By Javier Ortiz (for Safe Democracy)

Javier Ortiz explains how, six months after ETA‘s call for a definitive ceasefire, peace may fail in Basque country. In Ortiz‘s opinion, the peace has grown stale because no one –neither the Spanish Government, nor the opposition of the Popular Party, nor the Socialist Party of Euskadi, nor ETA, nor the illegal political party Batasuna– is willing to make the first move toward compromise. Each player seems to be waiting for the others to capitulate, out of a sense of responsibility, and so no one is budging, consequently the stagnant peace process could likely fail.

Javier Ortiz has practiced journalism since the age of 18, and currently writes for El Mundo, where he also worked as a sub director responsible for the opinion section. He is a political commentator on public radio and television in Basque country. During Franco’s regime he spent years in prison and in exile for political reasons. He has written for many different mediums around the world, and has published over eight books to date.

SIX MONTHS HAVE PASSED SINCE the beginning of the permanent ceasefire of the armed Basque organization Euskadi Ta Askatasuna (ETA). The announcement of a ceasefire –which followed the same formula used in its day by the IRA in Ireland–, swept throughout Basque Country and all of Spain, bringing the hope that peace had finally arrived. And when Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, President of the Spanish Government, announced his disposition to build a dialogue and find a solution to the age-old terrorism, that hope became real.

Half a year has gone by since those first, breath-taking steps, and the process has barely moved forward.

The only action that has been taken is the verification of the authenticity of the ceasefire, and the organization of a meeting between the leaders of the Socialist Party Euskadi –Basque branch of the Government of Madrid– and the leaders of Batasuna –the illegal political party of the Basque Country and defender of ETA’s principles–. That is why many analysts are concerned that the peace process has grown stale.

The main obstacle to peace is the way in which the different players envision the future.

There is a common agreement that there must be two different focal points of dialogue: the first, between the Central Government and ETA, in which conditions are fixed for the dissolution of the terrorist organization; and the second, amongst all of the political parties, without exclusions –apart from the self-exclusion of the rightist Popular Party, which has refused to participate in the process, for considering it misguided– in order to debate the place of the Basque Country in the Spanish state, and to revise the phrasing of the current Statute of Autonomy.

However, an agreement on the two distinct dialogues is about as far as the process has gotten. The minute the parties try to sit down at the table to forge a generic consensus, the differences begin to appear. The Government of Madrid wants to enter into conversations with ETA as soon as possible; but it feels no urgency about beginning the political discussions to redefine the Basque Country’s autonomous role.

The moderate nationalist parties that control the Autonomous Basque Government insist that both dialogues must move forward at the same time. Batasuna, meanwhile, has demanded that the political conversations begin now, to give proof to ETA’s social base that it did not put down its weapons gratis et amore, but rather because there is a peaceful way to reach the objectives it had desired through violence.

As a response, the Government of Madrid has demanded –without any success so far–, ETA to take some of the necessary steps to become a legal organization. This is of notable importance for the process to continue lawfully, because the judges of the National Audience –special court which tries the crimes of terrorism–, have been putting heavy pressure on the activities of Batasuna and the rest of the Patriotic Basque Left —abertzale–, including their right to meeting and demonstration.

And so everyone seems resigned to wait, convinced that the process will take time, and that no one will lead it to fail.

And yet, because everyone is waiting for the others to capitulate out of a sense of responsibility, nobody has moved from their position. And this waiting game could be an early suicide for the process.

If a compromise is not made, peace may very well fail in Basque country.

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