The new generations of young Basques are growing up, ten years after the end of ETA’s violence, far removed from the traumas that marked the previous generation, despite the fact that the terrorist organization’s acronym is still present in the political debate in the Basque Country and the rest of Spain.
As an example, a survey of Basque university students in 2017 revealed that 47% of them did not know who Miguel Ángel Blanco was, a young councilman murdered in 1997 by ETA after keeping him kidnapped for 48 hours, which mobilized Spanish society as never before.
More than half of those young people (56 %) did not know anything about the bomb that ETA planted in a large shopping center in Barcelona in 1987, which caused 21 deaths, the bloodiest attack of all those it committed.
On October 20, 2011, the far-left group, ETA, announced “the definitive cessation” of its terrorist activity after more than fifty years of terrorist activity and 858 murders behind it.
10 years later, unemployment and the economic crisis are at the center of the concerns of the Basques, after having removed the fear of violence from their lives.
Ignorance of ETA’s crimes
The main demand of the victims and of the political class is respect for the people who suffered the scourge of extreme left-wing terrorism and, to this end, they demand that they not be forgotten.
Initiatives have been launched to explain in the classroom to young people and adolescents what happened to the terrorist group, with projects such as “Memory and Prevention of Terrorism”, a joint project of the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of the Interior.
In the Basque Country, the origin of the terrorist group, an experience has been underway since 2011 in which victims of ETA and other terrorist groups come to the classroom to express their testimonies, which have already been heard by more than 6,000 young people.
These testimonies change their look: they go from seeing a distant and black and white reality to feeling empathy for the victims, knowing the context and, in the end, coming out of their stupor: “Did this happen?”, they ask themselves.
The end of ETA
After the end of ETA, the Basque Country emerged strongly from the economic crisis of those years, boosted by an economic structure based on industry and with the help of other sectors that were boosted by the disappearance of violence, such as tourism, which in this decade showed record figures year after year until the stop due to covid-19.
Economic recovery came to the fore, while other issues, such as terrorism or self-government, cooled down.
In fact, according to the latest Sociometer -a sociological survey conducted by the Basque Government- 41 % of Basques are openly against independence, while 32 % could be in favor “depending on the circumstances” and only 21 % totally agree.
However, in the 2013 survey, the first one carried out after ETA’s announcement, 27 % of Basques openly declared themselves to be pro-independence and 30 % disagreed, according to the Basque Government data.
Terrorism returns to politics
Another sign of “normalization” is the full participation of the radical left in political life, through EH Bildu, years ago considered the political arm of ETA.
In this decade, EH Bildu has consolidated its position as the leading opposition force in the Basque Country, with 21 seats in the last regional elections.
And not only does it play a fundamental role in Basque politics, but it also decided to play the game in the Spanish Congress, where its five deputies support the Government on numerous occasions, together with other nationalist groups.
From the left-wing parties, both the socialists and their government partners of Unidas Podemos, welcome this bet of radical independentism to exercise politics in the institutions and yesterday they welcomed the statement of the leader of EH Bildu Arnaldo Otegi, in which he affirmed that they felt “the pain” of the victims and affirmed that “it should never have happened”.
However, from the Executive, its spokeswoman, Isabel Rodriguez, demanded today that they condemn the actions of the band and that they do not participate in tributes to the condemned terrorists.
The conservative Popular Party (PP), the main opposition group, considers that Otegi’s statement is a political “whitewashing” and demands that they expressly condemn terrorism.