Zapatero promises social reform and end to ETA
15 March 2006, MADRID — Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero has promised more social reforms and to persuade the Basque separatist group ETA to renounce terrorism.
15 March 2006
MADRID — Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero has promised more social reforms and to persuade the Basque separatist group ETA to renounce terrorism.
Speaking after the second anniversary of his general election victory, the Socialist leader thanked citizens for the votes that carried the leftists to a stunning upset victory on 14 March, 2004.
"We are going to fulfil the social commitments, the hopes of many citizens to see a country at peace, freer with each passing day; a country that is more respected in the world for its strength, for its convictions, because it is always ready to build and not to destroy in the relations between peoples and cultures," he said.
Zapatero stressed that he will continue to govern with "tolerance, respect and restraint" and pledged to focus over the next two years on initiatives to boost employment, housing, higher education and research as well as opportunity for young people.
In the past two years his government has toughened protection for battered women and legalised same-sex marriage.
He mentioned the debate under way in Spain over the new autonomy statute for the north-eastern region of Catalonia, which is strongly opposed by the country's main opposition, the conservative Popular Party.
Indeed, PP leader Mariano Rajoy says that Zapatero's acceptance of the revised statute increasing Catalonia's already substantial autonomy is one of the two biggest mistakes made by the Socialist government.
The other major error, according to the PP, is Zapatero's willingness - endorsed by Parliament despite the conservatives' opposition - to talk to the militant Basque separatists of ETA if the group agrees to renounce violence.
ETA has killed more than 800 people since 1968 in its campaign to create an independent Basque state from parts of northern Spain and south-western France.
Rajoy, speaking at an event to mark the collection of 3 million signatures on petitions demanding a nationwide referendum on the new Catalan autonomy statute, said that Zapatero has failed to concentrate on "the real problems of citizens".
[Copyright EFE with Expatica]
Subject: Spanish news