Basque Fatherland and Liberty
Euzkadi Ta Askatasuna (ETA)
The Basque separatist group ETA relinquished its last caches of weapons 08 April 2017, effectively ending one of the longest conflicts in contemporary European history. The International Verification Commission (IVC) confirmed that the militant group gave French authorities a list of the locations of 12 weapons caches. ETA, which had killed more than 800 people over several decades through bombings and assassinations, had enforced a unilateral ceasefire since 2011. "The Basque government will do everything in its power to make sure this goes according to plan, even if not everything is in our hands," the Basque government's regional leader Inigo Urkullu said in a news conference on 17 March 2017.
ETA was formed in the late 1950s during the dictatorship of Francisco Franco with the aim of establishing an independent Basque state in northern Spain and southern France. But the group has been severely weakened in recent years after hundreds of its members, including its leader, were arrested and police seized several of its weapons stashes.
The group announced a permanent ceasefire in 2011, but the governments of Spain and France refused to take part in its disarmament because ETA tied it to the future of its members, both in and out of jail. The two countries demanded that ETA lay down its weapons without conditions and disband.
Areas populated by the ethnic Basques are divided between France and Spain. The areas are composed of seven provinces: three under French administration, Iparraldea or Northern Basque Country, and four under Spanish administration, Hegoaldea or Southern Basque Country.
In 1901, the founder of the Basque Nationalist Party, Sabino Arana, coined the term, Euzkadi (also spelled Euskadi) to describe a hypothetical Basque confederated state comprised of the seven Basque provinces.
Basque Fatherland and Liberty a.k.a Euzkadi Ta Askatasuna (ETA) was founded in 1959 with the aim of creating an independent homeland in Spain's Basque region. It has a muted commitment to Marxism.
The size and strength of the ETA is unknown though it may have hundreds of members, plus supporters.
The ETA operates primarily in the Basque autonomous regions of northern Spain and southwestern France, but it also has bombed Spanish and French interests elsewhere.
The ETA has established relations with the Irish Republican Army, and with the Algerian Islamic Group, for which it has provided training in the production of explosives, guerrilla warfare and urban terrorism. ETA has obtained weapons, safe houses, and other logistics support from Islamic networks in Europe. ETA groups may receive training in Iranian and Lebanese camps. It has received training at various times in the past in Libya, Lebanon, and Nicaragua. Some ETA members allegedly have received sanctuary in Cuba.
Primarily involved in bombings and assassinations of Spanish Government officials, especially security and military forces, politicians, and judicial figures. In response to French operations against the group, ETA also has targeted French interests. Finances its activities through kidnappings, robberies, and extortion. ETA has killed over 800 persons since it began lethal attacks in the early 1960s; responsible for murdering 13 persons in 1997.
In December 2002, however, ETA reiterated its intention to target Spanish tourist areas. In 2002, ETA killed five persons, including a child, a notable decrease from 2001's death toll of 15, and wounded approximately 90 persons.
In March of 2003 the Spanish Supreme Court banned the Basque Batasuna party from participating in national or municipal elections, citing ties to the ETA. Later that year in May, a car bomb was exploded in Madrid killing three people, the bomb was reportedly attributed to the ETA.
In March, 2006, the ETA declared a permanent cease-fire. In June, Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero announced that his government would begin negotiations with the ETA.
Despite resistance from the minority Popular Party, Spain’s majority Socialist party began peace talks with ETA on 16 July 2006. On 18 August, ETA announced that the peace talks were in danger of breaking down because of the “repressive” policies France and Spain had imposed on them. The main issue was the fact that the Spanish government refused to include Batasuna, ETA’s political party, in talks. On 24 September 2006, ETA held a rally in which it declared its refusal to disarm unless the Basque region gained independence from Spain.
On 14 November, the Socialist Party admitted that the peace process was fraught with problems. Batasuna’s stance on violent tactics was once again an issue. Also, the conviction of ETA activist Ignacio de Juana Chaos led to street hooliganism by Basque youth. On 14 December, ETA’s Pernando Barrena said that the peace process was “going nowhere.” He accused the Socialist Party of making excessive demands against Batasuna.
ETA declared a unilateral cease-fire in January 2011, but it was rejected by Spain's government because the separatist group made no pledge to lay down its arms. In October 2011 ETA declared an end to its bloody campaign for an independent homeland in Europe. They urged Spain and France to open talks with the aim of resolving the conflict. ETA had killed over 800 people in its bid to establish an independent homeland in the Basque regions of northern Spain and southwestern France.
Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list