Jailed ETA members' support marks a new stage in the Basque peace process

The Body of Basque Political Prisoners joins the Gernika Agreement, a major pact among Basque political and social organisations which asked ETA to lay down arms and the recognition of political rights of the Basque people · Most parties -except for the Spanish right- welcome the announcement.

Sunday marked the first anniversary of the Gernika Agreement, a major breakthrough in the Basque peace process which last year rallied most organisations of the Basque left including the banned pro-independence Batasuna, but also Eusko Alkartasuna, Aralar, Alternatiba and Abertzaleen Batasuna, together with the major trade unions in the Basque Country -LAB, ESK, Hiru...- and other social organisations. Gernika's support has now been boosted by the announcement of the Body of Basque Political Prisoners (EPPK), the group representing ETA and Batasuna jailed members who staged they backing during this Sunday celebration, declaring that “we [the prisoners] had to play our active role within the peace process, and our model is the Gernika Agreement as it recognises our very responsibility in a process which aims for a peace scenario and democratic solutions”.

The Gernika Agreement was signed after ETA announced a permanent cease-fire in 2010, which the signatories considered to show “the willingness of the organisation to definitely abandon the armed activities”. The document also asks the recognition of social and political rights of all Basque citizens, as well as the end of all kinds of threats, torture, persecution and arrests.

Sunday's event also showed signs of the new strategy to be followed under the Gernika Agreement, which includes the “popularisation of the peace process”, that is, the effort to widen its support among new political agents during the following months. A demonstration has been called in Bilbao for next 22nd of October.

Prisoners' support

The Body of Basque Political Prisoners (EPPK) has been debating during several months the possibility of joining the Gernika Agreement, which finally has been agreed upon with the support of 90% of the prisoners -out of 800-. ETA and Batasuna jailed members said in a press release that “despite the limits and obstacles set by the countries which keep us captive, EPPK declares its strong commitment to make steps to the fulfillment of the democratic process”.

The announcement was praised by most political parties in the Basque Country except for Unión del Pueblo Navarro and also Partido Popular, one of whose representatives said that the prisoners want “a scenario of impunity and political compensations, and not the end of ETA”. The socialist candidate for the next Spanish general election, Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba, said the end of ETA “is now closer”, while he warned that “there is no provision for an outright amnesty for prisoners in the Spanish Constitution”.

The Basque sovereignist party PNV is also pleased with the prisoners' move. Its president Iñigo Urkullo said it renders the end of the conflict more irreversible, considering the importance of the prisoners within the pro-independence movement. However, he stressed that the jailed “shouldn't become a major actor of the peace process”. Also Bildu, a coalition made up of several pro-independence and leftist parties, welcomed the decision and called for the Spanish government to “start making steps towards the peace process”.