The PSOE victory in the general elections of 2004 opened a completely new scenario of possibilities. In its March 20th declaration, ETA addressed the new president Rodriguez Zapatero to ask him to adopt “brave gestures towards Euskal Herria”, and stated that it was possible to reach peace “by means of reason and good sense”. In August, ETA also submitted a letter offering the possibility of a dialogue. Finally, on November 14th, Batasuna launched a new political initiative called “Now the People. Now the Peace” – also called the Anoeta Proposal.

For the patriotic left-wing, the overcoming of the Basque conflict required a multilateral dialogue process, developed with seriousness, without rush, and on a solid base. The objective of such a process was to overcome the armed and political conflict by putting into action, in an agreed way, a scenario that would enable the transition to a new political framework where all the rights of the Basque people would be guaranteed. The multilateral dialogue process had to go along with a series of commitments that guaranteed the clear and unequivocal will of the parties.63

To develop this process, Batasuna considered it necessary to establish two differentiated spaces of dialogue and agreement. A first negotiation forum among political, unions, and social agents would deal with the transition to a new framework in which the Basque people would be able to decide, under democratic conditions, what was the institutional status for our people, which would be endorsed by the citizens. The participants would then open a dialogue and negotiation process with the states to guarantee their compliance with the contents of the agreement. Secondly, a dialogue and negotiation space should be established between ETA and the state that deals with the demilitarisation of the conflict, the deported prisoners and refugees, as well as the treatment of the conflict’s victims.

The proposal was presented in front of more than 15,000 people and obtained a positive answer from the EAJ-PNV and other small formations as well as the Basque unions. The PSE regarded the proposal as “a step, even if not the step we were waiting for”.

On January 14th 2005, Batasuna submitted to President Rodriguez an open letter urging him to “do everything in [his] hands to take the political and armed conflict to a definitive overcoming phase.” On January 15th, Zapatero showed his willingness to talk “if, once and for all, the blasting sound of bombs and guns stops”, while, at the same time, demanding that Batasuna be “courageous enough to condemn ETA’s violence”. On the same day, ETA expressed its willingness to support a process on the basis of the Anoeta Proposal, thus recognising that it was time to talk and to acknowledge that decisions regarding the future of the country are up to each citizen.

On February 1st, the Spanish Congress rejected the New Statute Proposal presented by the Basque Autonomous Community President in Madrid, despite its approval by the majority of the Basque Parliament. President Zapatero as well as the PP opposition refused to even debate the proposal, thus assuming for the Spanish Congress the capacity to decide for the Basque people, and denying the force of any decision taken by Basques democratically.

On March 5th, several parties, unions, and nationalist social forces promoted a way forward to solve the conflict by consulting the Basque citizens about an agreed process. However, the Spanish government continued on its repressive line, banning and repressing Batasuna’s pacific marches. During the autonomous election in March, it banned a civic platform – Aukera Guztiak (“All the options”) – that advocated the presence of all political formations in the election.64

In this context, delegations from ETA and the government started a series of secret contacts to explore the possibility of opening a dialogue and negotiation process, supported by international facilitators, experts in conflict resolution, and protected by several European states.

In May, there was a rupture between the PP and the PSOE on the strategy to be followed with the Basque conflict. On May 17th, Zapatero obtained the endorsement of the Chamber of Deputies to “support a dialogue process between the powers of the State and those who decide to abandon violence, always respecting the inalienable democratic principle that the political issues must be solved only through the legitimate representatives of popular will” (Casanova, 2007), even though this endorsement was refused by the PP. On May 25th, the Batasuna spokesperson Arnaldo Otegi was summoned to the Spanish National Court and later imprisoned. Batasuna held Zapatero responsible for the arrest, while Gerry Adams and other international figures expressed their deep concern over this event. Otegi was released within a few days, and once again supported the patriotic left-wing proposal for a negotiated solution.

In June, ETA proceeded to stop the attacks against PP and PSOE political representatives. Secret contacts were initiated, and in July 2005, delegations from ETA and the government met secretly and agreed on the draft of a peace process-opening design called Point Zero, which had two main components: on the one hand, ETA committed to publicly decreeing a “permanent ceasefire”, while the Spanish government committed to making, within a maximum period of six months from the ceasefire declaration, a public declaration regarding their respect of the decisions that the Basque citizens would freely make about their future. Besides this, the agreement determined a series of mutual commitments that would establish a scenario of confidence-building measures to develop the process further.65

It was also stated that in case of crisis, the other party and the mediators would be informed, consulted, and met before any decision was taken; should a definitive rupture occur, each party would be freed from their commitments. A Verification Commission was formed to give testimony of the agreements, as well as the reason for an eventual breaking-off. It was also indicated that for the next phase of negotiations there would be official delegations of up to three negotiators and four advisers. The delegations’ safety should also be guaranteed. This private agreement was fully confirmed in November, after a series of clarifications.

Thus, an agreement had been reached, which gave full validity to the resolution model designed in the Anoeta Proposal, and finally recognised what ETA had been demanding for a long time: that the Spanish government did not assume the representation of the Basque people, and that it was not the government’s responsibility to handle the agreement’s political contents to be endorsed by the Basque citizens. Moreover, both sides were committed to respecting the agreement should it be adopted by inclusive and democratic means.

The commonly adopted guarantees, which were not made public in order to prevent the process from being damaged by external participants, created the necessary environment for making progress in the political dialogue. Among them, the de facto acknowledgement of the abertzale left activity was essential, considering that it was otherwise impossible to start the political dialogue.

ETA’s willingness to carry out this process was preceded by the longest period without fatalities since 1969, as no deathly attack had occurred in the preceding 1,028 days. In fact, it was important that arrests and repressive policies were stopped: since the permanent ceasefire was unilateral without compensations and the agreement was secret, the continuity of the repressive policy against the patriotic left wing would threaten and punish the abertzale left’s leadership in front of its support base. 66

On March 22, 2006, ETA published its permanent ceasefire declaration, which was strongly welcomed and supported by the abertzale left, the state and the international community. Through its declaration, ETA expressed the objective “to foster a democratic process in Euskal Herria so that, through dialogue, negotiation, and agreement, the Basque people can reach the political change they need… At the end of the process, the Basque citizens shall have the word and decision of their futures, thus giving a democratic solution to the conflict”. It also pointed out that it was the responsibility of all Basque agents to develop this process and to adopt the agreements regarding the future of Euskal Herria. ETA considered that the Spanish and French states “must acknowledge the results of such democratic process without any kind of interference or limitations. The decision made by the Basque citizens about our future will have to be respected.” It also expressed its desire and will of seeing the open process reach the end, and thus achieve a real democratic situation for Euskal Herria, overcoming the long-lasting conflict and building peace based on justice.

Several surveys carried out throughout the country showed that the declaration was massively supported throughout the Basque Country. 67
This was also seen at the demonstration of April 1st, in defence of a political agreement promoted by the Table for Dialogue and Political Agreement – formed by the Batasuna party, Aralar party, EA party, nationalist unions, and social forces – that gathered more than 80,000 people in Bilbao. Another indication of such support was offered by the declaration of the Ahotsak Women Group, which congregated women from almost all the political parties and defended “allowing the development of all the political projects and respecting the Basque citizens’ decisions”. In the months that followed, different international actors reinforced their support with several declarations. 68

Unfortunately, be it due to pressures from the opposition, the media or political miscalculations, the government started breaking its agreed commitments from the very beginning of the ceasefire. It continued launching attacks against the abertzale left, 69 which showed that it had no genuine will to quickly start the multiparty talks. Thus, after a meeting with President Rodriguez Zapatero, the president of the EAJ-PNV Josu Jon Imaz stated under the formula “first peace, then politics” that before setting up multiparty talks, ETA had to enter the dissolution phase. This confirmed the government’s interest in taking the path of disarmament while holding back the political dialogue. There was also a clash between two different ways of approaching negotiations: while one party understood that it was necessary to build trust and a win/win model, the other one was outlining a positional negotiating process.

Hence, the process very soon entered into crisis. On May 14th, ETA declared that the process was unable to continue if attacks from the states persisted. On May 19th, the Spanish National Court once again summoned eight members of Batasuna leadership to testify. Batasuna decided to stand firm and communicated to the PSOE that unless there were guarantees that no actions would be taken against them and that a dialogue would be established between the PSOE and Batasuna after the court declarations, they would not come forward to the Court.

A common understanding was reached nevertheless on the need to formalise dialogue publicly, and to reach a decisive agreement by the end of July. Consequently, Zapatero publicly announced the start of a dialogue with ETA, and supported the search for a coexistence agreement among the parties, adding that the Basque citizens shall decide about their future under the law. The PSE announced that it would meet Batasuna. However, in the following weeks, arrests, police operations, and demonstrations against Batasuna continued. Due to the repeated failures to respect the guarantees, ETA warned the government that if the guarantees were not complied with, the process would be stopped. On June 29th, the president publicly announced the negotiated declaration, albeit with some changes in the wording of the declaration which had not been agreed upon, and in July the first and only public meeting between the PSE and Batasuna’s negotiating team took place. 70

In this meeting, the PSE opposed future public meetings until Batasuna was legalised. Within this context, it was impossible to reach an agreement by the end of July. In August, ETA published a statement in which it regarded the current crisis situation as a consequence of the parties’ attitudes, mainly the EAJ-PNV and the PSOE.

In this context, Batasuna promoted in private the configuration of a dialogue process among the three main political forces – Batasuna, PSE, and EAJ-PNV – in order to reach a pre-agreement, or the basis for a decisive agreement. During October and November, the three political formations tried to reach a common position on the key elements of the conflict: the right to decide and the territorial configuration of the country with the end of the division. Although real progress was made, the parties could not agree on a precise formulation of a joint document which would avoid future misunderstandings, and Batasuna was not ready to accept any ambiguous document, given its complete lack of confidence in the willingness of the PSOE to fulfil any agreement. Seeing the lack of commitment from the socialist side, it asked for a precise timeline regarding the recognition of a clear formula for self-government of the four provinces. Given the total lack of trust between the parties, there was no room for constructive ambiguity. 71

Meanwhile, there were also attempts to solve the crisis through international action. Prominent foreign figures such as Francesco Cossiga, Mário Soares, Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas, Gerry Adams, Kgalema Motlanthe, and Adolfo Maria Pérez Esquivel urged both parties to eradicate the causes of the conflict and seek democratic solutions; a declaration of the European Parliament also supported a negotiated solution. The Friendship Group, formed by members of the European Parliament from different parties and countries in favour of a peace process in the Basque Country, helped to raise support within the European Union.

However, the progress soon collapsed, caused by mutual violations of the agreed commitments. 72 The abertzale left also asserted that the government’s main objective was to conduct “technical” negotiations only, limited to the delivery of weapons and the militants’ situation, without opening political negotiations. In this context of total collapse, ETA made a bomb van explode in Barajas airport parking lot, after three warning calls on December 30th. The attack happened without an official declaration ending the ceasefire.

In view of this event, which claimed two victims, the Minister of the Interior Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba announced that the process had been destroyed. Nevertheless, Batasuna’s Negotiating Commission asked both parties to express their commitment towards rebuilding the process. ETA communicated that it would maintain the ceasefire even though it expressed its firm determination to respond if the aggression against Euskal Herria continued.

Batasuna also made a concrete public proposal regarding the issues that had to be treated within a dialogue and negotiation among the political forces. In February 2007, it outlined the basis for a shared agreement and embraced the creation of a new legal-political framework for the four provinces under Spanish tutelage, with an autonomous statute and with the power of decision over its future. This was an attempt to create a democratic transition framework that should open the door to all political projects, including the pro-independence one – currently illegal – and solve the armed dispute. Thus Batasuna, apart from demanding again that both parties reject acts of violence and respect their mutual conditions, set the democratic and real basis for solving the long-lasting political problem. Batasuna’s proposal, arising from pro-independence convictions, suggested the creation of a democratic scenario that was based on existing realities and excluded any imposed models, be they annexationist or partitionist. In this model, it would be the popular will, freely and democratically expressed, that would decide upon the construction of a new subject within the current administrative limits. This new subject would include political autonomy for the four Basque territories that would, in turn, have the capacity to exercise the right to decide upon its future, through the agreed democratic path. By contrast to the current frameworks, this new framework would not be based on imposition but on consultation and respect for the will of citizens. Thus, only those who deny the mere existence of a subject such as the Basque People, or refuse to give voice to the citizens, could object to this proposal.

ETA, for its part, submitted a letter to the government representatives requesting a meeting, as well as the need to act with responsibility. The government agreed to hold a two-sided meeting – on the one hand, Batasuna/PSE, and on the other hand government/ETA – with international mediators by mid-May. During the meeting, ETA expressed its total commitment to “deactivate the armed struggle and dismantle its military structures (…) within the framework of the definitive achievement of the political and technical objectives of the resolution process” as well as its willingness to create an International Verification Commission of the commitments made by the Spanish government and ETA. However, there was a complete lack of trust between the two sides, both believing that the other was committed to destroying the process. The abertzale left and PSOE tried to agree on a roadmap to pass from the current institutional scenario to a new one where partition was ended. Attempts to reach an agreement took days, and in the end the facilitators suggested a roadmap proposal based on some comments made by PSOE representatives but with escaping windows for Spanish side. The abertzale left representatives considered this to be sufficient, while Spanish representatives opposed it. In the end, no agreement was reached. 73

In view of this situation, ETA declared in front of the international observers that it was no longer bound by its commitments and that a resumption of the armed struggle would be inevitable. On June 5th 2007, it ended the ceasefire. In the following months, the government intensified its repressive measures with the help of an increasing collaboration with the French government, and arrested dozens of abertzale left political militants, including its spokesperson Arnaldo Otegi. The banning policy on the abertzale left movement was consolidated, as more political parties became banned (like ANV and the Communist Party of the Basque Territories – EHAK), after the European Court on Human Rights considered that the banning of Batasuna and local platforms was not a violation of the European Convention on Human Rights. 74

As a consequence of this policy, the PSE was able to remove the EAJ-PNV for the first time in nearly 30 years from the Basque Autonomous Government, based on an agreement with the right-wing PP.

Conclusion of the Anoeta process

_____

63 Batasuna assumed the following commitments to be made by the parties: to address the roots of the conflict; to grant all citizens the right to be consulted and to respect their decision; to guarantee that such consulting is carried out under pacific and democratic conditions; to take into account the history, as well as the current reality and the support of the different sensitivities of the country; to resolve the controversies arising during the process in a pacific and democratic way; to make sure that the use of the exclusively political and democratic channels will enable, with no limits or restrictions, the materialisation of all the political projects; to include and regulate in the agreement the rights included in the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as well as the International Covenants on Civil and Political Rights and on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
64 The Communist Party of the Basque Territories, which took part in the election, pointed out its aim of becoming the voice of the voiceless, which is why the patriotic left wing called for its supporters to vote for the aforementioned party. It got nine seats in the Basque autonomous election, but was later banned in 2008.
65 The statement to be issued by the president of the Spanish government included the following points:
– That the Spanish government would respect the decisions that the Basque citizens freely make about their future.
– That such decisions would be adopted without any violence or coercion, in compliance with norms and legal procedures, respecting democratic methods and the rights and liberties of the citizens.
– That it shall be the responsibility of the Basque political parties, as well as of the social, economic, and unions agents, within the forums they shall constitute, to reach the agreements and to establish negotiation mechanisms and their application. The agreements shall be adopted with the maximum possible consensus, bearing in mind the citizens’ diversity and under equal conditions for all the political options.
– That in compliance with the resolution passed by the congress on May 17th, 2005, the government publicly stated that a dialogue process with ETA would be started, clearly pointing out the fact that political issues should only be solved through the legitimate representatives of popular will.
The agreement also stated that if the process developed within the terms agreed, ETA would show its strong will to go towards the definite secession of armed struggle. The statement to be made by President Rodriguez Zapatero was concisely written in the agreement, and was thus agreed that it shall be made public by him without changes. In turn, ETA undertook not to take action against any persons, public or private property or goods; and not to take part in actions concerning the supply of weapons or explosives, and/or material for their manufacturing.
The government, after the permanent ceasefire official statement declaration, undertook:
– To achieve a state pact that enables the declaration of the president of the government within 6 months.
– To tangibly reduce police presence – checkpoints etc. – as well as to stop police pressure regarding political activities of the patriotic left.
– To accept de facto that the patriotic left-wing organisations shall be able to carry out a political life under equal conditions with the rest of the political and social forces, with no limitations in their civil or political rights.
– Not to carry out detentions through the Civil Guard, the National Police, the police force of the Basque Country, or the French security forces.
A seven to ten day period had been agreed for the government to be able to implement such guarantees. In addition, it was pointed out that should any infringements take place, it would be attempted to solve them at the table.

66 It should be noted that during the months preceding the ceasefire declaration and both parties’ agreement on the Point Zero, the government continued to close down supposed Batasuna offices, opened judicial proceedings against political and social activists, sentenced members of the pro-independence Youth League to severe terms of imprisonment, and reinforced the penitentiary legislation (i.e. the Parot Doctrine, dictated by the Spanish Supreme Court, promulgated the application of life imprisonment sentences). Some of the political prisoners died in prison, either of illness or under strange circumstances. A few days before the ceasefire declaration, the Spanish National Court summoned six aberztale left leaders to declare having promoted demonstrations, and on March 13th, it imprisoned Juan Mario Olano, spokesman of the movement for amnesty, in response to the general strike called on March 9th against the prisoners’ dispersal and in favour of solving the conflict. Even in this situation, the patriotic left wing stood firm, with serenity, asking its support base to remain calm.
67 For instance, according to the Sociological Surveys Department of the Basque Autonomous Government, in April 2006, 75% of the population interpreted the ceasefire declaration as a first step towards the resolution of the conflict, and 64% considered ETA to be truly committed to peace. According to the Basque Country University’s Eurobarometer, in May 2006, 90% of the Basque people continued hoping that peace would be consolidated in the next few years. Moreover, most people surveyed linked peace with the Basque citizens’ right to freely decide: 88% agreed with the statement that “in a peaceful scenario we must all respect the will of the Basque people’s majority”, 87% considered that “everything should be talked about without any limits”, and 85% believed that “no party should be excluded from the process” (Basque Government Cabinet).
68 For instance, the US state of Idaho acknowledged ETA’s decision as ‘historical’.
69 On March 29th, Arnaldo Otegi was sent to prison by a judge from the Spanish National Court, and sentenced to stay there until he paid a €250,000 bail. J. Petrikorena was also imprisoned, the judge set for his and Juan Maria Olano’s release a €200,000 bail per person. On April 5th, the Spanish National Court banned the act in which Batasuna meant to announce its project to build the country from the left. Batasuna paid the bails set by the National Court so as not to let the process be blocked. But the dynamics continued. Mexico extradited six Basque refugees. On April 18th, the Civil Guard arrested Ibon Meñika, who afterwards reported having been tortured in the police station, while the police closed down premises in Zamudio. Some days afterwards, the Civil Guard continued with more arrests, and Arnaldo Otegi was sentenced to 15 months in prison.
70 Weeks before, Batasuna had appointed and publicly announced the aforementioned team that fulfilled the man/ woman parity and showed Batasuna’s clear will to face the process.
71 A full draft can be found in Murua (2010).
72 Nine months after the truce declaration, 106 people had been arrested in Euskal Herria, of which 33 had been imprisoned and 2 reported having been subjected to torture. The Basque citizens’ civil and political rights had been cut out, evidenced by the 45 summonses for organising political initiatives or by the 53 banned activities. Also during this period, 227 people had been judged in 75 trials conducted by the Spanish National Court and Section 14 of the Paris High Courts. Basque political prisoners saw the application of ‘life imprisonment de facto’ as a result of the application of the new ‘Parot Doctrine’, consisting in the practical disappearance of sentence reductions, already reaching 22 cases. In total, Basque citizens had to pay €1,493,000 in order to get their freedom back. The case of the political prisoner Iñaki de Juana Chaos provides a telling illustration of such a repressive environment.
Just before he was supposed to be released after the completion of his 20-year sentence, the government opened two criminal files for articles written years earlier in a Basque newspaper. The public prosecutor asked for 96 years in prison, and Iñaki de Juana immediately went on a hunger strike. He was finally sentenced to 12 years. On the other hand, a theft of 300 pistols in France attributed to ETA by the French police also worsened the situation.
73 For more information on these events, see Murua (2010).
74 European Court of Human Rights, Affaire HERRI BATASUNA et BATASUNA v. Spain, arrêtés nº 25803/04 et 25817/04, June 30 2009.