The EU and the Basque Peace Process

1:00 pm in Uncategorized by Philippe Duhart

This is a follow-up to last week’s post on ETA’s latest statement. In the communique ETA asks the European Union “to encourage and push forward an open process to find a definitive solution to the conflict.” But would this entail?

This latest peace process differs from earlier attempts in that the Basque left has made a concerted effort to open the process within the international arena. This is mainly due to a lack of other options: after the 2006 fiasco, the Spanish government, judiciary, and political scene has little interest in reaching a settlement. Not when it appears that state security forces had ETA on the ropes.
The Basque Left has thus had to innovate and to begin a new process via outside channels. And they’ve been pretty successful at it. I won’t get into details here. For the story, see this interview with Brian Currin, the South African attorney whose work has been crucial in getting ETA to end its violent campaign.
The international dimension, however, is quite different from the EU dimension. What then can the EU do?
Recent history may provide some answers. The EU could issue a resolution in support of talks between ETA and the Government, as they did in 2006. Of course, things were considerably different then. The Zapatero Government was more active in the process and the Spanish parliament had formally approved of talks with ETA. The current conservative administration, however, has firmly rejected the possibilities of such talks – much as they did then. The EU could also remove Batasuna from its “terrorist organization list,” even though Batasuna no longer exists.These would be largely symbolic gestures. Such gestures, however, could have a positive effect by isolating Spain. But, the conservative Rajoy Administration may be impervious to this. They’ve spent the last few years belittling those involved in resolving the South African and Irish conflicts as naïve do-gooders who know nothing about the Basque conflict. And they apparently don’t care how foolish they look in the process.
The only way that the EU could have any real influence is if it were to present a strong front in favor of conflict resolution in Spain. And since Spain may need the EU to bail them out, this could actually have an effect. I don’t see this as happening, though. When it comes to “national security,” European states don’t like to interfere in the affairs of their EU neighbors. This is especially true when separatism and minority rights are involved. Governments fear that their meddling could provoke others to counter-meddle in their internal affairs. (Spain tends to be an exception to this rule, as evidenced by their attitude toward Kosovo andScotland.)

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