THE planned peace talks between the government and Basque separatist group Eta are in danger of never happening, according to a senior government official.
Interior minister Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba told radio station Cadena Ser that the escalating pro-Eta street violence in the Basque Country must stop before dialogue between the government and the group’s representatives begins.
“The peace process is struggling to get started,” he said. “The most sensible thing for political parties is to have contacts. To have dialogue in democracy there cannot be any violence.”
Incidences of Kale Borroka (street violence) have been on the increase in the Basque country since Eta announced a “permanent” ceasefire in March this year. In the most recent, two people had to be treated for smoke inhalation after a firebomb attack on a bank in Bilbao on November 25.
Señor Pérez Rubalcaba reaffirmed the Government’s stance that dialogue with Eta would not lead to Basque independence: “Peace must reflect the democratic will of Basque citizens within the frame of the Spanish Constitution.
“It will be very difficult because putting an end to a violence that has lasted for 40 years in Spain is not easy,” he said.
The interior minister was speaking after the results of an opinion poll showed the majority of Spaniards believe the fledgling peace process has reached “crisis point.”
Meanwhile, a reported one million people have marched through central Madrid in protest at the Government’s planned dialogue with Eta.
The protest, which was organised by the Association for the Victims of Terrorism support group, was attended by the entire front bench of the Partido Popular (PP) – the Government’s main opposition to the talks.
PP leader Mariano Rajoy said: “The Government prefers to appease terrorists instead of the victims. Spaniards do not want to pay the political price for negotiating with terrorists. The Government must listen to the victims’ cry and not give in to this blackmail.”