Friday, April 23, 2004

A Will to Negotiate

Years ago the Allies said "please negotiate, we will make sure the Basque Country obtains its independence as long as the Basques go at it peacefully", well, according to this note at Berria English, here we go again:

Ibarretxe calls for practical constitutionalism

Juan Jose Ibarretxe, the President of the Basque Autonomous Community, went to Madrid yesterday to ask that the “new opportunity” be seized by addressing the contents and not just the form, and to offer dialogue

Agencies – MADRID
In a speech given in Madrid yesterday Juan Jose Ibarretxe, the Lehendakari or President of the Basque Autonomous Community, highlighted a message in favour of dialogue. He said he had come to Madrid to offer “sincere dialogue and the readiness of the Basque institutions to resolve the problems of the Basque Country” and not to demand rectification or that people should give in. Lehendakari Juan Jose Ibarretxe had been invited by the Nueva Economía Forum to give a speech yesterday morning at a Madrid hotel. At midday he attended the opening of the legislative session of the Spanish Parliament.

Ibarretxe spoke about the “new opportunity” that had been presented by the elections and about the new atmosphere in favour of dialogue. His appearance in itself bore witness to the new atmosphere. Instead of the cool reception given to the Lehendakari of the Basque Government during the trips made in recent times, he received the support of Jose Luis Rodriguez-Zapatero’s new government: Jordi Sevilla, the Public Administration Minister, welcomed Ibarretxe. Numerous politicians attended the breakfast speech. Javier Rojo, the Speaker of the Senate or upper chamber of the Spanish parliament, Santiago Carrillo, the former secretary general of the PCE (Spanish Communist Party) and Ricardo Fluxa, the former Junior Minister for Security, were joined by others who had travelled down from the Basque Country. Among Ibarretxe’s listeners were Josu Jon Imaz, Chairman of the National Executive Committee (EBB) of the EAJ-PNV, Miren Azkarate, Basque Government spokesperson and Minister for Culture, Gorka Knörr, Deputy Speaker of the Basque Parliament, the PSOE MP Ramon Jauregui and the EAJ-PNV MP Josu Erkoreka.

Lehendakari Ibarretxe held the view that the new opportunity opened up by the PSOE coming to power should not be restricted to matters of form. In contrast, he referred to the need to “address the contents”. With respect to the reforms announced by the Spanish Prime Minister, Jose Luis Rodriguez-Zapatero, Ibarretxe felt it was necessary to choose between two options: either to go down the road of “constitutional fundamentalism” or to choose the way of “practical constitutionalism”. The second option requires that political consensus be achieved first and afterwards that the law be adapted in accordance with that consensus.

In this respect Ibarretxe recalled that Rodriguez-Zapatero had said that he was prepared to accept what the people and Parliament of Catalonia accepted. In Madrid Ibarretxe posed the question as to whether he would be prepared to accept what the Basque Parliament and Basque society accepted. Ibarretxe said he was looking forward to meeting with Zapatero soon, but a date had yet to be fixed.

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