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An orderly end to ETA

Democratic policy has to make moves to consolidate the state’s victory over terrorism

The disbanding of ETA is the necessary aim of Spanish democracy, and an expression of the state’s victory over the terrorist organization. However, it would be naive to think that believers in democracy need only sit and wait for the communiqué announcing ETA’s dissolution — something that the government and other authorities have so often called for.

The management of an orderly end to ETA is a task incumbent on the democratic political parties; and in this sense it is good to hear of the discreet meeting that took place between Basque premier Iñigo Urkullu and Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, which was preceded by another between Urkullu and the Socialist leader Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba.

While the certainty gradually settles in that violence has ended and will not return, the implementation of the Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights Court’s ruling on the “Parot doctrine” has seen the release of several dozen ETA terrorists, in conditions quite different from those predicted by the doomsayers: no speeches advocating terrorism; no dramatizations of a supposed “victory of the underdogs,” with the exception of a few minimal incidents.

The objective of an end to violence is bound up with the question of bringing prisoners closer to home

Hundreds of convicted terrorists remain in prison. And it was the association of released ETA prisoners itself that took the initiative of accepting the terms of the penal code, allowing prisoners, on an individual basis, to apply for parole and other benefits in exchange for expressing repentance — as opposed to the organization’s longtime pretension that ETA representatives must sit down and negotiate with the government on a political basis.

This step sets aside the stubborn resistance with which ETA denied the Spanish state’s right to enforce the law: the consequence being that the prisoners now accept the defeat of their cause, and acknowledge the legitimacy of the democratic state they have fought against for so long.

The objective of a definitive end to violence is bound up with the question of bringing the prisoners (most of whom are still in prisons far from the Basque Country) closer to home. Rajoy’s government has maintained its penitentiary policy untouched and cannot be expected to change it, but it would be desirable to explore formulas for the rehabilitation of ETA prisoners who publicly renounce violence, beg forgiveness of the victims and promise to repair the damage done as far as possible, along the lines of the so-called “Nanclares way” (the rehabilitation program for repentant prisoners named after the Nanclares prison in the Basque Country where they were transferred). In turn, ETA must carry out an effective and verifiable disarmament.

The moderate line taken by the Basque Nationalist Party (PNV) and by Urkullu is a reassurance. The leaders of the more important political parties are listening to him, while the PNV has formed a coalition with the moderate CiU Catalan nationalist bloc for the upcoming EU elections. Any solid, realistic solution calls for the collaboration of other political authorities: the Spanish and Basque governments, and the Basque PP, whose present line is more interesting than the stonewall rejection of prisoner concessions that is still being voiced by some dissident voices within the party.

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