Friday, February 04, 2005

IBARRETXE and his secessionist plan for the Basque region merits an editorial on the Financial Times:
Spain is confronting its most difficult Basque crisis in its post-Franco history. This is not because of the Eta separatist group, whose violent activities seem to be waning. Rather, the problem is precisely that separatist demands are coming in peaceful political form, giving them a dangerous allure.

[...] Even if one were to concede Basques the theoretical right to self-determination independent of the rest of Spain - as Québécois have been permitted in Canada - it is far from clear that Mr Ibbaretxe has a mandate to put secession to a vote. His plan passed only with the votes of three ex-Batasuna deputies. It artificially turns cultural identity into a political project, making Basque the official language when a smaller proportion speak it than speak Welsh in Wales, and ignoring all those "Spaniards" that have come to work and intermarry in the Basque country over past centuries. The plan is ambiguous in suggesting some kind of negotiated independence without stating it. It would also deliberately create instability by suggesting the Basque majority municipalities in Navarre could join the Basque free state.

In short, Mr Ibbaretxe is over-reaching himself. It is far better for Basque nationalists to pursue their aims through the ballot box than bombs, and Mr Zapatero's offer of autonomy talks is an appropriate response to this switch. But given what Basques already have, there is little more Madrid can give.
By the way, there's a significant mistake in the editorial when it says, "Mr Aznar's banning of the Batasuna leftwing nationalist party a couple of years ago." This is false: the ban was after a law was passed by Parliament, which was supported by both Aznar's PP and Zapatero's Socialist party, seeking to outlaw any party with ties to terrorist networks. It was confirmed as fully constitutional by the Supreme Court and the ruling confirmed by the Constitutional court.