Exactly seven years after the Aiete Conference, the same location in Donostia-San Sebastian was the setting for the last event by the International Contact Group (IGC). They put an end to their work, having fulfilled their mandate. Brian Currin took the opportunity to highlight the progress made over the years and acknowledged the ongoing difficulties surronding the issue of prisoners, despite the existence of reasons for hope.
The International Contact Group winds up its work in the Basque Country highlighting progress and “hopeful” about the issue of prisoners.
Brian Currin, Alberto Spektorowski and Raymond Kendall held a private meeting with Basque political and social actors and, later, appeared before the media. “I don’t think you need us any longer, you have proven to yourselves that you are capable of moving forward -said Mr. Currin in his address-. Given the foundations you have, the only way is forward.”
Representatives of Basque political parties PNV, EH Bildu, Elkarrekin Podemos and Geroa Bai, almost all Basque trade unions and other important civil society organizations listened to the address. The event included a number of acknowledgements, with a special moment dedicated to the recently deceased Kofi Annan, who headed the International Conference of 2011.
Mr. Currin assessed that the mandate they were given seven years ago has been fulfilled almost in its entirety. «It has not been easy», he said, but «even talking about political normalization in the Basque Country back in 2010 was akin to madness». Since then, ETA ended its armed activity and went on to unilaterally disarm and dissolve. In addition, Sortu or EH Bildu did not exist, there were outlawed Basque political parties, and there has been progress on issues such as political dialogue, victims and public trust in the process.
Having listed the achievements, Brian Currin acknowleged there are still issues to be resolved and clearly highlighted the issue of Basque prisoners. Nevertheless, «there are reasons to be optimistic and believe there can be progress», he said. He cited the change of government in Spain, the new parliamentary majority in Madrid, the position of some victims’ associations and the request by the prisoners for «a route map that gives them certainty as to what they can do» to move forward. He believes all these lements are evolving simultaneously and could end up crystalising into a solution. However, Mr. Currin warned there was still much work to be done.
The event was closed by peace building civil society organizations representatives Anaiz Funosas (Bake Bidea) and Agus Hernán (Permanent Social Forum). They detailed three ongoing challenges:«Recognition of all victims of all violences; an integrated solution for people in prison, on the run and in deportation; and an inclusive memory that respects all narratives». They believe that these three are «the keystones to uphold peaceful coexistence».
Expressing their grattitude to the IGC as well as to the Henri Dunant centre and Jonathan Powell for their more discrete but equally efficient work, Bake Bidea and the el Permanent Social Forum stated that without the involvement of the international community «our very unique process» would have been even more difficult. Mr. Currin promised they are willing to lend a hand again if there is any new blockage in the future.