Inaki Anasagasti
Iñaki Anasagasti.  The son of a Basque family exiled to Venezuela, he left for San Sebastian at the age of seven.  After finishing his education, he again left for Venezuela to study Journalism and Sociology at the Andrés Bello Catholic University in Caracas.  He returned to San Sebastian in 1970 and ran the PNV journal, ‘Euzkadi’.  In 1977, he began his political career as a member of the Regional Council of the PNV in Biscay, going to to become a member of the Basque Parliament, the Spanish Parliament, and the Spanish Senate.

We asked Basque politician Iñaki Anasagasti to share the article he published in Deia on October 3 with us here on the blog.

In this article, Iñaki Anasagasti starts with a photo, which is the header, and gives us an amazing sketch of the leading role Basque nationalism(the Basque Nationalist Party) played in the post-war era in laying the foundations of a united Europe.

From those key moments in the history of our continent, and even before that, in the 1920s, Basque nationalism had dreamed of a united Europe of free peoples.

After the Second World War, with Europe in ruins and divided along ideological, and economic, lines, the foundations for a project that would lead Europe along the path of collaboration and towards union were being laid.

On May 31, 1947, a Congress on Christian Democracy was being organized in Liege, which would culminate, a few days later, in the constitution of the New International Teams (NEIs).  Those NEIs would be the seed of the future European Union of Christian Democratic Parties.

The creation of this group of European parties that shared the Christian democratic ideology just after the devastation and trauma the whole of Europe had gone through in the Second World War fulfilled a need.  They were seeking to promote the construction of a Federal European Union as a political structure in order to ensure peace in Europe based on the principles of parliamentary representative democracy.

To understand the commitment of Basque nationalism in that process, and its leading role therein, one needs only recall the meetings that were held in Paris before the NEIs were formally constituted.  The headquarters of the Basque Government in Exile in Paris (which we’ve discussed on several occasions) was, on many occasions, the meeting space for these preparatory sessions.

Cartel y lema del Aberri Eguna 1933
Cartel y lema del Aberri Eguna 1933

That commitment to a united Europe has been a constant in Basque nationalism for over 100 years, as well as a constant in the political reflections of the PNV throughout most of its history as a political movement.

Iñaki Anasagasti speaks of all this, and much more, in this article we bring you because of how greatly interesting it is.  Knowing that among those who pushed for a united Europe from the very beginning were Basque nationalist politicians is something that should be known and made known.  It is an excellent, indisputable argument that must be used whenever against those arguments that claim that all Basque nationalism wants to do is raise barriers and create borders come up.

Those barriers and those borders were imposed on the Basques by the nation-states that were created in blood and fire in the last years of the 18th century, in the case of France, or in the 19th and 20th centuries, in the case of the unitary Spanish state invented by the liberals.

Curiously, the one who forged the idea of a United States of Europe was none other than Victor Hugo, the author and intellectual who spoke so often and so well of the Basques.


Iñaki Anasagasti

Foto del congreso de fundación de la Democracia Cristiana italiana 1946 (con representantes vascos)
Photo of the founding congress of the Italian Christian Democratic party in 1946

Europe interests us.  It is our horizon.  Europe is the elections in Germany and the debate about a European army.  And also what is said.  In mid-September, Pope Francis traveled to Hungary and Slovakia.  On his return, he spoke with journalists of his traveling experiences and of Europe.  “The Europe of the future has to ignite the dreams of the founding fathers of the European Union.  The EU is not a meeting to do things ,there’s a spirit in the base of the Union, a spirit that de Gasperi and Schumann dreamed of, and we need to go back there.  It can’t just be a management office,” he told his fellow travelers.

De Gasperi, Adenauer y Schuman. tres de los «padres fundadores» de la Unión Europea
De Gasperi, Adenauer, and Schuman, three of the “Fathers of Europe”

De Gasperi and Schumann were two Catholic figures the leaders of the PNV worked shoulder-to-shoulder with at the dawn of the creation of that dream while the predecessors of the Anticapitalist International party looked to Algeria, Cuba, Nicaragua, and all the world revolutions.  Today, they don’t admit it, and they’ll lecture you about Europe, but for them it was only a supermarket.

In 1977, the PNV came out of hiding.  Before that, it had worked on four papers: organization, culture, economy, and politics.  The draft of the political paper was written by Xabier Arzalluz, who had lived in Germany and seen the dividing wall rise in Berlin.  Real socialism did not want its inhabitants to choose another place to live and raised a wall to jail them in.  It also brought in the PNV’s drive from the past.  Ajuriaguerra, Irujo, Jauregui, Leizaola, Lasarte had spoken of the 1933 Aberri Eguna, with the slogan “Euzkadi–Europa”, of the 1947 creation of the New International Teams in Chaud Fontaine, Belgium, the immediate predecessor of Christian democracy on the continent in its bet on a federal, subsidiary Europe.  They told him of the presence of Lehendakari Aguirre and de Landaburu at The Hague when the European Movement was created, and of how the Federal Council of the Spanish State of that movement was created at the Basque Delegation in Paris.  Arzalluz knew that Christian democracy opened up a third way, between the conservative right and the non-totalitarian socialism, with the prestige of the leadership of those who had fought and died against Nazism and Fascism.  The leader of the French resistance, after Jean Moulin’s assassination by the Nazis, was George Bidault, who would go on to be the president of the French Government, and who would receive regular visits from the Lehendakari.  In fact, the last visit he received before passing away was from Uzturre and Arzalluz.

One of the pioneers named by the Pope fifteen days ago was a man from Trento called Alcide de Gasperi, considered one of the fathers of Europe alongside Adenauer, Monnet, Schumann, and Spack.  With that whole world of experiences, Arzalluz drafted that paper, which has been and is still today a magnificent compass for political action.  In that magical year of 1977, coming out of hiding and with a guide for planning the future, no party gave any importance to the idea of building Europe.  The PNV in Pamplona did.  I repeat, the only one.

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 History.  On the back, in the handwriting of Lehendakari Aguirre himself, it states:
“Entering the East Berlin subway alongside President Robert Schumann in a secret visit to that sector, verified March 23, 1956 to celebrate the Christian Democrat meeting held in West Berlin March 21-25”

De Gasperi was born in Trento, which at the time was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, which is why his political career began as a member of the Austrian Parliament in 1911.  That experience gave him a more global vision of political life and of Europe since, after the First World War, Trento was annexed by Italy.  Elected as a member of parliament for Trento in 1921, he stood up to Mussolini, and was jailed for anti-fascist activities, meaning that when fascism collapsed, de Gasperi was the only important figure who had not been stained and coul therefore offer the Italian people an ethical alternative.

On April 3, 1981, alongside Xabier Arzalluz and Gorka Aguirre, I went to Rome to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the birth of Alcide de Gasperi.  It was quite an experience, and not only because of the visit of John Paul II, at the Vatican, but also because of the whole debate on Europe in those days when the president of the Euzkadi Buru Batzar shone brightly and was recognized for it.  On the return trip, we decided to print a simple book to publish those debates in order to never forget a piece of information we were proud of and which we had tabled in Rome.  It was our presence as a party when Italian Christian Democracy, after the world war and under the leadership of Alcide de Gasperi, came out into the field after 20 years of persecution at the hands of fascism.

It was in 1946, at only we were at that initial congress.  The relationships with Maritain and Dom Sturzo, our old struggle, and the laberynth of relationships gave us that privilege.  In the photograph that accompanies this article, we can see the three delegates: Landaburu at the table next to Mrs. de Gasperi; Teodoro Aguirre, the lehendakari’s brother; and Pepe Eizaguirre, from Tolosa, ex-MP and ex-member of the Constitutional Guarantees Court.  If a picture is worth a thousand words, there you have the PNV at the dawn of the European Union, rubbing shoulders with its backers and leaving its mark.

And it wasn’t easy.  De Gasperi was the Prime Minister of Italy in 1946, and at the congress of the Italian Christian Democrat party, one of the most important items on the agenda was whether to push for a Republic or a Monarchy.  Some were interested in Humberto, the son of King Victor Emmanuel, who had collaborated with Mussolini; but despite the arguments for maintaining the monarchy in Italy, it was decided at that congress that the CD would vote in favor of a Republic in the referendum.  And the Republic won, doing what Spain never did: exiling them from Italy and prohibiting them from ever returning.

The Franco embassy maneuvered to make sure the Basques were not at that congress, but it was the prime minister himself who said, “Between one and the other, I’d pick the Basques.”

Landaburu recounted, “On three occasions, we had the honor of conversing with de Gasperi.  From the first moment, he did so with the intimacy and confidence of old friends.  He had also known persecution (four years of prison) and the misery of a twenty-year dictatorship.  And in a fraternal tone, he told us, ‘How beautiful is freedom when one has lived under oppression!’  ‘The problem with rebuilding a country is more than a problem of rebuilding buildings, bridges, or roads; it’s a problem of rebuilding values and it’s a problem of rebuilding a new political class.'”

Another matter was that of the doctrinal basis, of personalism, of Christian-inspired humanism.  “It is not necessary and perhaps preferable that the adjective ‘Christian’ appears in the sign, in order for it to inspire.”  Some of Maritain’s sentences were recalled.  “Work for free and personal democracy and Christianity will be given to you in addition.”  And another: “Democracy is the profane face of the Christian ideal.”  It was easy to see that the term “Christian” went beyond that of “Catholic” and that the term “Christian-inspired” went even further, as it included all believers and non-believers as long as they were inspired by Christian morals.  Personalism is even broader: as it can be defended by people who accept a simple human moral, with no intervention from the supernatural.  That is what was approved in the Pamplona Assembly in 1977, when the PNV stopped being a confessional party.  The motto JEL encompasses many things.  And we are jelkides.  And very proudly so.

The matrix of Italian and European politics for the next thirty years came out of that congress.  And I say it again and again and again.  The PNV was there.  Because the European project is in our party’s DNA.  With de Gasperi, Adenauer, Schumann, and Monnet.  Which other political organization can present a similar history.  Exactly.

Last Updated on Oct 18, 2021 by About Basque Country

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