110 prominent pro-independence left activists were present last Saturday at a press conference in Altsasu in the Basque Country. There is no doubt it was an extraordinary event that strenghtened the importance of the ocassion.
A three-page declaration entitled “A first step in the democratic process: principles and intentions of the nationalist Left” was read to the gathered media. In it, the pro-Independence Left declares without reservations "support for a peaceful, political and democratic process in order to achieve an inclusive democracy, where the Basque people, freely and without any intimidation of any kind, will be able to decide their future.”
The document puts together and summarises numerous ideas, statements, press releases, interviews that have been carried out during the past year including Batasuna’s debate document launched a month ago. However, it also includes new commitments like the acceptance of the Mitchell principles which opened the path to the peace process in Ireland.
The pro-independence left sets the overcoming of the armed conflict as a priority. According to them this conflict has been perpetuated by the current political framework which divides the Basque Country and denies its people their rights.
The declaration states that “both with correct decisions and errors the pro-Independence Left has brought the liberation process to the phase of political change. Now, the task is to make it irreversible.” For this to happen “new strategies, new political alliances and new tools” are required.
They acknowledge that “the objectives to reach in this new phase are the national recognition of the Basque Country and the right to self-determination and for that it’s necessary to increase the accumulation of forces and to move the confrontation with the Spanish and French states to the front where they are weaker that is the political front. The basic instrument for the new political phase is the Democratic Process.”
Spain’s Minister of the Interior and the pro-Spanish forces and media said there was nothing new in the statement and tried to criminalise it as usual.
The Basque parties welcomed the statement as positive and asked ETA to make a move.
More support messages came from abroad also. Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams said: “Their unconditional declaration of support for a peaceful, political and democratic process should be welcomed by the friends of the Basque and Spanish peoples, by all friends of the quest for peace in the Spanish State. This political initiative needs space to bloom. I reiterate my call in recent days for all involved to create the space.” Mr. Adams was refering to a previous statement last Friday in which he asked for the immediate release of Arnaldo Otegi and the other Batasuna leaders imprisoned a month ago.
International mediator Brian Currin also welcomed the declaration from Venice where he was attending along with Sinn Féin, Batasuna and the Kurdish Workers Party’s represenatives conference on democratic and peace processes.