Saturday, 25 March 2006

Estatut, Spain and the ceasefire

Well, surely nobody can complain about Spanish politics being boring?

Against the backdrop of a Catalan Estatut (an updated framework for a devolved Catalan administration) being chopped, curtailed and cut back to ridiculously embarrassing levels, ETA has announced a ceasefire. This has happened the very next day that the scaled-back Catalan Estatut was approved by the Spanish Parliament specially set up committee, prior to being sent to Parliament for a vote and then to be voted in a referendum in Catalonia.

Sadly, I have not had time to write about this humiliating "bending down" of “our” politicians of the PSC-PSOE, CiU and the neo-communists of IC-EV. Only one party has stood firm in defending the draft text approved by the four political parties representing 90% of the electorate. I wish that one day, ERC will become again the majority political party in Catalonia. It will take time, but it is inevitable.

In summary, what happened can be explained thus:

- The four main political parties in Catalonia, representing about 90% of the electorate (as ever, the right-wingers of the PP excluded themselves from this process) approved a draft text on 30 September 2005.

- Whatever the Spanish press says, this draft text is nothing more than an update of the 1979 Estatut (or Chapter of Autonomy). Needless to say, the Basques and the Navarrese have many more devolved powers, including fiscal policy. The draft approved by the Catalan Parliament on 30th September 2005 was nothing more than an overdue update of a text that has always fallen short of our aspirations.

- Because Spain is a pseudo-democracy, unable and unwilling to respect the will of its constituents nations and peoples, this text has to be approved by the Spanish Parliament in Madrid. With all the Spanish press against it, what should have been a mere administrative process (i.e: the Spanish parliament approves what has been approved by the Catalan representatives), turns out to be a trimming exercise. Right or left, the Spanish press has always provided a united front against any advancement, social or economical, of Catalonia. This created the context for the vengeful and antidemocratic amendment of the text approved in Barcelona.

- As ever, the Spaniards get more than a little hand from our worst enemies: ourselves and the cowards and traitors we elect. Once again, the so-called ‘moderate nationalists’ of CiU manoeuvred a secret pact in the back-room instead of presenting a united front with the other 2 parties. And I say 2, because the PSC-PSOE, the local branch of the Spanish Labour party, had already capitulated as soon as they were told off by their Spanish masters. Shame on them both. In Catalonia, over the last couple of centuries we have had our fair share of traitors and collaborationists; we even have our own word for this despicable scum: “botifler”. History is never kind to traitors. When history books are rewritten in a free Catalonia, we will refer to the scum that sold out to Spain as traitors, cowardly scumbags.

- To cut a long story short, the text that will be voted in a referendum is a joke. This is the kind of text that should have been approved in 1979, not in 2006. Yet, this shameful episode has shown up again how weak some of our compatriots are, and also how powerful is our enemy. They have everything going for them: they have the vast resources of the State, the media, the international alliances, the police, the military and the whole civil service. And if that was not enough, they also enjoy the help of some of our coward representatives.

With all this happening, ETA declares a “permanent ceasefire”. Once again, like in the late 1970s, the Basques play their own game and they don’t give two monkeys about us. Good luck to them, they deserve it. At least their politicians are not cowards who would sell their mothers for a handful of spare cash.

What will happen next is anyone’s guess but one thing is certain: a prospective peace process will highlight the deficiencies of Spain’s democracy. Once again, the FT editorialist is spot on, if a bit conservative and prudent, as one would expect from such organ:
- It calls for the PP to stop acting like a neo-fascist party.
- It denounces the terrorist activities of the Spanish state in the 1980s and even now with the treatment of ETA prisoners contravening the Declaration of Human Rights.
- It points out to the fact that, unlike the UK, Spain is not prepare yet to concede ground on the issues of self-determination and territoriality.

And this last third point is in my view the biggest obstacle to a peaceful solution: until Spain does not amend its 1978 Constitution to bring it to the 21 Century there will be no solution to this conflict.

An international campaign should start to force the Spanish governement to drop Article 8 of the Constitution, which grants the Armed Forces the right to attach the people of the Basque Country and Catalonia.

I attach below the FT editorial from the 24th March 2006. Will Spain listen? I don’t hold my breadth….

Links: (the draft text approved on 30th September 2005, in Spanish, Catalan, Aranese, French and English, plus other documents in Catalan/Spanish) (a pathetic web site set up by the local branch of the Spanish labour party, PSC-PSOE, trying to explain to Spain the Estatut. Funnily enough, the draft text approved on 30th September 2005 cannot be found now...) (the only political party that defends our interests, both as a nation and with socially responsible policies)

FT editorial – 24th March 2006.

Beginning of the end

Today's permanent ceasefire declared by ETA, the Basque separatist group, is a real chance to take the gun out of Basque and Spanish politics once and for all. Delicate but hard-nosed management will be needed if it is to become the foundation stone of peace.
Radical Basque nationalism emerged as a response to Franco's vengeful dictatorship, which tried to obliterate Basque language and culture. The political challenge now is to understand why a violent independence movement has survived for 30 years under a democracy that has seen the unique Basque identity re-emerge triumphant - and thereby avoid the mistakes that have kept Eta in business.
Both big Spanish parties, the governing Socialists and opposition Popular party, have behaved irresponsibly in the past. During Felipe Gonzalez's premiership, the Socialists licensed death squads against the Eta milieu. Under José María Aznar's government, the right saw electoral profit in deliberately polarising Basque politics in order to boost votes elsewhere in Spain. Such tactics gave a morally bankrupt terrorist rump a new lease of life and a fig-leaf of legitimacy.
Against this background, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, Spain's prime minister, courageously offered Eta talks if they laid down their arms. He judged the moment well. After 9/11, and the Madrid and London bombings, tolerance for terror as a tactic evaporated. The IRA gave up the armed struggle last summer and Eta was reeling from infiltration that has cost it 400 arrests.
Mr Zapatero has a mandate from parliament to pursue talks. But his anything but loyal opposition - still unreconciled to losing the 2004 elections - is conjuring up the spectre of Spain's disintegration, especially as this government is open to more home rule for both Catalans and Basques.
While Spain's asymmetric federalism does raise legitimate concerns, these are mostly to do with equity between rich and poor regions. The Popular party is playing a dangerous game of reviving the inflammatory political idiom of Francoism, of "the two Spains" and the civil war. If it cannot be bipartisan on a matter of state it should at least be responsible.
Difficult decisions lie ahead. If the ceasefire becomes a formal end to hostilities there will, for example, eventually have to be a phased release of Eta prisoners in Spain and France. That will enrage the opposition and families of Eta victims. Mr Zapatero cannot constitutionally offer a democratic route to Basque secession, moreover, in the way that Tony Blair could hold out to Irish republicans the eventual prospect of an Ireland united by democratic consent.
The most plausible way forward is through expanded powers of self-government that would probably satisfy most Basques. Those who will only be satisfied by independence must have the right to pursue it - but only by peaceful and democratic means.