Basque Country – concrete steps in the peace process

Concrete steps in the peace process – such as the cessation of violence by ETA, the legalisation of Sortu and repeal of the Parot Doctrine – can provide the basis for consolidating co-existence, based upon respect for human rights, pluralism and memory.

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Conflict Background


By Lokarri

The second anniversary of ETA’s ending of violence recently passed. An analysis of the present situation of the peace process and the normalisation of coexistence allows us to conclude that there are serious difficulties and obstacles to making progress. Basically, they fall into four main groups – 1) ETA has not taken steps towards its effective disarmament, 2) the Spanish government still refuses to contribute to the consolidation of peace, 3) the political parties have great difficulty in articulating an ordered dialogue to agree on the basis for future coexistence, and 4) attitudes and discourses are still rooted in the past, underlying responsibilities and not solutions.

Lokarri is aware of all these difficulties. Possibly encouraged by a hope that some people think is closer to naivety, we may have fallen into the temptation of thinking that the consolidation of peace would be a simpler task than it has proven to be. In November Lokarri participated in a seminar held in Zagreb, Croatia, that explored dealing with the past in situations after a violent conflict. A number of organisations from the Balkans and Northern Ireland participated. It was striking that when comparing the serious divisions that still exist in those two parts of Europe, and given the level of cohesion of Basque society, it can be considered that we are now in a better position to deal with what happened in the past and disseminate a culture of peace, thereby helping avoid a repetition of so much suffering in the future. If this is the case, why is it so hard for us to make progress?

There is no easy answer to this question, but we could use two ideas that can guide us in our search for an explanation. First, we need to embrace the idea that we are emerging from a really difficult phase that has left behind terrible consequences which do not disappear overnight. Second, it is neither feasible nor realistic to try and find a solution to all the problems at the same time. A peace process involves moments when we make progress, and others when difficulties emerge.

The last two years have been fruitful in terms of progress. For example, ETA has abandoned violence, Sortu has been legalised, the ECHR has repealed the Parot Doctrine and acts of reconciliation and mutual recognition have multiplied, such as the Glencree initiative and the recent tribute to Joseba Goikoetxea. The result has been the disappearance of the threat from ETA, the presence of all political tendencies within institutions, a stronger guarantee of the human rights of prisoners and a gradual normalization of coexistence in society. These are all improvements in a situation that is unlikely – if not impossible – to go backwards.

These concrete steps can be the basis on which new progress can be achieved in order to reach the ultimate objective – the consolidation of coexistence based upon respect for human rights, pluralism and memory. The end of violence needs to be accompanied by the start of the effective disarmament of ETA. For legalisation, a sincere and constructive dialogue is needed among all political parties. Following the repeal of the Parot Doctrine, there has been an improvement in the situation of prisoners. Following acts of mutual recognition, ever more small gestures of respect and empathy are happening. That is the only way we can build, stone by stone, the road to harmonious coexistence.

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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  1. Pingback : Basque Country – concrete steps in the peace process : Alliance for Peacebuilding

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