The Basque Problem

On 20th October 2011 the Basque separatist organisation, ETA, announced a definitive end to its activity. For the past half century this terrorist band has been a blight on the life of Spain and especially the Basque Country. The Guardian has a complete file of reports, including the full statement of cessation of activities.

More reports of the cessation can be read at: El País, Telegraph, full text BBC, Guardian picture gallery, Zapatero reaction - BBC.

Remainder of this article, pending update: When in March, 2006, ETA announced a 'permanent ceasefire', hopes were high that a peace process similar to that leading to the disarmament of the IRA was about to begin. When on 30th December of the same year ETA exploded a huge carbomb in a carpark at Madrid's Barajas airport, hopes were buried in the rubble, confirmation of this coming on 5th June '07 when ETA officially called the ceasefire to an end. The bombing of a police station and another aborted attack in Castellón followed in late August, Then just days later the operative base of ETA in France was discovered and 4 supposed terrorists were arrested. Within days new extorsion letters were arriving in the letter boxes of Basque businesses. The Basque problem continues.

The Basque problem goes back to the middle ages, but became a current affairs issue during the latter years of the Franco dictatorship when ETA, the terrorist group, appeared on the scene. Not content with the arrival of democracy and a degree of home rule for the region, the terrorists continue to believe that the only way to gain full home rule is by force.

ETA has been actively supported by parts of the Basque press and a political party, most recently called Batasuna, which was finally banned in March 2003. A running battle went on for months after the Constitutional Court banned Batasuna, political wing of ETA. The Basque parliament refused to expel the elected representatives of Batasuna. In previous elections this party had achieved up to 16% of the vote, underlining the level of support running in the region for this non-democratic approach to gaining home rule.

In more recent elections, new groups have been set up to attempt to gain election to seats in local councils and the regional or national parliaments. In some cases these lists have been found to include people previously linked to Batasuna, resluting in the banning of the parties. In other cases the groups have slipped through the vetting process.

Meanwhile, various proposals for a greater level of independence were made by leading members of the Basque Nationalist Party (conservative party which controlled the regional government until 2009 with the help of the Batasuna votes). The idea was to form a 'Free Associated Community' with almost complete independence of action, with a loose relationship to Spain. However, the proposal would include not just the current Basque Country, but also all or part of Navarre and three French 'Departments'. The initial proposal, published 23rd July by Ibarretxe, the regional president, was rejected out of hand by Spanish leaders. He continued to try for some greater autonomy over the following years without success. Since the 2009 election, in which Socialists and Conservatives of the Partido Popular gained a 'constitutionalist' majority, The so-called Ibarretxe plan is effectively dead.

Bombs and assassination

Sadly, despite the current level of home rule which the Basque regions have, the belief among some that they will never be 'free' without resort to arms continues to cause occasional havoc across Spain and more rarely elsewhere. The most recent attacks included a 2009 campaign in Mallorca causing the death of two policemen.

3/11 Terror bombings in Madrid and the decline of ETA

On 11th March 2004 several bombs exploded on trains in Madrid. Almost 200 were killed and well over 1400 injured. This was not ETA's work. Nevertheless, the bombings, the work of international terror group Al Quaida, marked a special moment in the life of ETA. Already for months, the Spanish and French police had been successfully on the trail of ETA members, arresting a good number. Just a week before the Madrid bombings, two vans full of explosives and headed for Madrid were discovered in a routine road check by police. More arrests followed in the course of 2004, most significantly that of Mikel Anzta, the active leader of the band.

Sadly, despite letters from imprisoned 'historic' members of the band calling for an end to the violence and a move to democratic processes, bombings, killings and the like have continued.

Each year has seen hopeful moves, only to be dashed by new revelations of intent, if not actual attacks.

What next?

For Basque Country general info and prayer requests:click here

For news as it comes in, return to the news page.


In English -

BBC - Who are ETA?
Arrest of leading bomb maker
BBC comment on the Madrid bomb aftermath
Viewpoint Basque Country (BBC)

Guardian comment - paste this site link:,5543,191251,00.html
Good backgound and more links at: the Wikipedia

For excellent info. in Spanish look up: El Mundo on ETA