These are the responsibility of the editor and convey the newspaper's view on current affairs-both domestic and international

Back on the old path?

There must be no step backwards in the demand that ETA disband as a condition for parole

In the wake of the High Court’s decision to ban a march in support of ETA inmates, the mainstream Basque Nationalist Party (PNV) took the initiative of cooperating with the radical Basque separatist party Sortu, and organized Sunday’s mass demonstration in Bilbao.

Does this mean that the PNV, under the leadership of regional premier Iñigo Urkullu, shares interests with the radical abertzale left? It almost looks like an attempt to return to the 1998 “Lizarra Pact,” when the PNV, under the leadership of Juan José Ibarretxe, created a united pro-secession front with the radicals.

But this is an unlikely notion, because it is not in his interest. The experience of Ibarretxe’s cooperation with a secessionist party then — like that of Artur Mas in Catalonia now — shows that the main effect of pacts of this sort is to bolster the more radical groups in their drive to achieve hegemony within the regional nationalist community. And the PNV’s lack of interest in taking this road is proven by the care it took to point out that the call to attend the demonstration was an “exceptional response,” rather than the beginning of anything, and to state from the start that no member of the Basque regional government would take part in the demonstration.

What’s more, the PNV was irritated by a failure of participants in the march to comply with the agreed conditions (including silence and a ban on political symbols), which it has interpreted as a sign of irresponsibility and immaturity on the part of the leaders of Sortu. The way the march turned out thus became a sort of vaccine against succumbing to the temptation to return to Lizarra.

Just two weeks ago, freed ETA prisoners endorsed the cessation of violence and accepted legal means toward parole for those still in jail. This suggested that the objective of making ETA’s abandonment of violence permanent and irreversible was within reach, given that this goal is inevitably bound up with the issue of the imprisoned terrorists.

The subsequent arrest of lawyer Arantza Zuloaga and others, on the suspicion that they were responsible for controlling the group’s prisoners, and were the real authors of the December 28 statement, caused premature irritation in the PNV; but also sarcasm in other sectors, aimed at those who had heralded the communiqué as a step forward.

The PNV’s irritation was premature because it did not wait to hear the evidence in the possession of the judge, who on Monday remanded the suspects in custody on the basis that the material found during the raid reveals that the group was “an operative branch of ETA itself,” in charge of passing on orders from the leadership. And the sarcasm was out of place, because if the inspiration behind the communiqué came from those entrusted with passing on orders from the leadership, that would mean that the leadership also endorses the shift toward accepting Spanish penitentiary laws, including the individual procedure of applying for parole. This would exclude the demand for collective negotiation between ETA and the government, something the terrorist group has always insisted on.

To a large extent, the shift is a consequence of the government’s refusal to budge on its penitentiary policies while ETA refuses to disband. However, the government’s plan to stop former prisoners from running as candidates in elections is inconsistent and most likely unconstitutional. To do what was not done when ETA was still killing people makes even less sense now.

Recomendaciones EL PAÍS
Recomendaciones EL PAÍS