Friday, July 07, 2006

Chronicle Of A Peace Process….Basque Socialists Meet With Batasuna

This week has seen the meeting between the Basque section of the Spanish Socialist Party, and Batasuna, ETA’s political wing. The proposal for the meeting was deeply controversial, as is almost every move being made in this process, and also provided the first test of the attitude taken by newly returned judge Baltasar Garzon (Here Comes The Judge). Garzon decided against prohibiting the meeting, a move which would have put him into the centre of a political storm, and so it went ahead yesterday.

More than anything else, the meeting seems to have been designed to serve two purposes, firstly to get people used to the idea that the peace process will involve open contacts with ETA and Batasuna, and secondly as a forum for an initial declaration of political positions. The Basque Socialist leader, Patxi López, has told Batasuna that the way forward for them is to take steps that will lead to them recovering their status as a legal party. The key aspect in this would have to be a clear rejection of support for political violence. Batasuna declared that the objective has to be a global agreement that respects the plurality of Basque society.

The Partido Popular (PP), which used the calling of this meeting as the pretext for breaking with the government on the peace process, has described the meeting as a surrender to terrorism and are threatening to take legal action. The president of the Association of Victims of Terrorism called the meeting “the highest form of treason”, and PP leader Mariano Rajoy has declared that Zapatero does not represent the Spanish state in this negotiation. Strong stuff, many of the right wing blogs are busily spreading claims that the government has already agreed concessions with ETA, including self-determination for the Basque country and the inclusion of Navarra in the Basque Country. All of this is nonsense and not sustained by even the slightest fragment of evidence, but that does not worry those who make the allegations – the PP cannot hope to make any headway opposing the negotiations unless it can present it as a surrender by the government.

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