An Example of Co-operation
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.
- Terrorism knows no borders, it is transnational.
- There is no excuse for terrorism. It is necessary to have
"zero tolerance" for its activities.
- Counterterrorism must have a national and international
- The response against terrorism must be proportionate.
- The perpetrators of terrorist actions are as guilty as
those who support them.
- 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
Next, I would like to put forward some data that prove how
essential the co-operation against this transnational 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
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
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"
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
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
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
- 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.