ETA ‘Calls Permanent Ceasefire’

Now this is news (even if it not entirely unexpected).

The Basque separatist group ETA on Tuesday announced a permanent cease-fire, apparently bringing a dramatic end to nearly four decades of violence that claimed more than 800 lives, Basque television reported following a communique from the group.

The authenticity of the announcement could not immediately be verified, but ETA often uses local Basque media outlets to issue statements. The group said the cease-fire would start Saturday, and that it would be “permanent.”

Speculation about an end to ETA’s armed campaign has been building for months, despite a recent wave of small-scale bombings against Basque businesses.
Source Reuters

The origin of this report is the Basque Newsd Agency EITB24, and the english version of this site does seem to does seem to be collapsed by all the traffic at the moment. However, if you can access, this thread is the one to watch (and this review of ETA statements, and this history of ETA ceasefires, are obviously highly relevant).

I don’t have time for much in depth commentary and analysis about all this right now, so please consider this post an open thread for any comments or questions, which I will try and answer if I can.

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About Edward Hugh

Edward 'the bonobo is a Catalan economist of British extraction. After being born, brought-up and educated in the United Kingdom, Edward subsequently settled in Barcelona where he has now lived for over 15 years. As a consequence Edward considers himself to be "Catalan by adoption". He has also to some extent been "adopted by Catalonia", since throughout the current economic crisis he has been a constant voice on TV, radio and in the press arguing in favor of the need for some kind of internal devaluation if Spain wants to stay inside the Euro. By inclination he is a macro economist, but his obsession with trying to understand the economic impact of demographic changes has often taken him far from home, off and away from the more tranquil and placid pastures of the dismal science, into the bracken and thicket of demography, anthropology, biology, sociology and systems theory. All of which has lead him to ask himself whether Thomas Wolfe was not in fact right when he asserted that the fact of the matter is "you can never go home again".

13 thoughts on “ETA ‘Calls Permanent Ceasefire’

  1. “Any chance of splinter groups picking up the slack?”

    I seriously doubt it. Eta really is on its last legs. The decision will have political significance though, because while Eta is finished, Batasuna – the political party – is far from finished, in fact it came out of the last elections as strong as ever. So one era comes to an end, and another begins. The important thing is that it will be an era of democratic debate without the long shadow of violence.

    Spain is in the process of a big change. Yesterday the final text of the Catalan Statute was agreed by the Parliamentary Commission in Madrid (today’s announcement is no coincidence in this sense). A road map is being followed here.

  2. This is obviously great news, but I don’t have a good idea of how this will affect support for Batasuna and the ruling PNV in the Basque country. Batasuna may gain, but I know at least some of its support came about precisely because of its “ambiguous” relationship to ETA.

    How will this affect the national parties? Are the Socialists going to get a big lift out of this? Does this further hurt the PP after the Catalonia debacle?

  3. “How will this affect the national parties?”

    Well this is the big question. I think it is important to bear in mind that the whole political panorama in Spain is changing.

    Spain is a two party democracy in terms of ‘Spain proper’ (ie outside Catalonia, the Basque Country and Galicia), but when you take into account the other areas neither party has a natural majority, they rely on alliances in one form or another with parties in ‘the other Spain’. This situation is about to be changed even further by the recent massive immigration. If they stay there are about 4 million migrants who could be voting in 5 years or so.

    So for these national parties to govern they need to flexibilise their positions on many questions.

    “Does this further hurt the PP after the Catalonia debacle?”

    Well it certainly means one era (possibly the Aznar one??) is coming to an end. Which way will the PP go? This is the big question. The more moderate PP mayor of Madrid – Ruiz Gallardon – has recently thrown his hat into the leadership ring. Mariano Rajoy is giving his conditional support to the peace process in the Spanish parliament as I write. ‘Naysaying’is now no-longer a viable strategy, as the vast majority of Spanish people want a real end to this horrid nightmare.

    “I don’t have a good idea of how this will affect support for Batasuna and the ruling PNV in the Basque country.”

    Well this is it, no-one does. Batasuna remember is a ‘left’ party, PNV is Christian Democrat (although pressure from the PP had them forced out of the European group). So there isn’t a natural alliance.

    Many observers think that the eventual outcome will be a government of the ‘left’ in the Basque country, with an alliance between the Basque section of the PSOE (the PSE) and Batasuna, but this would only be possible after Eta has fully disolved which could still be years away.

    This model would then follow the Catalan one where the PSOE in Catalonia (the PSC) is, remember, in alliance with ERC.

    So where does that leave the PP? Well if it wants to govern it will need to be able to ally itself with PNV (which it was in the past, before the ‘radicalisation’ of Aznar) and with CiU in Catalonia, and it will have to start reaching out to the immigrants. This would mean abandoning the exclusivist nationalist discourse of La España Una Y Grande which has defined it one way or another in recent years. It would also probably mean its recognition of the fact that Spain is a nation of nations, and that Euskadi and Catalonia are nations.

    Can it do this? That is the big question and the great unknown.

  4. Well, PP will sell (it is sellingalready) the version of a govenrment who is surrendering to ETA. If the truce becomes really permanent (ETA has declared four truces up to now) the socialists will
    be considered heroes. If it fails, they will be traitors.
    Maybe it sounds simplistic but this is
    how my country has always behaved.

  5. Hi again Demostoles

    “If the truce becomes really permanent (ETA has declared four truces up to now) the socialists will be considered heroes. If it fails, they will be traitors.”

    Yes, you are right. But I think that this time there is some real possibility that this is the begining of the end (of domestic terrorism in Spain) and the end of the begining of a free and open debate (without any arms on the table) about what Spain will be like in the future. Of course no-one knows how this will turn out, or what sort of future this will be.

    Which is why I think you need to take the PP positioning seriously, they have to take out ‘options’ too.

    The interesting thing is what Zapatero can offer in the short term to keep the ‘talks’ open. Clearly he won’t want to advance very far before the next elections in Spain, this would be far too complicated politically. One point that many commmentators here (in Barcelona) are highlighting is the potential role of France. The Eta statement made specific mention of negotiations with the French state as well as with the Spanish one, and people point to what has been happening vis-a-vis Corsica. Many eta prisoners are actually in France, and it could be much easier for the French to make concessions here. Just a thought.

    What we still don’t know is what was actually agreed between Zapatero and Ibarretxe in that three hour meeting in the Montcloa in December 2004.

    The bottom line is the fact that so many years of violence will not be overcome easily. I think however a start has been made.

    “… who is next?”

    This is of course a very interesting question. Few seem to have noticed or to have commented on the fact that the ‘Islamic Brotherhood’ in Egypt also took a decision to abandon violence. This is what enabled them to participate in the recent Egyptian elections. This draws attention to the fact that even without resort to terrorism, it doesn’t mean you are necessarily going to like the political values that people espouse. The US itself has been trying to persuade the Sunni insurgency in Iraq to abandon the use of arms and to participate in a political process. Ditto with Hamas in Palestine. I see many possibilities, but few easy solutions.

  6. This “favourable” development gives the PSOE a chance to move up the elections and avoid having the real estate bubble (the real hot potato) from popping in their face before securing a fresh mandate.

    The PP will be working the ETA angle ostensibly, but their main line of attack will be a media blitz to turn public sentiment regarding house prices, which is the only thing that is keeping the real estate crash from manifesting itself fully.



  7. Listening to the debate on the radio here, it occurs to me that one point may be worth clarifying.

    When I talk about the Spanish and French governments ‘negotiating with eta’ I think it is important to be clear what this means.

    There are no negotiations (and there will be no negotiations) with eta about the political future of either France or Spain. Eta is a terrorist organisation and not a valid political interlocutor. What there will be negotiations with Eta about is the dissolution of eta itself, and the destruction of its store of armaments (as has happened with the IRA). The Spanish parliament has previously voted to authorise these negotiations. In this process a parrallel one of ‘re-insertion’ of former eta members in Spanish and French society will take place.

    There will be a process of political negotiation, and this process is made much easier by the initiation of the disappearance of eta from the scene, but this process will take place between political parties.

    The idea is to have a free and open political debate, with all political parties represented. This political process is facilitated by the ETA declaration, since one of the parties – Batasuna – was complicit in the activities of eta, and was thus an illegitimate entity for discussions. Now that eta is in the process of renouncing its violent activities (and hence its very raison d’etre) Batasuna can begin to move back into the democratic arena. That is the significance of what has just happened.

    The important thing will be that all political parties with representation in the Basque Country particpate in the discussions, and that is why the presence of the PP is just as important as that of Batasuna. If peace is really to come to the Basque country all parties will have to accept the final agreement, whatever that should be.

    I am quite impressed with the level of maturity and realism I find in all the major contributions I am hearing today, and I think there is genuine cause for guarded optimism. All this also reminds me of just how different Spain is from Italy. In Italy I note no significant consensus which seeks to resolve the major problems facing the country.

  8. Pepe and Demostoles,

    I don’t know if you will come back again, but I would be curious about your opinion on one thing. I agree with Pepe (as I have often posted) that the big dark cloud on Spain’s horizon is the housing bubble, and what happens next. I am not quite so cynical as Pepe that the PSOE position is simply a strategy, I think they – like most Spaniards – genuinely don’t see this one coming, at least not with the force with which it will come.

    Indeed I see the PSOE ‘play’ as being one of trying to win the ‘national minorities’ and then the immigrants in such a way as to put the PP into opposition almost indefinitely.

    In Madrid and Barcelona at least there is a free metro paper Latinos now (and I suspect people around PSOE are connected). More recently there is another one called Si which is clearly PSOE inspired and is directed at a very broad cross section of immigrants.

    Administrative measures are being taken to make it much easier for documented migrants to renew their documents, and my guess is that PSOE hope to pick up a huge number of votes just a few years from now.

    Here comes the point……….

    A lot of publicity has been being given over the last week to the arrival of black African migrants from Mauritania in the Canaries. This follows a lot of highly publicised coming and going at the end of last year around the Ceuta and Melilla ‘ring fences’. Now black Africa, and not the Maghreb is really likely to be the main source of migrant drift in the coming years, and I have to ask myself the question: is Spain really ready for mass migration from black Africa?

    People have been looking towards attitudes to Maghrebi migrants for evidence of racism, but if you look at the football pitches and at some of the statements of the trainers, you can quickly see that potential racism towards black Africa is much more of an issue.

    At the weekend I was listening to PP spokesman Ana Pastora making threatening noises on this front. So my worry is that the PP could switch issues – the eta one now having run its course – and try to win votes by stirring up trouble on this issue, and in particular that could become a major headache when the housing bubble bursts.

    Any thoughts?

  9. Hi Edward,
    You raise an very interesting point there. Being in the Canaries myself, I’ve found reasons to be optimistic up to now. The presence of inmigrants in Spain has risen very fast indeed and the reactions toward minorities have been milder than in other european countries like France, even though the arrival of inmigrants was not so sudden there. I’ve found some racist atitudes appearing in Spain lately but not too worrying. Football courts are not good sampling spaces IMO :-). PP has some kind of racist undertone sometimes but they don’t dare to take it too far. Even COPE that is becoming more racist every day has taken a long time before exhibiting xenophobic attitudes.
    But, if territorial problems improve with the settling of the estatut and the truce by ETA goes on, leaving PP without it’s main weapons against the government.If an economic crisis comes simultaneously through the housing bubble… Well, I don’t know, but it sounds scary enough.

  10. “Football courts are not good sampling spaces IMO :-)”

    Oh, I absolutely agree. It is just the way this has focused so apparently exclusively on black players that has struck me. I can’t help thinking that not far below the surface there is a big untapped issue here. Obviously I hope I am wrong.

    But we have all the worrying signs. When they arrived in small numbers they were ‘intriguing’, ‘exotic’ almost, but the prospect of large numbers may be another matter. Remember, here in Catalonia, in Banyoles, they had a ‘dessicated black male’ on show in the local museum as a curiousity up till ten years ago, till the Botswana government officially complained and the body was shipped home for burial.

    Now Banyoles has a thriving Gambian and Senegalese community.

    “reactions toward minorities have been milder than in other european countries”

    Again, generally I agree, although the El Ejido incident was preoccupying at the time. I think what prominent leaders say and do is going to be important.

    “but it sounds scary enough”.

    Well I don’t mean to be scary, I just think this needs monitoring. Like this:

    “Even COPE that is becoming more racist every day”

    I wouldn’t have known that. I thought only fully paid up members of ERC listened to COPE :).

  11. I believe that PSOE and PP are quite aware of the looming real estate/construction/household debt debacle. On the PSOE side, we have its economics triumvirate: Solbes (Minister of the Economy and “Vicepresidente segundo del Gobierno”), Sebastián (ZP’s economic adviser) and Fernández Ordóñez (aka MAFO, Banco de España governor-to-be).

    Let’s see what they said when they were still in the opposition.

    MAFO (2003): “when this (construction-based) growth model reaches its end, the negative consequences that come with the bubble’s decline will begin to appear”.

    Sebastián (2003): “El ladrillo y la burbuja”

    Some excerpts:

    “Mortgage debt has reached such high levels that a fall in [house] prices could negatively affect the stability of the financial system.”

    “What can be done to address this phenomenon in a country where there already seems to be an excess of bricks and mortar, and where it is not possible to promise more massive construction? The first thing to do is to talk about it. Mentioning the bubble can dampen expectations of price increases, and thus demand. In Spain, the Government has reacted with irritation when it hears talk of the real estate bubble, an anti-demicratic tic that reminds one of the Chinese Government.”

    On the PP side, well, Rodrigo Rato is Managing Director of the IMF—enough said.

    Make no mistake about it: the ETA truce is the starter’s gun for the opposition to pull out all the stops and pop the bubble in ZPs face. The big construction/real estate players are all out of the game (Metrovacesa, Ferrovial, Sacyr have all diversified). Meanwhile, the Banco de España (no monetary-policy pull, but still involved in banking regulation and, more importantly, inspection) with MAFO at the helm, will take care of hiding the financial rot as long as possible.

    As for immigration, Zapatero has supported the lifting of restrictions on the entry of workers from the new EU members in eastern Europe. This should be understood not as welcoming such workers into Spain, but rather encouraging other EU countries to do the same as a safety valve for all the people about to lose their job (construction, services) in Spain when the economic cycle inverts.

    Sorry to hijack the post in this way, but I truly believe that the African “pateras”, the Estatut and even ETA are sideshows compared to the brick elephant in the room. I also believe that the true significance of the ETA truce lies here.

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