Nowadays, a defining feature of political life in the Basque Country is the system of autonomy that allows for a significant amount of decentralized decision-making authority. Currently, there are two different statues of autonomy for the Basque Country and Navarre. In the early 1930s, however, prior to the passing of a constitution for the Second Spanish Republic, a project for joint statute for the four provinces in Hegoalde was agreed on at a meeting of Basque mayors at the Gayarre Theater in Pamplona-Iruñea.
The Gayarre Theater in Pamplona-Iruñea. Photo by Eaeaea. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
The draft Statute of Estella as it was known, drawn up by Eusko Ikaskuntza (the Society of Basque Studies), was approved on June 14, 1931 by a varied collective of mayors, with a Basque nationalist and traditionalist Carlist majority, from the four provinces of Hegoalde. One interesting feature of this draft proposal was to reserve the right for the projected Basque-Navarrese autonomous region to establish a separate and distinct relationship with the Vatican.
Ultimately, however, this draft proposal was never implemented and it was not until civil war broke out in 1936 that an autonomy statute was granted to the provinces of Araba, Bizkaia, and Gipuzkoa.
To read more about the political development of Hegoalde, check out Modern Basque History by Cameron Watson, available free to download here. And see Basque Political Systems, edited by Pedro Ibarra and Xabier Irujo, free to download here.
Logo of the Basque parliament, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Although a Basque parliament was envisaged as part of the 1936 Statute of Autonomy, the outbreak of the civil war meat that it never materialized as such. With Franco’s victory in the war and the dictatorship that followed, it was not until after his death in 1975 that a new statute was passed in 1979, leading to the holding of the first Basque autonomous parliamentary elections in the modern era, on March 9, 1980. This led to the first legislature of the parliament, between 1980 and 1984.
The Basque parliament. Photo by Iker Merodio, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Today the Basque parliament–Eusko Legebiltzarra in Basque–serves as the main legislative body of the Autonomous Community of the Basque Country, made up of three provinces in Hegoalde or the Southern Basque Country: Araba, Bizkaia, and Gipuzkoa. It is made up of seventy-five representatives (twenty-five from each province, despite the significant differences in population size among them)
The hysteria and hype of Brexit (The British Exit from the E.U.) might not be over yet. Every region in the world from Tokyo to Brussels has expressed their concerns regarding the doomsday scenarios of such an epic divorce between the United Kingdom (UK) and the European Union (EU). However, like anything else in the world, a bleak situation might offer a glimmer of light that brings the unthinkable opportunity into reality. Following the aftermath of a financial crisis in 2008, many Basque scientists left their homes to find work in the UK. Close to a decade later, these capable scientists have produced major patents and have contributed to the advancement of technology in a foreign land far from home. With Brexit, the pendulum swings back again and this time around it swings to the Basque side. Many of the Basque scientists will find the UK less favorable for the progression of their careers following Brexit, as Theresa May’s Government declines to secure the working permits of highly-skilled migrants once the UK leaves the EU. Such a momentum is a great opportunity for the Basque country to lure their capable scientist home after Brexit.
The regional government of the Basque Country has dispatched Ivan Jimenez, the head of Bizkaia Talent to win over Basque engineers and scientists and bring them home by alluring them with comfortable salaries and generous research funding. Several headhunter apps have been established to recruit Basque scientists in the UK and arrange job interviews with tech firms in the Basque Country. These experienced scientists will bring their patents and technological advancements to Basque firms. Thus, it will cement and potentially enhance the Basque Country’s position as a leading-edge producer of science and technology-related products and services. This strategy will also help ease some of the brain drain challenges that the region’s financial hub, Bilbao, has endured due to a dire shortage of high-skilled laborers. The decision to attract Basque scientists to come back home is actually perceived as a good opportunity by the many talented Basque men and women in the UK. The UK based companies where they currently work might soon lose their privileged access to the European market which affects companies’ ability to pay workers high salaries and provide them with bright career paths. Therefore, fulfilling their civic duty at home is not a bad choice after all.
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It’s my pleasure to introduce the latest addition to our graduate student cohort, Marsha Hunter. After receiving her M.A. in History, Marsha moved from Boise to Reno to start her Ph.D. in Basque Studies. We are glad to have her around and hope to share her interests with you!
What drew you to apply to the Ph.D. program at the CBS?
- Quality of faculty and staff.
Tell me a bit about your Master’s thesis?
- This research examines the life of José Villanueva de Amezketa, an urban Basque nationalist who immigrated to southern Idaho in the early 1920s. The majority of first-generation Basque immigrants in this area came from a concentrated rural location of Bizkaia, which normally generated an apolitical attitude toward Basque national politics. The goal of this research is to show how Villanueva, as an immigrant outlier, maintained his Basque nationalist political identity through his international network. This study in a biographical format used the preserved correspondence received by Villanueva, oral history interviews by his family members, and secondary scholarly publications to examine the cultural and political characteristics of the area’s Basque immigrants. A compare and contrast exercise between Villanueva and the general Basque community was used. It identified a transnational immigrant community that maintained and developed a sliding scale of social and political relationships between the homeland and their host country. The research suggested that the presence of Basque nationalist activity in southern Idaho was larger than suggested by previous scholarly research.
What are your research interests?
- Exploration of the development and expression of beliefs and activities of different cultures.
What makes your research special? How does it contribute to Basque Studies?
- Artifacts at the Basque Museum provide information on a larger extent of Basque nationalist activity in the area than previously reported.
What classes are you taking?
- Basque culture and politics
How does it feel to be at a new university?
- The faculty and staff have made me feel very welcome.
Has the Center for Basque Studies helped you in any way (library resources, people)?
- Yes, quality of resources/people is exceptional.
Basically, what’s your impression of the Center?
Are you enjoying Reno?
- Yes, but I continue to get lost in areas that I should avoid.
What have you missed the most since you’ve been here?
I’m sure we will hear more from our new student and look forward to the progression of her research. Ongi etorri, Marsha!
Finally in our round-up of the books published by the CBS in 2015, we come to a couple of works that address the subject of politics, with one discussing the fascinating topic of politics as a means of advancing the notion of sustainable human development; and the other exploring how art and politics intersect, with a special emphasis on the Basque Country.
The Basque Experience: Constructing Sustainable Human Development, by Juan Jose Ibarretxe.
This book by the former lehendakari (Basque president) Ibarretxe provides an incisive analysis of the legal-political and socioeconomic aspects that have made of Basque society a sustainable human development. More specifically, Ibarretxe traces such development from the post-Franco recovery of self-government via the Statute of Gernika in the 1980s up to today, and specifically in the period between 1988 and 2008. He focuses on the three relevant but traditionally unrelated fields of economics, social balance, and peacemaking. The research identifies the key factors that made it possible for the Basque Country to become one of the leading nations in the Human Development Index (2007): specifically, resilience in the face of an ongoing political conflict dating back to the 19th century exacerbated by the violence of ETA since the mid-20th century. It is Ibarretxe’s contention that these factors and the lessons learned could be of particular relevance to other countries facing serious challenges and aiming to achieve sustainable human development within the context of their own cultures.
Beyond Guernica and the Guggenheim: Art and Politics from a Comparative Perspective, edited by Zoe Bray.
The book is the result of a conference on Basque art and politics from a comparative perspective. It brings together specialists from the fields of sociology, anthropology, art history, and art criticism. Part 1, on Valuing Art, concerns the question of who, how, and what value is given to art, and how this may change over time and circumstance. Part 2, on Artistic Political Engagement, reflects on how artists may be intentionally engaged with politics, either via their social and political status and/or through the kind of art they produce and how they frame it in terms of meaning. Part 3, on Exhibitions and Curating, focuses on the relationship between art and politics: what gets exhibited, why, how, and with what political significance or consequence. The book is unique in gathering a rich variety of different viewpoints and experiences, with experts from different fields talking to each other with sometimes quite different approaches.