By Andrew Zirkle | SPAIN
After the contentious but seemingly successful referendum in Catalonia last Sunday, the citizens of Basque Country in Spain have seen a revival in attention for their independence cause which has been marred in bloody conflict for over 50 years.
Basque Country, which consists of portions of Northern Spain and Southern France, has not only a unique culture but also its own language and autonomous region in Spain. Just like Catalonia, this distinct national identity and culture has driven residents of this area to support independence from Spain. Some Basque nationalists, in stark contrast to Catalan nationalists, have used a terror in attempts to achieve their ends. One of the most prominent groups known as the Euskadi Ta Askatasuna (ETA) waged an active terror campaign against the governments of Spain and France from 1959 until 2011 when a ceasefire was signed.
Despite an often high level of support for the independence movement in Basque Country, its association with the ETA and violence against the central government of Spain eliminated talks of any official independence referendum until 2007.
On September 28, 2007, President of the Basque Autonomous Region Juan José Ibarretxe proposed a referendum which then narrowly passed the regional parliament in June of 2008. Despite this early success, the Basque referendum suffered a similar fate to that of the Catalan referendum when it was ruled unconstitutional by the Spanish Supreme Court. Despite the similarities, the paths of each referendum diverged from there as the Basque regional government then ended its official independence campaign shortly after the ruling, while Catalan officials pushed for their vote.
Even though it has been almost 10 years since the failed referendum of Basque Country, that did not stop the regional government of Basque, as well as the recently disarmed ETA, from making statements in support of the Catalan referendum and democracy.
Although it is still tarnished with the image of violence, the future of the Basque independence movement may be looking up. Continued support for the independence for Basque country can be seen in a sizable Pro-independence bloc in Basque parliament. Just as important as actual support is renewed attention and excitement, which can be seen in Google search data where the search term “Basque Independence” has had its search volume increase by at least 100%.
Although the road to independence for Basque Country is much farther than that of Catalonia, there’s no doubt that efforts for independence will be renewed should Catalonia achieve its independence from Spain.