ETA announced its permanent ceasefire on the 22nd of March last year. It was the third truce it had called in 20 years. It deemed the time was right to seek a political solution to its decades old fight for an autonomous homeland, comprising two Spanish regions, the Basque Country and Navarra, as well as the French Basque Country. ETA’s name for it: “Euskal Herria.”
The Spanish government immediately started consulting with the other political parties and was given a unanimous mandate to talk peace with the terrorists.
However, as opposition leader, Rajoy warned the Prime Minister not to do anything which could compromise the state.”
Two months later the pair were no longer talking as Rajoy cut off all relations with Zapatero’s government, accusing it of making secret concessions to ETA.
Others opposed to any dialogue with ETA, lead by the Association for the Victims of Terrorism, with the backing of Rajoy’s PP party, demonstrated in their thousands in Madrid last summer.
But Zapatero said the talks would go ahead regardless.
“Under the resolution adopted by the Spanish congress in May 2005, I am announcing that the government is going to initiate a dialogue with ETA , respecting the principle that political questions like these can only be resolved with public support,” he said.
The European Parliament also gave its backing to the Spanish government to initiate talks.
It is believed the two parties did meet in mid-December but those talks were never officially confirmed.
Then came the bombshell. ETA broke the truce. It attacked Madrid airport. A car bomb killed two people and the government was forced to suspend its peace initiatives.
The months which followed were marked by heavy criticism of the Zapatero government. Even though it ignored any ETA overtures to talk peace again it was attacked for giving in to the hunger striking Jose Ignacio de Juana Chaos, and letting him go home under house arrest.
The recent municipal elections were also overshadowed by the resurgent ETA problem, with candidates banned from the political process being frogmarched from polling stations.