflict itself, as well as a grave deterioration of democratic rights, which is why such legislation must be denounced and repealed, and its application stopped or dismissed, according to the cases.

b)      The demand for the armed struggle to be definitively abandoned.

The painful number of victims caused by ETA over the course of these years constitutes a deep moral and political wound for our society. It requires just reparations and is a burden for the development of the Nationalist Left as a democratic force. The breaking of the truce by ETA at the end of 2006, with its return to mortal attacks, as well as the interminable street fighting during that year, are taking us downhill.

The same voices that were raised against injustices, are now raised in the demand that ETA definitively cease its activities. It is not only a question of denying that ETA has the right to represent anyone, or of insisting on its destructive effects. Our voices must also become a clamorous argument that such political violence in itself constitutes a violation of our collective democratic rights and suspends the freedom of the groups that it threatens.

c)      The humanisation of the conflict in all its extremes.

Humanising the conflict involves several issues.

On the one hand, public, moral, material, institutional and social support for those persons, sectors of civil society, representatives and office holders of political parties, judges… who have suffered the unbearable violence of ETA, but also for those who have suffered or suffer the unjust violence of the State or of para-police or extreme right-wing forces.

On the other hand, an immediate and radical change in penitentiary policy (bringing prisoners closer to the Basque Country, freeing those who have served three quarters of their sentence or who are gravely ill, repeal of the “Parot” doctrine [prison sentences served consecutively not simultaneously]) or the ceasing of torture and maltreatment in police stations.

d)      An agreement of principle and method amongst the political forces.

To advance in the agreement of contents, the document “Foundations for Dialogue and Political Agreement”, arising from the draft agreement of Loiola (October 31st 2006)[18], is especially important. It should be taken up again from the very point and time when the PSOE-EE, PNV and Batasuna were in agreement, and developed from there, whether through meetings amongst parties or in a Parliamentary Commission. All of this on the basis of all the forces having equal opportunities to defend their projects for the political normalisation of the Basque conflict.

As the unitary platform Erabaki (in which Elkarbide participates) declared in its second manifesto (April 2008):

That was a draft agreement of contents, methods and a calendar of steps to be taken amongst the political forces with respect to the right to decide.(…) It is the most advanced basis of agreement amongst the different Basque parties in the different fields.

That document indicates certain substantial contents: the recognition of the national identity of the Basque people; the commitment that the decisions of the Basque citizenry will be respected by the institutions of the State and that all projects will be defendable and can materialise.

“Its methodology accepts the incorporation of the agreements into the juridical framework, it envisages the creation of a common institutional body for the territories of the Autonomous Community of Euskadi and the Foral Community of Navarre with executive attributes and the capacity to make legislative proposals; the agreements adopted in the committees will be approved in the Basque and Navarran Parliaments and in the Spanish Cortes Generales (Parliament), and will be subjected to a referendum…

It is supposed that the PSE-EE, PNV and Batasuna, the architects of this latest process of agreement, should not now say that that document was only valid because there was a truce. It would be the same as saying that the Basque people or the Basque conflict only exist if there is a truce. It can and must be taken up and developed, although, to be activated as an resolutive agreement, conditions are required where there is an end to the violence and the participation of all the Basque parties”.

Now that the general elections are over, it is in the hands of Rodríguez Zapatero to channel the conflict and avoid its blockage. If the Spanish President recognises that draft agreement signed by his own party, or simply accepts its basic contents, then no other road maps would be needed except the one defined at Loiola. If that draft agreement is not recognised or the right to decide is not channelled, it would be legitimate to immediately consult the citizenry on the juridical recognition of our right to decide as a political subject or on the contents of Loiola”.

We hold that Basque society has the right to decide its political future, the right to an end to the violence based on dialogue (in the absence of violence), and that it should be consulted on the juridical recognition of its national reality and, a posteriori, on a concrete proposal with a sufficient level of consensus on the relational model between Euskadi and the State. On June 25th the Basque President will present a proposal in the Basque Parliament that could be a starting point in that respect, especially if it achieves a parliamentary majority.

In summary, to advance in those directions, we propose, from a position of plurality, just as Erabaki, that there should be a great agreement of Basque civil society, through institutions like the trade unions, the church, the universities or the social movements… and that it should be supported by the political parties that wish to provide a democratic solution to our wounded and dynamic country.

Baleren Bakaikoa, Luis M. Bandrés, Joxe Ramón Bengoetxea, José Manuel Castells, Xabier Ezeizabarrena, Pedro Ibarra, Petxo Idoiaga, Amaia Lizarralde, Jon Gurutz Olaskoaga, Patxi Zabalo and Ramón Zallo, professors and members of Elkarbide, Basque university initiative.

                                                                    Bilbao/Donostia 25-5-2008


  1. 1.      Please circulate this dossier.
  2. 2.      Get in touch with us if you require further information or a seminar or an explanatory talk at your university. We are preparing a collective book on the different problems.
  3. 3.      We invite you to express your solidarity with the following text, by returning it to the person who sent it to you:

“I maintain that there is a need for dialogue to achieve peace in Euskadi, as well for a negotiation amongst the representative political forces to provide a democratic solution to the conflict of adjustment between Spain and the Basque Country”.


The Basque Country, Vasconia or Euskal Herria is the country of the Basques in terms of their history, culture, language, and identity. Euskal Herria can also be translated as Basque People, the group that lives there.


Geography and History

Located in the far west of the Pyrenees Mountains, the Bay of Biscay splashes its shores. It covers a total of 20,664 km2, and has a population of three million. This is where the Basque People have remained a community, for millenia, as they have been there even longer than the so-called three European types at the end of the Neolithic and start of the Bronze Age: Nordic, Mediterranean and Alpine. There they have continued to use their own language, Euskera (Basque), possibly the oldest language of the European Continent, which has lasted, miraculously, up to present times, in which an average of 25% of the population speaks it and 40% understands it in Euskal Herria, with the percentages being a bit higher (37 and 50% respectively) in the Autonomous Region of Euskadi. Today Spanish and French are dominant, and everyone living on both sides of the Pyrenees knows how to speak those dominant languages. That is, we are talking about an ancient people who number few, that have a strong self-identity, and a separate history and culture. If, since long ago, its political organization has come from its national awareness, as it is understood today, it was gradually forged throughout the 19th century in order to clearly express itself from the beginning of the 20th century.

Currently it is divided into three different judicial and political structures:

-The “Autonomous Region of Euskadi” or The “Autonomous Region of the Basque Country” –as the Autonomy Statute says—which includes the territories of Araba, Bizkaia, and Gipuzkoa, has the following capitals: Vitoria-Gasteiz (Araba), Bilbao (Bizkaia), Donosita-San Sebastián (Gipuzkoa).

-The Provincial Region of Navarra (Navarra or Nafarroa) has as its capital Pamplona-Iruñea.

-Iparralde (the northern part) or The Basque Country of France, consists of the territories of Lapurdi, Zuberoa, and Lower Navarra whose capitals are, respectively, Baiona, Maule, and Donibane Garráis (Saint Jean Pied de Port).

While two of them (The Autonomous Region of Euskadi and The Provincial Region of Navarra) make up part of Spain and are understood as Hegoalde (the southern part) or peninsular Euskal Herria, Iparralde belongs to France.

Thus, it could be said that Euskal Herria is the sum of these three political areas, or of the seven territories.

Seventy-two percent of the Vasconian population resides in the Autonomous Region of Euskadi (2,141,116 inhabitants), while 19% lives in Navarra (605,022) and 9% in Iparralde (262,640). This totals 3,008,778 people for all of Euskal Herria (INE 2007).

If, at the end of the 19th century, with industrialization, many immigrants came to Bizkaia and Gipuzkoa, mostly from Castilla, Navarra, Galicia, La Rioja, and Extremadura, in the 1950s to 1970s there was another significant wave of immigration, which came to Araba and Navarra in equal amounts. However, the population growth in the last couple of decades has been limited. Only the immigration at the beginning of the 21st century has given it another boost.

The overwhelming majority of its population (95%) is concentrated in medium to small sized urban areas, though small towns and villages abound throughout the territories, especially in Iparralde, Navarra and Araba. The largest city, Bilbao, has a population of 354,168, but metropolitan Bilbao—which includes towns to the right and left of the estuary (La Ria)—hovers around one million.

Even though the term “Euskal Herria”, which nowadays does not define a political-institutional space as such, does define a historic and cultural unit which shares a great deal of the same heritage, art, culture, language and history.

Territories and their location: Euskal Herria in Europe

Within Euskal Herria itself there are some differences in national identity between people, political choices, and the majority of citizens of its diverse territorial regions. That is why advocating for a project of their own political creation and common to all of Euskal Herria will be democratically legitimate only if it starts with the compatibility of national sentiments belonging to its society, from respecting the past, particular free choice of Iparralde, Nafarroa and the Basque Autonomous Region, and always starting with the guarantee to fully recognize the rights of the resulting minorities.

Identity Perception

The awareness of Basque cultural and political identity was already made clear over the 19th century in peninsular Euskal Herria. There were demonstrations regarding the collective defense appeal of the local institutions, as well as the clash with the Spanish unifying model and the weakness of the Spanish national identity in those days. It was common (due to the influence of the liberal Fueristas and Carlistas) to be perceived as a cultural nation different from the rest of Spain, but not as another global project.

It was necessary to wait for the 20th century for the collective consciousness of the political nation to arise, which, even though it was hand in hand with nationalism, it kept on, in part, influencing simultaneously the elites and the common folk, until it generated that collective consciousness of national community. This is the main attitude today, even beyond nationalism.

With the data of a recent study, edited by the Basque Government and explained by the Society of Basque Studies, Eusko Ikaskuntza, (Basque Identity and Culture at the Beginning of the 21st Century) the picture of the Region of Euskadi is that of a very diverse country with a strong identity. From the national cultural identity perspective those who feel they are only Basque or more Basque than Spanish make up 55% (compared to those who feel only Spanish or more Spanish than Basque total only 9%) while those who see themselves as much Basque as Spanish total 28%.

In Euskadi the sizeable presence of people with the Basque personal identity (“only Basque”, “more Basque than…” and “as much…”) is no less than 83%. But neither should we forget the compatibility, to some degree, between that which is Basque and Spanish for 46% of the people: a percentage which indicates the importance of blending, and of the diverse, plural identities compatible with a general Basque identity. In Spain, only the region of Catalonia comes close to this strong identity characteristic, and at quite a distance behind the Basques.

In Navarra’s case, all Navarrans see themselves as such, though the vast majority make their Navarra-ness compatible with a bigger political collective identity, whether Spanish or Basque. That is, there are Navarrans who feel Basque, or Spanish, or only Navarran, or all three at once. The feeling of Basqueness reaches a quarter of the Navarran population though it goes up to almost 30% among the youth.

These means do not give justice to the unequal territorial distribution of Basqueness. While in the “Mountain” (the Pyrenees valleys, Navarra Húmeda, and pre-Pyreneean basin) this feeling is quite the majority, in the so-called Middle Zone, including Iruñea-Pamplona, it is quite important—widely held in La Sakana or in Tierra Estella—and, on the other hand, is rather marginally held in La Ribera. It should also be noted that recent immigrants comprise up to 10% of the population.


The Transition, Democracy and Statute

After the death of Franco (1975) the Spanish Transition began with three clearly distinct stances: those in favor of continuing the Franquista regime, the advocates for a controlled reform, and those who requested breaking off ties with the previous regime. There was neither a revolution nor a breaking of ties, but rather an “agreed reform” between the moderate wing of the Franquista regime and the majority of the opposition. After a referendum to define the model of political reform, the first legislative elections were held (June 1977) and the Spanish Constitution, which was subjected to a referendum, was created (December 1978). In the Basque Autonomous Community, only a third of the population backed it with their positive vote. In Navarra it was only half the population.

The Statute of Autonomy of Gernika was passed through a referendum in 1979. Araba, Bizkaia and Gipuzkoa were established in the Autonomous Region of the Basque Country o Euskadi with 53.96% of the population’s votes. The Basque Government in exile dissolved and handed over its functions to the new legitimate Government which came about as a result of the ballot boxes.

The Basque Parliament and the Basque Government, with their seat in Vitoria-Gasteiz, are the main institutions in the regional sphere of the Autonomous Region of Euskadi and have their basis in the

Statute of Autonomy of Gernika, passed through a referendum in 1979. The three Historical Territories (Araba, Bizkaia, and Gipuzkoa) have the same institutions in common which, in addition, have equal representation in the legislative chamber or Basque Parliament (25 representatives or seats for each territory) regardless of the population differences. This is the supreme body of popular representation in Euskadi. Its main functions are to legislate, drive, and control the action of the Basque Government, as well as pass the budgets from the Autonomous Region. Among its members is a lehendakari (president) who, as well as being the visible head of the Basque Government, shows leadership and maximum representation of the country, and names the different councillors (equivalent to ministers) who manage the various departments (Treasury, Culture…).

Likewise, there is a Supreme Court of Justice with competence throughout Euskadi and in which the different ordinary requests of the judicial system are processed.

Aside from this, there is a central Government Delegation in Euskadi.

In the case of Navarra, the Law of Reintegration and Betterment of the Provincial Regime of Navarra was enacted in 1982, even though it was a without a referendum.

Iparralde, The Basque Country in France, falls into the (non-Basque) Bearn region which has just one Department. Currently, an institutional majority is contesting the constitution of their own Department for France’s Basque Country as a whole.

Historic Rights and Provincialism

The incorporation of Bizkaia, Gipuzkoa, and Araba to Castilla over the 7th and 8th centuries—which previously had belonged to the Kingdom of Navarra—was done in partial keeping with their traditional institutions. Thus, the kings or lords of the territories, who, in the 20th century would make up the Autonomous Region of Euskadi, swore abidance to the Codes of Laws—a group of laws that arose out of the continued custom of self-governance of the territories, both public Law as well as private Law—which were useful in regulating the administration of the Basque provinces and of Navarra. The Codes of Laws were not a gratia (royal law or pardon), but rather an ius (right) with royal recognition originating in mutual accord.

Until the Carlista Wars—the first Carlista war, from 1833 to 1840 and the third from 1872 to 1876—these regions were recognized with special own rights :a tax exemption for the Crown, the liberation of the exercise of arms—except in defense of its territory—, habeas corpus by enjoying “universal aristocracy” and the respect to free, internal organization. As a consequence of the Carlista defeat, all these specifications were abolished, only leaving provincial political organization based on the Diputations as derivatives, a collecting capacity, and the Economic Agreement.

Also, currently, each one of the three Euskadi territories relies on its institutions, with a few provincial or local parliaments (General Meetings of Araba, Bizkaia, and Gipuzkoa) and a provincial government (Diputations) capable of doing a wide range of things, among them, collecting direct and indirect taxes.

The very Constitution of 1978 incorporates recognition and protection of the Historic Rights to the constitutional bloc as a political reality for the Provincial Basque Territories.

The tax order relationship between Euskadi and Spain are regulated by means of the Economic Agreement system. The Agreement gives full autonomy to the Basque Public Administration to set rates in the direct and indirect taxes and collect all kinds of taxes and it makes the competence exercise (functions and services) possible, which correspond to Euskadi by virtue of its Statute of Autonomy. The competence tax rests with the Provincial Treasury of its three Historic Territories. It is a general, similar tax system, with some limitations to those of a country. It is derived from the provincial system, but in its modern form, it dates back to 1841 in Navarra and 1878 in Euskadi.

It collects what it collects—however bad or good the Basque economy may be and assuming a risk that was not a positive one in the 80s—Euskadi must hand over a Cupo to the Government in Madrid, so it will face the general obligations which are of exclusive competence of the state, and which have not been transferred to Euskadi, especially international relations, defense, the customs and tariff system, and charges of a general interest or field. It has been calculated, since 1981, as 6.24 % annually of the National General Budget.

Navarra also has Historic Rights recognized as head of the Kingdom it once was. From 1515 to 1839, Navarra—following the Castillian conquest—kept its condition of Kingdom and its particular institutions (Courts, Royal Council, the Kingdom’s Delegation, Main Court of ordinary justice, Chamber of Accounting for public finances) even though it was as an annexed Kingdom to the Spanish Crown. Its King became the King of Spain and was represented by the Viceroy. However, the successors to the Albrets (last Navarran dynasty) continued to formally display the Crown of Navarra from Lower Navarra (The French Basque Country) until 1789.

Between 1841 and 1982, Navarra became a Spanish province losing legislative and judicial capacity, even though it kept administrative and fiscal autonomy having to contribute to the national treasury. The Navarran Civil Law was respected. Since 1982, and in application of the Constitution of 1978 and the Law of Reintegration and Betterment of the Code of Laws, Navarra is a Provincial Region with fiscal and legislative capacity within its competences. Its representative institutions are the President, the Government, and the Parliament of Navarra.

Navarra has a tax system similar to that of Autonomous Region of Euskadi, named the Agreement and with a stable calculation system.

The Election Results

Even though the Basque Parliament of the Autonomous Region of Euskadi is mostly nationalist with the PNV and EA coalition in the majority, EHAK has frequently voted against the three-party Government’s initiatives (PNV, EA and Ezker Batua) which is in the minority. On occasions, Aralar has voted with the Government, and for the Budgets governability agreements have been made with the socialists.

Election Results in Euskadi in 1980, May 2001, and April 2005 at the Basque Parliament

PARTY % Votes1980 Seats1980 % Votes 2001 Seats2001 %Votes2005 Seats2005
Basque Nationalist Party and Eusko Alkartasuna (EAJ-PNV+ EA) 38 25 42,72 33 38.6 29
Socialist Party of Euskadi-Euskadiko Ezkerra (PSE-EE) 14,2 9 17,90 13 22,6 18
Popular Party (PP) (+UCD en 1980)(+UA en 2001) 13,3 8 23,12 19 17,3 15
EHAK-formerly Batasuna 16,6 11 10,12 7 12,5 9
Ezker Batua United Left (EB) (PCE en 1980) 4 1 5,58 3 5,4 3
Euskadiko Ezkerra (nationalist in 1980) 9,8 6 - - - -
Aralar - - - - 2,33 1

2005 Census: 1,761,235. Voted: 1,214,604. Abstained: 31.05%. Null and void: 12,981.[19]

In the Parliamentary elections of Navarra in May of 2007—and with 26.2% abstaining—these were the results: Union of the Navarran People linked to the PP (conservative right), 22 seats (42%); Nafarroa Bai (Aralar, PNV, EA, and Batzarre coalition, with its origins in the radical left), 12 seats (23.6%); Socialist Party of Navarra-PSOE, 12 seats (22.5%); IUN/NEB (United Left), 2 seats (4.3%); CDN (split from the center of the UPN), 2 seats. The null and void votes that were for Batasuna (which was made illegal) were 5.5%. There is a UPN-CDN Government by minority due to the indecision of the socialists (PSN) to reach a deal with the nationalists (Nafarroa Bai) and United Left.

Parliament of Navarra, May 2007

Candidatura Votes % Seats
UPN 139,122 42.2 22
NA-BAI 77,893 23.6 12
PSN-PSOE 74,157 22.5 12
CDN 14,418 4.4 2
IUN-NEB 14,337 4.3 2



Iparralde has had its own process. Following the Revolution of 1789, Iparralde, together with Bearn, made up the Department of the Lower Pyrenees due to the application of Jacobine centralism, in spite of the efforts made by the revolutionary Garat brothers. Over the 19th century, the elites strongly integrated with the common folk in the dynamics of France.

In the last few years, an analysis of the zone has been worrisome: economic model crisis; high youth emmigration to other territories of France, combined with a large wave of immigration towards the coast, which has meant that 55% of the population is born outside; weakness in Basque culture with the Euskera language falling back; and institutional non-existence.

However, today Iparralde is experiencing a strong revival in various ways. In 1994, Garpen Kontseilua was begun—Council of Development (it brings together social agents)—and Hautetsien Kontseilua—Electoral Council (1995)—as advising organisms in which institutional, economic, and social forces consensus are made. Fruits of these processes was the “Schéma d’Aménagement et de Développement du Pays Basque” (1996) –Plan for territorial organization—as a project for complete regeneration which as been specified in some programs such as the “Hitzarmen Berezia” in the year 2000.

However, there is a lack of agreement in four sensitive areas: the objection to a Basque Country Department, a technological University, making Euskera a coofficial language, and a Laborantza Ganbara—Agricultural Chamber—not dependent on Bearn. On these issues the economic powers, the Basquists, the Socialists, and the Nationalists coincide on many things.

The cross-border cooperation is another challenge for Iparralde and Hegoalde. The Eurocity Baiona-Donostia, the consortiums between the border-area towns…announces a need for a Euro-region of the Basque Country, especially for cultural, relational, and economic subjects.

As far as the elections go, in continental Vasconia, Iparralde, the conservative right has stayed the same, with a relative rise in the socialdemocrats, as well as a slow growth of nationalism, which is going beyond its traditional division following the weight achieved by Abertzaleen Batasuna (AB) in 2002. At any rate, there is a rise in cultural Basquism beyond the parties.

Legislative Elections in Iparralde in 2007[20]

  UMP UDF-MDémocrate PS Euskal Herria Bai (AB, EA y Batasuna) The Rest: PCF, LCR, Verts, CPN, FN and others Abstaining TOTAL
1st round % 43,8 13,2 21,5 8,1 11,3 37,6 100
2nd round % 51,9 8,5 39,4 - - 38,9 100

Source: Berria 12/19-06-2007


In the last third of the 19th century there was an industrialization in the peninsular Basque Country, which had a starter role, along with Catalunya, in the Spanish economy’s modernization. The industrialization gradually expanded from the left side of the Bilbao Estuary in the 19th century toward the rest of Bizkaia and, above all, to the regions of Gipuzkoa. Its geographic distribution balanced itself out very slowly. Araba, along with Navarra, met with a great change quite a bit later on, in the 1950s to 1970s.

The iron and steel industry, transformers, ship construction, ship companies, capital goods, machine tools, the chemical industry, the paper industry, the automotive parts industry, rubber…were the traditional industrial sectors of Euskadi throughout the 20th century.

The economic crisis at the end of the 1970s and the effects of the economic opening produced deep losses for the Basque economy with companies and almost whole sectors closing (the great iron and steel industry, metal and capital goods businesses, ship construction…). Unemployment was more than double that of the European Union. Still today the consequences of it can be seen in some parts. Supposing Euskadi had 7.5% of the Spanish GDP at the end of the 60s, in 1990 it had dropped more than a point and a half.

It was only in 1993 that the crisis started to let up with a more diversified economy, open to the exterior, being less specialized and less vulnerable than before.

The weight of the economy of the Autonomous Region of Euskadi on the whole of Spain is currently the following:

4.8% of the population

6.4% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP)

8.27% of the exports

5.67% of the imports

8.9% of the industrial production

The economy has improved dramatically in the European context over the last decade, since the per capita income has gone up from representing 89.62% of the average in the European Union in 1990 to 125% in 2006—25% above the European average—already with an EU of 27 countries.

The economy continues to be characterized by the importance of its industry which brings in around 33% of the value added, when in the EU countries it hovers around 25%. Today it is competitive and hi-tech and earns participation in external markets, especially the European ones.

With all this, in Euskadi there is profitable agriculture especially in Araba (wine from Rioja Alavesa—and potatoes, above all). The sheep raising and herding, without disappearing, has taken a back seat to farming. The drops and limitations in fishing due to restrictions on territorial waters (200 miles) and the draining of fishing resources have affected the profitability of the fishing industry and the number of boats. The timber forests (pine and eucalyptus) are especially important in Bizkaia.

The industrial production by sectors in Euskadi represents the following amounts in Spain: 90% of special metals; 80% of machine tools; 50% of capital goods; 40% of steel production; 40% of household appliances; 33% of rubber and plastic; 27% of ship construction; 27% of paper and cardboard; 25% of automotive parts; 25% of aeronautics; 12% of electronics, computers, and telecommunications…Construction is not greatly important due to the small degree of effects the developing real estate crisis has on it.

On the other hand, the Basque economy’s tertiarization process (increase in the services sector) continues on, similar to what all advanced economies have experienced, supposing that 64% of the population is employed.

The Basque economy right now depends more on its economic relations with the EU than the Spanish market.

Its external trade has a positive balance even though it is dropping in relation to that of the last decade. In 2006 there were 16,513 million euros of exports and 17,156 million euros of imports. As for the exports, capital and transport goods, metallurgy, energy products and minerals, machines, electric material and transport material predominate. The majority of the exports (2/3) goes to the 15 member Europe and, more secondarily, to the U.S.A. and Latin America. Gipuzkoa stands out because of its exporting potential.

As a capitalist economy whose resources are distributed in a very unequal way and the importance of public and social loans is considerably less than what those on the left and the unions claim in a very organized country with a unionization rate which more than doubles the Spanish average.

The economy of Navarra makes up 1.7% of the federal GDP. Industry is very important in Navarra. The population which is employed in industry and construction is 34.2%.

Even though the weight of the primary sector in employment is small (less than 6%), it’s Protected Denomination of Origen wines—Rioja from Navarra—and the irrigated horticulture production (peppers, asparagus, potatoes, legumes, a variety of fruits) are important, and in addition, they, in part, supply their agriculture and food industry.  Grains, sunflower, and rape are also important in the Middle Zone and forest activities in the timber mountains of the north.

The industrial sector makes up 29.1% of the regional Gross Value Added—10 points above the Spanish average—and it has specialized in the transport material industry, metallurgy and metallic transformers and the agricultural and food industry. All three branches make up more than 50% of the industrial supply.

Its per capita GDP in 2006, according to the National Statistics Institute of Spain (INE), was 27,861 euros, third in the ranking after Madrid and Euskadi. Its GDP index per capita (Purchasing Power Parity) in 2006, from a 100 index for Spain, was 125.8, meaning 25% more than the average.

For Iparralde the store is quite different.

Traditionally an agricultural country, in the second half of the 19th century, a significant amount of tourism was begun thanks to the railway and the Second Empire. Napoleón III, with his wife Eugenia de Montijo, made their summertime residence at Biarritz (Miarritze), making the Côte Basque a place of international style and new services and property development.

Currently, the interior of Iparralde carries on without a balanced economic model for development, with the exception of the Lapurdi coast.

The active population is 98,652 people total out of 262,311 inhabitants. The employment of Iparralde is spread out along the following lines: 6.3% in agriculture and fishing (after quite a drop in the last several years, since between 1979 and 2000 it has lost 30% of its agricultural jobs); 14.8% in industry (agro-food, aeronautics, footwear, electricity and electronics, port activity…) with a total of 14,095 jobs; 6.6% in construction, which is an important field; and, above all, services, with 72.2% (notably tourism, commerce, restaurant and hotel businesses…) and which keep a sustained level. ELKARBIDE




[1]Its promoters included Baleren Bakaikoa, Luis M. Bandrés, Jose Manuel Castells, Iñaki Goirizelaia,Juan Hernández Zubizarreta, Pedro Ibarra, Petxo Idoiaga, Iñaki Lasagabaster, Demetrio Loperena, Jon Gurutz Olaskoaga and Ramón Zallo, who were joined shortly after by Patxi Zabalo, Xabier Ezeizabarrena, Arantza Tapia, Amaia Lizarralde and Mikel Zurbano. The founding documents were supported by over 400 lecturers from the Universities of the Basque Country and Navarre, as well as those of some other Autonomous Communities and countries.

[2] Article 520 A of organic law 4/1988 of may 25th, reforming the Law of Criminal Indictment (LEC 1988).

[3] Article 504 A, of LEC 1988.

[4] Article 504, of organic law 15/2003, of November 25th, reforming the Law of Criminal Indictment.

[5] Articles 533 and 579 of LEC 1988.

[6] Article 779, of LEC 1988. Modified by Law 38/2002, of October 24th, partially reforming the LEC, concerning the procedure for the rapid and immediate indictment of certain offences and misdemeanors.

[7] In 2003, the Basque Parliamentary Comittee refused to dissolve the parliamentary group aligned to Batasuna for formal reasons – parliamentary regulations forbade this – and for material reasons: the Supreme Court was interfering in the workings of the legislative power.

[8] A group opposed to Basque nationalism that originated in a section of left-wing intellectuals and that has drifted towards positions similar to those of the right on questions relating to the model of State.

[9] The Supreme Court understood in the case of the banking magnate Emilio Botín that “an oral trial cannot be opened only at the instance of the popular accusation” requiring, in parallel, either an accusation by the prosecutor or a private accusation. By virtue of that doctrine the trial was dismissed. Shortly afterwards (El País 17/4/08) that doctrine was corrected at the instance of the Supreme Court itself, when it indicated that when there are no specific persons affected and nobody is exercising the private accusation, the popular accusation can urge the opening of the oral trial although the prosecution ministry does not make an accusation. This reinterpretation, applied politically to the Atutxa case, will also serve for the trials of the Basque President, Patxi López and Egunkaria. The progressive half of the magistrates voted against this self-correction by the Supreme Court.

[10] The group was formed by the jurists Kai Ambos (University of Göttingen, Alemania), Juan Luis Gómez Colomer (University of Castellón), Luis P. Salas Calero (International University of Florida, United States), John Vervaele (University of Utrecht, Holland), Juan Bustos (University of Santiago de Chile), Massimo Pavarini (University of Bologna, Italy) and Raúl Zaffaroni (University of Buenos Aires, Argentina), in the framework of a conference on «Mass Media and Conflict» that took place in the Miramar Palace, San Sebastián on 5/11/2007.

[11] Thus although a political party will be declared illegal only when its activity is “promoting, justifying or excusing armed actions”, with silence not being equivalent to such an activity, nonetheless, in practice such silence is considered circumstantial evidence of culpability in the application of the article.

[12] One consequence of the ruling of the Supreme Court in relation to the banning of Batasuna was the banning of the Basque lists of candidates in different elections by virtue of their being connected, or not, to the banned parties Batasuna, Herri Batasuna and Euskal Herritarrok. In this respect, on May 21st 2004, the special court of the Supreme Court decided to ban the list of candidates of Herritarren Zerrenda (HZ) for the European elections of June 13th. On March 26th, the same court unanimously banned the list of candidates of the grouping Aukera Guztiak (AG) for the elections to the Basque Parliament of April 17th, while, on the contrary, permitting EHAK to stand. EHAK, with the support of the nationalist left, won 7 seats.

[13] Herri Batasuna (Basque Unity), Euskal Herritarrok (Basque Citizens) and Batasuna (Unity) are the successive names adopted in recent years by the same radical nationalist political current.

[14] ANV will continue to have a presence on some town councils until the municipal elections of 2011. EHAK will probably disappear from the Basque Parliament in less than one year (autonomous elections of 2009).

[15] The same group of lawyers indicate “This macro-indictment has lacked the minimum procedural guarantees in several aspects: with respect to obtaining proofs and mechanisms of investigation, with regards to treatment of the arrested and accused persons, in the abusive use of confidentiality in the proceedings, in questions referring to appeals and objections by judges contaminated by their direct interest in the case, in the lack of juridical criterion in the interpretation of penal texts and juridical practice up until this moment, in the categorisation of the offences… a real utilisation of the law on the bases of a pre-established political interest.”

[16] Political assembly of town coucillors of the Nationalist Left.

[17] In Joseph Mª Colomer “Transición a la democracia: el modelo español [Transition to Democracy: the Spanish Model]”, Anagrama 1998

[18] That document included a proposal for a common institutional body for the four Spanish Basque territories with executive attributes and the capacity to make legislative proposals, with sovereignty naturally residing in the respective parliaments. In order to avoid interference, it would be an invitation to the Parliament of Navarre to reflect as well. Such reflection could be constructive if we are, by then, embarked on a definitive peace process. But that depends on the reasoning capacity of ETA and the leadership capacity of the Socialist Party and Nafarroa Bai in Navarre.

[19] Parties or coalitions of the Basque nationalist type (EAJ-PNV= Basque Nationalist Party, to the center; EA= Eusko Akartasuna, a split from before the 80s, to the center-left; EHAK-formerly Batasuna-, radical and leftist nationalism, and which participates in the same ideological current as ETA; Aralar = a split from the former or left Abertzale minority, and critical of ETA); Parties throughout Spain (PSE-EE = Socialist Party of Euskadi-Euskadiko Ezkerra, it is part of the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party, Spanish patriot; PP = Popular Party (PP), conservative right and Spanish nationalist); Others (EB = Ezker Batua, joined together with United Left, it is federalist and to the left, with its origins in the PCE).

[20] UMP = conservative right; UDF = center; PS = moderate left; Euskal Herria Bai = nationalist coalition; PCF = Communist Party; LCR = Revolutionary Communist League; FN = National Front

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