|Ethnicity and Power in the Contemporary World (UNU, 1996, 298 pages)|
|12. Political autonomy and conflict resolution: The Basque case|
It is true that the Statute of Autonomy has not proven capable of resolving some of the Basque Country's traditional demands. Nevertheless, it is providing satisfactory results. The Statute of Autonomy is demonstrating its validity as an effective instrument for recovering Basque identity. The progress made in the last twelve years is substantial and the necessary foundations have been laid for a recovery of the Basque language and culture. It also serves important functions in educational material. A Basque Parliament and Government exist with ample authority to develop their own institutional policies, always within a global framework designed by the Spanish Constitution, and their own public administration with an extensive decision-making capacity. The Basque Autonomous Community has a relatively strong spending power, allowing it to plan the Basque economy, albeit within the limits of the Spanish economy and international conditions.
The issues still pending are extremely varied, and their solution depends on very diverse conditions. Some of the problems are indigenous to the Basque Country. This is the case of the social division between the nationalist and non nationalist worlds. As a result of this split, Basque society has yet to achieve an acceptable degree of homogeneity and social integration. It is a destructured society and therefore suffers internal conflict and strife. Something similar occurs with respect to violence. It involves a problem with clearly political origins, but which at the current time has no justification whatsoever. It is a basically indigenous problem whose solution mainly, although not exclusively, lies within the Basque society itself. In order to resolve the problem of violence, as well as that of homogenization of Basque society, an institutional leadership by the Basque Government is desperately needed. This type of leadership occurred during the Second Republic and the Civil War.
Among the various indigenous problems, the current delicate economic situation in the Basque Country stands out. Basque industrial activity has traditionally revolved around the iron and steel industry. The crisis in this sector is producing a genuine dismantling of the Basque industrial fabric, which, for the moment, has not adapted itself to current technological changes. Terrorism causes additional difficulties for economic recovery, since foreign investors are clearly reluctant to intervene in the Basque economic recovery, even though this is a developed country with a large industrial culture.
Another large set of problems arises from the non-recognition of the right to self-determination on the part of the Spanish Constitution. This is a fundamental and delicate issue for which the Spanish State has not yet managed to find an adequate solution. The problem has lost much of its potency in the expectation of possible solutions provided by the final design of the construction of Europe. Therefore, an adequate response from the Spanish State, as well as from the European Union, will be crucial in order to resolve this and other similar matters existing in Western Europe. An inadequate policy could ignite and destroy Spanish democracy and subsequently European unity. As an example of this statement, the fact that HB (the majority party in Guipuzcoa, with great influence in the entire Basque territory) does not acknowledge the legitimacy of the Spanish Constitution and Basque Statute and refuses to participate in parliamentary political life is highly upsetting to Basque democratic stability.
The third set of problems is that related to territorial integrity. Basque nationalism has always set its sights on the unification of these seven historical Basque territories. In this aspiration, the Basque Country, which sociologically and historically represents a single unit, is nevertheless, politically divided into three different entities: the Basque Autonomous Community; Navarre; and the continental Basque country. In the case of Navarre, there is no legal problem whatsoever in carrying out its integration. The problem is political, in so far as the Navarrese majority parties have preferred not to join the rest of the Basque Community to date. The final solution to this problem will depend, in the end, on the Navarrese themselves. Therefore, the Navarrese issue cannot by any means be considered a structural problem of the Basque Country, but is rather a specific problem of nationalism. As far as the French Basque territories are concerned, it is true that it would currently be legally impossible to integrate them into the Basque Autonomous Community. However, it is also true that even if such a union were viable, citizens would almost certainly reject it, at least as things stand today.
One final set of problems remains: those derived from the application of the Statute of Autonomy. Despite the Statute's approval, the relationship between the State and the Autonomous Community still involves conflict, as can be seen by the numerous occasions on which the Constitutional Court has had to intervene to resolve conflicts over competencies. There is mutual distrust between the two administrations, expressed by the State in its continued attempt to reduce Basque authority and by the Basques in their permanent stance of demand-making. Although time has passed, some significant competencies which, according to the Constitution and the Statute, correspond to the Autonomous Community, have yet to be transferred. A process of mutual and loyal collaboration between both administrations is, therefore, indispensable in order to resolve, once and for all, this age-old controversy.