Ibarretxe accuses Zapatero of 'intransigence'

3rd January 2005, Comments 0 comments

4 January 2005, VITORIA- The Basque regional prime minister Juan Jose Ibarretxe accused the Spanish premier Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero of 'intransigence' over his opposition to the Basque plan for greater independence from Spain.

4 January 2005

VITORIA- The Basque regional prime minister Juan Jose Ibarretxe accused the Spanish premier Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero of 'intransigence' over his opposition to the Basque plan for greater independence from Spain.

In a press conference in Vitoria, Ibarretxe said: "If he doesn't want to negotiate then it reminds me of another era, it reminds me of the era of Aznar."

The reference was to the former Spanish premier Jose Maria Aznar who kept a hardline against the Ibarretxe plan refusing to give any ground on the controversial proposal.

Ibarretxe claims that if his plan is adopted it will force the Basque terrorist organisation ETA to call a truce.

But ETA has said it will not support the plan as it does not go far enough.

The move follows Zapatero's declaration on Monday that the so-called Ibarretxe plan "did not have a future".

Zapatero said he will talk by telephone on Friday with Ibarretxe over the plan for greater sovereignty for the region.

But he said the Socialist government was firmly opposed to the plan. 

The Opposition leader, Mariano Rajoy, head of the conservative Popular Party (PP), offered to create a pact with the Socialists to safeguard the Spanish Constitution.

Both the government and Opposition claim the so-called 'Ibarretxe plan' breaks the Constitution.

Ibarretxe is determined to hold a referendum amid stiff opposition from the Spanish government and the main Opposition parties in Spain. 

He wants to create a Basque state "freely associated" with Spain.

The row blew up after the Basque premier's plan was unexpectedly approved in the Basque regional parliament with the support of ETA's outlawed political wing last Thursday.

Three votes of Sozialista Abertzaleak, a radical party formerly known as Batasuna, granted the so-called Ibarretxe plan a sufficient majority in the Vitoria chamber, but with the opposition of both Zapatero's Socialist Party and the main opposition Popular Party (PP), the initiative is likely to be blocked when it reaches Congress.

Though united with the Socialists in their opposition to the project, members of the PP nonetheless expressed disagreement on Sunday about the best method to derail it.

While urging Zapatero to refuse to meet with Ibarretxe, the PP argues in favour of the government immediately presenting a case against the plan before the Constitutional Court.

That option has been left to one side by the Socialist administration, which said at the weekend that it will wait until the project is voted on in Congress, presumably in February, before taking further action.

The government also expects Basque regional elections in May to present a further hurdle for Ibarretxe.

"The aim is for the Basque people to defeat the plan themselves at the ballot box and therefore we must follow the political and not the judicial path first," Public Administrations Minister Jordi Sevilla said at the weekend.

Taking the project before the Constitutional Court, as demanded by the PP, has not been ruled out, however, but it is a measure of the government plans to use in the last instance if political pressure, including the plan's expected rejection by Congress, fails to force Ibarretxe to withdraw it.

Negotiations, including the Basque premier's demand that he be permitted to debate it face-to-face and "government-to-government" with Madrid, have also been ruled out, at least while Ibarretxe maintains the project in anything like its current form.

"The democratic process must be allowed to run its course first and it must be reviewed by Congress. It therefore makes no sense for Ibarretxe to propose government-to-government negotiations," Sevilla noted.

A Socialist representative said that Zapatero's meeting with Ibarretxe is "necessary to maintain institutional dialogue" and because "whether we like it or not Ibarretxe remains the democratically elected leader of the Basque region".

At the heart of the talks will be the prime minister's reiteration that the plan violates the 1978 Constitution and the Basque Country's 1979 autonomy statute.

Framed in the guise of a reform of the statute, the Ibarretxe plan is modelled on the status of territories such as Quebec or Puerto Rico and seeks to obtain a system of co-sovereignty for the Basque Country.

In effect it would result in almost total internal control in the region being handed over to the administration in Vitoria, the definition of Basques as a nation, and a degree of representation abroad independent of Madrid.

"There is no space for this plan within the Spanish Constitution," Zapatero said in an interview on Saturday. "It is a thing of the past and should have been withdrawn long ago."

Regardless of the Spanish government's opposition and the certainty that the bill will be rejected in Congress, Ibarretxe has stressed that "nothing and no one" will prevent him from holding a referendum on the plan in the region later this year, probably after the Congress vote but before the Basque elections.

How Basques will choose to vote if a public consultation is allowed to go ahead is yet another uncertainty facing the plan.

[Copyright EFE with Expatica]

Subject: Spanish news

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