When I asked my parents (the people I always assume hold all worldly answers) about ETA, I got a mumbled response that, “It’s something to do with Spain, one of their… organizations, isn’t it?” As our international news covers Africa, China, the Middle East, we hear very little about this very big problem in Spain. ETA is a Spanish terrorist group intent on using violence as a means of persuading the government to grant their region, the Basque Country, independence. Their last attack was in December, bombing a TV station in Guipuzcoa, and their last fatal attack in September 2008. It seems Spain’s insistence that this is an internal problem means there is very little coverage on a global scale and, as a result, very little help offered to Spain on solving the issue. So with no real outside help, Spain is left to its own devices to find a resolution, and the fact that this group has been active for the last 50 years, suggests that this is proving hard to find.
A major error was banning ETA’s political wing Batasuna from existence in 2003 under their terrorist laws. Without Batasuna, ETA has no legal voice at all and so continues to speak through bombings, murders and kidnappings. Let’s also not forget Spain’s “Dirty War” in the 80s, in which the government sponsored GAL (Grupos Antiterroristas de Liberation for you linguists) to hunt down and kill anyone affiliated with ETA. Although the government still denies they had anything to do with this, the younger generation can hardly be blamed for growing up with anger and passion in favour of ETA’s cause. These teenagers, and not to mention older moderate Basques, could have formed their own opinions supporting those in favour of peace. The ongoing allegations of torture of ETA prisoners doesn’t exactly scream “Support fair and honest Spain!”, instead adding to the anger of the Basque people, and increasing the likelihood of them supporting ETA.
As much as it seems it, I am by no means sympathetic toward an organization which has the blood of 800 people on its hands. Any attempt at trying to find a compromise with ETA is met with an angry Spanish population who deem liasing with terrorists a great insult to the innocent victims. Even when Spain does take this plunge and manage to successfully arrange a ceasefire, ETA will always break it, with the most recent in 2006 lasting just nine months. A strong argument against compromise is made by the Spanish government with the claim that granting independence to the Basque Country would result in calls for independence from other regions. Further still, it has the most power of any non-state in Europe, therefore small-scale demands such as control of certain taxes and the name change from ‘autonomous community’ to ‘nation’ cannot justify this dramatic scale of violence.
It seems that unless Spain and ETA arrange some kind of compromise on the issue of independence, which would include putting the past behind them, these attacks will show no sign of stopping. Once Spain accepts on the global stage that they have a problem, it will receive more attention in the media, and as governments are slaves to public opinion, they will be clambering over one another to offer their support, which will benefit the situation hugely. As for what ETA can do to aid the resolution; disappear. Violence never achieves anything.
By Sophie Paley