Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Nationalism in the Basque Country

To the surprise of much of the population of the day, the world didn’t end, as most Christians had feared, with a roaring of trumpets as the year 1000AD rolled around. Many people had given away all their possessions in anticipation of the arrival of the Heavenly Kingdom, and, one hopes that they had the grace to feel a bit foolish after the snows receded. Shortly after the world didn’t end, some six years after the non-event, Sancho el Grande became king of Navarra. His reign was marked by the Moors to the south, still in control of what would one day become Spain, and the provinces to the northwest, which form the present Basque Country. As Sancho absorbed these provinces by war – and later parts of southwestern France, the Kingdom of Navarre, mainly Basque speaking, became, for a short while, the apogee of Euskal Herria, or ‘the greater Basque homeland’.
The world moved on. The three northern provinces, part of Aquitaine, became the French 'Pyrenees Atlantiques’, the three Spanish provinces to the west became the Basque Autonomy and Navarra and its capital city of Pamplona became its own autonomy. While officially bi-lingual, unlike the French provinces, Navarra is divided between its under-populated northern Pyrenean area which shares spoken Basque with Spanish, and the rest of the province, including its capital, where Spanish is practically the only language used.
The Basque freedom movement, for want of a better term, is stuck on the history of Sancho’s brief kingdom, and wants the entire area, including the French provinces, to be re-united under the nation of Euskal Herria, with its capital city as Pamplona!
According to a Basque website, in Nafarroa (Navarra), only 10% of the inhabitants speak Euzkara, despite being officially a ‘two-language’ province.
The Batasuna party describes itself as representing the izquierda abertzale, or the ‘left-wing patriots’. They are, of course, the political wing of ETA, or Euskadi Ta Askatasuna (literally ‘Basque Country and Liberty’), the terrorist organisation that is prepared to kill for a Greater Marxist-Leninist Basque State.
Not all Basques are supporters of Batasuna, and a milder form of nationalism has generally ruled the Basque Country as the PNV (Partido Nacionalista Vasco). This group is, if anything, slightly rightist or at least pragmatist in its policies and had considered itself a member of the International Christian Democrats before the Partido Popular engineered its ousting. It is now within the European Democratic Party coalition. Certainly, the PNV is keen on holding as much power locally as possible – a form of nationalism - and it looks towards an eventual independence, but it is not as forthright as, for example, the Catalonian equivalent.
Returning to the extremists in the Spanish Basque Country (they are considerably quieter in France as the French will not allow regional languages at all and will fall heavily on any independence talk), the Batasuna want three things of Madrid. That Basque ‘political’ prisoners should be held in Basque jails (they are usually shipped as far away as the national courts can send them); that the government lifts its ban on outlawed political parties and associations such as Batasuna and, impossibly, that the traditional seven provinces should be granted their own state - even if the majority of the inhabitants were against such a proposal, the true Basque considers (what the founder of the PNV Sabino Arana might describe as) the purity of the Basque race and its moral supremacy over other Spaniards.
The Basque condition is, of course, utterly different from the Catalonian idea of nationalism, which, while once again based on historical anecdote, is more concered with the economic implications of its actions. The Andalucian version of nationalism, currently under discussion in the Seville parliament, hasn’t even that to go by, as, historically, Andalucía belongs to the Moors.

I would be glad to receive any correction on the foregoing - keeping political opinion down as far as possible. Thanks.

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