Attorney General stands firm over Batasuna

3rd February 2005, Comments 0 comments

3 February 2005, MADRID - Spain's Attorney General has said he will stop the banned Basque nationalist party Batasuna from taking part in regional elections in the Basque Country.

3 February 2005

MADRID - Spain's Attorney General has said he will stop the banned Basque nationalist party Batasuna from taking part in regional elections in the Basque Country.

Batasuna is the political wing of the armed Basque separatist group ETA,  and is illegal.

Cándido Conde Pumpido, Spain's Attorney General, said he would ensure the law is enforced and Batasuna cannot stand in the regional elections on 17 April.

The move comes amid a major political row over a plan for greater independence for the Basque Country.

The regional Basque government has moved forward local elections following the Spanish parliament's rejection of a project designed to achieve Basque sovereignty.

Basque "lehendakari" (president) Juan Jose Ibarretxe said the balloting will take place 17 April, a month earlier than originally thought.

He announced the change after Spain's parliament resoundingly rejected his plan for a sovereign Basque state linked in "free association" with the central government in Madrid.

The regional administration, composed of Ibarretxe's Basque Nationalist Party, or PNV, the smaller Eusko Alkartasuna and a local branch of the United Left, met in special session to agree on bringing forward the elections.

Ibarretxe told reporters the Vitoria-based government must negotiate with Madrid on the basis of his proposal, regardless of the overwhelming "no" vote in the Spanish parliament.

He also stressed his commitment to ensuring that the Basque people have the final word on the region's future.

"It is Basque society's moment. Basque society has to speak out," Ibarretxe said at a press conference where he rehashed many of the arguments he made during the eight-hour debate that preceded Tuesday's vote in the national legislature.

The lehendakari said the Basques must now "make decisions that allow us to maintain calm and prepare for the future with tranquility."

He emphasised the necessity of striving for a new model to govern relations "between Euzkadi (the Basques' name for their region) and Spain," and of pushing for reforms to the 1982 autonomy statute under which the territory already enjoys a large measure of self-government.

Above all, Ibarretxe said, "we have to open the doors of negotiation with the (Spanish) state, we have to tell the state loud and clear that it has to talk, to negotiate and to respect the majority will of Basque society."

"In the 21st century, coexistence must be based on free adherence and not on imposition," he said.

The lehendakari called for all parties to be allowed to participate in April's regional elections, apparently alluding to Batasuna, a group outlawed by Spanish courts for its ties to the terrorist organization ETA.

"It's very important that ... all the Basque political forces can be represented. No one can be excluded," said Ibarretxe, adding that he had instructed his administration "not to prohibit or impede the participation of any electoral grouping."

Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero said in Tuesday's parliamentary debate that his opposition to the Ibarretxe Plan sprang from a commitment to defending "the territorial integrity of Spain, because it guarantees the integrity of the rights of citizens."

"The relationship of the Basque region and Spain will be decided by all the Basques - not half of them - and by all Spaniards," the premier said Tuesday.

Ibarretxe said "Euzkadi is not a subordinate part of the Spanish state. The Basque leader then told Zapatero and the lawmakers: "You're not going to decide the future of self-government" in the northern region.

Regarding the possibility of Batasuna's taking part in the Basque regional elections, Zapatero noted that the law banning the party remains in effect and said the outlawed organization would not have enough time between now and the balloting to repudiate ETA's violence and regain its status as a legal party.

ETA has killed more than 830 people since the late 1960s in its campaign, which includes terrorist tactics such as car bombings, for an independent Basque nation comprising parts of northern Spain and southern France.

Though Ibarretxe and other moderate nationalists adamantly reject the use of violence in the region's quest for sovereignty, the lehendakari did rely on support from remnants of Batasuna to get his plan through the regional legislature.

[Copyright EFE with Expatica]

Subject: Spanish news

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