Basque premier wants 'legal consultation' with Madrid

MADRID • The head of Spain's Basque country has said he wants to a hold a "legal consultation" on the northern region's future within Spain, as Catalonia voted in a regional election centred on independence.

"I believe in the possibility of a legal and negotiated consultation," Basque premier Inigo Urkullu told a rally of his Basque Nationalist Party on Sunday.

"We need a new political statute for Euskadi," he added, using the Basque name for the region of just over two million people bordering France. "We are a nation, we are the Basque people, we are European citizens, with freedoms and historical rights, we have a language, a culture."

He said this as Catalonia, one of Spain's 17 semi-autonomous regions, held an election framed as a proxy vote on secession.

Spain's conservative Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has refused to allow an official independence referendum like the one held in Scotland last year which resulted in a "no" vote for secession from Britain.

SELF-GOVERNMENT

We are a nation, we are the Basque people, we are European citizens, with freedoms and historical rights, we have a language, a culture.

BASQUE COUNTRY PREMIER INIGO URKULLU, on seeking a political statute for the region bordering France

He argues it would violate the Spanish Constitution's stipulation that only the national government can call referendums on sovereignty, and that all Spaniards are entitled to vote in such a ballot.

Like Catalonia, Basque country has its own language and culture and has long sought greater powers, especially in areas such as taxation, education and policing.

For four decades, armed Basque separatist group ETA fought a bloody campaign for an independent homeland in the area populated by Basque speakers in northern Spain and south-west France.

In 2011, the group announced an end to violence, but has so far refused to disband or disarm.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 29, 2015, with the headline 'Basque premier wants 'legal consultation' with Madrid'. Print Edition | Subscribe