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The Basque Nationalist Party is the largest and oldest Basque nationalist party. It is currently the largest political party in the Basque Autonomous Communitymarker (especially in the Biscay province) also with a minor presence in Navarremarker (where is a member of the coalition Nafarroa Bai) and a marginal one in the French Basque Country. The party has led the Basque regional governmentmarker for a long period spanning since the devolution of Basque autonomy in the early 1980s until 2009. It has also played an important role in the Spanish Congress, along other regional nationalist parties.

In Basque it is called Euzko Alderdi Jeltzalea (EAJ) (literally meaning 'Basque party of friends of God and Old Laws', or Fuero) and in Spanish it is called the Partido Nacionalista Vasco (PNV). In Spain it is commonly referred to as PNV whereas its Frenchmarker branch is the Parti Nationaliste Basque (EAJ-PNB). The party typically refers to itself as EAJ-PNV. The current chairman of EAJ-PNV is Iñigo Urkullu. The youth wing of the Basque Nationalist Party is called EGI (Euzko Gaztedi Indarra, Basque Youth Force).

The party also has offices among the Basque diaspora, mainly in Venezuelamarker, Argentinamarker, Mexicomarker, Uruguaymarker, Chilemarker and the United Statesmarker.

Origins and early history

The party was founded in 1895 by Sabino de Arana y Goiri as a Catholic conservative, party agitating for the restoration of self-government and the defense of the "Basque race". Currently, it describes itself as Basque, democratic, participatory, plural, and humanist. It is a moderate nationalist party which favours greater autonomy, if not independence itself, for the Basque region. EAJ-PNV opposes political violence.

In its beginnings, the party established a requirement for its members to prove Basque ancestry by having a minimum number of Basque surnames.

In 1921, the Arana movement split into the moderate Comunión Nacionalista Vasca ("Basque Nationalist Communion") and the independentist Aberri ("Homeland").

During the single party dictatorship rule of general Miguel Primo de Rivera, the nationalist parties were outlawed and persecuted.However, its activity continued under the guise of mountain (mendigoizale) and folklore clubs.

At the end of 1930, Aberri and CNV reunited under the old name of EAJ-PNV.However, a small group formed Acción Nacionalista Vasca ("Basque Nationalist Action").It was on the moderate nationalist left, non-confessional and open to alliances with the republican and socialist parties fighting against the dictatorship.

The Second Spanish Republic


The division between autonomism and independentism appeared again during the second Spanish Republic. Headed by Eli Gallastegi, a small group of radical independentists, gathered around the weekly Jagi-Jagi and the Mountaineer Federation of Biscay, left the party. They rejected the autonomy that PNV was working for.

The Spanish civil war and Franco's rule

After the coup d'état of 18 July 1936, the party felt torn.It shared the rebel side's Catholicism and there was pressure from the Vatican to keep away from the Republic, but the promised autonomy and their anti-Fascism ideology led them to side with the republican government:
  • The Biscayne and Guipuzcoan branches, the more important in number, declared support for the Republic, Democracy and anti-Fascism in the ensuing Spanish Civil War and were key in balancing those provinces to the Republican side.
  • In the territory seized by the rebels, PNV members faced tough times:
    • Some members of the Alavese and Navarrese committees, without an official decision, published notes refusing support to the Republic.
    • Some nationalists could flee to France or the Republican area.
    • Some faced the rebel forces, ending in prison or shot.
    • Some joined the Carlist battalions, either out of conviction or to avoid attacks.
    • The repression was focused on leftists, but nationalists were also targeted. The party premises and press were closed in that month of July.

Initially, the Defence Committees in Biscay and Guipuzcoa were dominated by the Popular Front. Although with enough difficulties, Basque autonomy was granted within the Second Spanish Republic and the new Basque Government immediately organized the Basque Army, consisting of militias recruited by each of the political organizations, including PNV.

José Antonio Aguirre, the party leader, became in October 1936 the first lendakari (Basque president) of the wartime multipartite Basque Government, ruling the unconquered parts of Biscay and Guipuzcoa. When Bilbao, the most populated town in the Basque Country, was taken by Franco's troops the Basque nationalists decided to keep untouched all the heavy industries of Bilbao, dedicated to iron and machinery, thinking that they had the responsibility of securing the prosperity of their people in the future. This decision made available to the fascist rebels that important industry.In July 1937, having lost all the Basque territory the Basque army retreated towards Santander. Out of their land and without help from the Republic the Basque Army surrendered to the Italian Corpo Truppe Volontari through the so-called Santoña Agreement. The heads of the EAJ-PNV stayed with the soldiers to follow their men's same fate. Prison and executions ordered by the fascists followed. The 'Basque government in exile' then moved to Barcelona until the fall of Cataloniamarker and then out of Spain to the exile, first to Francemarker where they organized the camps and services with the president heading it personally. He was in Belgiummarker when Hitler occupied that country and so he started a long travel to Berlinmarker under a false identity.

Under the protection of a Panamanian ambassador, he got to reach Sweden and dodging the SSmarker German intelligence, he arrived to Brazil and Uruguay, where his dignity was reinstated and given visa to New York, where he established under the protection of American-Basques as teacher of Columbia University.

When the United Statesmarker decided to back Franco in 1952 he went to France anew where the Basque Government in exile was established. Also, he learned there that the pro-Nazi French government of Vichy confiscated the Basque Government's building and that the anti-Nazi De Gaulle maintained it as a Spanish Government's possession, given that the Basque Government has never had any international consideration other than representatives of a region in Spain at most. The building today is the Instituto Cervantes premises where French people can learn any of the Spanish languages, including Basque. Anyway, the president of the Basque Government in exile was always a PNV member and even the sole Spanish representative in the United Nations was the Basque appointee Jesús de Galíndez until his murder in an obscure episode regarding his PhD Thesis about Dominican Republic's dictator Trujillo. He also decided to put the large Basque exiles' network at the service of the Allied side and collaborated with the US Secretary of State and the CIA during the Cold War to fight Communism in Spanish America.

Recent years

In 1959 ETA was created by young undergraduates from the area of Bilbao (organization EKIN) lured by Basque nationalist ideology, but increasingly disgruntled at the ineffective political action of the PNV, largely daunted by after-war repression and scattered in exile. In addition, the new generation resented an attempt of PNV to pull the strings of their movement and PNV's youth wing Euzko Gaztedi (EGI), with whom they had merged in the mid-50s, as well as showing a more modern stance, stressing for one the language as the centre of Basqueness, instead of race.

In the 50s and 60s the party looked for alliances abroad, expecting at first that the defeat of the Axis in World War II would encourage USA's support for an eventual overthrow of Franco's seize on power, which didn't happen. In addition, it was a founder party of the Christian Democrat International, but now the party is an active member of the European Democratic Party, with the French Union pour la Démocratie Française, etc.

In 1987, dissenters from the party formed the rival Eusko Alkartasuna ("Basque Solidarity") Carlos Garaikoetxea was then elected as the first president of the rival party.

The split from the PNV was mainly based on: Afterwards, some ideological differences also came out. EA adopted a social-democratic ideology, while the PNV remained more attached to its christian-democratic ideas.

The split was particularly bitter given the fact that it was headed by the lehendakari himself. Many PNV political bars (batzoki, "meeting place") became alkartetxe ("mutual house").

Since 1991, as time has eased the bitter split (helped by the fact that both Arzalluz and Garaikoetxea have gone into political retirement), both parties agreed to form an electoral coalition in a number of local elections as a means to maximalize the nationalist votes, which eventually led to reunite both candidatures in a joint list again for the regional governments of Navarra and the Basque Autonomous Community in 1998. Thus, EA has participated in several PNV-led Basque governments, including the one of President Juan José Ibarretxe Markuartu. Still, EA decided to run by itself in the municipal elections held in May 2007.

Until its election defeat in 2009, PNV dominated every administration of the Basque governmentmarker. In Navarre, EA and PNV formed the coalition Nafarroa Bai along with Aralar and Batzarre. The PNV has one of the twelve seats of Navarre Yes in the Parliament of Navarre.

Former president Juan José Ibarretxe spearheaded a call for the reform of the Statute of Autonomy that governs the Basque Country Autonomous Community, through a proposal widely known as the Ibarretxe Plan which was rejected by the Cortes Generales.

Position in recent referendums

PNV called for:
  • Abstention in the Referendum for Spanish Constitution in 1978.
  • Gave freedom to vote yes or no to permanence of Spain in the NATOmarker in 1986. The Yes won the vote in Spain, but the No was the first choice among the electors of the Basque Country.
  • Yes to the European Constitution proposal in the referendum held in Spain in 21 February, 2005; and supported the Lisbon Treaty in the Spanish Cortes Generales.

Presidents of the Basque Nationalist Party since 1895

Note: The National Council of the Basque Nationalist Party (Euzkadi-Buru-Batzar) was created in 1911. Therefore, Sabino Arana and Ángel Zabala were only presidents of the Regional Council of Biscay (Bizkai-Buru-Batzar)
Josu Jon Imaz (in white shirt) and Iñigo Urkullu (in black shirt) in 2007


JeL (Jaungoikoa eta Lagi-zaŕa, "God and the old law" in Basque, Lege-zaharra in Standard Basque) is themotto of the party.The "old laws" referred to are the fueros, the traditional laws of the Basque provinces, observed by the kings of Castille, and later Spain, until the Carlist Wars.The motto of Basque Carlists was Dios, patria, fueros, rey ("God, Country, Fueros, king"). Separatist nationalism in parts of Spain is related in some of these areas with former Carlist background.

JEL is the origin of jelkide ("JEL-companion", EAJ-PNV member) and jeltzale ("JEL-follower", as in the gloss of EAJ, Eusko Alderdi Jeltzalea).

Alderdi Eguna

Alderdi Eguna ("Party Day") is the national holiday of the Basque Nationalist Party which is annually celebrated on the last Sunday of September, the Sunday closest to the feast day of Saint Michael, the patron saint of Euskal Herria and of the Basque Nationalist Party.

The central act of this celebration is a political meeting of leading nationalists, but the celebration begins in the morning with a traditional festival in which the different municipal organizations from the party set up stands to sell drinks and their more typical products, all brightened up by traditional music. Dances and traditional sports are also enjoyed. The celebration takes place in an open air arena (currently in Foronda, Álavamarker), and lasts until nightfall.

See also

External links

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