Zapatero calls for solutions to Basque question

18th April 2005, Comments 0 comments

19 April 2005, MADRID-Spanish prime minister Jose Luis Rodríguez Zapatero said it was 'the time for solutions' to the Basque question after regional elections ended independence hopes.

19 April 2005

MADRID-Spanish prime minister Jose Luis Rodríguez Zapatero said it was 'the time for solutions' to the Basque question after regional elections ended independence hopes.

Zapatero, in his first comments on Sunday's election results, said Spain should "leave behind the path of problems".

The Socialist premier said his government would carry on "until the end" to reach a solution to the problems of the Basque Country.

Zapatero's comments came as moderate nationalists said any agreement with the Madrid would have to be to reach a "peaceful accord".

Zapatero added: "We have started a move towards a victory for dialogue and a union against confrontation."

These comments came as talks continued to form a coalition in the Basque Country after the nationalist vote was split, denying the winning party overrall control. 

Pro-independence Basque nationalists dealt a blow to plans to win greater autonomy for the troubled region from Madrid by denying the ruling moderates an absolute majority of regional assembly seats.

The ruling moderate nationalist coalition - dominated by the Nationalist Basque Party (PNV) of regional leader Juan Jose Ibarretxe - won just 29 of the 75 seats in the chamber in the regional capital Vitoria, nine short of a majority.

After adding three seats for its United Left ally, Ibarretxe's coalition ended up with four sets less than it obtained at the previous election in 2001, to leave Ibarretxe and his allies with a headache.

He is expected to seek to form a coalition with the Socialists but this may not be easy.

Ibarretxe is to meet Zapatero though no date has been fixed.

Commentators claim Zapatero has benefited most from the result as without an overrall majority, it ends all hopes Ibarretxe had to see his plan for 'free association' from Spain. 

Ibarretxe's 'free association' plan would entail the Basque region, one of the richest in Spain, as being no longer subject to Madrid rule as defined by acceptance of the 1978 Spanish constitution which granted basic autonomy to Spain's 17 autonomous regions. Ibarretxe wanted a clear poll victory that would have given him sufficient political capital to call and win a referendum on his plan.

Zapatero had already offered a degree of greater autonomy but flatly rejected Ibarretxe's plan.

He will not now have to deal with the Basque question in such detail and many approved of his handling of the situation.

A pro-independence Communist grouping standing for the first time emerged the kingmakers as it won nine seats, sweeping up the hardline vote that usually goes to parties that have been banned from standing by Spanish courts over their alleged closeness to armed separatist group ETA.

ETA is held responsible for more than 800 deaths since the late 1960s in its campaign to win Basque statehood through violence.

Batasuna was banned two years ago, having won seven seats in 2001, as was another pro-independence group, Aukera Guztiak, in the run-up to the election.

The courts' decision to ban the two hardline nationalist parties from the poll angered the hardline pro-independence fringe, who promptly voted for the Communist Party of Basque Lands (PCTV-EHAK) at Batasuna's behest.

[Copyright EFE with Expatica]

Subject: Spanish news

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