The first meeting in more than six months between the Spanish prime minister and the moderate Basque leader has ended with Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero again rejecting Juan Jose Ibarretxe’s self-determination plan for the region.
“The Spanish government cannot support any initiative that doesn’t respect two conditions. First, concensus in the Basque country involving all parties agreeing to a shared civil society they have collectively framed. Second, of course, that all democratic citizens take for granted, that any initiative taken is done so within the legal framework established by our constitiution”, said the PM.
In essence, Rodriguez Zapatero wants any independence plan to be drawn up by all Basques, and not just Ibarretxe’s PNV party, and insists the PNV’s planned referendum in October on increased autonomy in the Basque country is unconstitutional.
Ibarretxe argues that allowing this would give the PNV more clout, with a “yes” vote undermining ETA extremists, and possibly allowing the PNV and Madrid to present a common front.
The alternative, dealing with ETA, could hand them an electoral victory and destroy the PNV, he claimed, saying: “It’s simply unacceptable that subjects the prime minister has discussed and negotiated with ETA, about which I don’t wish to comment, he will not discuss and negotiate with the me, the legitimate democratic representative chosen by the Basque citizens”.
So, do a deal with the PNV, and raise the possibility of pitting Basque against Basque. Deal with ETA, and reward their 40 years of deadly violence. And, it seems, do any deal at all and risk opposition outrage and encourage further separatist ambitions in other Spanish regions. There appears to be no easy, or immediate solution available for the government.