Republican News · Thursday 12 October 2000

[An Phoblacht]

Crackdown on alternative EU summit

The French government does not want the European Council Summit to be a repetition of Prague, or Seattle. So, on Saturday 14 and Sunday 15 of October, a line of French police will surround the Basque town of Biarritz in an effort to prevent demonstrators from upsetting the agenda for the meeting of the European head of states.

But not only will demonstrators be prevented for marching. The inhabitants of Biarritz will have to suffer the discomfort of not being allowed to walk or park their cars around the city centre. Commercial flights won't be allowed to land at Biarritz airport, to facilitate the arrival of the head of states attending the meeting. Fishing vessels will not be allowed to fish near the coastal town.

Also, the French prefect for the Atlantic Pyrenees, André Viau, announced that the authorities are considering closing the border at the Pyrenees, a measure illegal under European law, but which the French government did already this year when Basque parties called for a national demonstration in the north Basque country last March. ``The border closure is a measure that could be taken depending on the circumstances,'' Viau said.

The European Union is presently embroiled in an in-depth process of restructuring. Under the presidency of the French state, this process is developing through the summits in Nice and Biarritz

Groups for the unemployed, social movements, trade unions, youth organisations and political parties have formed a coalition that has called for a demonstration and alternative summit to take place on 14 October.

Protestors point out that the Chapter of Fundamental Rights means a step back from advances on human rights legislation in the European Union. The Chapter of Fundamental Rights has been presented as a single document where the EU is bringing together the fundamental rights recognised at EU level. The task of drafting this document was entrusted to a body of 15 representatives of the states members, 30 members of national parliaments, 16 MEPs and a Commission representative, with the Court of Justice and the Council of Europe taking part as observers.

The discussion on this Chapter will bring up the theme of a European Constitution, and this will be the first step to fix the basis for the new Europe, which will be expanding towards the east and could result in the inclusion of between 27 and 30 states.

The design of this new Europe is oriented towards the imposition of a globalised socio-economic model. The protestors say the European Union is moving towards a non-democratic model. Some examples of the undemocratic EU ways are the working procedures of some of the principal European institutions. The European Commission has a monopoly in the area of competition; the Central Bank has a monopoly of monetary policy; the Council of Ministers, despise being a decision making body, does not have a parliament to control it; and finally, the Parliament, despise being elected by the people, does not have the power to make the laws.

This is a Europe of the states, where cultural minorities will not be recognised. Basque pro-independence political parties are deeply involved in the Biarritz alternative summit, and political representatives from the north and south Basque Country -under French and Spanish control, respectively, have called for the Basque people to demonstrate against neo-liberalism ``and to vindicate Basque identity''.

Interment Spanish style.

On 5 October 2000, a group of 100 Spanish police officers took part in the arrests of nine Basque citizens, all of whom are involved in social movements. This is the Spanish government's latest action against the wider Basque political activism.. The police action was co-ordinated by Spanish judge Baltasar Garzón.

Seven of those arrested were the members of the Joxemi Zumalabe Foundation. Carlos Trenor, lawyer and councillor in Donosti; Iñaki O'Shea, ex Jesuit and former member of Herri Batasuna; Olatz Altuna, sociologist; Fernando Olalde, lawyer and economist,; Pepe Urruñuela, lawyer; Mikel Aznar, activist against the Prague Summit; and Luix Barinagarrementeria, lawyer and member of the pro-civil rights platform Bai Euskal Herriari and Patxi Azparren, former member of movements against compulsory military service, and member of ABK (Assembly for self-determination). At the time of their arrest, all nine were accused of leading a civil disobedience project, supposedly part of an overall strategy by the Basque armed group ETA.

The judge ordered their arrests becaise of their participation in a civil resistance project, termed Piztu Euskal Herria, which wants to organise a parallel Basque state through the rejection of French and Spanish identity cards and the creation of a new civil register in those towns where the pro-independence movement has a majority in the local government.

After questioning, Altuna, Uruñuela and Olalde were released on bail, while Luix Barinagarrementeria was released without charges.

Spanish Home minister, Jaime Mayor Oreja, welcomed the detentions, as did the right-wing Popular Party leader in the Basque Country, Carlos Iturgaiz.

The spokesperson for Euskal Herritarrok, Arnaldo Otegi, pointed out how these detentions demonstrate once more ``the lack of democratic freedom for those who want to create a Basque state''. Euskal Herritarrok - a Basque electoral coalition that includes Herri Batasuna - sees in this latest action ``a clear intention to wipe out any type of political militancy outside the ambit of the Spanish Constitution. At the end of the day, these measures try to make the desire for independence illegal, to make illegal the work of activists who work in this direction, be it on social or political issues.''

Around 200 lawyers and social groups and trade unions from the Basque Country, La Rioja, Madrid and Catalunya expressed their disbelief on the charges against lawyer Pepe Urruñuela and the activities of the Joxemi Zumalabe Foundation. During a press conference organised by members of the Joxemi Zumalabe Foundation, Mikel Zuluaga denied Garzón's accusation that Piztu Euskal Herria is an ETA project. ``I know what I am saying, as it took form from my own ideas and actions,'' he said.

Zuloaga explained that Piztu Euskal Herria was created five years ago and that the objective of this civil movement is to promote ``a new, really democratic political tradition, separated from the traditional centres of power''. To achieve its aim, Piztu has developed a resistance strategy incorporating elements from other popular movements like the African National Congress.

During the press conference, Zuluaga called for the release of the five people still detained. ``Since when is it a crime not to accept the Constitution and try to change a society using pacific and civil means?'', he asked.

The latest arrests in the Basque Country have a very clear political dimension. As Spanish Prime Minister José María Aznar said last week, the Spanish government's objective is that ``Euskal Herritarrok members would go to bed every night wondering whether they will be behind bars the following day''. This follows an upsurge of activity by the Basque armed group, ETA, but translates into the criminalisation of any political alternative challenging Spanish constitutional order.

The Spanish government is also considering reforming the Spanish Penal Code in its efforts to repress Basque social and political resistance. The reforms will aim to broaden the activities that could be sanctioned under Spanish law as `terrorism' - and which will be under the jurisdiction of a special court - to include commemorations of ETA volunteers and street riots. Other government proposals will allow judges to impose over 15-year prison sentences to young people over 14 years of age when accused of ``terrorist'' activities.

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