Updated: 25-Feb-2002 NATO Speeches

22 Feb. 2002

An Example of Co-operation

Speech by Mr. Juan Miguel Lian Macias
Ministry of Defence of Spain
at the Seminar on The role of the EAPC in combating terrorism


The tragic events of September 11, 2001 are a clear example that any nation can be considered as a target by terrorist groups.

SPAIN considers that the general response against terrorism is a positive one, taking into account that terrorism is a global phenomenon, although it is usually restricted to specific zones.

Any kind of terrorism must be addressed in a similar manner, regardless its modus operandi, funding and provision sources, place and areas it affects. There is a common denominator to all terrorist actions: an interest spreading terror, clandestine procedures and a reject to express their ideology by other means than that of violence.

Unlike other times in the past, terrorism has been reduced in quantity but not in intensity. Currently, in comparison to other periods, the number of groups has decreased. But the intensity and cruelty of their attacks have greater effects, as they take advantage of new technologies and of having an easier access to means of transport and communications.

All nations have to unite in a common cause and show their solidarity to fight terrorism. To this aim, solid channels of information, prevention and action must be established in order to counteract terrorist activities. It is necessary to this aim that governments and the public in general take on the spirit of "zero tolerance".

We wish to point out a series of basic points on which there must be a common agreement.

  1. Terrorism knows no borders, it is transnational.
  2. There is no excuse for terrorism. It is necessary to have "zero tolerance" for its activities.
  3. Counterterrorism must have a national and international legal framework.
  4. The response against terrorism must be proportionate.
  5. The perpetrators of terrorist actions are as guilty as those who support them.
  6. Counterterrorism demands co-operation at international levels, with efficient police and legal procedures.

Unfortunately, SPAIN has suffered the lash of terrorism for a long time now. Therefore, it is highly skilled in counterterrorism, and its experience may be used as a reference in the current world-wide efforts to fight terrorism.

This experience is based on national and international political, police and legal action. The measures adopted in the framework of a close bilateral co-operation with France and the EU have allowed ETA's international isolation and a decrease in its activities.

Next, I would like to put forward some data that prove how essential the co-operation against this transnational terrorism remains.

ETA's Terrorism

ETA's goal is the creation of a Basque independent state based on Marxist-Leninist principles. To this aim, it seeks the separation of the three Basque provinces and NAVARRA from SPAIN as well as the three Basque provinces located in the South of FRANCE. The procedure that has been defined to achieve these goals is the "armed struggle".

Since 1968, when ETA carried out its first killing, up to last November, when it killed last, ETA has caused almost one thousand fatal casualties.

In 1975, Franco's death allowed the beginning of the longed-for democratic transition in SPAIN that culminated in 1978 when the Spanish people approved the Spanish Constitution by referendum. It was then when the drafting of the statutes of autonomy of the Autonomous Regions opting for self-government started. Consequently, the Basque Country has been an Autonomous Region -out of the 17 Spanish Autonomous Regions- since 1979. It has a Government that has wide-ranging powers, in some cases absolute, regarding economic, educational (special attention is paid to the Basque culture and language), security (with its own police corps), and health issues.

However, in spite of the arrival of democracy, ETA did not renounce terror.

En 1992, in order to palliate a serious internal crisis caused by the arrest of its leadership in FRANCE, ETA boosted the emergence of street-riot groups in the BASQUE COUNTRY. Since then, these groups have been carrying out the so-called "low-intensity" terrorism.

In 1998, ETA declared an indefinite cessation of its terrorist activity, moved by its operational weakness. This "truce-tramp" lasted fourteen months that the terrorist gang used to restore its damaged structures.

In order to break this "truce", ETA drove two vans loaded with 1.000 kg of explosives from the South of France in December 1999. The vans were bound for Madrid at the time of their interception. Their target was the PICASSO tower, a skyscraper located in the financial centre of MADRID.

In the last two years, ETA killed 38 people as a result of 120 terrorist attacks. However, the Police action both in SPAIN and FRANCE dismantled most of ETA's operational cells and logistic structure, respectively.

So far this year, ETA has mounted four car bomb attacks in BILBAO, it has placed three packet-bombs to three Basque journalists considered by ETA as "troublesome". Just three days ago, ETA left three people wounded with a limpet bomb, leaving the Basque Socialist Youth leader seriously wounded. Likewise, in an attempt to counterbalance the weakness of its terrorist cells, it maintains alive street riots, with frequent attacks on public and private property¾houses of politicians and journalists, city buses, bank branches, and so on. To a lesser extent, these actions have been spread to the French-Basque country.

Both types of attacks meet their aim at times. As a result of the intense pressure exercised by ETA, quite a number of city counsellors have resigned their posts in the last two years. In addition, many university teachers have abandoned their jobs in their respective Faculties. In the last decade, up to 200,000 citizens have left their homes in the region for other regions in SPAIN. A recent case in point may be revealing: last weekend a 75 year old Socialist counsellor of a small Basque village announced his resignation, because of the daily pressure on his family by radical groups. He left his home only to come to live in another part of SPAIN.

Terrorists have gradually broadened the range of targets by including those people that, in some way, have been involved in the defence of liberties and in the struggle against ETA's terrorism. Thus, apart from police and military forces' members, the terrorist organization has added to its list of targets members of some other groups of people considered to be "enemies"; that is, journalists, Basque autonomous police, judges, politicians of nation-wide political parties, and so on.

ETA, the clandestine structure of which is based in FRANCE, controls the whole political network that is called Movimiento de Liberación Nacional Vasco (i.e., Basque National Liberation Movement). It uses another semi-clandestine structure as the link to open organizations based mainly in SPAIN. These other organizations include the legal organizations.

This movement can only count on scarce backing by the Basque society: around 10%. The latest autonomic elections in the Basque Community took place in 2001, where ETA's political branch suffered a serious blow, by going from 14 down to 7 regional seats.

In spite of the effort by ETA to try to influence political life by continuing a relentless terrorist campaign, the number of terrorist attacks have declined thanks to increasing lack of social support and intensified police pressure.

The increase in percentage of the use of car bombs in its attacks is relevant; 17 cases in the year 2001 out of 56 attacks¾a high proportion. Using car bombs in the attacks is defined by special characteristics that fit in ETA's current circumstances: it can only count on a scarce number of operational cells. This procedure guarantees more security for the operatives and ensures important social repercussions, resulting in social intimidation. Once the car bomb is ready in the South of FRANCE or in the Basque country, it will get exploded somewhere in SPAIN.

Traditionally, ETA has followed different procedures for the procurement of arms and explosives: the robbery of explosives depots from civilian companies - currently in FRANCE and before that in SPAIN -, manufacturing of their own and the purchase in clandestine arms and explosives trafficking markets.

As for arms, in the past ETA obtained illegal supplies in Western European countries. However, these procedures used - where occasionally ETA members travelled to acquire material - have been replaced by other more modern methods, where this terrorist group contacts European mafia-related networks dealing with arms trafficking.

Since the collapse of the communist regimes EUROPE and benefiting from the confrontations in the BALKANS, ETA shifted its supply networks towards these geographical areas.

Like ETA, the few existing European terrorist groups get their supplies from these areas too, via some third countries. To this effect, ETA has coincided with those terrorist groups in the joint or parallel exploitation of the existent networks.

The identification and subsequent neutralisation of illegal trafficking of arms and explosives for terrorist groups are essential to hinder their activities. To this effect, the countries of origin of the material should act responsibly and fully co-operate to put an end to those activities.

ETA is funded mainly from one source: the money it collects through extortion of small and medium businessmen, charging them the so-called "revolutionary tax". At present the amounts required are between 35,000 and 400,000 euros. The annual budget the terrorist organisation needs for the maintenance of its structures is estimated at around 10 million euros.

Beyond the Spanish borders, ETA seeks links with similar groups and causes. Hence, it intends to gain the support of ideologically akin groups. It has or has had contacts with the Breton Revolutionary Army, with Corsican and Irish terrorist groups, with revolutionary groups from Latin America, etc.

In order to obtain operational and political support in EUROPE, ETA avails itself of the so-called "Solidarity Committees", which are small cells made up by people closely linked with ETA, and also by citizens of the country involved sometimes linked with radical left-wing, antiglobalisation, alternative and squatter movements. From the operational point of view, the joint police pressure in the Spanish and French territories has forced ETA to consider other countries where its infrastructures may be settled.

Outside EUROPE, some countries of LATIN AMERICA are used as destination by many ETA members fleeing from police or judicial operations. These countries are considered a "third rearguard" and a temporary shelter for those who flee.

Finally, the fight against ETA' s terrorism at the moment can be summarised as follows:

  • ETA's operational capability is on the decrease.
  • Growing police efficiency both in Spain and in France as well as bilateral co-ordination on intelligence, police and judiciary matters. This improvement has resulted from the co-operation of the French authorities and relevant bodies that has rendered excellent results in the fight against terrorism.
  • Growing social rejection of violence as means to reach political goals.
  • Culmination of ETA's international isolation due to the co-operation of the authorities of some Latin American countries.
  • Strengthening of police, judiciary and intelligence operational bodies within the EUROPEAN UNION such a EUROJUST and EUROPOL. As an example, in January 2001 EUROJUST carried out an operation that resulted in the arrest of one of ETA's collaborators in THE NETHERLANDS.

The Spanish Presidency is fostering a greater co-ordination within the EUROPEAN UNION on judiciary matters. Progress has been made in the common definition of the crime of terrorism and in the conditions for the arrest and handing over of terrorists among member countries (EUROWARRANT) which will speed up the traditional bilateral extradition procedures.

Thank you for your attention.

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