“Catalonia is different,” says Basque regional premier

Urkullu says his region has been down road of confrontation and is now preserving its fiscal autonomy

Basque premier, or ´lehendakari,' Iñigo Urkullu, pictured during the interview.
Basque premier, or ´lehendakari,' Iñigo Urkullu, pictured during the interview. L. RICO (EL PAÍS)

The regional premier of the Basque Country, Iñigo Urkullu of the Basque Nationalist Party (PNV), has expressed caution about following in Catalonia's footsteps by seeking a new political status for the region. As a nationalist, Urkullu aspires to achieve an independent Basque state, but in an interview published in the Spanish edition of EL PAÍS on Sunday, he said it needed to be through a process agreed on with the central government that does not jeopardize the Basque Economic Agreement, which gives it significantly more controls over its financial affairs than the northeastern region. "Catalonia is different," he said.

The lehendakari admitted he would be happy to end his term by gaining respect for "bilateralism, the outward projection of the Basque Country in the world, in Europe, in terms of participation in the taking of decisions that correspond to the Basque Country and that establish a relationship between this region and Navarre.

"We are experiencing the construction of a Europe of states, but the development of the economy is going to identify other realities that will mean working in parallel with respect to other stateless nations that think of themselves as communities, such as the euro region."

Urkullu added that he also wanted to gain more respect for the right to decide "in an agreed manner," but admitted he could not imagine calling a sovereignty vote for the Basque Country as regional leader. "The commitment with which I presented myself was to present a process through which [...] an agreement will be reached in parliament that is endorsed by Basque society."

No comparisons

Urkullu said he isn't pleased about being applauded for having different aspirations from Catalan regional premier Artur Mas. "I don't hold myself up for comparison. We have carried out a journey that has had its correlation in the Spanish parliament. We have had a consultation law that ended in the Constitutional [Court]. We have already had that experience. Unlike Catalonia, we have had to preserve what we have — a state tool such as the Economic Agreement. The Basques of the Transition and leaders of various parties achieved this. That we have to defend; it is what differentiates us. Catalonia is experiencing another circumstance."

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