Basques seek fresh start as Eta campaign ends at last

Life gets back to normal in Spanish region as separatist group declares peace after 43 years

Madrid

Church bells did not ring out across the Basque countryside yesterday, nor were there mass celebrations in town and city squares following Eta's announcement on Thursday evening that, after 43 years, its guerrilla war is finally over. Instead, something far more valuable and long-lasting appears to have broken out in Euskadi, as the Basque country is known: normality.

"There is a huge feeling of contentment and relief that the news has finally come through," said Alain Laiseka, a journalist from Bilbao.

"Last night when I was watching the announcement on television, the presenter got very emotional and started to improvise because she said after so many years of just talking about bombings and deaths, it was amazing this day had finally come. But in many ways it was seen as something logical and today, for example, when I went into a bar this morning, the ceasefire wasn't even being discussed.

"For the vast majority of Basques, their lives aren't going to change. My life won't. But that in itself says something about the way things already changed here over the last few years."

Certainly, the sense that Eta's declaration of a permanent ceasefire – already effectively in force for more than a year – was all but inevitable stretches back far further than Monday's high-profile international peace conference that issued a five-point programme condemning the violence.

Mr Laiseka, 34, said political trouble on the streets of the Basque country is already a fading memory, and that even the low-level rioting with separatist overtones that used to take place with monotonous regularity in the old quarters of its major cities most weekends vhas disappeared. The last time the Basque police had to use force was when squatters were ejected from a city centre building this autumn.

But until Thursday, the latent threat of political violence nonetheless remained, and Mr Laiseka recognises that for a significant minority – the families of Eta's 800-plus victims, or those permanently escorted by a bodyguard, as is still the case for town councillors – "there will be a real sense of liberation. It'll feel like the fall of Gaddafi."

To judge by yesterday's newspapers in the Basque country, the blossoming of wide-ranging discussion, inhibited for so many years, has already started. Publications such as the nationalist-leaning Deia dedicated 55 pages of a total of 80 to the ceasefire, while the Noticias de Gipuzkoa ran a two-word headline on an otherwise completely blank front page: "At last."

"The process that follows will not be straightforward by any means," Pablo Muñoz, director of four Basque newspapers and a political analyst of the conflict, told The Independent. "But at least it means that people won't have to look under their cars every morning for bombs or have a police escort."

But while the Basque country now has a real, if complicated, chance to move forward politically, any potential reconciliation between the families of Eta's 800-plus victims and the terrorists may be a long time in the making. As Josu Puelles, the brother of a Basque policeman killed in 2009, told El Pais newspaper yesterday, "They can't go unpunished."

Basque Separatism: A Brief History

*Nearly 830 lives have been lost in the armed struggle by Eta to secure independence for the Basque region, which spans the north of the country and some of south-west France.

*The campaign began in 1959 as a student movement fiercely opposed to General Franco's repressive regime. It claimed its first victim in 1968 when a Civil Guard was shot dead by an Eta member he tried to stop at a road block.

*At the height of its power in the later 1970s, shortly after the country had negotiated the delicate transition from dictatorship to democracy, attacks by the group claimed as many as 92 lives in one year.

*Violence peaked again at the turn of the century. In 2000, following a 14-month truce, 23 people were killed in Eta attacks.

*Eta's influence has waned because of a concerted police crackdown and a drop in its political support.

Suggested Topics
News
people And here is why...
Arts and Entertainment
Amazon has added a cautionary warning to Tom and Jerry cartoons on its streaming service
tv
Voices
voicesBy the man who has
Sport
Arsene Wenger tried to sign Eden Hazard
footballAfter 18 years with Arsenal, here are 18 things he has still never done as the Gunners' manager
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
The new Windows 10 Start Menu
tech
News
Floyd
newsFloyd 'Creeky' Creekmore still performed regularly to raise money for local hospitals
Arts and Entertainment
Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson star in The Twilight Saga but will not be starring in the new Facebook mini-movies
tvKristen Stewart and Stephenie Meyer will choose female directrs
News
William Hague
people... when he called Hague the county's greatest
News
More than 90 years of car history are coming to an end with the abolition of the paper car-tax disc
newsThis and other facts you never knew about the paper circle - completely obsolete today
News
peopleStella McCartney apologises over controversial Instagram picture
Arts and Entertainment
Twerking girls: Miley Cyrus's video for 'Wrecking Ball'
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Ed Sheeran performs at his Amazon Front Row event on Tuesday 30 September
musicHe spotted PM at private gig
Extras
indybestKeep extra warm this year with our 10 best bedspreads
News
people'I’d rather have Fred and Rose West quote my characters on childcare'
Arts and Entertainment
There has been a boom in ticket sales for female comics, according to an industry survey
comedyFirst national survey reveals Britain’s comedic tastes
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Real Estate Solicitor 2+PQE - City

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: CITY - HIGH VALUE REAL ESTATE / RESID...

General Cover Teacher

£120 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Luton: Are you looking for part time/ ...

SEN (SLD/PMLD) Teacher

£120 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Are you a quailed Teacher ...

General Cover Teacher

£120 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Luton: Currently looking for teachers ...

Day In a Page

Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
The magic of roundabouts

Lords of the rings

Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
Why do we like making lists?

Notes to self: Why do we like making lists?

Well it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
Hong Kong protests: A good time to open a new restaurant?

A good time to open a new restaurant in Hong Kong?

As pro-democracy demonstrators hold firm, chef Rowley Leigh, who's in the city to open a new restaurant, says you couldn't hope to meet a nicer bunch
Paris Fashion Week: Karl Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'

Paris Fashion Week

Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'
Bruce Chatwin's Wales: One of the finest one-day walks in Britain

Simon Calder discovers Bruce Chatwin's Wales

One of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
10 best children's nightwear

10 best children's nightwear

Make sure the kids stay cosy on cooler autumn nights in this selection of pjs, onesies and nighties
Manchester City vs Roma: Five things we learnt from City’s draw at the Etihad

Manchester City vs Roma

Five things we learnt from City’s Champions League draw at the Etihad
Martin Hardy: Mike Ashley must act now and end the Alan Pardew reign

Trouble on the Tyne

Ashley must act now and end Pardew's reign at Newcastle, says Martin Hardy
Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?