Basque Separatism
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2004 marked ETAs (Euzkadi ta Askatasuna) 35-year campaign for a sovereign Basque state (BBC, 2004). This campaign, since its first lethal attack in 1967 has claimed more than 800 lives (Mees, L., 2001). While ETAs campaign strays far from the intentions of ordinary Basque, it has given a bloodied image to the Basque conflict.

Recently, the Spanish government has achieved more success in controlling ETA. This can be attributed to the stronger collaboration with French authorities especially regarding the issues of border controls (wikipedia, Politics of Spain, 2005). ETA has also suffered damaging financial set backs since the 1987 bombing at a supermarket garage in Barcelona which killed twenty-four innocent people (, Spain Basque Terrorist 2000). This and a similar incident in the same year resulted even lower support for the already unpopular ETA – which also resulted in an almost complete loss of revolutionary tax as an income. ETAs violent approach towards Basque sovereignty has also changed the face of Basque politics. In 1992, a social movement for dialogue and agreement in the Basque Country was born. This social movement known as Elkarri was set up to defend and mobilise the model of a peaceful and dialogue solution to the Basque conflict. Elkarri, along with other Basque peace movements, symbolises the direct reaction of the people over the violent nature ETAs activities.

Significant events in contemporary Basque history include the Agreement of Lizarra and the indefinite cease fire by ETA which followed. (Mees L. 2001). The Agreement of Lizarra, written after an analysis of the Northern Irish peace agreement, was signed in 1998 by all the nationalist parties, the two nationalist unions and other organizations (Mees L. 2001, p.813). However, the ceasefire broke down in November 1999 when ETA blamed the lack of progress in peace talks with Jose Maria Aznars government (BBC, Eta Key Events. 2004). Soon after, ETA resumed its violent campaign and little progress has been achieved since. In 2004, ETA was initially accused of carrying out the March 11th bombings in Madrid. The method of attack did not reflect ETAs as they traditionally informed public locations of a bomb to allow civilian evacuation. The Madrid attack was later linked to Islamist groups (BBC, Eta Key Events. 2004). By April, the banned political party Batasuna said that Eta was ready to start talks with the new Spanish government (BBC, Eta ready to announce ceasefire 2004). Batasuna, now renamed the Patriotic Socialists has denied being the political wing of ETA despite speaking on their behalf on occasions. However, on 12th October 2005, the Spanish airport Zaragoza, was shut after ETA had warned of an attack.

In view of the continuing violence in the name of Basque, Elkarri highlights that “although Spain has been a democratic state for almost 30 years, the volatile conflict concerning Basque nationalism and self-determination has not yet been constructively addressed” ( The Coexistence Initiative, Meeting report 3-4 April, 2002). Therefore to understand the conflict as we know it today, it is important to look at the historical factors which allowed Basque self-determinism to take the shape it does today. For the many Basques, the start of the war for a sovereign Basque state is as far as their memories and oral history will take them. Therefore, it is not surprising that the Basque conflict might be seen as an ancient hatred between incompatible ethnic groups. Contemporary arguments about the origins of the Basque conflict put the blame on the Francoist era. However, the roots of the conflict go much deeper into history than that but can be attributed to a few key historical factors namely weak Spanish nationalism, industrialisation and modernisation, the Francoist era and the modern day Spanish government.

Ludger Mees, in his analysis of the conflict suggest that the roots go back to the “fifteenth century and the beginning of Spanish state-building” (Mees L. 2001, p. 800) and its failure in building a strong Spanish identity and in absorbing the Basque Provinces. The marriage of Catholic Kings Isabela and Fernando meant the unification of the two powerful kingdoms of Aragon and Castile. The monarchy had a strong policy of territorial, religious and cultural unification which was carried out under the name of the Inquisition, which paved the way for a modern administrative nation (Mees L. 2001, p.800. In many other ways, Spain had become a nation state, with or without much realisation. However, in the 19th century when most European countries began forming nation-states, the strength of the Spanish nation had waned. By the nineteenth century, Spain had spent most of its resources in territorial expansion. Therefore, when it lost all of its colonies in 1898, it became a financially and politically weak state. As a result Spanish nationalism was also weak and never took the form of a movement.

The weak Spanish state would in many ways set the stage for the Basque conflict to evolve from. Firstly, in Catalan and Basque the political power rested in the hands of the aristocratic elite while a bourgeoisie existed in the periphery. This structured role of self-governance, known as the Fueros gave the Spanish government little excuse to integrate them into a single national framework (Mees L. 2001. p.801). The late creation of Spanish national symbols such as flag, anthem and historical myths resulted in the lack of focal points for Spanish nationalism. These were simple but ultimately important symbols as later on, Basque nationalism took shape alongside the creation of a Basque flag, anthem and standardisation of its language (Mees L. 2001). Apart from national symbols, Spain, in its then bankrupt state had failed to provide public education. During the nineteenth century, public education was seen as a vehicle for nationalism. In Spain, education remained controlled by the Catholic Church, whose responsibility did not involve instilling loyalty to the state (Mees L. 2001, p.801). The creation of the national army suffered the similar fate. The Spanish national army was not powered by nationals but members of the lower classes, who could not pay the necessary sum to free oneself from service (Mees L. 2001, p.801).

During the nineteenth century the Basque people also saw a class conflict which would later cause them to unite under the banner of Basque nationalism, made possible by the weak Spanish nationalism derived from the previous explanation. The Fueros, while guaranteeing the political influence of the traditional agrarian elites in parliament, sidelined the emergent industrial and commercial bourgeoisie. As a result, Basque liberals demanded the reform of the Fueros

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Sovereign Basque State And Spanish Government. (April 3, 2021). Retrieved from