May 9, 2020 marks the 70th anniversary of the Robert Schuman Declaration.  It was he, the French Foreign Minister, who laid the foundation for the creation, one year hence, of the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC).  It was just five years after the end of the Second World War, and a good part of the Continent was still working hard to rebuild, trying to erase, as far as possible, the wounds that terrible conflict had left behind.

In a 180° shift from the end of the First World War, European governments understood that the only way towards a future of peace and prosperity on the Continent would not come from vindictiveness, but rather through collaboration, mutual understanding, and the creation of common bodies.

So on May 9, 1950, Schuman declared that with this union, through the common production of coal and steel, they were trying to ensure that a new war between France and Germany were “not only unthinkable, but materially impossible.”  That was the first step towards the creation of the European Union, and that is why this date is celebrated as the beginning of that journey.

At that time, the subjects of that “monarchy in regency” that was the Franco dictatorship still had to live with rationing cards in a country that was practically isolated from the world, after the fall of its Nazi German and Fascist Italian allies.

For Basque Nationalism, the situation went from bad to worse.  It was hoped that, once the Axis powers had been beaten, the Allies would do the same with the government of Franco, who had been so close to the fallen dictators.  But that hope was in vain.  By 1950, they were coming to terms with their disappearing hopes.  Franco and his illegal regime were settling into the international community, thanks to their rabid anti-Communism.  It was a process that was formalized when the totalitarian regime was admitted into the UN in 1955.

Cartel Aberri Eguna 1933
Aberri Eguna 1933 Poster

But let’s go back to 1950.  The Schuman Declaration was not a “last-minute” happening.  It was the consequence of a long road that had started in the first third of the twentieth century with the pan-European movements, and after the Second World War, they took deep root among the European Christian Democrats.

For Basque Democrats, Europe was a model of Freedom.  For Basque Nationalists, Europe was more than that, it was the hope that the Homeland could become a “Free Basque Country inside a United Europe”.  This idea was already part of the Basque National Party (PNV) and Basque National Accion Party platforms even before Franco’s uprising.  On the 1933 Aberri Eguna Day of the Homeland, which was organized in San Sebastian by the PNV, the slogan was “Euzkadi-Europe“.  That same slogan was again used, surreptitiously, in the 1966 clandestine Aberri Eguna.  So yes, by 1950, the BNP had been working and collaborating with European Federal movements.

But back to the post-war era.  Between the end of WW2 and the Schuman Declaration in 1950, Basque Nationalism played a role; maybe not starring, but still highly important.  This movement was represented by Javier de Landaburu, as well as Lehendakari Aguirre himself.

Una foto para la Historia. En su reverso tiene escrito del puño y letra del Lehendakari Aguirre lo siguiente: "Entrado con el Presidente Robert Schuman en el metro de Berlín Este en la visita secreta a dicho sector verificada el 23 de marzo de 1956 con ocasión de la reunión democristiana tenida en Berlín Oeste los dias 21 a 25 de marzo"
A photo for the history books. On the back, in Lehendakari Aguirre’s own handwriting, is:
“Entering the East Berlin subway with President Robert Schuman on a secret visitor to that sector, verified March 23, 1956 to celebrate the Demo-Christian meeting held in West Berlin March 21-25”

This lawyer, born in Araba and committed to the Cause of the Basque People, was a member of Parliament for Araba in the Republic.  After the Franco uprising, he had to go into hiding (inside the walls of his own home) for 13 months to avoid being arrested and shot by the rebels, as they had done to his colleague, José Luis Abaitua.  He was one of the leading figures in his party and in the Basque Government in Exile, participating in all pro-European conversations, meetings, and agreements.

To give you an idea of just how important Basque Nationalism and the Basque Government were in post-war Europe, the meeting to constitute the “New International Teams” (which would later become European Christian Democracy) was held at the Headquarters of the Euzkadi Delegation in Paris in 1947.  Yes, that same Basque Government headquarters building that the Franco government stole and which Spain has yet to return.

Javier Landaburu was convinced about Europe, and it never wavered, even in this hardest of times, when Basque Democrats felt forsaken by the Allies and by Europe itself, by allowing “Franco to die in his bed.”

To help make known the role of Basque Nationalism in general, and Javier de Landaburu in particular, we’re sharing an essay written by historian Leyre Arrieta Alberdi, of the University of Deusto.  It’s titled “Landaburu, the Pro-European from Araba”, and it was published in Sancho el Sabio, 31, 2009, 199-220.

It is the portrait of a pro-European, a Basque Patriot, and a Democrat.

Landaburu, the Pro-European from Araba, LEYRE ARRIETA ALBERDI