The breakdown of the alliance created with the Lizarra-Garazi Agreement after the end of ETA’s truce did not imply that the objective conditions that had enabled that scenario had vanished. They were still in force, as was the social conviction that the autonomy model introduced in the Spanish transition was exhausted. A social majority of the Basque Country was favouring a new scenario based on the Basque people’s right to decide upon its future.

The EAJ-PNV was left with no other option but to come forward with a new initiative, which was based on the need to reach a new political statute that included the right to decide – but only for the three territories of the Basque Autonomous Community.59 Meanwhile, a convergence and debate process called Bateginez and promoted by Herri Batasuna led to the establishment in 2001 of a new political organisation, Batasuna, which gained national status by bringing together proindependence followers from the South and the North of the country (under French jurisdiction).

Even though the Lizarra-Garazi Agreement had been interrupted, the creation of the National Debate Forum by some nationalist organisations proved that there was a vast political, social, and union sector willing to build a strong social net and which included all these basic ideas. The repressive approach adopted by the Spanish government to try and paralyse the political driving force of social change – Batasuna and the rest of the political and social abertzale left organisations – undoubtedly showed that the work had to continue within the framework of the political arena.

There was also a perception that the autonomy model designed by the state had also reached its ceiling – albeit for different reasons – in other parts of the Spanish state, like Catalonia. That is to say, it could be noticed that the state also needed a new autonomies framework, which could, in turn, favour the changes bound to take place in Euskal Herria.

Within this context, on January 12, 2002, the Batasuna National Assembly passed a peace proposal that was presented on January 26 under the name of “A Scenario for Peace”. In this proposal, Batasuna pointed out that the root of the conflict was the failure to recognise Euskal Herria’s existence and, as a consequence, the violation of its entitled rights. It also set as a priority for the party, as its duty and responsibility, that “our people get to know peace and justice, to build a future of freedom”. It linked peace with rights, “building peace is talking about rights and working in their favour. That is to say, creating a scenario that will enable the comprehensive and full exercise of the rights entitled to us as Basque citizens”. It also pointed out that the peace scenario must be based on the whole of Euskal Herria’s citizens. Within that objective, Batasuna considered it necessary to differentiate between the individual political projects and the peace scenario to be built.

Thus, for Batasuna, talking about peace was talking about the right to free determination, understood not as an aggression instrument against anybody, but as a guarantee that should make political coexistence possible, as a peace instrument. As a democratic force, Batasuna expressed that it would not attempt to impose its political project, but believed instead in building a democratic model in Euskal Herria that guarantees the development of all political projects under equal conditions. Besides this, it highlighted that such a peace scenario had to be built on respect towards the Basque people’s diversity, understanding it as an enriching element. Giving assent to such rights would result in accepting Euskal Herria as a framework for peace, in which an agreement between Euskal Herria and the two states would definitely break the troubled trajectory of the last centuries. Besides, this would result in the release of all political prisoners, as well as the disappearance of all violent demonstrations, ever-present in political life. The country would also become a demilitarised zone in which everybody would relinquish the use of force.

Presented as reflecting its political position, Batasuna urged all political parties to discuss the document and started a round of contacts over the following months. While the nationalist and progressive forces of the country saw the document in a positive light, both the PSOE and PP publicly discredited the document. Along with the work carried out nation-wide, Batasuna also presented its work and established contacts internationally.60

As a confirmation of its determination to support a human rights framework, Batasuna also presented motions in all towns in support of respecting international human rights conventions. Similarly, in 2002 the Basque Local Councillors and Mayors Assembly Udalbiltza passed a resolution called “Euskal Herria on the way towards peace and democracy”. Among other aspects, this text announced its intention of passing a Euskal Herria Charter of Rights, to be elaborated based on wide social participation, and presented at an international conference to be held in December of the same year.61

In response to these initiatives, in May 2003, ETA made public a document in which it stated its “consent to start asking the Basque citizens about their future under equal conditions. It will inform that the reason of its struggle is getting the Basque citizens to be able to show their will in a pacific and democratic way, committing to always respect the will of such decisions. It will point out as a mistake closing the doors to a solution, and will once again express its will and commitment to give the necessary steps for a negotiated solution”.

State repression and the banning of Batasuna

59 In order to be passed by the Basque Autonomous Parliament, this proposal for a new political statute needed to be approved by the majority, including by several MPs of the abertzale left. The abertzale left decided to support it and at least three of its MPs gave a positive vote. Although it did not agree with the proclamation of a statute for only three provinces on the grounds that this would perpetuate partition, it welcomed the fact that the statute’s preamble recognised the existence of the whole Basque Country, as well as the recognition of its right to decide.
60 Some party leaders visited the European Parliament to meet MEPs. A delegation led by Arnaldo Otegi and Josu Urrutikoetxea gave a talk at the United Nations Office in Geneva, and met several foreign leaders, such as the former Italian head of state Francesco Cossiga. In March 2002, the US state of Idaho, which has a vast number of Basque diaspora residents, called for the cessation of violence in Euskal Herria and the beginning of a peace process, based on the Basque citizens’ right of self-determination.
61 This charter aimed to take its inspiration in the ANC’s Freedom Charter, as well as a similar initiative promoted in the Irish peace process. Its objective was to promote instruments that may be useful for seeking basic rights that would enable a democratic scenario.