Friday, January 14, 2005

Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero on Thursday rejected a proposal to grant virtual independence to the troubled Basque region and warned the group's leader to comply with Spanish law.

Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero met for nearly four hours Thursday with Basque regional President Juan Jose Ibarretxe to discuss the Basque proposal for independence from Spain.

The proposal seeks to amend Spain's 1979 charter giving the region broad autonomy by transforming the Basque region into a "free state" associated with Spain. The region would have its own court system and send representatives to international bodies, such as the European Union, under the plan.

"Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero believes the plan is a mistake and leads to a dead end," Deputy Prime Minister Maria Teresa Fernandez de la Vega told reporters after the meeting. "It divides citizens, Basque people and Spanish people."

"While Zapatero is prime minister of Spain, the plan will never be approved, thus never be applied," she said.

The Basque parliament approved the proposal on Dec. 30 with crucial help from lawmakers seen as close to the armed Basque separatist group ETA and Spain's Parliament is to debate it in March.
Well, actually these lawmakers are not simply "seen as close" to ETA; they belong to a party who was illegalized for its ETA ties and which is both in US and EU's official lists of terrorist organizations (they still hold the seats until the new regional election, because they won them when their party was still legal and they cannot legally be removed from them). Moreover, its leader in the Basque regional parliament decided to vote for the plan (he had said he was against it because it didn't go far enough towards independence) after reading a letter ¡by ETA's leader, currently a fugitive! explaining the yes vote.

However, no matter what happens, Ibarretxe has announced his intention of disobeying:
Ibarretxe said he formally asked Zapatero to open negotiations with the Basque government and warned that if the requests are rejected, he will go ahead with plans for a referendum in the region.
The Economist has a decent article giving some context.

And read this too, because the separatist position spreads to other parts of Spain, namely Catalonia, the region whose capital is Barcelona.