A Proposal to Transform the Basque Conflict

Thursday, February 14, 2008
4:00 PM - 6:30 PM
Frances C. Arrillaga Alumni Center
  • Juan Jose Ibarretxe

The President of the Basque Autonomous Community will discuss his "Road Map to bring an end to the Basque Conflict," including his offer of a political agreement already made to Madrid, based on a rejection of violence and an embrace of democratic principles and a Basque society plebiscite.


In a visit marked by controversy and protesting, President Ibarretxe clearly delivers his view on how the Basque country can establish sustainable human development. President Ibarretxe quickly stresses, however, that two challenges stand in the way of this goal. The first is securing peace from the violence of ETA, and the second is attaining political normalization through agreement with Spain. Citing dialogue as key, he explains that this conflict, lasting since the 19th century, must be resolved through political and democratic means based on the principle of self-determination. President Ibarretxe sets out the history of the Basque people, possibly the oldest in Europe, while revealing its openness to universal art and culture, as well as the Basque region’s top level social welfare. The Basque country, which has been ranked third in the UN’s Human Development Index, places emphasis on identity and innovation in striving forward. President Ibarretxe explains that 30 years after the 1979 Basque statute of autonomy, a clear majority demand a new framework for relations with Spain.

Therefore, President Ibarretxe reveals the “roadmap” he has formulated for the Basque country to achieve political normalization, as he puts it. His approach begins with four preliminary considerations. The first consideration is that the problems of the violence of ETA should not be confused with the political conflict between the Basque government and Spain. Secondly, President Ibarretxe argues that a key prerequisite to any solution is that the violence of ETA ceases immediately regardless of the state of the political conflict. Thirdly, stressing the importance of a necessary maxim to be used as a point of reference in the struggle for justice, President Ibarretxe emphasizes the defense of human rights without exception as fundamental to success. The fourth consideration that President Ibarretxe puts forward is that the right to self-determination is central to adopting a solution.

However, President Ibarretxe’s “roadmap” also offers concrete action through five specific steps. The five-step process begins with an offer of a political agreement based on ethics and democracy to Spain, something which President Ibarretxe has already extended to the Spanish government. Subsequently, President Ibarretxe offers a plenary session of the Basque parliament to either ratify any agreement reached with the Spanish government and call for a popular vote for Basque society to ratify the agreement as well or call for a popular vote to break a deadlock in the negotiation process. After the popular vote, President Ibarretxe reveals further negotiations will follow to end the violence of ETA and establish a new framework for Basque political parties to work under. Finally, President Ibarretxe offers a referendum in 2010 for the Basque people to vote on the result of this process. In concluding his talk, President Ibarretxe calls for any steps forward to be centered around “dialogue, democratic respect, and the liberty to decide.”

President Ibarretxe kindly takes the time to answer numerous questions on a variety of challenging issues. This question-and-answer session, where the questions are asked in English and President Ibarretxe replies in Spanish, is included in the recording. Unfortunately however, the translation of President Ibarretxe's responses cannot really be heard.