It is taken for granted that the “significant contributions” that ETA has promised to make, sometime soon, to promote the “peace process,” refer to some sort of initiative concerning the surrender of its weapons. It is hard to understand why, if it has already decided to do so, it does not hand the weapons over, instead of announcing that it will soon announce such a move. Unless the intention is to make this “process” last as long as possible, now within the framework of the so-called “Basque way” — a “way” that was first spoken of months ago, precisely in relation to the surrender of ETA arsenals to the Basque government, run by the Basque Nationalist Party (PNV), and was then denied by the abertzale (radical separatist) left. What has happened to cause ETA to speak of it again?
A document seized in the offices of the ETA lawyers arrested in January contains a proposal made by the Basque government to the abertzale group Sortu on possible moves in the delicate management of the end of ETA. With some nuances, the Basque government promised to attempt to advance on penitentiary policy; to collaborate with the international mediators; to follow the recommendations of the Social Forum, etc. In return it expected that the abertzale left would make a “significant statement” to acknowledge the harm done by ETA, and that terrorist prisoners would accept “legal and individual channels” toward parole.
It is hard to understand why, if it has already decided to do so, it does not hand the weapons over
The question is not so much the content of the proposal as the fact of the PNV’s having proposed it to Sortu behind the backs of the other parties. We may suppose that ETA interpreted this as a chance to return to its aim of establishing a formal dialogue process between Euskal Herria (the Basque homeland) and Spain; an idea no doubt reinforced by the PNV’s participation in the pro-prisoner demonstration in January. Such is the sense of the recent communiqué in which ETA not only fails to advocate its disbandment, but rather speaks of prolonging its existence, now as a political agent lurking behind various organizations in the Basque Country. Acting in concert, these political forces would come up with a proposal on the “consequences of the conflict” (prisoners and disarmament) to be negotiated with Madrid. Meanwhile, it announces that Spain and France must also disarm.
In 2009 ETA stated, in a message at odds with the line of Arnaldo Otegi and other abertzale leaders, that it would not surrender its weapons but “keep them;” would not “disappear;” and would “continue as a political organization within the abertzale left until another type of situation and debate may determine otherwise.” We seem to be looking at a return to this position, joined to that of negotiation. After what seemed to be the principal advance toward a realistic solution (the acceptance of individual repentance in return for parole) we are again looking at a demand for collective negotiation.
As to the issues concerned, disbandment and prisoners, the Urkullu government seems to favor gradual advances: the surrender of arms, and the application of the “Nanclares” formula of repentance in return for parole. But if ETA interprets the contacts with Sortu as an opportunity to indefinitely postpone its disbandment, its interlocutors ought to undeceive it.