few years ago this was not even a remote possibility, but with with ETAs
declaratino of a cease-fire, Spain's Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriquez
Zapatero announced that he would open peace talks with the outlawed
Basque organization of ETA.
a politically risky move aimed at ending Europe's last armed conflict,
Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero announced Thursday
that he would open peace talks with ETA, the outlawed Basque guerrilla
The talks follow ETA's declaration in March of a "permanent" cease-fire
in the group's four-decade fight for independence. Together, the
developments represent what many here believe to be the best chance in
years for a lasting peace.
Zapatero immediately faced angry criticism from victims organizations
and Spain's main opposition party.
Why does the BBC call Eta
"Basque separatists" and not terrorists?
According to Matt Holder
of the BBC (January 6, 2005), "it's a question that gets asked
every time the group stages another attack in its campaign to
form an independent Basque homeland. And the BBC's policy
not to call Eta (short for Euskadi Ta Azkatasuna) terrorists
often prompts angry calls and letters from viewers and listeners
in the UK and abroad. After all, if the Spanish government
refers to them as a "terrorist group", why shouldn't the BBC?
Some viewers claim that
by not using the terrorist tag, and using separatist instead, it
gives legitimacy to the group's cause. Others claim terrorism is
the only way to adequately describe a bloody campaign for
independence that has led to more than 800 deaths over the last
is a factual explanation of the group and its goals"
The use of language in reporting atrocities is something to
which the BBC gives a great deal of thought. It avoids labels
wherever it can. And its credibility is severely undermined if
international audiences think they can detect a bias for or
against any of those involved. As part of the BBC's duty to be
impartial, independent and accurate, it tries to use neutral and
factual language wherever possible. The words terrorist
and terrorism when applied to a specific group are subjective
and can carry a sense of condemnation.
General use of the
words terror and terrorism are not banned, it's simply a case of
common sense how and when they are used. For instance,
they can be used in a non-specific context as well as in direct
quotes. An on-screen graphic on News 24 or a
headline on the News website might read "Airlines on terror
alert" or "Police conference on terrorism". And world
leaders might condemn specific groups as terrorists but if the
BBC carries their quotes, it will clearly attribute those
Is ETA a group of separatists, militants, terrorists, freedom
fighters, murderers or what?
"The process is going to be
long, hard and difficult," the prime minister said as he announced the
talks in Madrid. He offered few details but promised that the government
would not make major political concessions to ETA, which many Spaniards
consider a terrorist group.
The talks are expected to focus on government demands that ETA fighters
disarm and the group's call for Basque prisoners to be moved to jails
closer to their hometowns. The Basque separatists also want a voice in
determining the future of their region, but Zapatero seemed to rule that
The dialogue probably will take place in closed meetings in a European
country other than Spain. Zapatero said political parties could expect a
progress report in late September.
More than 2 million Basques live in a small wedge of northern Spain near
the border with France, sharing a common ethnic background, customs and
language. ETA has been fighting for an independent Basque country in its
traditional homeland in northern Spain and southern France since the
waning years of Gen. Francisco Franco's dictatorship, which ended in
More than 800 people have been killed in ETA attacks, including police
officers, politicians and journalists, and thousands more injured. The
violence often reached other parts of Spain, including Madrid.
Putting a definitive end to the conflict would be a major victory for
Zapatero, whose Socialist government has confronted Islamist terrorism
and tough resistance from the right-wing Popular Party. If the talks
fail, the government could fall, and Basque nationalists, invested now
in the peace process, might be tempted to make more radical demands.
An organization representing families of ETA victims condemned the
government's decision to negotiate, accusing Zapatero of "killing the
memory" of the dead. The group held an overnight vigil Thursday in
Madrid to protest the possibility of talks and attempted to deliver to
parliament a wreath of white carnations stained with red paint.
"It is monstrous that an elected, legal government agreed to dialogue
with a criminal band," said Vidal de Nicolas, a poet in Bilbao and
former head of an anti-nationalist Basque organization. "It is as if the
jewelers were talking with the jewelry-store robbers."
Opposition leader Mariano Rajoy, head of the Popular Party, said in
Madrid that his group would not support the government's plans. Talking
with terrorists, he said, is unacceptable. Polls, however, show
general support among Spaniards for negotiating an end to the conflict,
even if it means sitting down with guerrilla commanders.
Back in March ETA declared a
permanent cease-fire to its four-decades long battle against the
Spanish state. For more about ETAs cease-fire
announcement, click on
announces cease fire
ETA — which stands for
Euskadi Ta Askatasuna in the Basque language, or Basque Homeland and
Freedom — declared cease-fires in 1989 and 1998, but negotiations that
ETA has not killed anyone in three years, although it continued to set
off minor bombs and demand protection money from businesses. Large-scale
police operations in Spain and France have severely cut into the group's
ability to carry out attacks.
In addition, public outrage over train bombings by Islamist militants on
March 11, 2004, forced some ETA leaders to rethink their strategy.
Txema Montero, an attorney in Bilbao who served as an advisor to ETA in
the 1989 talks but broke with the group over its insistence on armed
struggle, said the moment was right for dialogue. He said Zapatero
probably could win over his opponents because of the public's general
fatigue with violence.
The separatists are "not changing because they've decided they love
democracy. They still don't understand democracy the way you and I do,
but they did reach the conclusion that things were not working out for
them," Montero said. "It's not love but self-interest. We have to try to
work with that."
The negotiations with ETA will be accompanied by political talks
involving all Basque parties, including ETA's outlawed political wing,
Batasuna. These separate talks are aimed at discussing the region's
A number of Basque groups lauded the Spanish government's decision, as
did officials of the European Union and France, where Basques also claim
Batasuna official Pernando Barrena said the move commits Zapatero to a
"respect for the decisions taken by the Basque people." The regional
Basque government praised the opening of talks as "positive" and pledged
Rodriguez Zapatero took a huge political risk by agreeing to
engage ETA directly in talks because a good many Spanish voices
are completely opposed to negotiations with an organization they
consider to be killers.
The Basque Country already
enjoys considerable autonomy. The area has its own parliament, police
force, schools and taxation powers. But some Basques want more, such as
the ability to enter into international trade agreements.
Zapatero's government has been more receptive to expanded regional
autonomy, and conservative opponents are afraid the Socialists will give
away too much.
Last week, the region of Catalonia approved a referendum that granted
itself greater autonomy; opposition leader Rajoy complained that it was
the beginning of the end of Spain.