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Basque Country

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The Political statute of the Community of the Basque Country, more known as Ibarretxe Plan was a proposal by former lehendakari Juan Jose Ibarretxe to radically alter the Statute of Autonomy of the Basque Country proposing a free association of the Basque Country with Spain on an equal footing, and that including a right to self-determination.

It was inspired by Puerto Rico status within the United States[1], also the sovereignty-association approach of the Parti Québécois regarding Canada[2] has been cited as a reference.

The plan was refused by the Spanish Parliament and subsequently replaced by also Ibarretxe's proposed Basque referendum, 2008.


Forging and demise

The plan was announced by the former lehendakari (Basque region President) Juan Jose Ibarretxe in September 2001 before the Basque parliament's plenary of general politics but the actual contents of the proposal were not been made public until July 2003, after being leaked to the press. It was officially presented on October 25 2003. The Basque Parliament's plenary approved it on 2004 December 30 by a narrow margin of 39 votes in favour to 35 opposed.

Since it radically affects the content of the current Spanish Constitution the proposal was sent on January 2005 to the Spanish Parliament to be debated and voted, being refused on February 1 by 313 votes against (PSOE, PP, United Left (Spain), Canary Coalition and CHA), 29 votes in favour (PNV, ERC, CiU, EA, Na-Bai and BNG) and 2 abstentions (IC-V).


Under the plan, the two million people in this northern region would remain Spanish citizens but divided into two overlapping categories of Basques, defined as "citizens" and "nationals".

The plan did not spell out the different rights of the two categories but it seemed possible that, for example, it might lead to Spaniards who move to the Basque country being barred from voting in some elections.

The already powerful Basque regional government would gain further powers, and the Basque court system would be largely separated from the Spanish one.

The plan would give the Basque regional government the right to call referendums, opening the door to a possible future vote on independence, while removing a Spanish government right to suspend the regional government's powers[3]

Possible scenarios

The Spanish Government, led by the Socialist Party premier Rodriguez Zapatero, and leading academics viewed the Ibarretxe Plan as being contrary to the Spanish Constitution, this view was shared by the main opposition party Partido Popular.

It has been argued that other states of the EU would disagree with such a move, as many have separatist parties (such as in Corsica in France, Scotland and Northern Ireland in the UK, etc) that would gain renewed strength in the light of a successful secession.

Spanish reasoning is that, in the event that the plan leads to a rupture between the Basque Country and the rest of Spain, not only would the region disassociate itself from Spain, it would also disassociate itself from the European Union (EU). It would happen in such a way that the Basque Country would only be able to re-enter the EU after a negotiation process, which is not simple and would take into account the fact that any member state of the Union, including Spain, has the veto right.

Subsequent proposals

Two years after the proposal was discarded, Ibarretxe proposed a similar initiative under a referendum-like vote.




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