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.


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?”

No existen alicientes para hacer las cosas bien

Jordi Évole dedica su programa de ayer a la Justicia. Como suele ser habitual en él, el episodio es delicioso. Una de las personas entrevistadas fue José María Mena, ex fiscal jefe del Tribunal Superior de Justicia de Cataluña. Con tono llano y pausado, el Sr. Mena hace unas declaraciones escalofriantes. Entre otras cuestiones, el Sr. Mena lamentó que los jueces y magistrados no tienen alicientes para hacer las cosas bien. El Sr. Mena no lo critica; se limita a describir la realidad. No es que el Sr. Mena proponga una solución; no es que piense que los jueces deban cobrar pluses en función de la profundidad de su resolución o de la celeridad del proceso. El sistema funciona simplemente así: el juez cobra igualmente su sueldo con independencia de que decida llevar a cabo la más exhaustiva de las investigaciones hasta sus últimas consecuencias o, por el contrario, prefiera lavarse las manos. Hay una gran tentación para dejar que ‘el marrón se lo coma otro’. No es de extrañar que, siendo así, muchos jueces ‘no se vendan, sino que se regalen’, tomando decisiones que satisfacen a grupos etéreos de poder, con el único fin de sentirse parte de un determinado estrato social. En resumen: si no hay alicientes para hacer las cosas bien, ¿por qué molestarse en no hacerlas mal? Continue reading “No existen alicientes para hacer las cosas bien”