Northern Basque Country closer to getting own institution

Pyrénées-Atlantiques prefect proposes creation of Basque association of municipalities in 2017 · Northern Basque councils to put proposal to vote in spring 2016

La proposta de les 9 EPCI feta pel prefecte.
La proposta de les 9 EPCI feta pel prefecte. Author: Préfet des Pyrénées-Atlantiques
After having been demanded by Northern Basques for decades, the prefecture of the department of the Pyrénées-Atlantiques has proposed the creation of a Northern Basque Country administrative unit. The new body, which could come into force in 2017, will be the first in the history of the French Republic to match the limits of the Northern Basque Country and to recognize its Basque character.

The Northern Basque body could be born in the form of an Intercommunal Cooperation Public Establishment (EPCI, French acronym), an administrative structure which brings together municipalities. As France is currently undergoing a deep the territorial reorganization, prefect of the Pyréneés Atlantiques Pierre-André Durand has proposed that the department is organized into nine different EPCI, eight of which will be organized in Bearn and the other one in the Basque Country.

Durand's proposal takes into account "the population of the Basque Country, the nature of the existing intercommunalities, and the desire by elected representatives to have a unique governance on a Basque-wide basis."

Now it will be up to the Northern Basque local councils to support or reject the proposal. The municipalities will need to decide on their stance on the Basque entity by the spring 2016, when votes are scheduled in each one of the Northern Basque town halls.

According to Sud Ouest newspaper, most mayors favor the Basque EPCI. A minority of them are against, or at least are reluctant. This is the case for Biarritz mayor Michel Veunac, who says he supports a Basque Country body but argues issues relating to EPCI's powers and taxation are still unclear.

Powers to be exercised by the new Basque entity include economic development, urban policy, waste management and water management. However, French law allows EPCIs to exercise additional responsibilities, among which issues related to culture, environment, language and cross-border cooperation.

Batera platform to organize Basque-wide caravan

Meanwhile, the Batera platform -which brings together Northern Basque civil society groups and unions- is seeking crowdfunding to organize a caravan that will be traveling throughout the 158 Northern Basque municipalities over the coming months. Batera's goal is "to reach residents and political representatives" to "gather as large as possible support for the creation of the Basque Country entity."

Keywords: Basque Country, France, Northern Basque Country