News, August 2004

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News theme: Basque politics and ETA

During July and August (2003) many of us were concerned by the numerous attacks by ETA terrorists, for foreigners and Spaniards at large,most notably the hotel bombings in Alicante and Benidorm. Over the winter months, attention moved to the many arrests made and by early March it seemed that ETA was in trouble, but still with plenty of raw recruits able to place bombs if asked. The suddenly the perceived threat changed. On 11th March Spain's perception of terrorism as primarily an internal problem was in a few minutes replaced by the international terror of Al Quaida. ETA terrorists and collaborators have continued to be arrested since that time, but little activity has come to anything. So the government is now faced with an equally serious terro problem, but in facing this alone may fail to resolve the serious internal political isue of the Basque Country.

Basque regional president Ibarretxe produced a proposal in September, 2003, to be passed by the Basque parliament in October, for a much greater degree of regional autonomy. Reactions from the Spanish 'constitutionalist' parties, conservative Partido Popular (PP) and Socialist PSOE were varied. The PP, in government at the time, was determined to maintain the status quo. They believe the regions have sufficient autonomy and that no more freedoms are necessary to allow everyone to feel the liberty demanded by 'extremists'. On the other hand the PSOE, which took over after the 14th March elections, believes the time is ripe for a look into the Constitution to see what further decentralisation can be made, even if this requires adjustments to the Constitution itself. Once in power, president Zapatero met with regional leader Ibarretxe for talks and it seems some compromise may be reached allowing Basque concerns to be accepted. Evidently, this also permits some reduction in the tendency towards supporting extreme elemnts. Links to statements relating to the Ibarretxe Plan can be found on the comment page.

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