By Sagrario Morán (for Safe Democracy)

Sagrario Morán discusses the three phases that must be passed through in order for the terrorist organization ETA to come to an end. The first phase, which has already almost reached its completion, is the establishment of a permanent cease-fire. The second phase is the opening of a dialogue between the Spanish government and ETA. And once all violence has ended, the moment will have arrived in order to begin the third phase of the peace process: the formation of a mediation board between the political parties.

Sagrario Morán is a specialist in terrorism and political violence. She is a professor of political science at the Complutense University of Madrid and at the King Juan Carlos I University. She published the book “PNV-ETA. History of an impossible relationship”.

IT HAS BEEN FORTY YEARS SINCE ETA´S TRAGIC escalation of violence began in the 1960’s, three years since the deaths of their final two victims, and two and a half months since the declaration of a permanent cease-fire. We find ourselves now in the second phase of a process that could lead towards a lasting peace.

The process has a very clear trajectory, judging by the way things are going, involving three phases of increasing complexity and length that must be overcome.


The first phase, which has all but reached its conclusion, began with the substantiation of ETA’s permanent cease-fire.

ETA and the Spanish government were the main protagonists of this step, along with State Security Forces that acted to ensure that the cease-fire was being upheld. The result was the Minister of the Interior’s recent announcement that, ETA’s ceasefire was comprehensive and authentic.

Now in the second phase of the peace process, the necessity for dialogue between the Spanish government and ETA is paramount. While some political entities grow increasingly more impatient over their lack of a role in the process, many politicians are conscious that only once a mediation board has been established will they be able to stop being mere observers, and play a more significant part in the process.

Unfortunately the atmosphere in the Spanish government since President Zapatero announced before Congress the opening of dialogue with ETA, does not appear to be the most opportune or welcoming of negotiation.

In the last fifteen days members of ETA’s political party, Batasuna, declared illegal in Spain, threatened that the peace process would collapse if their leaders were thrown into prison. The announcement was followed quickly by various episodes of street violence, attacks on political headquarters, and extortion.

Then came the decision by Judge Grande-Marlaska to let Batasuna’s leaders go free, which appears to have both hindered and helped the peace process, as well as the announcement by Basque socialists that they would continue to maintain formal relationships with Batasuna. Meanwhile the Partido Popular (Spain’s conservative party) has adopted a hardliner policy to refuse any and all attempts to open dialogue.

The peace process is hardly linear, but filled with ups and downs, threats, shows of force, and struggle. We can hope that the current tension within the Spanish government is only a part of the negotiating process, which will diminish as the dialogue progresses; in the same way that the large amount of tension before the cease-fire diminished.


During this second phase of negotiations a high level of patience and responsibility will be necessary in order for negotiations to conclude with the disbanding of ETA and the liberation of its more than 500 prisoners still being held in Spanish prisons. It is not the first time, however, that this scenario has presented itself.

In 1982, ETA-Político Militar decided to disband and achieve at the same time the freedom of those prisoners and exiles who had renounced violence. The process worked and 250 polimilis abandoned their weapons.


Only once a dialogue has been established, and an agreement has been made to end all violence will the time come to enter into the third phase of the process: the establishment of a mediation board. To this board will come all political parties, including the currently declared illegal party Batasuna, in order to discuss the issues that separate nationalists from non-nationalists.


But the time given to these negotiations, between the end of the first board and the conclusion of the second, should be sufficient in order to ensure a solid agreement, free of the shadow of a continuing ETA.

The board can only be established in the opportune moment, once all differences have been discussed and resolved.

Only in this way will we have the guarantee of a lasting peace. The more consensus there is in the political sector, the more chances we will have to come to a happy ending.

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