The Basque Country – a window of opportunities

December 10, 2012 2:51 pm

Following successful elections in the Basque Country at the end of October – the first to take place without violence by ETA – the time has come for the parties to work together to drive the peace process forward.

What are the principles of conflict transformation?

By Lokarri

Elections were held in the Basque Country on October 21st. They represented a great collective triumph for Basque society, being the first to take place without violence by ETA. This meant that all the political parties were able to carry out their campaigns free of threats. It was very encouraging to see many politicians taking part in campaign activities or simply handing out leaflets in the streets without the presence of bodyguards, and also holding open-air rallies in areas or suburbs where they had never been before.

Another important factor is that all the political formations were able to present their candidatures, with none of them subject to bans. All the social and political sectors will now be represented in the Basque Parliament.

Reactions after the elections have also been encouraging. Almost all the parties have made a call for dialogue and consensus, highlighting pluralism and harmonious co-existence. This is a good starting point.

Now the elections are over, the time has come for the parties to work together to drive the peace process forward. This is of vital importance for consolidating harmonious co-existence. In the absence of conversations between ETA and the [Spanish and French] governments and of changes to prison policy, Basque society needs to be the centrepiece in the peace process. It is up to the parties to take advantage of the opportunity to promote dialogue.

From now until the spring of 2015 there is a two-year period without elections, free of the tensions and urgency that elections generate. Therefore, it is an ideal moment to cooperate, speak and enter into dialogue with the calmness that is required. This election-free period represents a window of opportunity to consolidate peace.

In this respect, Lokarri urges the parties to approach this period with a constructive attitude. We wish to contribute and collaborate in the great collective challenge represented by the peace process, and this has led us to identify and recommended 12 ‘attitudes’ to make the most of this window that has opened up for the peace process.

12 attitudes to take advantage of the window of opportunity in the peace process:

  • 1. The construction of peace is a long and complex process. Basque society is emerging from a period marked by violence, exclusion and the absence of wide-ranging consensuses. This has affected us in a non-constructive way when it comes to coexisting harmoniously and solving our problems. Bringing about the change in the ‘culture of living together’ will not occur overnight. Moreover, although we all want change to happen quickly, peace processes are inevitably imperfect.
  • 2. The most suitable attitude is insistence, acting with patience and perseverance, and acknowledging that progress can be made by routes that are different from those initially foreseen. It is advisable to have a strategic vision, avoiding short-term solutions; we need to think in the long term.
  • 3. Binary considerations (my people/the others, the goodies/the baddies) need to be overcome. All of us – all Basque citizens – live here, and we will continue to do so. We need to understand, respect and cooperate with each other.
  • 4. The responsibility of the political parties, the government and the institutions is to find solutions to society’s problems. They cannot throw in the towel in the face of adversity. Lack of success is understandable, but not making an effort is unacceptable.
  • 5. The desire for peace should take the form of concrete facts: gestures of humanity, taking the aggression out of the language used, and a willingness to cooperate. It is necessary to abandon the debate based on immovable political stances because these prevent understanding. In contrast, each party needs to explain its interest and aspirations, and this helps to find a space for mutual understanding.
  • 6. Society needs to be an active part in the construction of peace. It is a collective task in which everyone has a role to play. It is essential to find ways to involve citizens so that they can have a voice in the peace process.
  • 7. Solutions are more viable if flexible criteria are introduced. The recognition that one’s own proposal allows a margin for discussion and improvement helps to overcome dogmatic stances and facilitates understanding, avoiding impasses.
  • 8. Proposals for advancing in the peace process should, as an objective principle, favour co-operation and consensus without exclusion; they should not be strategic instruments to gain advantages or weaken other parties.
  • 9. On hearing proposals by other political parties, it is advisable to give the benefit of the doubt. Instead of reacting by criticising, asking questions is a good way of understanding the interests and reasons that are behind the positions of each party.
  • 10. The political parties, as important stakeholders in the peace process, should show willingness, competence and capacity to enter into dialogue and reach consensus. It is also important to show empathy, to understand the limiting circumstances and capacities of the others.
  • 11. The construction of peace is an inclusive process. Nobody should be excluded, and it should start with those who are willing to work in that direction, trying to get all sectors on board as time goes by. Likewise, the leadership of the peace process should be shared, encouraging co-operation between the different stances.
  • 12. The participation of entities and individuals that are not a direct part of the problem but who have experience can help, by contributing serenity and new solutions.

Lokarri is a citizens’ network that works for peace, consensus, consultation and reconciliation. To learn more about their work, please click here.

If you are interested in contributing to the debate on conflict in Spain, particularly the Basque Country or Catalonia, then please contact TransConflict by clicking here.

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