Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Basque Independence, parliamentary debate.

The President of the Basque Regional Government visited Madrid yesterday to outline his plan, the Ibarretxe Plan, for increased Basque autonomy from Spain. President Ibarretxe aims to change the Spanish constitution inside out - from regional government inwards, rather than from central government outwards.

Ever since the transition to democracy in Spain, the claim of a percentage of the Basque population for greater autonomy has been heard in national and regional parliamentary debates and, of course, in the acts of terrorism carried out by the Basque terrorist group ETA.

Even though today's debate was labeled as a waste of time by some of Spain's parliamentary groups, notably the Popular Party, the fact that the Spanish government was prepared for the Basque nationalist government's ruling party to come to Madrid and to explain its independence plan to national parliament, and the fact that all political parties agreed to attend the debate and, in the end, spent most of the day, evening and part of the night in Congress debating the very essence of the Spanish constitution is an indication of both the strength and also the naivity of the Spanish democratic system.

In theory the Basque Regional Government is prevented by Spanish Law from extending its own powers, which is what it wants to do. So, in theory, a debate held in national parliament to discuss a plan which has no legal ground to stand on has no raison d'ĂȘtre. Spain's President JosĂ© Luis Rodriguez Zapatero began his speech today with the words "if we live together, then together we must make decisions" and surely this has to be valid in any plural democracy.

The Basque country has to find ways of putting proposals forward which do not violate Spanish law. And if Spain is to ultimately defeat Basque terrorism, the Spanish government has to find a way of opening the door to democratic debate of constitutional reform, and find ways of reconciling its belief in the need for a strong central Spanish government with demands for greater autonomy powers coming from the Basque Country (and Catalonia of course).At the same time, the Spanish government is right to reject illegal plans such as the Ibarrexte plan, and wise to open the door to further debate as President Rodriguez Zapatero did yesterday.

If yestoday's debate in the Spanish congress proves to be the first step towards listening to Basque regionalist claims rather than pointedly ignoring them, then surely this is a positive move towards strengthening a plural state in which all voices are heard but none is allowed to impose its opinion over any other. The strength of any democracy lies in its ability to listen to and discuss polemical ideas and avoid resorting to simply insulting the proposals of political adversaries. Spanish political party representatives from all sides, to their credit, managed to do this yestoday.

The question most newspapers ask this morning is "Now what?".


Anonymous said...

"when the Basques were the only Region not to have a vote when the rest of Spain voted to pass the proposal of the transitional government towards a democratic Spanish state based on a regional system"


False. They voted too.

2:13 PM  
Anonymous said...

Yes, but at the time there was an active campaign in the Basque region to withhold voting, because there was a large segment that felt the process was not representing them. If add this in, those that abstained, and those that voted no, the whole process was overwhelminly rejected in the Basque region.

12:26 AM  
Anonymous said...

Well, I never heard of the Basque region before today and when I read Mr. Anonymous' statements I had to chime in. Your lumping of abstained votes into the no column is rediculous! I have been able to vote since I was 18 (yes I'm a U.S. citizen) and I have made it a point to vote in just about every election (federal, state, local) that has occured in my district. Why? Because if I didn't then I didn't make my opinion known. If I don't vote then you can only assume I didn't care one way or another. You cannot assume I was against or for any particular issue or candidate. I'm not sure what the issues are between the Basque region and Spain as a whole but it is your responsibility to make your wishes and thoughts known through active debate and voting. If you choose to abstain then you are nothing but lazy or a coward and you deserve what you get. Period!

10:49 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home