Tag Archives: European Union

#BasquesAbroad

 “Someone said that forgetting is full of memory, but it is also true that the memory does not give up”

(Mario Benedetti, Echar las Cartas, 2002)

In 2013, the number of Basques abroad, registered with a Spanish consulate from a municipality in the Basque Autonomous Community (Euskadi), was nearly 72,000. As shown in the map, they are living in over 50 countries, being France (13,000), Argentina (11,000), Venezuela (6,500), Mexico (6,300) and Chile (5,000) the countries that host the majority of them. All evidence indicates that Basques will progressively go abroad. A recent survey points out that nearly half of the Basque young population are willing to look for a job in a foreign country. Sixteen percent of Basques between 15 and 29 years old believes that in the future they will be forced to “emigrate abroad to work, unwillingly.” For instance, from 2009 to 2013, the number of Basques registered with a Spanish consulate has increased by 35%. They preferred destination was the European Union, followed by Asia and America.

MAPA-PERE-VASCO-2013“Number of Basques residing abroad.” Source: Spanish National Statistics Institute, 2013.

On December 18, 2013, the University of Deusto presented the results report of its first social survey on Euskadi (DeustoBarómetro Social / Deusto Gizarte Barometroa, DBSoc). According to the report, in relation to the attitudes toward the welfare policies, the five areas where the majority of Basques believed that there should not be budget cuts under any circumstances were “health” (86%), “education” (79%), “pensions” (68%), “unemployment benefits” (49%), and “Science and R+D” (36%). That is to say, while nearly three quarters of the Basque society’s priorities focused on health, education and pensions, the five areas that obtained the least support were “embassies and consulates” (7%), “defense” (6%), “equality policies” (6%), “development cooperation” (5%), and “support for Basques abroad” (5%).

After taking into account the internal degree of relevance established by comparing the response options, the result of the question related to the welfare policies in the Basque society seems logical, particularly, within the context of a prolonged and deep socio-economic and financial crisis and extreme public budget cuts. When reflecting on the possible reasons behind such low support, it comes to my mind the existing distance between the Basque society and its diaspora, the knowledge that homeland Basques might have on the diaspora, and above all their interest on the Basques abroad.

The respondents established a degree of significance regarding the option “support for Basques abroad” in relation to their own quotidian and vital world. It can be considered the “emotional distance” that exists between the respondents and the “Basques abroad”, which goes together with the existing geographical, temporal and/or generational distances. Secondly, evidences suggest that the degree of knowledge that homeland Basques (especially the youngest generations) might have on diaspora Basques and the degree of proximity to the diaspora issue is marginal. This knowledge has been relegated to the confines of the intimate memory of migrants’ family members and close friends and to the micro-history of villages and valleys. To a great extent, the history of Basque emigration, exile and return is not adequately socialized, for instance, through formal education (e.g., textbooks and didactical materials). Consequently, the collection, preservation and public dissemination of the testimonies of Basque migrants is not only necessary but urgent. This indicates that there is a wide “information and knowledge gap” between the Basque society and the Basques outside the homeland. But, beyond the inquiry regarding such a lack of awareness about the Basque diaspora, a fundamental question remains open. Is there a motivation or interest to know?

Finally, in addition to the aforementioned gaps, the absence of the issue of the Basque diaspora in the public debate in Euskadi impedes it for being even discussed or included in the Basque political parties’ list of priorities. This goes hand in hand with the fact that the diaspora lacks of a voice and of an organized lobby, preventing the penetration of any of its potential official discourses into the Basque society. In other words, nowadays, the Basque diaspora is defined by a high degree of invisibility and silencing in the daily life as well as in the imaginary of the Basque homeland rather than the opposite.

What all this tell us about the Basque identity and the homeland’s collective imaginary? Do you believe that the integration of the history of the Basques abroad and the returnees into the official homeland history and collective memory will have an effect on its visibility and recognition? Do you believe that emergent technologies of information and communication have a role to play in narrowing the gap between the Basque Country and its diaspora?

Please leave us your opinion or alternatively follow the conversation in Twitter, #BasquesAbroad, @deustoBarometro and @oiarzabal

I would like to thank Iratxe Aristegi and the rest of the team of DeustoBarómetro Social / Deusto Gizarte Barometroa at the University of Deusto for their help.

Here, for the Spanish version of this post “¿La comunidad invisible? #VascosExterior

Creative_Commons


 

Trust

“It is my notion that if a society has invested years of energy, time and money in creating division, it will take years of investing energy, time and money to rebuild the relationships that have been torn apart”

(John Paul Lederach)

Lederach, a world-renown peace analyst and facilitator from the United States, pronounced these words in October 1996 at a conference in Enniskillen, County Fermanagh. I just moved to Belfast and missed the opportunity to meet him. According to Lederach, time and trust would be the main ingredients for a sustainable peace in the region. There was also a need for money and investment in one of the most impoverished areas of Europe at the time.

Two years earlier, the Provisional Irish Republican Army and the Combined Loyalist Military Command have declared their respective cease-fires. Within this context the European Commission rapidly created a special Task Force to identify how the European Union could best assist the incipient peace process, to Northern Ireland and the border counties of the Republic of Ireland in consultation with the national authorities. The Task Force proposed to the European Commission a special support program as the European Union has a clear interest and vital role to play in maintaining the momentum for peace and reconciliation. In this sense, the European Commission has shown increased interest in the area of conflict resolution, in current problems such as in the Basque Country. In July 1995, the European Commission approved the “Special Support Programme for Peace and Reconciliation” with a budget of 500 million Euros for 1995-97, which was later extended for the periods 1997-99, 2000-04, and finally for 2004-06. On April 10, 1998, the Multi-Party Talks ended in an agreement, the so-called Belfast or Good Friday Agreement. One month later the Agreement was supported by a majority of 71% of the population of Northern Ireland in a referendum process.

peace_logo_pro

For three years I conducted research at Queen´s University of Belfast on the “Peace Programme” and the role of the civil society articulated by voluntary and community groups in West Belfast, in both areas the Catholic and Protestant. It was a new academic field for me; not directly related to Basque studies or the Basque diaspora, but soon I relized the significance of the programme for its potential application to the Basque case. By facing the crude reality of the consequences of many decades of destruction at all levels—physical and moral—and learning from the silent daily work of many people on the ground I began to understand the meaning of big words such as “PEACE,” “RECONCILIATION,” “CONFLICT,” “MEMORY”…Building trust was their first and main goal. Both main communities at the ground level, through imaginative programs, were building bridges of trust with their grass-root work—from ecumenical homes as symbols of reconciliation between faiths and peoples to mixed kindergartens where children could play together and share different cultural traditions.

On October 20, 2011 ETA announced the “definitive cessation of its armed activity,” opening a new era in our lives, in our individual and collective history and memory. The lessons learned in the Irish case may encourage the European Union to support programs for peace and reconciliation as a way to generate ideas and mechanisms to apply to similar situations such as the one in the Basque Country. However, I believe it is the civil society the one that needs to lead the changes that we all want to see. We cannot go back and change the past, but it is up to us to build our future together. How would you imagine it? How would you like to remember our future? The way we wish to remember our future is the way we should live our present. It is about time and trust.

We have the last word.

Me queda la palabra.” En el Principio (in “Pido la Paz y la Palabra,” 1955) by Blas de Otero (1916-1979).

88x31