Saturday, July 28, 2012

Spain Research Paper

Spain Research Paper

The Basque problem is one of the major challenges to the stability in Spain. Historically, Spanish authorities attempted to repress the separatist movement in the region. However, even the dictatorship of Franco did not prevent Basque population from the struggle for larger rights. The solution of the problem has not been found yet and, in recent years, both parties has started to look for the peaceful solution of this problem. It is necessary to underline that the major military power of separatist is the organization known as ETA. This organization was the major threat to the stability in Spain and probably the most powerful militarized clandestine organization which was constantly under the pressure from the part of Spanish officials. At the same time, members of ETA believe they are revolutionaries struggling for the independence of their country and better life of Basque people, while the Spanish authorities view them as terrorists and do not to fulfill their demands. In fact, ETA underlines that it protects the interests of the local population.


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The latter naturally supports separatists which are often viewed as national heroes of Basque people. Even the united efforts of Spanish and France failed in the struggle against ETA resulting in numerous arrests of its members. It is argued that this was quite severe response of the officials to the violent methods of struggle used by ETA. Nevertheless, the organization continues its clandestine activities and violent attacks. This is why the official authorities are forced to search for an adequate answer to killings and bombings organized by ETA.

Nevertheless, since March 2006 when ETA has announced the ‘permanent ceasefire’ both parties have been closer to the peaceful solution of the ‘Basque problem’ than ever before. However, this does not mean that the peaceful process in the region has ended forever. In stark contrast, it is necessary to carefully analyze the factors that contributed to the failure of the peaceful process after March 2006 in order to avoid these obstacles in the future and, eventually, establish peace in the region and normal relationships between Basque and Spanish people.

March 2006 ‘permanent ceasefire’ 
In fact, the ‘permanent ceasefire’, declared by ETA on 22 March 2006, was a logical continuation of the efforts of Spanish and Basque representatives to find a peaceful solution of the problem. It should be pointed out that it was the Spanish Socialist Party (PSEO) that was one of the major players in the peaceful process in the region. As for Basques, ETA was the major power in the region. Naturally, the peace is impossible without its participation. This militarized organization is traditionally characterized by extreme demands, such as independence of their country from Spain and larger rights for Basque population. ETA has a serious impact on the local population and, consequently, its position is crucial in the process of ceasefire.

In such a situation, the declaration about the ceasefire could be viewed as a really progressive step because it was a direct indication at the fact that ETA was ready for the peace talks and probably, the peaceful solution was really close. No wonder that many specialists believed that March 2006 was the major step to the final solution of the Basque problem and that the end to the military actions in Spain was close (Woolls).

Unfortunately, the ceasefire lasted for less than a year. The ‘permanent ceasefire’ ended with new violent attacks organized by ETA on 30 December 2006. These violent attacks marked the failure of the policy of Spanish authorities and efforts of ETA to find a peaceful solution of the Basque problem. In such a situation, many specialists believe that peaceful process in the region is under a great threat. However, it is always possible to find a non-violent way to solve any conflict (Woolls).

In spite of the failure of the ceasefire, this step symbolizes the readiness of ETA to peace talks. Consequently, the problem actually is whether the conflicting parties are really prepared to such a solution of the conflict. This means that the solution should be based on the agreement or consensus between ETA and Spanish authorities.

Permanent ceasefire as a reaction on Al-Qaeda bombings 
As the ceasefire failed, it became obvious that the conflicting parties are not ready to find a peaceful solution or come to an agreement to stop the conflict. In this respect, it should be said that the decision of ETA to announce ‘permanent ceasefire’ should be carefully analyzed since the reason for such a decision may be one of the major factors that actually led to its failure.

On analyzing the period when the decision of ETA concerning the ceasefire was announced, it is necessary to underline that just a couple weeks before its announcement, Spain suffered from the most terrible terror attack in its history. The notorious bombing of Madrid on 11 March 2006 has changed the entire country and affected dramatically the public opinion not only among Spanish people but also among Basques (Woolls). After these terror attacks, terrorism was perceived as the most serious evil the modern society had to cope with. In such a situation, ETA had to reevaluate its current methods of struggle since it was obvious that after such terrible terror attacks the organization would hardly gain public support if it continued its violent attacks on Spanish people.

Moreover, it is worthy of mention that, initially, it was ETA that, as the officials believed, was responsible for terror attacks in Madrid on March 11. Naturally, such allegations was a real threat to the popularity of ETA and its public support even among Basques, whose interests it actually protected. In such a situation, the continuation of the military struggle could be viewed as indirect evidence that ETA is at least partially responsible for that terror attack. In all probability, ETA’s decision to cease fire was just a hypocritical tactic move. Obviously, the organization was not going to stop the struggle because it preserved its weapon and refused from disarmament. At the same time, the declaration of the ceasefire demonstrated to ordinary people that ETA looks for peace that was particularly important after Madrid bombings. In other words, ETA wanted to take initiative to create the positive public image and undermine the position of Spanish authorities. The lack of efforts to establish peace in the region from the part of Spanish government could negatively influence its public image. In fact, people could believe that the government is unwilling to stop the military actions.

In such a context, the ceasefire process was just a great bluff from the part of ETA. Consequently, the peaceful solution of the Basque problem was practically impossible because ETA was not really ready to end its violent struggle. In such a context, it is possible to estimate that the ceasefire was doomed to failure from the first day ETA announced its decision about the ‘permanent ceasefire’.

Unilateral ceasefire
However, the assumption that the decision of ETA concerning the ceasefire was just a fraud, or a public relations trick, cannot be fully true. The reason is quite obvious since this was the unilateral ceasefire. This means that it was ETA that was the initiator of the ceasefire and by such a decision it actually offered its opponents to start or enhance the peace talks and find a peaceful solution of the current problems that actually nourished the conflict. It should be pointed out that ETA actually made the first step to end the violence in Spain and it was supposed that the official power would respond adequately to such a decision of the organization which was traditionally treated as ‘terrorist’ in Spain.

However, the unilateral ceasefire was not only the first step to the peace but, paradoxically, it was also another reason for the failure of the ‘permanent ceasefire’. The explanation of such a paradoxical situation is quite obvious. ETA declared the ceasefire and it would be logical that the officials would stop any operations or efforts targeting at the destruction of ETA but there was actually no adequate response from the part of Spanish officials.

ETA’s conditions of ongoing ceasefire
One of the major reasons why the officials practically rejected the efforts of ETA to end the violent conflict were the demands of ETA to Spain. In fact, the organization insisted on the necessity to release all members of ETA which were imprisoned by Spain and provide an opportunity for its members to return to their country from exile. This demands was really difficult to satisfy since the members of ETA that were imprisoned or exiled were treated by Spain as criminals since they were responsible for killings and terror attacks. Consequently, it was necessary to release criminals to continue the ceasefire. Naturally, if Spanish officials agreed, the public reaction on such a decision could be extremely controversial and, what is more, in all probability, this decision would encounter a strong public opposition.

Not less difficult to fulfill were many other demands of ETA. For instance, the recognition of the right for self-determination and territoriality was also quite arguable. Spain was not ready to fulfill this demand (Woolls). Neither it was ready to meet the economic demands of ETA, concerning the public and private property situated in the Basque region and belonging to Spanish. This is why the demands and conditions of ETA were a kind of a bomb that eventually exploded and ruined the ceasefire process.

The opposition to negotiations in Spain 
The demands of ETA was really difficult to fulfill not only because Spanish people were unprepared to them but basically because there was a strong opposition within Spanish ruling elite concerning the negotiations with ETA and the ways of the solution of the conflict. In fact, a considerably part of Spanish political parties, such as the People’s Party, were very skeptical about the ceasefire and peaceful efforts undertaken mainly by the Socialist Party of Spain. In fact, among the leading political forces of Spain, it was only the Socialist Party of Spain that insisted on the necessity to promote peace talks with ETA and find some peaceful solution that would be plausible for both parties involved in the conflict.

On the other hand, all the rest political parties of Spain had strong apprehensions concerning the sincerity of efforts to cease fire from the part of ETA. In fact, the majority of political parties of Spain stood and still stands on the ground that ETA is a terrorist organization and any negotiations with this force are unacceptable. Instead, they insist that it is necessary to increase the pressure and simply destroy the organization and send its leaders and active members who have committed crimes to prison.

It is worthy of mention that the apprehensions of many Spanish politicians concerning the sincerity of ETA efforts to cease fire was supported by the fact that the ‘permanent ceasefire’ did not imply the total disarmament of the organization. Instead, ETA continued to increase its military potential. For instance, the representatives of ETA declared that the organization will keep taking arms up until achieving independence and socialism in Basque country (Woolls).

In such a situation, it seems to be quite logical that this way of the peaceful process led to the dead end. In spite of the declarations concerning the ceasefire, there were practically no real steps undertaken from both sides. In actuality, it was possible to use the temporary ceasefire to enhance the peace talks and solve the problem without violence.

Prospects for the peaceful solution to the ‘Bask problem’ 
Thus, it is possible to conclude that the failure of the ceasefire is obviously very important and naturally it slows down the peaceful process considerably. Nevertheless, it is necessary to underline that the unilateral decision of ETA to cease fire is a very important sign that indicates to the real prospects for the peaceful solution to the ‘Basque problem’. Obviously, at the present moment neither party is ready to fully reject its old methods of struggle but still they attempt to find new more effective ways to solve the problem and the peaceful solution is the only really effective solution of the ‘Basque problem’.
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