European Parliament puts Basque issue on the table

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European Parliament puts Basque issue on the table

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The Basque problem looks set to split the European Parliament as the chamber braces itself for heated debate. The Spanish government’s peace initiative with ETA- the armed group calling for an autonomous Basque region – is likely to gain widespread support but Spain’s opposition Popular Party is to present its own highly critical resolution.

For France’s Alain Lamassoure, an MEP from the right, it is an unhappy situation. He claims the Spanish government’s stance is a victory for what is largely thought to be the political wing of ETA, the banned Batasuna movement. “It is Batasuna talking” he says, “and not the socialist government and it will not be good for the Basque region.”

But the Spanish government’s initiative has at least brought the issue onto a wider European stage.
Graham Watson of the Liberals: “ If we are going to have a debate here let us have a debate about the European implications of this peace process. Let us make sure that the people who speak in the debate are not from Spain – are not using it to gain access to their particular point of view, but that we have a European debate, hearing from people from other countries and their advice as to how we move forward.”

ETA’s 38-year long campaign for Basque sovereignty has claimed more the 800 lives. But the group announced a ceasefire earlier this year and Spain’s prime minister is proposing a road map to peace with a two-track approach.

But the opposition says there should be no talks until the group completely disarms For ETA and Batasuna anger with the process is growing as despite the peace plans, the Spanish courts and police have continued to persue them arresting activists and banning demonstrations.