23/10/2012 Friendship Statement: Anniversary of the International Conference of Aiete

ES The Basque Friendship Group, BFG, has called a extraordinary meeting to produce this statement on the first anniversary of the conference of Aiete and the subsequent definitive cessation of armed activity by ETA. Recently there have been other important events regarding the peace process, – regional elections were held on the Basque Autonomous Community last Sunday, Spain was condemned by the ECHR on the 16th and the European Union was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize on the 12th October. We would like to reflect on all these issues:

AIETE & ETA’s definitive cessation of armed activity

The “International Conference to promote the resolution of the conflict in the Basque Country” on 17th October 2011, marked a mile-stone in the process of resolution to the Basque Country. The proposals of Kofi Annan, Gro Harlem Bruntland, Bertie Ahern, Gerry Adams, Pierre Joxe and Jonathan Powell, set out a clear road-map to resolve the last ongoing armed conflict in the European Union.

The Basque Friendship Group organised a hearing in March with Jonathan Powell, where he spoke about the lessons of the Irish peace process. One of the things that Mr Powell said was that “You can’t just wish a conflict away. In the end you need to have engagement, you have to have talking if the problem is to be resolved.”

The international conference in the Basque Country was clear when it called on the governments of Spain and France to welcome the definitive cessation of ETA’s armed activity and to agree to talks to deal with the consequences of the conflict.

Unfortunately, and as far as the Friendship knows there have been no such talks. We understand that sooner than later dialogue will have to be taken to resolve the outstanding consequences of the conflict in the Basque Country.

Spain condemned by the ECHR

On 16th October the Kingdom of Spain was condemned by the European Court of Human Rights for not investigating the tortures denounced by Martxelo Otamendi, former Director of “Egunkaria”. Egunkaria was the only Basque written newspaper and was closed on 2002 for alleged ties with ETA, the courts acquitted all the accused in 2010.

Mr Otamendi denounced brutal tortures after being arrested “incommunicado” and the ECHR has condemned Spain for failing to carry out a proper investigation. On the same ruling the ECHR has requested the application of the CPT’s (Committe for the Prevention of Torture of the Council of Europe) recommendations to avoid “blind spaces” and vulnerabilities. The Friendship supports that request and asks the Spanish State to apply the recommendations as soon as possible.

Regional elections on the Basque Autonomous Community

Last Sunday 21st, regional elections were held in the Basque Autonomous Community. The Friendship wants to congratulate the people who engaged in this democratic process, all the candidates who stood for election, the people elected and the parties that gained representation. We believe that the election demonstrates once again the commitment of the Basque people to the peace process. We hope that the new government will work for peace and reconciliation and, in accordance with the Aiete Declaration, we urge that major steps be taken to promote reconciliation and to recognise, compensate and assist all victims as well as to recognise the harm that has been done and seek to heal personal and social wounds.

We would also like suggest that non violent actors and the newly elected political representatives meet and discuss political and other related issues, in consultation with the citizenry, that could contribute to a new era without conflict.

NOBEL PEACE PRIZE

The award of the the Nobel Peace Prize to the European Union takes place against the backdrop of social conflict in many parts of Europe. However, the EU has helped to end war between historic enemies and has contributed to conflict resolution within certain member states.

This award must now be an incentive for the EU to contribute to resolving the conflict in the Basque Country. Taking into account the resolution on the Basque peace process adopted by the EU parliament on October 2006, we ask the European Parliament, the Commission and the Council to become actively involved in promoting the Basque peace process in order to resolve the last ongoing armed conflict inside the EU.

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