SNP Press Case For Basque Peace Talks

04 October 2006
SNP Europe Spokesman Alyn Smith has today called on all parties in the peace process in the Basque Country to begin substantive talks as soon as possible and warned that the peace process risks losing what little momentum has been built up.

Mr Smith is in the Basque Country meeting with Ministers of the Basque government and representatives of the Basque Parliament, as well as other parties. Mr Smith is a founder member of the international "Parliamentarian Friendship Group" established to monitor events and support progress in the peace process where appropriate.

Speaking from Vitoria, Mr Smith said:

"I have been struck by just how positive an example Scotland is for the Basque Country. We have achieved the establishment of the Parliament in Edinburgh and set our country on a sure path to change without recourse to violence. As the SNP prepares for government I have been here to stress our support for progress in the Basque Country and to learn from their experience of government.

"The Basque Country has a historic opportunity to make progress. That opportunity must not be missed. Just last week ETA threatened a return to violence, a move that would be heartbreaking when the peace process might be gaining ground.

"As a friendly outsider I would not suggest how the Basques should solve their problems, but it is clear to me that the problems of the Basque Country are political in nature, and can only be solved by dialogue.

"The SNP has always been an outward looking internationalist party. Next week Scotland will host a further round of talks in the Northern Ireland Peace Process. Taking the parties to conflict out of their home environment will inspire a more constructive outcome. I look at the positive influence that small northern European states have had, like Norway in the Middle East and Sri Lanka as peace makers. As we look towards an SNP government in 2007 I want to see Scotland join those countries who are able to offer others the support and space needed to reach a peaceful deal and to and play our proper role in the world.

"The Basque Country has, despite the political problems, achieved levels of economic growth and a standard of living for their people that I look at with envy. Scotland has a lot to learn from the world as well as a lot to give, I have been proud to be here to demonstrate the interest and support of the SNP for peaceful dialogue."

Mr Smith also discussed issues to be debated at the European Parliament in Strasbourg on October 25th when the Basque Peace Process will be discussed.