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SPAIN: The status of the Basque homeland



Michael Kramer asked for precise information about the status of Basque territories. Luis Sanzo has sent a long reply, which is posted because the situation should be better known. He says the Basque situation cannot be compared with that of Palestine; references to that problem are omitted here so as not to confuse readers more. Luis says:

  1. The territory claimed by Basque nationalists includes the Spanish territories of Euskadi and Nafarroa and some areas of France (Lapurdi, Zuberoa and Behe Nafarroa). Basque territories in France have no political autonomy; they even do not exist as political demarcations. In Spain, Euskadi and Navarra are Comunidades Autónomas and have important political autonomy (including direct control of taxes). The Spanish Constitution includes the possibility of integration of Nafarroa in Euskadi. Unlike Nafarroa, where a Spanish right-wing party is in power, Euskadi has for more than 20 years had a Basque nationalist government. Like 90% of the Basque population, it is against the use of violence and terrorism. The political wing of ETA has less than 10% of the seats in the Euskadi Parliament.
  2. The Basque Comunidades Autónomas of Spain are not included as Non-Self-Governing Territories or all other Territories that have not yet attained independence.

    To accelerate the process of decolonization, the UN General Assembly in 1960 adopted the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples (Declaration on decolonization) which proclaims that the subjection of people to alien subjugation, domination and exploitation constitutes a denial of fundamental human rights. It affirms that all peoples have the right to self-determination. The Declaration calls for immediate steps to be taken to transfer all powers to peoples in Trust and Non-Self-Governing Territories or all other Territories that have not yet attained independence, in accordance with their freely expressed will and desire. In 1961, the General Assembly established the Special Committee on the Situation with regard to the Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples (Special Committee on Decolonization) as the main United Nations body concerned with the progress of all people under colonial rule towards self-determination and independence. The Declaration calls for immediate steps to be taken to transfer all powers to peoples in Trust and Non-Self-Governing Territories or all other Territories that have not yet attained independence, in accordance with their freely expressed will and desire. The Committee currently follows the application of the Declaration to 17 Non-Self-Governing Territories: American Samoa, Anguilla, Bermuda, the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands, East Timor, the Falkland Islands (Malvinas), Gibraltar, Guam, Montserrat, New Caledonia, Pitcairn, St. Helena, Tokelau, the Turks and Caicos Islands, the United States Virgin Islands and Western Sahara - as well as the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands. The Committee annually reviews the list of Territories to which the Declaration is applicable.

  3. According to the Supreme Court of Canada in its Opinion about Quebec secession ;, a right to secession only arises under the principle of self-determination of people at international law where "a people" is governed as part of a colonial empire; where "a people" is subject to alien subjugation, domination or exploitation; and possibly where "a people" is denied any meaningful exercise of its right to self-determination within the state of which it forms a part. In other circumstances, peoples are expected to achieve self-determination within the framework of their existing state. A state whose government represents the whole of the people or peoples resident within its territory, on a basis of equality and without discrimination, and respects the principles of self-determination in its internal arrangements, is entitled to maintain its territorial integrity under international law and to have that territorial integrity recognized by other states;. This is obviously the case of Spain. The internal right to self-determination of Basque population has been translated into political territorial autonomy, accepted in referendum by the majority of people in Euskadi. Nafarroa has the right to decide to participate in Euskadi but, until now, its government has preferred to maintain its own institutions.

    I personally support the right of Basque population, if they want to, to achieve an independent State but that goal (not directly supported by the international law, which protects the territorial integrity of Spain) must be achieved through negotiation with Spanish State, in the framework of legal norms, supported by people in referendum and with respect to the rights of minorities to maintain their Spanish and Basque citizenship and have the same rights that Basques actually have in Spain (for example, territorial autonomy where demographically dominant). This process cannot be achieved in any case through force or violence but through democratic ways (as expressed by the Supreme Court of Canada in relation to Quebec).

    My comment: The UN General Assembly has been widely discredited by such things as the election of Zimbabwe to the Commission on Human Rights. In practical terms it must be recognized that ETA violence, as for example at the Real Madrid stadium in Madrid, has provoked Spanish nationalist feelings all of Spain and that the success of right-wing parties in Europe is indicative of a trend. Spain spent centuries creating its unity, and no Spanish government would survive which tolerated secession of any territory. The first republic of 1873 threatened to fall apart and lasted only a year, giving way to a military dictatorship. The situation in Spain is different from that in France. In Spain, the Basque homeland has been given a maximum of autonomy. The less important Basque territories in France might wish to join the Spanish territories, which France would not permit. Moreover, Basque violence has alienated most of the population there.

    Ronald Hilton - 5/8/02


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