SNP Comment On European Parliament Basque Peace Process Debate

25 October 2006
"Chance for dialogue must not be passed up"

SNP Europe Spokesman Mr Alyn Smith MEP is today participating in a series of meetings in Strasbourg regarding the Basque Peace Process.

The European Parliament this morning conducted a limited debate on the process after Parliament authorities restricted speakers to limit debate and allowed only group leaders to speak.

Speaking after the debate Mr Smith said:

"I was pleased that the overall tone of the debate today was positive and there was almost cross party unity on the need for dialogue. One particularly striking contribution came from Fianna Fail member Brian Crowley MEP giving his Irish perspective when he said that "We need to make peace with our enemies not just our friends" which I hope was particularly salutary to those Spanish members who have been critical of any idea of dialogue.

"It is unfortunate that when it came to the vote a number of right-wing Spanish MEPs sought to disrupt it with points of order but I am happy the eventual result reflected the positive attitude of the Parliament toward supporting the peace process.

"Attention must now turn to the European Commission and what support they are willing to offer the peace process. In Northern Ireland we have seen the fruitful use of EU funding for peace programmes, and I will be proposing to the next meeting of the friendship group that we suggest the Commission create a similar budget line for the Basque Country.

"From a Scottish perspective we have achieved a massive degree of constitutional change within a completely peaceful process, but the Basque Country has not been so lucky. The influence of friendly outsiders within the European framework could be pivotal in helping things move forward, and I hope to support that process where I can."

ENDS

Note to Editors

Alyn Smith MSP is a founder member of the 'Parliamentarian Friendship Group' which has monitored and supported the peace process, and was himself in the Basque Country three weeks ago for talks with Basque government ministers regarding Basque autonomy and the peace process.

The Parliament had originally planned a full debate on the Basque Peace Process however this was altered at the last minute to a 30 minute debate in which only the leaders of the Parliament's political groups would be able to speak. Mr Smith had been scheduled to speak in the original debate.