After more than 40 years of violent conflict, the Basque separatist group ETA (Euskadi Ta Askatasuna) announced this week that a ceasefire it enacted in September will be “permanent” and “verifiable by the international community.” If it holds, the truce could bring to an end the last armed independence fight of any consequence in Western Europe. Designated a terrorist group by the European Union, ETA has killed more than 800 in its quest for a Basque homeland in northern Spain and southwest France.
Reaction from the Spanish government was muted. It has heard such promises before: a nine-month ceasefire in 2006 ended after an ETA bombing at a Madrid airport. But since that attack, arrests of senior leaders and declining public support have weakened the group, and Spain appears confident it has the upper hand. It is calling for ETA to give up arms without hope of a political payoff. “The only communiqué we want to read from ETA is that ETA declares the end in a manner that is irreversible and definitive,” said Deputy Prime Minister Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba.