Saturday, September 13, 2008

To Strasbourg

I have been posting about the so called Plan Ibarretxe that calls for a new political relationship between the Basque Autonomous Community (which comprises only three out of the seven Basque provinces) and Spain since 2002.

The entire project resides in the right of the Basque people to be consulted about what they want to do, a true exercise on self determination, at least for the Basques living in the provinces of Araba, Bizkaia and Gipuzkoa.

The plan is criticized by the Basques that want full independence for the entire Basque Country and loathed by the Spaniards who hate every single initiative by the Basque people even if the initiative is an overly cautious one like the so called Ibarretxe Plan.

The Constitutional Court in Spain said no to the referendum demanded by Ibarretxe, so now the president of the Basque autonomous community is talking about taking the case to the Human Rights Court in Strasbourg.

That is what this note published at Yahoo News talks about:

Basque government to seek ruling by European rights court

Fri Sep 12, 1:54 PM ET

VITORIA, Spain (AFP) - Basque country leader Juan Jose Ibarretxe said Friday he would appeal to Europe's highest rights court after Spanish judges ruled out a referendum next month on the political future of the region.

"The time has come to turn to a European court to defend our right to express ourselves to decide on our future," said Ibarretxe after a special meeting of his government.

He called on all citizens and political parties in the Basque country to draft their own pleas to the European Court of Human Rights individually by September 23, saying his government would forward them to the Strasbourg-based court.

Spain's Constitutional Court on Thursday unanimously upheld a move by the central government and the main opposition Popular Party to block the October 25 referendum which the Basque parliament had approved by a narrow majority in June.

It ruled that under Spain's 1978 constitution the Spanish state "has the exclusive authorisation to call popular consultations by means of a referendum."

It also said the plan infringed the constitution by seeking the opinion of part of the population on an issue that concerned the whole country.

The moderate nationalist government of the northern region wanted to call a referendum on whether to hold peace talks with the armed separatist group ETA -- provided it renounced violence -- and the Basque people's right to "self-determination", which is seen as a coded reference to its right to secede from Spain.

The armed Basque separatist group ETA, blamed for the deaths of 823 people in its 40-year campaign for an independent Basque homeland, has long defended the Basque people's right to self-determination.

The proposed referendum would ask voters two questions:

1: "Do you support a process aimed at negotiating an end to violence if ETA first demonstrates, unequivocally, its will to definitively end violence?"

2: "Do you agree that Basque political parties should begin a process of negotiation to reach an agreement on a democratic accord on the Basque people's exercise of the right of self-determination and that this accord be submitted to a (regional) referendum before the end of 2010?"

Ibarretxe said the court ruling was an "attack on the Basque government" which had "confirmed our worst fears ... by putting reasons of state above reasons of democracy."

"We find ourselves in the situation of being unable to express an opinion," he said, "a situation which is unusual in 21st century Europe."

Deputy Prime Minister Maria Teresa Fernandez de la Vega said she was convinced the European court would not accept "any challenge to the law."

"We will defend the position of the Spanish government which was upheld by the Constitutional Court," she told a press conference following a cabinet meeting.

Ibarretxe "seems determined to maintain his plan at whatever cost, even though it divides Basque society and is against the constitution," she added.

As much as I don't agree with Ibarretxe's proposal and as much as I am sure that Strasbourg will rule against the Basque people I have to say that this is one more instance in which the basic rights of the Basques are being trampled by the authoritarian and fascist Spanish government.

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