Basque Country: Reflections on ETA‘s dissolution


© Permanent Social Forum

Public gathering on disarmament day, Bilbao, 8 April 2017 © Permanent Social Forum

On 3 May 2018, the Basque armed organisation ETA officially declared its formal dissolution, verified by international witnesses. This decisive step concluded the process of demobilization initiated by a permanent ceasefire announced in 2011, and monitored by a commission of international experts. In April 2017 this was followed by the decommissioning of ETA’s armed arsenal, and on 20 April 2018 by the organisation’s letter of apology to the victims of its armed campaign since 1959. These initiatives have allowed Basque society to move decisively on the path towards conflict transformation, by impulsing the first two steps of a disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) process, and enabling progress towards transitional justice and reconciliation.

Alongside other INGOs and advisory bodies, Berghof Foundation has accompanied Basque civil society (through the impulse of the Permanent Social Forum and Bake Bidea in the Spanish and French Basque territories) throughout this process in various support capacities. In 2017 we published and launched a report authored by the Basque Permanent Social Forum analyzing the decommissioning of ETA weapons as an pioneering initiative which was fully aligned with international DDR regulations for a secure, transparent, verified, irreversible, and inclusive process, even though it took place unilaterally by one party to the conflict, outside the framework of a peace process with the respective government, but with the active participation of local institutions and civil society. Programme Director Véronique Dudouet has contributed to various public forums and conferences on conflict resolution in the Basque Country since 2013. In March 2018 she presented general conclusions from the San Sebastian forum on “DDR applied to the Basque case: viability and opportunities", where she stressed that a decisive demobilization would hopefully help bring the conflict forward by transitioning from a unilateral process towards a dialogue with Spanish and French institutions, on the remaining components of an orderly DDR process, such as on the fate of prisoners and refugees.

Even though many hurdles remain to be solved for a long-lasting solution to this political conflict, we are convinced that the Basque model of conflict resolution – in its unique characteristics and highly inclusive impulse – will be able to inspire local and international peacebuilding practitioners in many parts of the world where armed conflicts are still raging or where peace processes are grappling with the intricacies DDR and reconciliation processes.