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12. Political autonomy and conflict resolution: The Basque case

José Manuel Castells and Gurutz Jauregui

José Manuel Castells and Gurutz Jauregui

1 Introduction
2. Basque singularity
3. The significant political problems
4 The statute of autonomy
5 Autonomic praxis
6 Conclusion

1 Introduction

"The Basque Country," Euskal Herria, and Vasconia are all names referring to a territory divided between Spain and France. It encompasses the Spanish provinces of Navarre, Alava, Guipuzcoa, and Biscay and the ancient countries of Lapurdi, Zuberoa, and Lower Navarre in the Atlantic Pyrenees Department of France. This division has left the continental Basque Country in the north traditionally dependent on France, while the peninsular Basque Country, in turn, is dependent on the Spanish State.

Situated between an oceanic basin and the Ebro River, the territory spreads over 20,644 sq km. The peninsular zone is highly industrialized, although it is undergoing a structural crisis, particularly in Guipuzcoa and Biscay, and to a lesser degree in Navarre and Alava. The economy of the continental area is sustained by its primary sector, but other economic activities, such as tourism, are expanding.

While there have been constant claims for autonomy in the Basque territory controlled by France, the French government has never conceded any degree of political control. This article, therefore, deals exclusively with the peninsular, or Spanish, area. The Spanish Basque territory is itself politically divided into two autonomous communities: the Statutory Community of Navarre and the Autonomous Community of the Basque Country.

The Autonomous Community is governed by a basic law called the Statute of Autonomy. From a political and institutional point of view, this statute offers solutions to problems that persist in the Basque Country as a whole.

The Basque Country has always maintained a very notable singularity. It has its own language, Euskera (or Basque), which is of pre-Indo-European origin and is spoken by over one-fourth of the population. There is also a peculiar political-institutional framework, consisting of self-government through provincial parliaments, which has been historically respected by the Castilian monarchy (as well as that of France up to the 1789 revolution).

The nineteenth century was particularly hard on the peninsular Basque Country, because the majority of the population supported the losing faction in this period's two great dynastic wars (the Carlist Wars). The four provinces opted for defence of monarchic autocracy, the right to their own Church of the Old Regime, and, with unquestionable intensity, the continuation of the Basque Country's political uniqueness. During the second civil war, the Basque territory was the stage for war operations and a defeat which, for the first time in its history, resulted in the disappearance of its autonomous government. The only exception was an agreement to share taxes collected with the Spanish State.

It was precisely this formula, known as the "economic contract," which enabled Basque provincial institutions to undergo vigorous industrialization. This started with tremendous force at the end of the last century in Biscay, thanks to the sale of iron to England. This led to the accumulation of large sums of capital which were soon distributed to the adjacent territories. The Basque Country led Spain in industrialization and, subsequently, in development and standard of living.

Throughout this century, because of the appearance of the nationalist phenomenon, the Basque Country has made continuous demands for recognition of its political reality. The reign of Alfonso XIII brought no response to this growing demand. The monarch limited himself to conserving the economic contracts regime. It was during the Second Republic (1931-39) that the Basque Country (as well as Catalonia) articulated its strong will to obtain an autonomous political regime.

Its concept was based on the Statute of Autonomy and followed the decentralized model of the Weimar Republic. The Statute was obtained at the late date of 1936, in the midst of the Civil War, at a time when the Spanish Republican government needed to attract Basque support in the struggle against fascism and the insurgent military forces. Franco's regime suppressed all signs of Basque identity. Perhaps as a consequence of this overt oppression, when the political transition to democracy occurred after Franco's death, claims for autonomy, particularly in the Basque case, became an essential issue to be resolved. This was due both to the intensity of the claims as well as to political violence with clearly separatist objectives. For this reason, the Spanish Parliament approved a new Statute of Autonomy covering the provinces of Alava, Guipuzcoa, and Biscay. It was proclaimed on 18 December 1979. The Spanish legislators believed that an autonomy generous to the wishes of the Basque representatives would end terrorism and serve to integrate a territory that had traditionally been reluctant to take part in the Spanish political sphere.

2. Basque singularity

2.1 Basque nationalism and violence

Basque nationalism was founded by Sabino Arana in 1893. Historically, three main traits have characterized its ideology. These are: centripetism, regenerationism, and ethnocentrism. They have in turn spawned a series of strategic-political aspects. But the three traits have stood out, as they have directly conditioned the origins of ETA, as well as its subsequent development.


Basque nationalism is rooted in the radical contrast between the Spanish and the Basque, viewing the two as naturally antagonistic. Along these lines, the concept of the Basque Country as antithetical to the concept of Spain emerges. This antithesis is the main factor, the cause and reason for the very existence of Basque nationalism. The nationalist claim is thus supported by the idea of the Basque Country's "occupation" by the foreign state of Spain. Ideologically speaking, Basque nationalism is therefore not only configured as an "antisystem" political movement, but also as anti-Spain.


Historically, Basque nationalism has always tended to be projected as a community movement endeavouring to respond to the Basques as a whole, aiming to establish itself as the only legitimate representative of the Basque community. This regenerationist trait continues today within the complex world revolving around ETA and its subsidiary political and cultural bodies, social, youth, and student movements.


This third trait is a direct consequence of the two previous ones. It characterizes the "community" served by the movement as the Basque ethnic community exclusively, and both confuses and identifies this with the nationalist community, so that any non-nationalist is considered non-Basque.

This has given rise to a deep sense of community rooted in the autochthonous or indigenous community, as significant to Basque identity as the nationalist claim itself. The intrinsic tension between the various social classes was substituted for a double Basque Country/Spain and autochthonous/immigrant tension, so that the nationalist community always appeared as a monolithic bloc without a crack, facing the "external enemy."

The initial strategy of Basque nationalism, based on the rejection of the Spanish, and the subsequent refusal to intervene in Spain's political affairs, was significantly tempered in later years. Such a compromising and possibilist policy, however, always met with firm opposition among certain intransigent sectors claiming to possess ideological legitimacy. Therefore, from the beginning, Basque nationalism has been embroiled in an internal debate between the need for a possibilist strategy to overcome the Basque/Spanish antagonism and the ideological bases of radical and uncompromising nationalism. This same dialectic between the possibilist and radical strategies prevailed during the Francoist period and the democratic transition that followed.

ETA (meaning "Basque Country and Freedom") was founded in 1959, in the middle of the Francoist period. At its start, ETA had to choose between two alternative, nationalist models: that of the European ethnic minorities, or that of the emerging third world nationalism. The former defines its strategy from the perspective of restructuring and reforming European national states in order to attain a federal Europe made up of different peoples. The latter bases its entire strategy on a radical and absolute antagonism between the dominant country and the colony, such that resolution of the conflict must inevitably lead to the violent expulsion of the colonizer and the substitution of the old colonial power for a new, autochthonous power.

While a certain initial ambiguity was to be seen, all data tip the scale towards ETA's ultimate adherence to the third world model. ETA proposed strict activism and a radical break with the "oppressor country," which led to the organization of a military branch as early as 1960, and the first act of violence in the summer of 1961. Why? Several factors must be considered:

(a) One must take the post-war social and political situation of the Basque Country into account. For Basques, the post-war era was marked by disappointment and setbacks. These had begun even earlier, with the relative failure of the policy of compromise adopted by the moderate Basque Nationalist Party (Partido Nacionalista Vasco, PNV) during the Second Republic and the mutual distrust between the nationalists and the Spanish Republican regime. They continued with the abandonment of the Basques by the Western powers during the post-war period, and the sense of annihilation of Basque identity, marked by the progressive and alarming disappearance of the Basque language. Enormous numbers of immigrants, and rapid and profound social and economic transformations, with the resulting environmental degradation, contributed further. Behind all this, of course, loomed the omnipresent Francoist repression, which nipped in the bud the slightest signs of opposition. These factors not only inclined ETA's stance towards uncompromising nationalism, but also led its members to act on their theories.

The situation fostered the latent feeling that the autochthonous Basque community was dying out. This feeling represents a fundamental element in ETA's development. It is logical if one considers the marked ethnocentric character of historical Basque nationalism, which linked the nation's existence indivisibly to the survival of its language. It was, and still is, believed that if the Basque language were to die, the Basque Country would cease to exist.

(b) Conditions tended to encourage the view of the Basque Country as a country occupied by Spain. In the context of a highly industrialized society and a powerful working-class movement, evidence emerged of brutal repression capable of smothering even the most insignificant manifestations of the Basque identity. Consequently, the anti-colonialist movement's methods of fighting back were adopted. It was held that the Basque Country constitutes a Spanish colony.

(c) Activism, an expression which may be understood as the sublimation of praxis to the detriment of theory, has become the mark of identity best defining ETA. This activism conditions in an absolute manner the organization's theoretical activity and, especially, its political strategy.

As a radical and intransigent nationalist movement, ETA believes that the Basque people must stand up, not only to Francoism, but to Spain, in order to recover their national identity. For this reason, it is defined as a national liberation movement rather than just another political party. ETA's attitude is not exclusively political, but fundamentally regenerationist.

This is how the great drama of ETA was produced, a drama which is played out on an ideological stage. It raises the questions of how to apply a third world guerrilla strategy to an industrialized society and, in the area of praxis, how to make a third world guerrilla strategy with mass action compatible with current institutional political activity within the democratic system. In practice, this twofold drama is currently reflected in the contradiction between ETA's armed struggle and the political struggle of Herri Batasuna (HB), or People's Unity.

2.2 The specificity of the Basque party system

The Basque party system is clearly a multi-party system, with seven political forces having parliamentary representation, resulting in a very marked fragmentation. It could be said to be a very accentuated "polarized-pluralist" system, in that an absolute compatibility exists between the two ends of the continuum, represented by Alava Unity (Unidad Alavesa, UA) and HB.

The multi-party nature and the polarization of the system are derived from the fact that, interwoven into Basque political life, are four important cleavages which, in order of importance, are the following: violence versus non-violence; nationalism versus non nationalism; provincialism versus non provincialism; the left wing versus the right wing.

Violence versus non-violence

Throughout the Francoist period and during the first few years of democracy, ETA was generally supported and accepted within Basque society. In the last 15 years, however, ETA has begun to squander irretrievably the respect and acceptance it enjoyed during Franco's dictatorship. One by one, the various political groups, including the nationalists or left-wing parties, have opted not only to turn their backs on ETA, but to reject it actively. Only one sector of the nationalist left wing, represented by HB, maintains a supportive position of political collaboration with it.

The result, in political terms, is that the entire set of political parties with parliamentary representation, with the exception of HB - which has 13 of the 75 members of parliament - now overtly rejects violence in general and ETA in particular. Despite the fact that only a minority in Basque society supports violence, this violence, nevertheless, represents the principal problem, that is to say, the problem whose resolution is a precondition for that of all the others.

The qualitative incidence of violence in Basque society is much higher than HB's true electoral support; and there are several reasons for this. First, the violence emerged historically as a means of solving important political problems, which led to ETA's justification or, at least, prevented any radical opposition to it up until recent years. Second, ETA and HB believe that these problems have not been solved by the Statute of Autonomy. Third, ETA's armament capacity is very significant, provoking numerous acts of violence.

Nationalism versus non-nationalism

Basque society is politically as well as culturally split into two broad sectors; the nationalist sector, which represents 65 per cent of the votes, and the non nationalist sector, with 35 per cent. From a sociological point of view, nationalism is dominant. It also dominates from a political viewpoint, although it is conditioned by the presence of PSOE (Partido Socialista Obrero Espanol), Spain's majority party. Nationalism has been fragmented into four political parties (currently five) which vie for a similar political market. Many recent events in Basque politics can be explained by this fact.

In the nationalist sector, PNV, the major party, holds 22 out of the 75 seats. The four remaining nationalist political forces combined hold 28 seats in parliament. This has led to internal movement in each of the parties aiming to consolidate their respective electoral spaces, and it has led to a rearrangement of the nationalist space occupied by political parties.

Significantly, one of the nationalist parties, HB, defends ETA's violence and its members actually serve as the organization's political spokespersons. This position makes it difficult, if not impossible, for HB to be integrated into or form a coalition with any other nationalist force or to adopt common agreements with other democratic nationalist political forces.

The non-nationalist sphere coincides almost exactly with the Spanish party system as far as its presence is concerned, but not in its electoral weight. PSOE, the party governing in Madrid, is supported by 20 per cent of the voters in the Basque Country in contrast to approximately 40 per cent in the rest of Spain. Similarly, PP (Partido Popular, the main Spanish opposition party, has an electoral support of 8 per cent in contrast to 26 per cent in the rest of Spain. These political parties lack the autonomy to carry out policies independent of guidelines issued by their directive bodies in Madrid. There are two basic reasons for this lack of autonomy; their limited electoral weight with respect to the rest of Spain, and their scant influence, given their peripheral nature, in their own internal party decisions.

Provincialism versus non-provincialism

Since 1986, a "territorialization" of the party system has been taking place, leading to the development of provincial sub-systems of the political parties. Potentially, this could lead to a dismantling of the core system. Signs of this trend include the appearance of UA, which enjoys an electoral support of 18.5 per cent in the province of Alava, and the concentration of one part of the nationalist vote, the PNV, in Biscay and the other part, consisting of HB, Basque Solidarity (Eusko Alkartasuna, EA), and the Basque Left (Euskadiko Ezkerra, EE), in Guipuzcoa.

Left wing versus right wing

This split is currently weakened and blurred. Of course, this reflects a generalized symptom in the developed world springing from a series of complex causes which we shall not go into here. However, in the Basque case this vagueness arose long ago and results from several causes, which have simply been accentuated by generalized factors that have appeared elsewhere. The result is that since 1986, a coalition government has existed made up of two majority parties, PNV (centre/right wing nationalist) and PSOE (centre/left-wing non nationalist).

3. The significant political problems

Setting aside the issue of violence, it would be appropriate to review briefly the main political problems which the Statute of Autonomy has attempted to address.

3.1 The right to self-determination

This represents the principal problem in that, to a great extent, it encompasses the remaining political problems. As Basque nationalism has historically held the attainment of independence as its final objective, this entails exercising the right to self-determination in one concrete sense of the term: the achievement of an independent Basque State.

In article 2 of the Constitution, the Autonomous Communities are granted ample autonomy, but the unity of Spain is considered to be indivisible. This implies the impossibility of territorial segregation. This is arguably the main obstacle to the disappearance of political violence and to the permanent normalization of the country.

3.2 Territoriality

This problem is closely linked to the previous one. It is manifested in two ways. Firstly, because the Basque Country includes territory in both Spain and France, Basque nationalism has aspired toward uniting the entire territory under one political power. The controversy, therefore, reaches beyond the concrete scope of the Spanish Constitution and into France.

The second territorial problem has to do with Navarre, one of the four provinces within the Basque territory in Spain. In Navarre, nationalism is very weak. At the time the Basque Statute of Autonomy was approved, the majority political forces in Navarre decided not to be included, choosing instead to constitute their own Autonomous Community. This situation is complicated further because the Navarrese decision was the fruit of a fully democratic agreement.

3.3 Language and culture

As has been previously pointed out, the defence of language and culture constitute one of the most significant aspects of the nationalist claim. The Statute establishes a very broad system of language and cultural development in education, public administration, and society in general. Nevertheless, important problems exist in carrying out and developing this system.

3.4 Financial autonomy

One of nationalism's demands has been for the maintenance of the traditional system of economic contract, consisting of the right of Basque institutions to exact taxes and agree with the state on the necessary contributions.

3.5 Police forces

This represents an historical problem which, under Franco, became extremely serious. Traditionally, Basque institutions had their own police forces, but during the dictatorship those forces were replaced by a repressive police organization which earned the hatred of practically the entire Basque society. The Statute of Autonomy sets down the guidelines for an autonomous Basque police force run by the Basque Administration.

4 The statute of autonomy

Having reviewed the main problems faced by the Spanish democratic system in resolving the Basque dispute, let us examine the response applied to them.

4.1 General characteristics

The Basque Country attained its Statute of Autonomy in 1979, after Spain's approval of its democratic Constitution a year earlier. The Statute represents a proposed political solution to the serious historical controversy which has significantly affected relations between the Basque Country and Spain, and has conditioned the development of the Spanish political system itself over the last two centuries.

From a legal standpoint, the Spanish constitutional text is quite open-ended, in that it refrains from defining the terms and scope of autonomy too rigidly. Such content was to be specified in each of the Statutes of Autonomy, with an overall constitutional framework defining the limits for the different provinces. This flexibility represents an obvious advantage from a political point of view, in so far as it has facilitated negotiations concerning the content of each Statute of Autonomy, particularly the Basque Statute, and has allowed negotiators greater leeway. At the same time, however, the flexibility leads to some imprecision when legally interpreting the statutory precepts.

The Basque Statute of Autonomy's text appears to be conditioned by these two factors. It reflects both a highly complex political controversy and the flexible nature of the constitutional norms regulating the autonomous State. This leads to several consequences.

The Basque Statute clearly pushes to the limit all possibilities provided by the Constitution. This tendency can be seen in the wording's emphasis on the nature of the Statute as a "pact" (e.g. in the Preliminary Title and Additional Resolution, the latter also sustained in the First Additional Resolution of the Constitution), and especially in delineating spheres of responsibility.

A second consequence, derived directly from the first, is the vagueness in some key precepts of the statutory text - a deliberate and conscious vagueness reflecting the conflicting and unclear Constitution-Statute relationship. The Statute's core objective is to provide a way out of a problematic and controversial situation, and for this reason it is highly indecisive and deliberately nebulous concerning the most problematic aspects. Certain issues were simply not dealt with, in the hope that they could be tackled later on, once the autonomous framework was under way. The very ambiguity of the constitutional text favours this lack of clarity and ultimately allows for the avoidance of discussion of these controversial issues. This vagueness affects not only the Constitution-Statute relationship but also the internal makeup of the Basque Autonomous Community itself and, to an even greater degree, the Autonomous Community/ Historical Territory relationship.

A third consequence is the legal imprecision of the statutory text. From a formal viewpoint, the Statute is a legally faulty document, and it repeatedly suffers from a lack of technical quality. Its imprecision reflects the Statute's own indefiniteness, which makes sense given the circumstances of its creation and discussion. It must be taken into account that the statutory text is the synthesis of a long and arduous negotiation process first among the Basque political forces and then between these and the central government.

Some additional causes ought to be added to this. It must not be forgotten that the Basque Statute was the first to be approved after the Constitution, which meant it lacked a frame of reference or models for comparison. One must also take into account the haste with which the statutory text was created and made official. This was principally due to the need to resolve speedily Basque political demands for autonomy.

Another point worth bearing in mind is that the Statute has a dynamic nature, with a clear potential for extension, for example to the historical territories.

4.2 The statute's fundamental aspects

4.2.1 Nationality

In accordance with the power invested by article 2 of the Spanish Constitution, the Statute of Autonomy of the Basque Country defines, in its article, the Basque People or Euskal-Herria as a nationality. Contrary to appearances, the affirmation of nationality does not have legal effect. There are several reasons for this.

First, concerning the "plurinationality" of the Spanish State, the constitutional text limits itself to recognizing the existence of nationalities and regions, without ever legally defining the distinction between these two concepts. Furthermore, from a practical perspective, the distinction between nationalities and regions lacks real effect. It does not necessarily determine the institutional-legal structure of the Statutes of Autonomy, nor does it establish respective responsibilities. The adoption of one term over the other is up to the statute writing legislators. In fact, there have been cases where Autonomous Communities invested with full powers have not denominated themselves "nationalities" (for example, the Canary Islands).

From this legal-constitutional perspective, the expressions "nationality" or "region" are replaced by the term "Autonomous Community," applicable to each and every territory acceding to the economy. It represents a sociological definition lacking legal effects, although it does have important political connotations, especially in the Basque case. Indeed, the expression "nationality" is linked to the uniqueness, in terms of intensity as well as diffusion, of the Basque demand for a nation, which is reflected in the Additional Resolution of the Statute (discussed immediately below).

4.2.2 Historical rights

The Additional Resolution of the Statute of Autonomy of the Basque Country establishes that: the acceptance of the autonomy regime established in the present Statute does not entail a renunciation by the Basque People of the rights which, as such, could have corresponded to them by virtue of their history, rights which can be updated in accordance with what is established by legal ordinance.

This resolution is a programmatic Declaration with implicit reference to the First Additional Resolution of the Constitution. Similar to Navarre's autonomic norm, it has important legal consequences regarding the Basque Country-State relationship, as well as the internal organization of the Basque Autonomous Community itself.

As far as the Basque Country-State relationship is concerned, the resolution implies statutory acknowledgment of the connection between historical statutory rights and the current autonomy regime. Such an admission is not simply declarative, but rather has important material effects. Indeed, the Statute of Autonomy of the Basque Country boasts a qualitative uniqueness, as shown by its granting of significant and distinct powers, whose approval is directly based on the admission of historical rights.

This is clear in the case of the subjects which provoked the most arduous debates before agreements in the statutory project were reached; education (art. 16) and the autonomous police (art. 17). Both areas are explicitly sustained based on the Additional Resolution of the Spanish Constitution and historical statutory rights. The same thing occurs with respect to the Economic Contract (Art. 14).

The second group of consequences refers to the internal, institutional structure of the Basque Autonomous Community itself and, more concretely, to the organization of historical territories. The statutory recognition of such territories, as well as their legal-political institutionalization and the granting to these of substantial powers, are based on the cited recognition of historical rights.

4.2.3 Language and culture

Article 6.1 establishes that "Euskera, the Basque People's own language, is to share with Spanish the status of official language in the Basque Country. And all its inhabitants have the right to know and use both languages." In accordance with this precept, the Basque language, besides being official along with Spanish, is recognized as the Basque People's own language. The qualification of "own" implies the uniqueness of Euskera as the official language of the Basque Country, but its legal status as one of two official languages is of more importance. This entails, independently of its reality and weight as a social phenomenon, the admission of Euskera by the public powers as a normal means of communication, amongst themselves as well as among private subjects, with full legal validity and effects.

According to article 6.2, it falls to the Basque institutions to regulate the linguistic officially, to arbitrate and regulate the measures and means necessary to assure the knowledge of the languages, while taking into account that, in accordance with article 6.3, no one can be discriminated against on the grounds of language.

Finally, article 6.5 foresees that, with Euskera being the heritage of other Basque territories and communities, the Basque Country may ask the Spanish Government to draw up treaties or conventions establishing cultural relationships with these other countries where these territories or communities are located, in order to safeguard and foment Euskera. This allows for two alternatives: either Spain can sign treaties with other countries at the request of the Basque Autonomous Community, or the Basque Autonomous Community can itself engage in "transnational" activities. In the latter case, the community is empowered to reach beyond the strict State limits to cooperate with other regional bodies in the defence and development of Basque language and culture, but such activities do not constitute a strict manifestation of international law.

The Statute limits itself to establishing the basic design of linguistic policy. Its practical application and development are regulated by the Basic Law of Normalization of the Use of Euskera, passed by the Basque Parliament on 24 November 1982.

4.2.4 Territoriality

THE HISTORICAL TERRITORIES. Article 2 configures the Autonomous Community of the Basque Country as an aggregate of the provinces of Alava, Guipúzcoa, and Biscay, as well as Navarre, in case the latter should decide to be incorporated in accordance with the procedure established by the Constitution. Several aspects of article 2 are worth noting.

Firstly, the voluntary nature of the historical territories' participation in the configuration of the Autonomous Community of the Basque Country is significant. Such participation is not formulated as a factual reality, but rather as a right to take part, its voluntary character reflecting the precepts laid down by the constitutional act.

Secondly, the internal boundaries are defined by the provinces which historically constituted the Basque Country: this accords with traditional statutory agreements. In historical Basque agreements, as well as the current statutory text, the terms "province" or "historical territory" have a double meaning: as administrative entities serving to organize the State's administrative services (as such, they are comparable to the rest of the provinces); and as quasi-sovereign institutional autonomies, markedly political in nature (traits specific only to the Basque Community provinces).

Given the traditional self-governing capacity of historical territories, an internal organization of a federalist state has been designed. Within it, regional and provincial institutions and authorities exist side by side, giving rise to some important consequences.

Finally, there is a notable absence of even implicit reference to the townships (with the exception of the almost marginal one in article 8), in contrast to the great, historical importance given them in the previous statutory agreement period, as well as subsequently in the diverse waves of claims for autonomy.

THE SPECTFICITY OF NAVARRE. According to the volunteer principle, Navarre holds a generic right to inclusion in the Autonomous Community of the Basque Country. Certain specifications are given as to how its integration must come about. Its right is explicitly acknowledged in the Constitution (Transitory Resolution 4a), Statute of Autonomy of the Basque Country (article 2), and the Law of Improvement of the Statute-laws (Additional Resolution 2a).

When the Constitution was being written, Navarre decided not to be integrated into the Autonomous Community of the Basque Country, opting instead to constitute an individual Statutory Community. If, in the future, Navarre were to decide to incorporate itself into the Autonomous Community of the Basque Country, such an integration would have to take place in accordance with constitutional and statutory guidelines regulated in Transitory Resolution 4a of the Constitution, article 47-2a of the Statute of Autonomy of the Basque Country and Additional Resolution 2a of the Organic Law of Reintegration and Improvement of the Navarre Statutory Regime, respectively.

4.2.5 Material competencies

Certain subjects are covered under the First Additional Resolution of the Constitution, denoting the statute writers' efforts to force the constitutional guidelines to the limit in such matters. In the remaining issues concerning competencies, an ample attribution of competencies to the Basque Country is similarly envisaged. This is shown by the 39 subjects considered to fall exclusively under the authority of the Autonomous Community, thus expressing the capacity for real self-governance.

This same extensiveness led to a substantial part of the subject matter reserved for the State being qualified in the Constitution with phrases such as "not to the detriment of...," "in the framework...," "in accordance with...," etc. This solution has been a constant source of conflict because of its obstinate attribution to the State of essential, ruling authority.

Apart from those already mentioned (police, education), a series of additional, specific competencies exist in the Statute. They correspond to matters of undeniable significance, in which a certain degree of overlap with the State is articulated - for example, health care and communications. The quantitative and qualitative level of competence is certainly extensive, even comparable to that of a state within a federal system. But the vagueness in the attribution of some applications has led to constant recourse to the Constitutional Court in order to resolve the conflicts arising.

4.2.6 Citizenship

Citizenship is regulated by article 7 of the Statute of Autonomy of the Basque Country, which in turn is closely linked to article 139 of the Spanish Constitution. According to the cited constitutional precept, all Spaniards have the same rights and obligations in any part of the State territory. This implies the exclusion of the possibility of a specific Basque citizenship, as differentiated from the rest of the Spaniards, which could affect the social, economic, administrative, or civil order (excepting, in this latter case, those indicated in articles 149.01.18 of the Spanish Constitution and 10.5 of the Statute of Autonomy of the Basque Country).

Therefore, the political condition of being Basque alluded to in article 7 refers exclusively to exercising political rights, and solely within the Statute's framework. Three cases are included: citizens with administrative residence in the territory of the Autonomous Community; residents abroad, if their last administrative residence was in the Basque Country and if they retain their Spanish nationality; and descendants of residents abroad, if they make an explicit request and keep their Spanish nationality.

4.2. 7 Economic Contracts

The Economic Contracts provisions constitute a fundamental aspect of the Statute of Autonomy of the Basque Country. They are an institution without equivalent in any other autonomous community except Navarre. They constitute the most obvious expression of the acknowledgment and application of Basque historical rights.

The Economic Contracts involve a unique system of regulation of tax relations between the State and the Basque Country. Their statutory basis is found in article 40 of the Statute of Autonomy, which establishes that the Basque Country will have its own Autonomous Tax Department to exercise and finance its competencies adequately. Its development is regulated by Law 12/81, by which the Economic Contract with the Autonomous Community is approved (modified by the Law of 2 August 1985, by which the Economic Contract is adapted to the establishment of IVA (value added tax), which will remain in force until 31 December 2001.

The contract system implies that the Provincial Governments of the Historical Territories can carry out the collection, management, liquidation and inspection of all taxes, except those related to customs and those collected by fiscal monopolies.

Distribution of the money paid in is established in the following way. First, the Provincial Governments add the amounts determined by a Basque parliamentary law to the money paid in to the general Basque Tax Department. A global quota is established, with the Basque Country's share paid to the State as a "contribution towards all State charges not assumed by the Basque Autonomous Community."

Every five years, the methodology for designating the quota is determined, and rules for the following five years are established. This is done through a law voted on by the General Legislative Assembly of Spain after previous agreement by the Combined Commission of the Quota. For its part, the Commission must annually update the quota. The Combined Commission of the Quota is made up of one representative from each of the Provincial Governments, representatives from the Basque Government, and an equal number of representatives from the State Administration.

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