Why are Basque nationalists coming to the rescue of the Spanish conservative government?

This article was published first in Open Democracy under the Can Europe make it? series

With only five seats in a Parliament of 350 Members, the Basque Nationalist Party (PNV-EAJ) is playing a crucial role in Spanish politics.

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In a hung parliament, PP’s conservative government can only rely on its 134 MPs and two more that tend to be loyal. About 40 seats short, the government has to negotiate each legislative initiative with the opposition, where two parties stand out as most likely allies in tumultuous waters: the 32 MPs of the central-liberal Ciudadanos (“Citizens”) and the mentioned five from PNV-EAJ. After some political juggling, their support can be enough most of the time.

However, while Ciudadanos is comfortable with PP’s economic policies and anti-devolution Jacobinism, ideology does not explain the PNV-EAJ’s position. PNV-EAJ is closer to the social-democratic PSOE (allegedly closer than PSOE leaders towards each other), and in fact, they share power in the Basque government, in the three Basque provincial governments and in many local councils, including the three main cities.

Even Podemos (“We can”), which is supposed to be to the left of everybody else, included in its Ikea-style 2016 manifesto the expansion of the Basque welfare regime to the rest of Spain, and the recognition of the right to self-determination of the Basque Country and Catalonia, all of which suggests that there could be room for mutual understanding with them too.

But the PNV-EAJ has made a different choice. In essence, Mr Rajoy needs the moderate Basque nationalists to remain in power, and the Basque nationalists know it all too well. After weeks of negotiations, PNV-EAJ has just confirmed it will support the approval of the Spanish budget. Less than one month ago, with its abstention PP facilitated the approval of the Basque government’s budget in the Basque parliament.

Considering the ideological mismatch and the significant disagreement about the very idea of nationhood, how come Basque nationalists seem willing to reach agreements in Madrid with a conservative and unionist party haunted by corruption scandals? Continue reading “Why are Basque nationalists coming to the rescue of the Spanish conservative government?”

Why does the Basque Country seem so quiet about independence nowadays?

This article was published first in Open Democracy.

Basque nationalism has never held more institutional power.

Together, the Basque moderate nationalist party (PNV) and the pro-independence left (Bildu, “Unite”) hold 60% of the vote and 64% of the seats (48/75) at the Parliament of the Basque Country. Navarre, which constitutes a separate administrative region but lies at the core of the Basque motherland in the nationalist narrative, is now ruled by a coalition comprised by a pro-Basque party (Geroa Bai, “Yes to the future”), Bildu and the rather small Spanish Izquierda Unida (“United Left”). Nationalism is in command in all three provincial governments, the three main Basque cities, Pamplona (Hemingway’s and other San Fermin lovers’ delight), and the vast majority of towns in the region.

Considering the nationalist surge in Catalonia and elsewhere in Europe (Scotland, Belgium, Corsica…), why does the Basque Country seem so quiet about independence? I believe this is due to three main factors, one institutional, one historical and a strategic one, and that there is a common thread through all three of them: the economic crisis. Bear with me. Let me explain. Continue reading “Why does the Basque Country seem so quiet about independence nowadays?”

The future of the “Parot doctrine” and the one thing that Spain can teach the UK

echrThe Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights issued today its judgment of the case Del Río Prada v. Spain. By 15 votes to 2, the Court held that Spain has violated Article 7 (no punishment without law) of the European Convention of Human Rights, and has unanimously concluded that since July 2008 Ms. del Río’s detention has not been lawful, in violation of Article 5.1 of the Convention. Consequently, the Court has ordered Spain to ensure the release of the applicant as soon as possible.

This case had generated very high expectations in Spain because Ms. del Río had been convicted for a number of terrorist attacks, including several killings. In February 2006, the Supreme Court departed from its previous interpretation of the Spanish penitentiary legislation and adopted a new criterion (known as “Parot doctrine”, due to the name of the first ETA member it was applied to) based on which the release of ETA prisoners sentenced for crimes committed before 1995 (when the current Criminal Code was adopted) would be delayed for some time. Since 2006, the Parot doctrine has also been applied to non-ETA major perpetrators. The rationale of the Strasbourg Court’s decision is that the applicant could not have foreseen either that the Supreme Court would change its case-law or that this change would affect her. Continue reading “The future of the “Parot doctrine” and the one thing that Spain can teach the UK”

Gobernuko ordezkariari ez zaizkio pailazo hauek gustatzen

Duela aste batzuk Carlos Urquijok, Espainiako Gobernuko ordezkaria Euskadin, EITBko zuzendariari gutun bat bidali zion euskal telebistak Pirritx eta Porrotx pailazoen saiorik eskaini ez zezan eskatuz “ETA erakunde terroristako presoak” babesten dituztelako. Bideo honetan esaten dutenarengatik izan zen:

Continue reading “Gobernuko ordezkariari ez zaizkio pailazo hauek gustatzen”

Ipar Irlandako “Arazoek” Westminsterrekin zerikusirik ez zutela zirudien

Erresuma Batuko Parlamentuak mahai gainean dituen lege proposamenen artean Ipar Irlandari dagokion bat dago. BBCren laburpenaren arabera, lege proiektu honek Ipar Irlandako politika eta instituzioen lanean aldaketa tekniko batzuk proposatzen ditu. Alderdi politikoei egindako dohaintzen gardentasuna hobetuko du eta ordezkari politikoei aldi berean parlamentu ezberdinetan (Irlandakoa, Erresuma Batukoa eta Ipar Irlandakoa bera) parte hartzea debekatuko die. Ipar Irlandako hauteskundeetan ere aldaketa batzuk dakar.

Herenegun, Londresen nengoela, 81. kanala jarri nuen telebistan, BBC Parliament hain zuzen. Momentu horretan bertan ari ziren Ipar Irlandari buruzko lege proiektuari buruz hizketan osoko bilkuran. Komunen Ganbara ia hutsik zegoen, baina horrek ez ninduen batere harritu, maiz gertatzen da eta. Continue reading “Ipar Irlandako “Arazoek” Westminsterrekin zerikusirik ez zutela zirudien”

Basque Country: Looking into the future with the “rights” perspective

111017_declaracion_aieteFrancisco Franco, who ruled Spain with an iron fist for nearly forty years until his death in November 1975, enjoyed visiting the Basque city of San Sebastian every summer. He used to choose the Aiete Palace for his stay, where he met with ambassadors, chaired governmental meetings and did the sort of things dictators normally do in the performance of their functions.

About three decades after his death, the local council took the ironic yet wise decision of setting up an institute for peace and human rights in the very same venue where Franco spent so many nights. On 17 October 2011, Kofi Annan, Bertie Ahern, Gro Harlem Brundtland, Pierre Joxe, Gerry Adams and Jonathan Powell met there with key political, economic and social stakeholders. After the meeting, they issued a declaration calling upon the pro-independence armed group ETA to cease definitively all armed action and requesting both ETA and the Spanish and French Governments to agree to talk about the “consequences of the conflict”. Three days later, ETA called a “definitive cessation” to its 40-year campaign of shootings, bombings and personal threats. Continue reading “Basque Country: Looking into the future with the “rights” perspective”

Sentencia del Tribunal Constitucional sobre Sortu: ¿Seguridad jurídica?

No me iré por las ramas: Creo que es una magnífica noticia que el Tribunal Constitucional haya contradicho al Tribunal Supremo para reconocer la legalidad de Sortu. El mismo día de presentación de este partido escribí en este blog que Sortu tenía que ser legal para que la izquierda abertzale rindiera cuentas ante la sociedad vasca. Y también porque, como dijo el mismo Tribunal Constitucional en el caso Iniciativa Internacionalista (STC 126/2009, de 21 de mayo, F.J. 9º):

(E)s preciso extremar el rigor a la hora de tener por probada la realidad del fraude de una Sentencia de disolución de partidos políticos para disipar el riesgo de que termine por perjudicarse, precisamente, la pluralidad ideológica que la Constitución misma promueve y ampara como un valor fundamental del Ordenamiento. El riesgo, en definitiva, de que, confundiendo la ideología profesada por un partido y los medios defendidos o utilizados para promoverla, se termine por perjudicar a quien comparte esa misma ideología aun cuando no pueda demostrarse que la defiende por medios violentos o que lo haga como puro instrumento de quienes hacen de la violencia terrorista su medio de actuación natural. En tal riesgo se incurre en este caso cuando las conexiones apreciadas se establecen con la sola referencia a la izquierda abertzale. Y es que en nuestro Ordenamiento no cabe excluir ideología alguna, ni por su contenido o sus fundamentos, ni por los medios de los que eventualmente quieran valerse quienes la defienden. Dichos medios, sin embargo, si son violentos, serán inaceptables en cuanto tales, pero sin perjuicio alguno para la ideología a la que pretendan servir.

Por lo tanto, felicitaciones al TC por el fondo de su decisión. Dicho esto, me llaman poderosamente la atención algunas de las palabras y expresiones utilizadas por el Tribunal en su sentencia. Continue reading “Sentencia del Tribunal Constitucional sobre Sortu: ¿Seguridad jurídica?”