Basque Nationalist Party

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Basque Nationalist Party

Euzko Alderdi Jeltzalea (Basque)
Partido Nacionalista Vasco (Spanish)
Parti Nationaliste Basque (French)
PresidentAndoni Ortuzar
FounderSabino Arana
Founded1895 (1895)
HeadquartersSabin Etxea, Ibáñez de Bilbao, 16
Youth wingEuzko Gaztedi
IdeologyBasque nationalism[1][2][3][4]
European federalism[5]
Civic nationalism
Christian democracy[4][7]
Conservative liberalism[9]
Political positionCentre-right[10][11]
European affiliationEuropean Democratic Party
International affiliationNone, previously Alliance of Democrats[12]
European Parliament groupAlliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe
Congress of Deputies
5 / 18
Spanish Senate
6 / 15
European Parliament
1 / 54
Basque Parliament
28 / 75
Parliament of Navarre
4 / 50
Inside Geroa Bai
Juntas Generales
54 / 153
Town councillors in the Basque Autonomous Community
1,017 / 2,628

The Basque Nationalist Party[13] (Basque: Euzko Alderdi Jeltzalea, EAJ; Spanish: Partido Nacionalista Vasco, PNV; French: Parti Nationaliste Basque, PNB; EAJ-PNV), officially Basque National Party in English,[14][a] is a Christian democratic and Basque nationalist party. It operates in all the territories comprising the Basque Country: the Basque Autonomous Community and Navarre in Spain, and in the French Basque Country. It also has delegations in dozens of foreign nations, specifically those with a major presence of Basque immigrants.

EAJ-PNV was founded by Sabino Arana in 1895, which makes it the second oldest party in Spain that remains active, after the PSOE. It is the largest Basque nationalist party, having led the Basque Government uninterruptedly since 1979 (except for a brief period between 2009 and 2012). In Navarre, it is part of the coalition Geroa Bai, which is currently the party in the Navarrese regional government. At the national level, it also has a presence in the Cortes Generales: the Congress of Deputies and the Senate.

Since 1932, EAJ-PNV celebrates on Easter the Aberri Eguna 'Homeland Day'.[16] Also, since 1977, the party celebrates Alderdi Eguna 'Party Day'. The party's social offices are called batzokis, of which there are over 200 throughout the world.[17]

Currently a member of the European Democratic Party, the Basque Nationalist Party was previously a member of the European Free Alliance from 1999 to 2004.[18] Even earlier it had been affiliated with the European People's Party from which it resigned before the European Parliament election of 1999, and the Christian Democrat International until its expulsion in 2000.[19]

The current chairman of EAJ-PNV is Andoni Ortuzar. The youth wing of the Basque Nationalist Party is called EGI Euzko Gaztedi Indarra 'Basque Youth Force'.


Origins and early history[edit]

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Basque Country
In 1898, the party opened its second batzoki [eu] ('meeting place', a club and bar) in Barakaldo.

The party was founded in 1895 by Sabino de Arana Goiri as a Catholic conservative party agitating for the restoration of self-government and the defense of Juramento de Larrazabal Basque traditional values and identity. Currently, it describes itself as Basque, democratic, participatory, plural, and humanist. It is a moderate nationalist party which favours greater autonomy, for the Basque nation. 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 traditionalist 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[edit]

PNV sticker. Text: "Euzkadi´k bear zaitu" (Euzkadi needs you). It is inspired by Alfred Leete's British poster for Kitchener's Army.


The division between autonomism and independentism appeared again during the second Spanish Republic. Headed by Eli Gallastegi, a small group of 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[edit]

Civil War[edit]

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-Fascist ideology led them to side with the republican government.

The Biscayne and Gipuzkoan 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. During the military uprising in Navarre, the Basque nationalist mayor of Estella-Lizarra Fortunato Aguirre was arrested by the Spanish nationalist rebels (18 July 1936), and killed in September. Some Basque nationalists could flee north to Basque areas loyal to the Republic, or France. However, some members of the Alavese and Navarrese committees, ahead of an official decision, published notes refusing support to the Republic. Notwithstanding their initial ambiguous position in certain areas, the party premises and press in Álava and Navarre were closed in that month of July.

Some PNV sympathizers and members joined the Carlist battalions, either out of conviction or to avoid attacks. By October 1936, a war front had been established at the northern tip of Álava and to the west of Donostia. Initially, the Defence Committees in Biscay and Gipuzkoa were dominated by the Popular Front. After hard negotiations, eventually Basque autonomy was granted within the Second Spanish Republic in late 1936, and the new autonomous government immediately organized the Basque Army, consisting of militias recruited by each of the political organizations, including PNV.

The autonomous government avoided chaos in Biscay and western Gipuzkoa, and took the reins of the coordination and provision of military resistance. On occupation of the territories loyal to the Republic, the Francoist repression was focused on leftists, but Basque nationalists were also targeted, facing prison, humiliation, and death. As the rebel troops approached Biscay, the Carlist press in Pamplona even called for the extermination of Basque nationalists.[20]

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 Gipuzkoa. In April 1937, the city of Guernica was bombed by German airplanes. Jose Antonio de Aguirre stated that "the German planes bombed us with a brutality that had never been seen before for two and a half hours." Pablo Picasso made a painting in remembrance of the massacre named after the city that year.[21]

When Bilbao, the most populated town in the Basque Country, was taken by Franco's troops the Basque nationalists decided to keep untouched all heavy manufacturing industry of Bilbao, steel processing and shipping, 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 then moved to Barcelona until the fall of Catalonia, and on out of Spain into permanent exile, first to France where they organized the camps and services with the president heading it personally. Aguirre was in Belgium when Hitler occupied that country, starting a long travel to Berlin under a false identity.

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

Exile during the post-war[edit]

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.

When the United States decided to back Franco in 1952 Aguirre 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.[citation needed]

Generational conflict and new alliances[edit]

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 1950s 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 hold 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 the late 60s and early 70s, contacts started with other Spanish parties to assert PNV's position in a new post-Francoist order. At the same time, the Basque Nationalist Party confirmed its stance against ETA in a period when its violent actions saw a surge and its influence in society was very apparent, especially in street protests. Juan de Ajuriaguerra paved the way for PNV's comeback to Basque politics from exile, and started to negotiate their participation in the new status-quo, with special attention to a new Statute.

A Basque Statute[edit]

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PNV's good results in 1977 and 1978 confirmed PNV's central position in Basque politics. While PNV advocated for abstention in the referendum on the Spanish Constitution for its lack of Basque input, the party supported the Statute of Autonomy of the Basque Country, approved in December 1978, and paved the way to its success in the first elections held in the Basque Autonomous Community, once Navarre was left out.

In the transition years after Franco's death in 1975, Xabier Arzallus came to prominence, who masterminded the so-called "Spirit of Arriaga" to accommodate the party to the new Spanish democracy. Despite some internal tensions, the former priest and Jesuit came up reinforced and was chosen undisputed party leader. PNV found in Biscay its main and strongest support base, while in Navarre PNV was next to non-existent.

Carlos Garaikoetxea spearheaded the new autonomous government after being elected with 38.8% of the votes and during this first term the Basque Nationalist Party held office without outside support. During this period, PNV's challenges were closely associated to its position in the Basque Government: defense of the Statute, devolution of powers from Madrid, discrediting of political violence, restructuring of manufacturing industry steeped in crisis.

As of 1985 tensions inside the party spurred the formation of a splinter group with a stronghold in Gipuzkoa, which in turn led to a new party in 1987, when dissenters from the PNV formed 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 that it was headed by the lehendakari (premier) himself. Many PNV political bars (batzoki [eu], "meeting place") became alkartetxe [eu] ("meeting 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 maximize 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 2006 government of President Juan José Ibarretxe Markuartu. Still, EA decided to run by itself in the municipal elections held in May 2007.

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, passed by the Basque Parliament but not even accepted for discussion by the Spanish Cortes Generales.

In 2009 PNV was expelled from office by an alliance of the Spanish Socialists' Basque branch, the PSE, and the Spanish conservatives (PP), taking advantage of a distorted parliament representation issued from the outlawing of leftist Basque nationalists. Until that moment, the PNV dominated every administration of the Basque government. In Navarre, EA and PNV formed the coalition Nafarroa Bai—'Yes to Navarre'—along with Aralar and Batzarre, but a split within the coalition led to its revamp as Geroa Bai. In terms of ideology, by November 2016 the Basque Nationalist Party shifted its rhetoric to make the autonomous community of Euskadi the subject of the Basque nation.[22]

Position in recent referendums[edit]

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 NATO 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 on 21 February 2005; and supported the Lisbon Treaty in the Spanish Cortes Generales.

Presidents of the party since 1895[edit]

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 the motto 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 ("TZALE-follower", as in the gloss of EAJ, Eusko Alderdi Jeltzalea).

Alderdi Eguna[edit]

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, Álava), and lasts until nightfall.

Electoral performance[edit]

Basque Parliament[edit]

Basque Parliament
Election Vote % Seats Status Leader
1980 349,102 (#1) 37.95
25 / 60
Government Carlos Garaikoetxea
1984 451,178 (#1) 41.81
32 / 75
Government Carlos Garaikoetxea
1986 271,208 (#1) 23.60
17 / 75
Government José Antonio Ardanza
1990 289,701 (#1) 28.28
22 / 75
Government José Antonio Ardanza
1994 304,346 (#1) 29.32
22 / 75
Government José Antonio Ardanza
1998 350,322 (#1) 27.62
21 / 75
Government Juan José Ibarretxe
2001 with PNV–EA
26 / 75
Government Juan José Ibarretxe
2005 with PNV–EA
21 / 75
Government Juan José Ibarretxe
2009 399,600 (#1) 38.14
30 / 75
Opposition Juan José Ibarretxe
2012 384,766 (#1) 34.16
27 / 75
Government Iñigo Urkullu
2016 398,168 (#1) 37.36
28 / 75
Government Iñigo Urkullu

Congress of Deputies[edit]

Congress of Deputies
Election Spain Basque Country Status
Vote % Seats Vote % Seats
1977 314,272 (#8) 1.72
8 / 350
296,193 (#1) 29.28
8 / 21
1979 296,597 (#8) 1.65
7 / 350
275,292 (#1) 27.57
7 / 21
1982 395,656 (#7) 1.88
8 / 350
379,293 (#1) 31.73
8 / 21
1986 309,610 (#6) 1.53
6 / 350
304,675 (#1) 27.82
6 / 21
1989 254,681 (#6) 1.24
5 / 350
252,119 (#1) 22.78
5 / 21
1993 291,448 (#6) 1.24
5 / 350
287,908 (#2) 24.05
5 / 19
1996 318,951 (#5) 1.27
5 / 350
315,793 (#1) 25.04
5 / 19
2000 353,953 (#5) 1.53
7 / 350
347,417 (#1) 30.38
7 / 19
2004 420,980 (#6) 1.63
7 / 350
420,980 (#1) 33.72
7 / 19
2008 306,128 (#5) 1.19
6 / 350
306,128 (#2) 27.11
6 / 18
2011 324,317 (#7) 1.33
5 / 350
324,317 (#1) 27.41
5 / 18
2015 302,316 (#8) 1.20
6 / 350
302,316 (#2) 24.72
6 / 18
2016 287,014 (#7) 1.19
5 / 350
287,014 (#2) 24.86
5 / 18


Election Spain Basque Country
Seats Vote % Seats
6 / 207
6 / 12
8 / 208
8 / 12
7 / 208
7 / 12
7 / 208
7 / 12
4 / 208
4 / 12
3 / 208
3 / 12
4 / 208
4 / 12
6 / 208
6 / 12
6 / 208
6 / 12
2 / 208
2 / 12
4 / 208
4 / 12
6 / 208
6 / 12
5 / 208
5 / 12

European Parliament[edit]

European Parliament
Election Spain Basque Country
Vote % Seats Vote %
1987 with UE
0 / 60
208,135 (#2) 19.39
1989 with CN
1 / 60
201,809 (#1) 20.95
1994 with CN
1 / 64
233,626 (#1) 25.85
1999 with CN–EP
1 / 64
392,800 (#1) 33.93
2004 with Galeusca
1 / 54
249,143 (#1) 35.28
2009 with CEU
1 / 54
208,432 (#1) 28.54
2014 with CEU
1 / 54
208,987 (#1) 27.48

See also[edit]


  1. ^ A proposal to have the official party name changed to "Basque National Party" (Spanish: Partido Nacional Vasco) was rejected by party members in November 2011. Nonetheless, the party did introduce the change in the English and French versions of the name.[15]


  1. ^ Ahedo, Igor (2005), "Political parties in the Basque autonomous community", Basque Society: Structures, Institutions, And Contemporary Life, Center for Basque Studies, p. 177
  2. ^ Ramiro, Luis; Morales, Laura (2007), "European integration and Spanish parties: Elite empowerment amidst limited adaptation", The Europeanization of National Political Parties: Power and organizational adaptation, Routledge, p. 145
  3. ^ Pallarés, Francesc; Keating, Michael (2006), "Multi-level electoral competition: sub-state elections and party systems in Spain", Devolution and electoral politics, Manchester University Press, p. 101
  4. ^ a b Gibbons 1999, p. 25: «the PNV, a Basque nationalist and Christian democratic party»
  5. ^ "El PNV aboga por una Europa federal sin Estados-Nación" (in Spanish). 24 March 2013. Retrieved 15 January 2018.
  6. ^ Magone, José M. (2009), Contemporary Spanish Politics (Second ed.), Routledge, p. 170
  7. ^ Papini, Roberto (2010), "The Identity of the Christian Democratic Movement and Theory of Democracy", Religion, the Enlightenment, and the New Global Order, Columbia University Press, p. 259
    Keating, Michael (2009), "Nationalist Movements in Comparative Perspective", The Modern SNP: From Protest to Power, Edinburgh University Press, p. 208
  8. ^ Basabe Lloréns, Felipe (2003), "Spain: the emergence of a new major actor in the European arena", Fifteen Into One?: The European Union and Its Member States, Manchester University Press, p. 207
    Irvin, Cynthia L. (2000), "Negotiating End Games: A Comparative Analysis of the IRA and ETA", Reconcilable Differences: Turning Points in Ethnopolitical Conflict, Kumarian Press, p. 191
    Newton, Michael T. (1997), Institutions of Modern Spain: A Political and Economic Guide, Cambridge University Press, p. 207
  9. ^ Hans Slomp (2011). Europe, A Political Profile: An American Companion to European Politics [2 volumes]: An American Companion to European Politics. ABC-CLIO. p. 519. ISBN 978-0-313-39182-8.
  10. ^ Mateos, Araceli; Penadés, Alberto (2013). "España: crisis y recortes" (pdf). Revista de ciencia política (Santiago) (in Spanish). 33 (1): 175. ISSN 0718-090X. Retrieved January 4, 2016. Convergencia i Unió (CiU) y el Partido Nacionalista Vasco (PNV-EAJ) son los partidos nacionalistas de centro-derecha en Cataluña y el País Vasco, respectivamente
  11. ^ Gabriel Gatti; Ignacio Irazuzta; Iñaki Martínez de Albeniz, eds. (2005). "Political parties". Basque Society: Structures, Institutions, and Contemporary Life. University of Nevada Press. p. 177. ISBN 978-1-877802-25-6.
  12. ^ Nuñez, Xosé-Manoel (2003), "A State of Many Nations: The Construction of a Plural Spanish Society since 1976", The Social Construction of Diversity, Berghahn Books, p. 287
    Keating, Michael; Loughlin, John; Deschouwer, Kris (2003), Culture, Institutions, and Economic Development: A Study of Eight European Regions, Edward Elgar Publishing, p. 55
  13. ^ "Basque Nationalist Party". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 31 August 2018.
  14. ^ "Basque National Party". Retrieved 31 August 2018.
  15. ^ "Las bases del PNV descartan cambiar el término «nacionalista» por «nacional»". ABC. 25 November 2011. Retrieved 31 August 2018.
  16. ^
  17. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2009-06-23. Retrieved 2015-08-29.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  18. ^
  19. ^ Jan Mansvelt Beck (2004). Territory and Terror: Conflicting Nationalisms in the Basque Country. Routledge. p. 162.
  20. ^ Paul Preston (2013). The Spanish Holocaust: Inquisition and Extermination in Twentieth-Century Spain. London, UK: HarperCollins. p. 436. ISBN 978-0-00-638695-7.
  21. ^ Müller, Annika (April 26, 2012). "A Survivor Recalls the Horrors of Guernica". Spiegel Online. Retrieved 28 March 2013.
  22. ^ "Urkullu: "Euskadi es una nación que debe ser reconocida y necesita mecanismos de bilateralidad"". EuropaPress. 2016-11-23. Retrieved 2016-12-01. Compare it to Sabino Arana's definition of Euzkadi as a political projection of Euskal Herria, or to the party's name for its main executive board, the Euskadi Buru Batzar, regrouping the party leaders of all the Basque territory.


External links[edit]