ETA learns from the neighbors

Spain began formal peace talks with the politcal wing of Basque separatist group ETA today. A recent poll suggests that a majority of Spaniards support the talks, though many are furious that a group that has killed more than 800 people during its 30-year campaign for independence is welcome at any government table.  So what ...

608009_ETA8.jpg
608009_ETA8.jpg

Spain began formal peace talks with the politcal wing of Basque separatist group ETA today. A recent poll suggests that a majority of Spaniards support the talks, though many are furious that a group that has killed more than 800 people during its 30-year campaign for independence is welcome at any government table. 

So what convinced ETA to lay down the guns, which it has done since declaring a ceasefire on March 22? Some will surely tell you it's the war on terror. More likely, though, it's that the current Spanish government is in an autonomy-granting mood, and ETA is simply trying to take advantage. The day before ETA announced its ceasefire back in March, the Spanish parliament approved language for a statute granting autonomy to Catalonia, another Spanish region seeking greater self-governance. Catalans then backed the new charter in a referendum a few weeks ago, giving the region "nation" status within Spain. Whether the Basques can achieve the same is certainly debatable; ETA in the past has claimed a chunk of southwestern France. But today's talks are one step forward for a group that seems to have decided to simply do as the Catalans do. 

Spain began formal peace talks with the politcal wing of Basque separatist group ETA today. A recent poll suggests that a majority of Spaniards support the talks, though many are furious that a group that has killed more than 800 people during its 30-year campaign for independence is welcome at any government table. 

So what convinced ETA to lay down the guns, which it has done since declaring a ceasefire on March 22? Some will surely tell you it’s the war on terror. More likely, though, it’s that the current Spanish government is in an autonomy-granting mood, and ETA is simply trying to take advantage. The day before ETA announced its ceasefire back in March, the Spanish parliament approved language for a statute granting autonomy to Catalonia, another Spanish region seeking greater self-governance. Catalans then backed the new charter in a referendum a few weeks ago, giving the region “nation” status within Spain. Whether the Basques can achieve the same is certainly debatable; ETA in the past has claimed a chunk of southwestern France. But today’s talks are one step forward for a group that seems to have decided to simply do as the Catalans do. 

Carolyn O'Hara is a senior editor at Foreign Policy.

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