The problem the Basque peace process faces is that the Spanish government will not change its strategy until ETA declares its dissolution, whilst ETA is not prepared to take steps towards its disarmament and until contact takes place with the government; thereby creating an obstacle to the consolidation of peace.
The end of the violence by ETA (Euskadi Ta Askatasuna, Basque Homeland and Freedom) and the legalisation of Sortu represent a great step forward for the peace process. The new situation has led to 1) the disappearance of the threat represented by the violence of ETA, 2) a ‘level playing field’ so that all political tendencies can take part in the political life of the country, 3) a reduction in the level of tension and political confrontation, 4) a greater sense of trust and dialogue among the different parties, and 5) a stimulus towards the reconciliation of society.
In relation of the end of violence by ETA, the objective facts mentioned above, together with the information from the Ministry of the Interior and the International Verification Commission, confirm that ETA is honouring its commitment to end violence. Furthermore, everything indicates that ETA is willing to make progress in decommissioning its weapons and dismantling its structure.
Nevertheless, the Spanish Government’s stance is one of rejecting any type of contact with ETA and it maintains a stance based on strategies from the past; although it is also true that it has not taken any drastic decisions that could jeopardise the peace process.
It also maintains its prison policy without any changes, arguing that ETA needs to disband first. Therefore, the people in prison and their families are experiencing a situation in which their rights are not fully guaranteed. This situation is a source of tension, as has been seen in the recent case of the prisoner Iosu Uribetxebarria. This is not contributing to bringing about the right climate for the peace process to move forward.
The situation highlights one of the key factors in the peace process: while ETA is calling for contacts to begin a disarmament process, the [Spanish] Government is demanding ETA’s prior disbandment before making changes to prison policy.
The priority: an agenda for disarmament, dismantling and reinsertion
Maintaining the situation of peace is as important as achieving the end of violence and respect for human rights. The UN states this when it recommends that “disarmament, dismantling and reinsertion (DDR) is an important series of actions after an armed conflict, the objective being to strengthen the peace process, establish trust between the parties involved, and contribute to stabilisation and initial activities of recovery.”
The problem our peace process faces is that the Government will not change its strategy until ETA declares its dissolution, and ETA is not prepared to take steps towards its disarmament and dismantling [its structures] until contacts take place with the Government. This blockage could create a great obstacle to the consolidation and maintenance of peace, and to the application of the above-mentioned agenda for disarmament, demobilisation and reinsertion into society.
The political parties hold the key to consolidating peace
The key to unblocking the situation lies in the ability of the political parties to agree on measures to consolidate the peace process. More specifically, a basic consensus is needed in the present situation on an agenda for the disarmament and dismantling of ETA and on reinserting its members and people in prison.
If the political parties reach agreement on the process of disarmament and dismantling and on prison policy – including specific proposals to be unilaterally implemented by both the government and ETA – sufficient legitimacy will be created so that both parties can assume the steps they need to take in the peace process.
This should be the core objective of the dialogue between the political parties, and also in the Basque institutions. It is an inescapable challenge starting from now, but even more so after the recent elections in the Basque Autonomous Community. Therefore, we urge all political parties to make a concerted effort after the elections on October 21st to cooperate, enter into dialogue and reach agreements that will contribute to the consolidation and maintenance of peace.
Lokarri is a citizens’ network that works for peace, consensus, consultation and reconciliation. To learn more about their work, please click here.