This is a draft for a play looking at the situation in the Basque Country now: several actors ETA, Batasuna, the government (PSOE), the Basque socialists, the Basque Nationalist Party, Brian Currin and the Irish experts are competing to find a solution to the Basque conflict, and for the next Nobel prize.
The Basque nationalists are being helped by their Irish friends to find an acceptable way out of the conflict. The other actors also search for a way out, but not necessarily the same one, and not necessarily so fast…
Jokers and potential spoilers like the conservatives (PP), the French government or young ETA dissidents are waiting for the right moment to interfere to ruin everything. The Spanish socialist government themselves are hesitating about the most rewarding option…
Act 1 and 2 are roughly written. Act 3 is waiting. Let’s try to write it!
*starring ETA, Batasuna, PSOE, PSE, PNV, PP, The French, Brian Currin, the Irish Experts, The “Friendship”, signatories of the “Declaration of Brussels”… (some notes about the actors’ personalities can be found scrolling down to the bottom)
The Basque Country, for most activity of the protagonists, and Spain. France, for rear bases of ETA, and for arrests of ETA heads every six months (official calendar). Oslo, London, Geneva, Brussels, Strasbourg for talks, contacts with international mediators and supports for the peace process.
“Staging tragedy in the Basque Country.
A draft beginning for a collective writing”
Act 1, Scene 1:
ETA has been using violence to gain independence for the Basque Country for more than 40 years. Nothing could stop them: the Francoist dictatorship, the transition to democracy, Democracy itself, socialist governments, conservative governments, autonomy, repression, torture, negotiations, arrests, killings, ceasefires, dirty wars, police cooperation, illegalization of political parties… had no effect. Some of them even made ETA stronger. Permanent ceasefires never lasted very long. All are desperate. All are full of hope.
Act 1, scene 2:
When he arrived in power, a few days after the Madrid bombings (March 11, 2004), Zapatero committed himself to finding a solution to the Basque problem.
He publicly announced that his government would involve in a peace process and in talks with ETA (he was advised on this by Tony Blair). The parliament gave him support for that.
Talks began between government (through the Basque PSE) and ETA, until they were called off after ETA’s bombing of the Madrid Barajas airport car park on December 30th 2006, killing two Equatorian men who were sleeping in their car. Though ETA claimed their death was accidental, talks couldn’t resume. End of peace process.
Act 1, scene 3:
Since then, being under pressure from the PP (who couldn’t stop laughing though they probably had lost the elections because of trying to blame ETA for the Al Quaeda Madrid Bombings), the socialist government has officially refused to have any contact with ETA.
So they reinforced repressive policies, arrests of ETA’s members, illegalization of the organizations presumably linked to ETA, and arrest of their members as “sharing the same aims” as ETA members. But illegalization and criminalization of the independence movement makes new martyrs, and new recruits join…
Act 2, scene 1:
Frequent arrests of ETA members in the last years, mainly in France, make believe that the organization is under high police pressure, and seriously weakened. The governments are now betting on that perspective.
Simultaneously, pressure from within the Basque Country for a peace process with inclusive talks on the Irish model, is increasing.
External pressure is also increasing through the growing involvement of the Irish connection, of the international community, of Brian Currin and his team of “facilitators” sent by the signatories of Brussels.
Who are those “facilitators”? Some of them may be Irish… but that secret is still well kept. Who will know first?
Act 2, scene 2:
In the last year, the illegal nationalist left Batasuna have clearly demarcated from violence and call ETA to abandon violent struggle and to opt for the political way.
They are hoping to be legalized before the local elections due in spring 2011, but the government don’t want them to stand. “This is not enough! ETA must disappear and disband first!” do they repeat incessantly. The PNV also hesitates: legalization might be the way, but a new competitor on the local electoral scene…
Act 2, scene 3:
ETA declared a unilateral ceasefire on September 5th, saying that they would not use violence.
A week later, they declared they had heard the calls of the Declaration of Brussels, of the Friendship, and would respond to them.
At the same time, the parties of the nationalist left are working towards their alliance into something that will probably be a broad party of the Basque left with (Aralar, Eusko Alkartasuna, Alternativa and Batasuna), which will be much harder to illegalize. For that purpose, Batasuna are recruiting “clean” candidates (who were not “contaminated” by too much ETA proximity or former Batasuna mandates). This party or coalition, if it succeeds to stand in the next local elections, may become a real threat to the traditionally dominating PNV.
Act 2, scene 4:
The PNV, who have been expelled from power by the unnatural alliance of PSE and PP, are challenged on their left by the construction of this movement. Luckily, their 6 MPs in Madrid are in a position to reverse the majority. Their support to the government was bought with the transfer of a set of competences to the Basque autonomous executive recently.
The PNV reasserted its commitment to the statutory autonomy (not independence as advocated by the nationalist left), and a new era of pleasant relationships has begun with the PSOE… That opens possibilities for a future alliance in the Basque parliament, to marginalize the PP and counter the rising united nationalist left. So what are the interests of the conservative PP? Ruin it all?
At the moment, the Basque government anti-nationalist (and anti-terrorist) coalition of PSE and PP still holds, but for how long?… Suspense is merely unbearable!
Act 2, scene 5:
Last week, Arnaldo Otegi and other leaders of the nationalist left were being judged for “apology of terrorism” and links with ETA for their role in a public meeting in which the nationalist left issued a peace proposal in 2004, with an agenda for a peace process and political negotiations. The propositions were public, concerted with other political parties, and included talks that took place with the PSE and PSOE… The issue of this judgment will say a lot about the attitude of the government towards legalization of the parties, and its will to involve in the peace process.
Act 3, scene 1?
So what will happen now?
Are ETA going to accept to abandon armed struggle as Brian Currin asked them last week, arguing that they now have no other solution if they want to get out of the deadlock? It seems that he has convinced everyone that if ETA accepts, talks, negotiations, and legalization might happen at a very fast pace. Even the government? If so, Rubalcaba (interior minister) is a brilliant actor.
Currin and Egiguren (president of Basque PSE, in contacts with the nationalist left) agree that a complete and verifiable cease of violence might be assessed by the facilitators for Christmas.
The peace process in Northern Ireland has always been The Reference for the Basques. At the moment, the presence of Irish and Northern Irish people has never been so intense over there: Adams, Maskey, De Brún and others have entered the competition for the next Nobel prize: will they succeed in exporting their method?
Will they also advise about how to deal with possible dissidents?
Will the Spanish Government, who felt they had been mistaken by Blair’s advice during the last process, accept to involve in talks again? Will they resist PP’s hardline pressure?
Will they concede symbolic steps? A representation in Brussels?
Will the world champions concede a football team?
To be continued… Speculation is now open, betting is permitted, even dreaming is allowed! It’s up to you!
**further presentation of some performers:
- ETA (Euskadi Ta Askatasuna – Basque Country and Freedom), who declared a unilateral ceasefire on September 5thth one), through a video given to a BBC journalist in a Paris train station. 2010 (the 12
- Batasuna, illegal political party whose leader is in jail (Arnaldo Otegi), who have entered the process of condemning violence, who now ask ETA for a complete cease of violence, and who commit themselves to act only through the political way.
- The PSOE (Spanish Socialist Party) who are in government in Spain, and who would be happy to solve the Basque question, as they can’t solve the financial crisis. For this purpose, they reshuffled the government in the last days of October and promoted the Interior Minister Rubalcaba as Vice-President of the government, which signifies that security and antiterrorism becomes the priority for the government. Rubalcaba dreams, like most of the PSOE, of a quick police victory over ETA. PSOE alternately or simultaneously used repression, dirty war, or negotiations in trying to solve the Basque problem.
- The PSE (Basque Socialist Party), in power in the Basque autonomous parliament as the result of a strategic coalition agreement with the PP (Partido Popular) that removed the PNV from 30 years of power. The PSE is divided on the issue: the President of the Basque Government (Lopez) is supporting a Rubalcaba-type solution, whereas the President of the party (Egiguren) is the negotiator of the last talks and favours a negociated settlement. He is having talks with Batasuna, the Basque left, and presumably ETA.
- The PNV (Basque Nationalist Party), who just obtained the transfer of 20 new competences to the Basque autonomous executive as the PSOE depends on its support to keep a majority in the national parliament (Cortes). The PNV has been very bitter when removed from 30 years of power (1979-2009) in the Basque. PNV usually swings alliances between PSOE or PP, depending on conditions…
- The PP (Partido Popular), in opposition at the national level, sharing power with PSE in the Basque autonomous community. Radically anti-nationalist. They lost the general election in 2004, most certainly because they tried desperately to blame ETA for the Madrid bombings of March 11th 2004, when it was obvious that it was Al Quaeda’s modus operandi. The maneuver appeared to be too big to be taken for granted by the elctorate.
- The French authorities are silent. There is no Basque problem (and no Basque country, and no Basque people), but they are always happy to help to ruin a peace process by detaining negotiators, or supporting a dirty war.
- Brian Currin, a South African lawyer involved in the Truth and Reconciliation commissions there, who is at the head of a team of five “intenational facilitators” currently operating in the Basque Country in search of a solution. The Spanish authorities suspect him of being too sympathetic to the nationalist cause.
- The Experts: Sinn Fein officials (Gerry Adams, Alex Maskey, Barbre de Brún) who intensify they consultancy action and meet with the nationalists, with ETA, with the PSE and PSOE, in the Basque Country, Brussels or Strasbourg. They call ETA to cease violence, and pursue its aims politically.
- The “Friendship”, group of MEPs promoting a peace process in the Basque Country; the signatories of the “Declaration of Brussels”, April 2010: international supporters of the peace process such as Nelson Mandela Foundation, Desmond Tutu, Frederik W. De Klerk, Mary Robinson, John Hume, Albert Reynolds, Jonathan Powell, Nuala O’Loan, Raymond Kendal, Betty Williams, Denis Haughey, Aldo Civico, Sheryl Brown, Christopher Mitchell… A very high density of Irish experts in both groups. Call for end of violence, inclusive talks, and legalization of the independentist political parties.
Previous contributors to the scenario:
- Sabino Arana, the inventor of Basque Nationalism, 1890s.
- Francisco Franco, the killer of the Republic and of the first still born Basque autonomy, oppressor of the Basque people, stimulator for ETA’s birth (1959) and development.
- The Constitution, keeper of the unity of the Spanish nation (1978).