Zapatero rejects Basque PM referendum plan

1st October 2007, Comments 0 comments

1 October 2007, MADRID - AFP - Jose Luiz Rodriguez Zapatero rejected plans by the government of the Basque Country to hold a referendum on the northeastern region's future.

1 October 2007

MADRID - AFP - Jose Luiz Rodriguez Zapatero rejected plans by the government of the Basque Country to hold a referendum on the northeastern region's future.

The leader of the Basque regional government, moderate nationalist Juan Jose Ibarretxe, on Friday unveiled plans to hold the vote on October 25, 2008 as part of his "road map" for a new political framework with Spain.

He did not specify the exact words to be used in the referendum, saying only that it would reject violence and uphold the democratic right of the Basque people to choose their future.

The Spanish government rejected the plan on grounds that under the constitution only the central government, not a regional administration, can call a referendum.

"With his proposal Ibarretxe is wrong about the country, the continent and the century because we are in a constitutional Spain in a united Europe and in the 21st century," said Zapatero in the northwestern town of Silleda.

"This is not what the Basque society needs, it is about the electoral needs of Ibarretxe," he said in comments broadcast on public radio.

In 2005, Ibarretxe failed to hold a referendum in a plan to provide greater autonomy from Spain that included the Basque Country having its own representation in the European Union.

His proposal was approved by the Basque regional parliament but the national parliament in Madrid ruled it as unconstitutional.

"We will say no to him with the same firmness with which we said no in parliament in February 2005," Zapatero said.

However, Ibarretxe said he would go ahead with the referendum regardless of the position of the Spanish government.

"It is incredible that one has to defend the existence of the Basque people, and that they have the right to defend their own future," he told a meeting of his PNV party.

"What is illegal about asking society to open a door and start down a path?" he added.

His referendum plan comes amid renewed violence from the Basque seperatist group ETA and ahead of a general election set for March 2008 in which Zapatero's policy of giving Spain's 17 regions more autonomy is expected to be a central issue.

The conservative Popular Party, the main opposition party, accuses Zapatero of fueling separatism with this policy.

ETA, which has killed 819 people in four decades of armed struggle to achieve independence for the Basque region, formally ended a 15-month ceasefire in June.
[Copyright AFP with Expatica]

Subject: Spanish news

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