The Basque Country is living through a time when the old is dying but the new is still to be born. Since the failure of the autonomy model established at the beginning of the eighties, the Basque Country is at a crossroads, a crossroads which is taking too long. The crossroads is between a neo-autonomy model which would not solve the basic knots of the conflict (how to settle the right to decide and the territoriality) and a new democratic frame which would resolve these issues by transforming the conflict into a democratic one. Taking into account the last years of development, we would like to stress some concluding points:

  • We face a political conflict that must be provided with political solutions

Even though the process started in this decade has not reached a satisfactory outcome, all the ingredients necessary for the solution are currently on the table. It is like a puzzle that needs shaping.

In this regard, the last negotiation process has helped to clarify which are the obstacles that must be overcome to succeed in the peace process. The issue is political, and refers to how to untie the Gordian knots of the right to decide and the territoriality of the country, and how to reach a political agreement among political forces on these issues.

Moreover, the willingness shown by ETA during the process to dismantle their military structures indicates that there are ways to overcome the military aspect of the conflict.

On the other hand, the political proposals of the abertzale left also show that there are options to transform the violent conflict in a democratic political debate.

The international involvement has also been higher than in previous stages, showing there is an interest in the international community, and notably in the European Union, to solve the last violent conflict in Western Europe.

  • There is a need for a positive environment and conditions for a normalisation process

The last negotiation process showed that dialogue must necessarily be conducted in an environment that fulfils a series of minimum peaceful and democratic conditions, without which the process will not be able to progress. These include the cessation of armed activity and hostilities, legalisation of political activities, end of the violation of the rights of the Basque political prisoners, etc. Without such a change of environment, it is not possible to face a resolution process. This does not mean that all conditions must be reached to start a democratic process, but they will have to be dealt with during the process in order to ensure its success. Without confidence-building measures we have seen processes becoming very unstable.

  • In spite of the current blockage, there is a great opportunity

As we have pointed out, we are living times of serious crisis and blockage. The political process is not progressing due to the lack of willingness or initiative from the Spanish government to unblock it and the persistence of armed activity. But there are great opportunities. Most of the Basque citizens believe in a dialogue and negotiation process among the Basque political forces. Whatever their ideology, they assume that the future of the Basque people, its internal and external articulation, must be decided by the Basque citizens.

In this state of affairs, the abertzale left offers a political and democratic solution model, based on the country’s social reality and willingness. Its proposal is wholly consistent with the current European scenario and models to resolve political disputes, as has happened in Ireland and now in other terms in Scotland, Greenland, Faeroe Islands or Quebec. There is a chance to correct the shortcomings of the Spanish transition, through a democratic process in which Basque political representatives can address all key issues that are at the heart of the Basque conflict, without any external interference, through inclusive multiparty talks with an open agenda. It is the right of the Basques to decide, so that all political options can be not only supported but also materialised, including the right to the so-called territorial unity of the country. An agreement on these core issues will also pave the way for resolving all matters related to the consequences of the conflict.

  • The internal debate within the abertzale left shows its complete commitment not to leave the opportunities to fail and its readiness to take unilateral steps

The abertzale left has been involved in a deep debate whose objective was to design an effective political line of action to accomplish the required political change, and to take a significant step in the liberation process. As articulated in the document “Clarifying the political phase and strategy”, “the challenge is to transfer this opportunity created after decades of struggle and to nail down the political change. There are sufficient conditions for this. The key to being successful is based on being able to shape those conditions in a union of forces capable of achieving political change, and starting the construction phase of the Basque state; on defining an effective strategy that shifts the key aspect of the confrontation to other parameters based on the dialectic Euskal Herria/States”.

The key to political change is the democratic process, understood as “a general political initiative that aims to build up strength for political change. Is the functional strategy that will allow to change the current ‘Rules of the game’ to place it in a context where the Abertzale Left will be more strong and effective. The democratic process must also put the future on our side. The state is using the time factor to wear down the Abertzale Left and close the conditions for change”. Once the democratic process is launched, “time will be our ally and we will manage it so that the eternal denial of the solution of the conflict will be untenable”.

The democratic process must be based on the word and the decision of the Basque citizenship and therefore must be done “without any violence or external interference”. In this regard, “it is essential to activate all forces that support the process and the democratic framework and to undermine the actions of the agents who want to deny the rights of the citizens of Euskal Herria”. “This is the fundamental guarantee of the process, given that we know that the State will put all the obstacles in its power to prevent it. In addition, like in any other process, democracy must also be gradual and dynamic, getting closer step by step to abertzale left goals”. The four big steps of the process are the following:

  • restructuring of abertzale left;
  • policy of alliances: union of pro-independence forces;
  • responding to repression by building the “people’s wall”;
  • reconstruction of the negotiation process.

As a first step in this process, a document called “Principles and Will of the Abertzale Left” (see Annex 3) was launched in Altsasua and Venice on November 14th, 2009 by a hundred of the abertzale left’s well-known members. In this document, the movement shows “without reservations its support for a peaceful, political and democratic process in order to achieve an inclusive democracy, where the Basque people freely and without any intimidation of any kind will be able to decide their future”. Moreover, “the democratic process must be developed in a complete absence of violence and without interference, by the use of exclusively political and democratic means”. The abertzale left also reiterates “its commitment to the Anoeta Proposal. According to this, there should be a process of multi-party dialogue, where all the forces in this country would participate under equal conditions. This process will take on board the achievement of a democratic framework through which the citizenship will be able to decide its future freely and democratically, without any other limit than the will of the people”. Abertzale left also understands that “this process has to be conducted in accordance with the Mitchell principles”.75 The document was welcomed by Basque political parties, including EA, Aralar and the United Left (IU), as well as trade unions such as ELA and LAB. It was also welcomed by international actors involved in the last peace process like Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams, South African facilitator Brian Currin, the European Parliament MEP’s Friendship Group, or the Gernika Network of elected representatives in favour of the right to self determination of the Basque Country.

The debate ended on February 2010 with the Resolution called “Zutik Euskal Herria” (“Stand up for Basque Country”, see Annex 3), where the elements of the debate and the Altsasua – Venice document were confirmed and stressed. This document was welcomed on March 29th 2010 through a joint declaration by prominent international actors, including among others Archbishop Desmond Tutu, President Mary Robinson, John Hume, Albert Reynolds, Frederick DeKlerk, the Nelson Mandela Foundation and Jonathan Powell, as well as peace mediators and experts, who also asked that ETA declare a permanent, fully verified ceasefire and that the Spanish government give a proper reply to this step.76

Today, like before, the abertzale left is becoming the driving force to create a new momentum and overcome the current blockade. The coming months will show if it will succeed or not, and whether or not we are closer to completely transforming the current paradigm. Let us hope that we will see this change happen.

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75 The Mitchell principles were established during the Irish peace process as rules to be accepted by all members participating in the multiparty talks. All those involved in the negotiations had to affirm their commitment:
• to democratic and exclusively peaceful means of resolving political issues;
• to the total disarmament of all paramilitary organisations;
• to agree that such disarmament must be verifiable to the satisfaction of an independent commission;
• to renounce for themselves, and to oppose any effort by others, to use force, or threaten to use force, to influence the course or the outcome of all-party negotiations;
• to agree to abide by the terms of any agreement reached in all-party negotiations and to resort to democratic and exclusively peaceful methods in trying to alter any aspect of that outcome with which they may disagree; and,
• to urge that “punishment” killings and beatings stop and to take effective steps to prevent such actions.


76 Statement by International Leaders in Conflict Resolution and Peace Processes: “We, the undersigned, welcome and commend the proposed steps and new public commitment of the Basque Pro-independence (Abertzale Left) to “exclusively political and democratic” means and a “total absence of violence” to attain its political goals. Fully carried out, this commitment can be a major step in ending the last remaining conflict in Europe. We note the expectation that the coming months may present a situation where the commitment to peaceful, democratic and non-violent means becomes an irreversible reality. To that end, we appeal to ETA to support this commitment by declaring a permanent, fully verified ceasefire. Such a declaration appropriately responded to by [the Spanish] Government would permit new political and democratic efforts to advance, differences to be resolved and lasting peace attained.” See www.gara.net/agiriak/20100329_statem.pdf.