Reflections on Covid-19
WHAT AFTER COVID-19?
New book released together with Elkar publisher. (IN BASQUE)
We have gathered reflections both at the level of the Basque Country and the international level, that we consider relevant to discuss about the Post-COVID-19 challenges.
The debate is not over. We will continue promoting it.
We want to thank all those who have been part of this book for the time expended and knowledge shared with us.
Laboratory for Basque state-building.
INDEX (IN BASQUE)
The consequences of the COVID-19 are widely varied and most certainly unpredictable. There is no doubt that, at a global level, in Europe, in the Spanish and French States and in the Basque Country, we must expect a dramatic change to life as we know it. September 11 and the economic crisis of 2008 brought about a change on a global scale. In the same way, the post-COVID-19 world will be very different, and societies around the world will, in the future, have to adjust and deal with the wide ranging consequences. At a local level, in the Basque Country, the fall out of the COVID-19 pandemic and its consequences will shape the economic, political and social dynamics of the coming months and years. In this context, our aim is to offer an open space to reflect on the future.
To do this, we will initially make use of the new aged digital tools. In this section of the TM eLab website (www.telesforomonzonlab.eus), we will include qualified contributions and suggestions about the challenges for the Basque Country, with the aim of contributing to the essential broad and deep reflection that our country will need to face post-COVID-19. In other words, our objective is to positively encourage contributions to the broad-based conversations that the Basque Country will need to have. We will also gather reflections from other sources, both at the level of the Basque Country and at the international level, that we consider to be of interest.
COVID-19a katalizatzaile gisa
COVID-19a: EUROPAR BATASUNAk huts egin du elkartasun proba batean. Ordaina austeritate zorrotzagoa eta okerragoa izango da
COVID-19a, mundua eta gu
Urko Aiartza Azurtza
Mundu berrira zabaldutako gure atea. Ate joka dugun mundu berria eta bertan dugun lekua
Ander Caballero Barturen
COVID-19ak ekar litzakeen epe luzeko inpaktuen dekalogoa
Mikel Navarro Arancegui
Garazi Goia Imaz
Elkarrekin euskaratik berreraiki
Paul Bilbao Sarria
Kulturatik ere, Euskal Herria helburu
Joanmari Larrarte Telletxea
Hezkuntzak behar du iraultza
Zigor Ibarzabal Bastarrika
COVID-19az, distopiaren falaziaz,(tele)hezkuntzaz eta zaintzaren pedagogiaz
Nora Salbotx Alegria
Komunikazioan, gure Ro zenbakiak behera egin du
Josu Amezaga Albizu
Gure ongizate-estatua biluztu duen krisia
Gemma Zabaleta Areta
COVID-19aren krisia eta ekonomia globala: erronken azelerazioa
Andoni Eizagirre Eizagirre
Ondasunak eta baloreak. Boterea eta demokrazia
Isidro Esnaola Herrero
Natura errespetatzen duen ekonomia baterantz, COVID-19 osteko Euskal Herrian
Unai Pascual Garcia de Azilu
Kapitalismoaren logiken deskonfinamendua. Hyman Minskyrekin pentsaezina zena berriz pentsatuz: aberatsenei zergak, langabezia masiboari aurre egiteko
Normalitate berrirako agroekologia feminista
Mirene Begiristain Zubillaga
Hurrengo mundua: orain eta hemen
Koronabirusak sortutako egoera kooperatibista baten ikuspegitik
Iñigo Iñurrategi Irizar
Mondragoneko kooperatibismoa COVID-19 osteko aroan
Aritz Otxandiano Kanpo
Turismoa, COVID-19a eta Aldaketa Globala: 2030 eraldaketarako hausnarketa
Aurkene Alzua Sorzabal
Animalien kontsumoa birpentsatzen hurrengo pandemia globala prebenitzeko
Eneko Axpe Iza
COVID-19a, arazo sakonagoen ondorio
Joxerra Aihartza Azurtza
290Babes ditzagun gure irakasleak eta ikerlariak!
Iñaki Goirizelaia Ordorika
Datuen jabetza eta burujabetza, datuek gidatutako jendartean
Iratxe Esnaola Arribillaga
Euskal Nazio Algoritmikoa Sortuz: Subiranotasun Teknologikoa Post-COVID-19 Gizartean
Segurtasuna, defentsa eta Estaturik gabeko nazioak, beharrezko hausnarketa COVID-19aren harira
David Bajona i Carrera eta Daniel Soler i Gonzalez
Subiranismoa eta burujabetzak
David Lannes eta Nicolas Goñi
Birusa hedatu mugatutako lurraldean
Imanol Esnaola Arbiza
COVID-19aren ondorengo agertokiaz
Agirre Lehendakari Center (ALC)
We should bear in mind where we come from, regardless of where we are going
We set up the COVID-19 Gogoeta Gunea initiative when COVID-19 was spreading around the world and hitting Basque society hard. It had two aims: to debate the consequences of the epidemic for us, and to start reflecting on our challenges post COVID-19. As Telesforo Monzón said, even in the middle of the storm we have stopped for a few moments to look around us and discuss where we are coming from and where we want to go. Debate continues in many places on what many have described as the “New Normality” will or should be like, and will go on for a long time as we do not yet know how the pandemic will develop in the coming months. The general consensus is that it will not be the same as up to now. The question is whether this new normality will define us or whether we will be the ones to define it, taking into account that, as Joxerra Aihartza points out, “The present is the result of the previous situation and of actions in the past.” The key factors that lie behind the outbreak of infectious viruses like SARS-COV-19, as Eneko Axpe points out, are the result of human actions: the trade in wild animals and industrial livestock farming, among others.
Whatever the origin of the pandemic – which is also subject to discussion – most experts agree that COVID-19 will act as an accelerator or “catalyst for previous trends” (Shaun Riordan). Because COVID-19 has come along at a time of profound, systemic changes at global level. If these changes were already coming about at a historically unprecedented rate, with the feeling of uncertainty this generates, the epidemic “will further accentuate the trends that have emerged in our society and make everything change even more,” (Ander Caballero). We live at a time described by Hans Küng as “an era of paradigm changes”, and COVID-19 has speeded everything up. The globalisation process that began in the late 20th century with the development of technology including robotics and artificial intelligence and other phenomena, already raised major challenges for peoples and nations in general, and also for their institutions, social fabrics, businesses and public, and the pandemic has only helped to speed all this up.
Moreover, we should not forget that, despite all our efforts, our country, Euskal Herria, the Basque people, arrived at this point in history in a vulnerable position: culturally denigrated, turned into a linguistic minority, divided between three administrations and under the domination of Spain and France, two countries where centralisation forms part of their DNA. This has once more been made clear with COVID-19, with centralist policies imposed by Paris and Madrid, as Iñaki Goirizelaia, the Agirre Lehendakari Center (ALC), and David Bajona and David Soler i Gonzalez have all pointed out. We therefore need to respond to both global challenges and our own challenges. Furthermore, while the Basque national strategies developed in the second half of the twentieth century have been out of date for some time, we have not yet managed to define and agree upon such a strategy suitable for the 21st century, of which we are already about to begin the third decade. Faced with the impossibility of realising our full potential as a people, we remain subject to inertia.
In this situation, COVID-19 has once again shown us the need to face major challenges, both global and our own, as a people, and given us the chance to discusses them without any excuses. This cannot be postponed any longer. As Garazi Goia reminds us, Milton Friedman said that “Only a crisis produces real change,” because all the ideas that seemed impossible before suddenly become possible. Instead of feeling sorry for ourselves, we should take seize the opportunity to engage in a serious, profound national debate. The work contained in this reflection has enabled us to put together some brushstrokes concerning the details of this debate. The debate had already begun (remember the discussion about the White Paper drawn up by Eusko Ikaskuntza, or the parliamentary debate in the Basque autonomous community about its new status); however, this time some reflections have emerged that might serve to spark a wide-ranging, profound national conversation.
We have strong points
First of all, in the face of all these challenges, we should consider what strong points we have as a people faced by this changing world. As many of the contributions underline, we have something to sustain; we have a base on which to support ourselves.
On the one hand we have our values. As the Agirre Lehendakari Center (ALC) reminds us, we have among us a kind of shared value system. Shared effort, taking responsibility, solidarity, the ability to adapt to new situations and resilience are some of our people’s values that can be identified in different parts of society; and as a central factor we have the value of equality. As Iñigo Iñurrategi points out, within the Basque cooperative tradition there is also an instinct to meet individual and group needs collectively; to provide for the needs of individuals and groups through the means we have and our collaborative abilities, while also playing a part in building the country, something that is generally obvious. Without leaving anything up to others. There is also the sense of community that transcends the “I”, so that the “we” involves a commitment to the language, culture and identity that are the basis of the nation, the collective identity. This “we”, rather than a simple here and now, represents the “national we” that links us to past and future generations of Basques. We have a strong value system to construct a shared narrative; a system whose full potential we have still not managed to realise and which is endangered by both local and external trends. Because there are conflicting trends among us, and our people has historically been racked by factional disputes: Oñacinos against Gamboinos, Agramonteses against Beaumonteses and so on. As Ander Caballero reminds us, some say that the Basques have been our worst enemies, as well as the greatest obstacle to achieving our own goals and realising our aspirations. Of course, this is also connected with outside interference and our tattered identity.
On the other hand, it is also worth remembering which activities and ways of working have been successful. Ours is a people of challenges and tasks, and when it comes to collected challenges there have been many far-reaching but also practical initiatives that have achieved success. In the dark days of the Franco dictatorship, we began the process of standardisation of Basque, we built up the Ikastola schools without any support of any kind, we started up our own communication projects, we set about working on adult literacy, a cultural revival, building an administrative structure, internationalisation and more. At the same time, within the cooperative movement, structures were created to meet community needs, as well as transforming the business model: technical schools, consumer cooperatives, savings banks to use cooperative members’ savings to finance the cooperatives themselves, pensions, charities and so on.
In short, we have managed to set up policies, both public and institutional, connected with missions that are gaining strength internationally in the context of economic and state policies, without excessive theory and on the basis of intuition and the values mentioned above; we are used to making the impossible possible through our actions. Because our greatest asset is people, the community. This is something we must be clear about. Ours is not a people rich in natural resources. Our strength is our people. Among us, people must therefore be placed at the centre of any policy, as individuals belonging to a group. Commitment to the community must form the basis of political action; the axis and goal of social and institutional actions.
The pandemic has shown us once again the importance of these values. At this difficult time we have not focused on the faraway, and what we have needed to get by has not come from far away, but from our neighbours, from members of our communities; we have placed our trust (to a greater or lesser extent) in both public and private institutions linked to the community, and in local bodies.
However, these values, this way of seeing society and the world, are not something innate and unchanging. They need working on, feeding and nurturing constantly. As Iñigo Iñurrategi says, working on and spreading these values calls for commitment by different figures (in education, culture and the media, public and private figures and so on). If we manage to mobilise personal and community commitment, we will be in a position to face the future.
The challenges to our country are enormous
Taking these strengths as a starting point, the future holds certain areas and challenges that have been highlighted in the contributions made in the reflection, and it would be worth undertaking in-depth national debate (and, if possible, action) on the basis of these.
The pandemic and the need to adapt to the closing of schools have made clear that the current educational model is out of date. We are far from having the methods and teaching resources we need to meet today’s social challenges. We act through inertia. While there has been some discussion of this, the situation created by COVID-19 has made the crisis in this model absolutely clear. As Nora Salbotx tells us, this crisis has given us new reasons to rethink the nature of knowledge – possibly the greatest popular heritage – in the educational system. As Zigor Ibarzabal points out, we live in the age of knowledge and information but we continue to use an education model suited to the situation of 20th-century society. In the 21st century, as Nora Salbotx Alegria says, we need to rethink the school curriculum used up to now, which is clearly encyclopaedic in its basis. We must be clear about the features of the learners we want to foster, what profile of learner we want to work on and what impacts we want to have on learners as a result of learning in our institutions. This description of the model person must be the basis and the direction for teaching and learning processes. And this brings us to the first point: what kind of people do we want to educate in our institutions? What values do we want to foster? What are the identities and the kind of participation we want to work on? Iñaki Goirizelaia shows very clearly that the only possibility for our people consists of educating sophisticated people in order to generate knowledge. Because in this globalised world, sophisticated people educated on the basis of knowledge can make significant contributions to changing the world through identity and culture. To do this, in turn, we need to educate sophisticated, solidly-rooted people capable of acting confidently in the face of the new and therefore unknown, in the uncertain context of the 21st century. The debate on the education system and what kind of university we want for the 21st century is therefore inevitable. And we must approach this debate outside of the limitations and dependencies imposed on us by the Spanish state. Firstly, we need to discuss what we need and what for, and then of course how to achieve this.
As Paul Bilbao points out, globalisation has led to a reshuffling of languages’ positioning, and languages like ours lie in the last group. If these trends are accentuated as a result of COVID-19, there is an obvious risk that languages situated on the periphery, Basque among them, will remain in this position. As Josu Amezaga says, the virus hits the weakest languages hardest, just as it does the weakest people. And despite the enormous efforts made by our people in the process of reviving Basque in the 20th century, it remains a marginalised language. The process of fostering the learning and use of Basque in the 20th century was already showing signs of having run its course (evidence of this is the trend towards slowing down or retreat in indicators of the use of Basque, including the lowest indicators ever in Iparralde, the French Basque Country), COVID-19 has shown how fragile this model is. While there was already concern in the educational sphere over the Basque skills acquired by young people by the time they complete their secondary education, confinement has heightened this concern, according to Zigor Ibarzabal. For his part, Paul Bilbao believes that it is essential to pursue a model of overall learning to produce multilingual Basque-speaking learners. In the field of adult literacy, the alarms are already ringing and it is time to take a major step forward. As Paul Bilbao points out, we need to consider strategies to activate the public and revive national debate. And here too we need to place people at the centre of the debate. However, the person is not an abstract being, but linked to a place; this means people-centred strategies must take into account that in our setting this person must be Basque-speaking.
Juan Mari Larrarte reminds us that the difficult position of Basque culture is not the result of COVID-19, but was already like this; however, this crisis has made it worse and placed this culture in a delicate position. The continuing transmission of Basque culture was in no way assured before. According to the latest survey published by the Elkar foundation before COVID-19, half of all Basque speakers do not consume products in Basque, the main reasons given for this being that we are unaccustomed to it and it is difficult. This comes at a time when the quantity of consumer products in other languages is increasing exponentially. The survival of Basque culture is linked to the universal status of Basque, of course, but also to prioritising Basque culture, and we are still a long way from this. As Juan Mari Larrarte points out, change will not come about overnight, but we must act to make it happen, and to do this it is essential to clarify and define our goals and drive a national initiative between all of us to achieve it, to bring about the revival in Basque culture it so desperately needs.
COVID-19 has hit hard Basque media that were already weakened, and this has further worsened and heightened the imbalances and trends that already existed. As Josu Amezaga reminds us, most audiovisual content comes from outside the Basque Country, and the media providing it recreates the image of Spain or France. The theory of empty spaces is clearer in communication than in any other sphere: the gap left by the Basque-language media is not left empty, but filled by Spanish or French media. Confinement has increased consumption of media, and this has led to a rise in the inequality we suffer, benefiting the state space, whether Spanish or French. The harm done to public media, especially ETB1, is obvious; the Basque public television model has strengthened the Spanish-speaking channel and weakened that in Basque. Moreover, it is most probable that these trends, accentuated by confinement, will be consolidated. Here too, therefore, the obsolescence of the model is clear. The Basque national community needs its own space for communication to reproduce itself, and this also means, as Josu Amezaga points out, dealing with the question of infrastructures, the infrastructures that are to propagate our own information. As he says, it is therefore essential to talk about Euskaltel and regain control of it. In the sphere of communication, there is an urgent need for different figures to establish a Strategic Communication Plan for the Basque Country. This plan must include communication projects for the whole Basque Country, in line with the conclusions of the Gero Elkarrekin congress held by Eusko Ikaskuntza in Oñati, in 2018. This calls for strong social, political and institutional commitments, as well as specific resources.
The permanence of life called into question
If COVID-19 has shown us one thing, it is that we have created a model of society that is totally disconnected from natural systems, and the origin of what is happening to us with this endemic lies in the unrestrained exploitation of natural resources and the mobility caused by globalisation. COVID-19 has given us the chance to reflect on this model, which is rapidly dragging us towards disaster. The decisions taken in these decades will determine the future of new generations. Therefore, if this century’s principal dilemma is capital versus life, and if we want to ensure the permanence of life and the future of new generations, we must immediately start to aim all our economic, social, public and popular policies at this goal. If people are our greatest asset, their survival, their life, must be at the centre of our policies. Moreover, as Unai Pascual reminds us, false dichotomies are often imposed on us. Thus, the dichotomy between health and the economy is a fallacy.
According to Unai Pascual, we cannot therefore look at the post-COVID-19 future in a linear way: first the economy, then health and then – maybe – we will put interest and resources into dealing with the environmental problems. In this respect, as Isidro Esnaola points out, GDP is of little help in considering what goods the economy should provide. The new economy we need to build in the Basque Country must be a “green economy”, in the opinion of Unai Pascual. Yes, green, because he sees the economy as an inter-dependent subsystem at the service of society, which must remain linked to natural processes and dynamics.
And this economy will have to stress the local, as Mixel Berhocoirigoin points out. Whether for food, services, energy, culture, health or the economy, it is time to prioritise the local, taking “local” to mean a coherent territory with a plan, one that generates a feeling of belonging. We therefore need to re-localise food, value the role of farmers more, protect the earth and change our food model. Mirene Begiristain considers it essential to give a place to food and food production in our social, economic and political organisation within the framework of this discussion of the post COVD-19 future. Do we have to carry on increasing our dependence on food imports? Or, as food production is something essential, might it not be more reasonable and strategic to localise it and make it sustainable? We need to discuss the agricultural model to which we aspire, and decide whether or not we want to go into the processes of transition towards sustainable food and agriculture.
COVID-19 has also hit the secondary and tertiary sectors hard. Although robotics, artificial intelligence and digitalisation were bringing about major changes in industry, the pandemic has had a major impact on global production and value chains structured by the globalisation of today’s economy, and also on the segments within this. There is obviously going to be a restructuring of the production and value chains, in order to mitigate the external shock and exposure to dependencies. In this context, as Iñigo Iñurrategi tells us, we need to undertake a profound debate on what we want and are able to produce in the 21st century in the Basque Country. Within the tertiary sector, the pandemic has had a particular impact on the tourist industry. The number of international visitors in 2020 will have fallen by between 20 and 30%. In Aurkene Alzua-Sorzabal‘s opinion, the impact of COVID-19 on the tourist industry will be transformational. Even before the crisis it was unsustainable to carry on with the current tourism model, and COVID-19 has made this clearer still. As this author points out, the principal challenge consists of transforming the tourism model into a development model able to adapt to change, a more human model involving greater social and environmental fairness.
We therefore need to discuss our goals as a people, and on the basis of this consider how the economy and both public and private policies can help us to achieve these goals. As the ALC points out, we need to provide responses to global challenges that are right for us.
This also includes the inevitable transformation of our economy into one with few or no carbon emissions. Our people must make the green transition: from a linear industrial model based on fossil fuels to an industrial model based on renewable energies. We have to discuss what our people needs to produce to protect itself from both external exposure and shock. This will require a concerted joint effort by public and private actors. There is no going back in this process, and if we want to position ourselves close to the locomotive of the European train it is an inescapable challenge, and one to which we are coming late.
The welfare of our citizens is at stake
Moreover, the obvious polarisation of society today will only be accentuated after COVID-19, unless serious measures are taken in this respect. According to Eurostat figures, before COVID-19 115 million inhabitants were at risk of exclusion in Europe, and both inequality and polarisation were on the rise. The Spanish charity organisation Caritas was pointing out the same with regard to the Basque Country before the COVID-19 crisis: “Society is increasingly divided between “integrated” people or insiders with prospects, and people at “risk of exclusion” or outsiders with few prospects of improvement.” As Mikel Navarro recalls, if inequality increased between 2008 and 2018, after COVID-19 there is a high risk that it will grow even more, because the crisis is above all hitting people without a standard job and the structure of our labour market magnifies the impact of the pandemic; the situation has got worse among young people and women, groups that were already in a vulnerable position. In fact, as Mikel Navarro states, the highest percentage of workers with insecure jobs are women, and they are also the group that have suffered the worst consequences of the rise in domestic violence during lockdown. It is essential to begin a debate on the public policies necessary to deal with this situation. And as this debate on the impact of COVID-19 on gender equality will be far-reaching and ongoing, public policy must also include the gender factor. As Mikel Navarro points out, in Europe COVID-19 has shown up the serious consequences of dismantling the social welfare and health systems, something that has also made itself felt here.
Therefore, the debate on what kind of economy we want needs reactivating as soon as possible. As Isidro Esnaola says, we cannot allow a large part of the Basque labour force to be left without work, especially in such an exceptional situation. In his opinion, this should lead to a proactive attitude on the part of the administration in terms of creating public jobs, and this must go beyond simply increasing unemployment assistance, creating a universal basic income and using public money to support the few jobs created by private companies. The authorities should create jobs that are useful to society and therefore, beyond private sector dynamics, there should be a debate on the role of public institutions. Xabi Larralde is talking about this when he refers to the economist Hyman Minsky, mentioning the role the state can play as “employer of last resort”.
Mikel Navarro reminds us that the 2008 crisis placed in doubt the belief that finance and the economy must be deregulated as much as possible and state intervention should be kept to a minimum. Based on ideas that have gained currency in recent years, on the other hand, there have been calls to strengthen the state’s role in the economy (Mazucatto’s Entrepreneurial State), and it has been accepted that state policies, especially in the area of innovation, must be organised through “missions”. But what are these “missions” that are to define our people’s public strategy and policies?
In Gemma Zabaleta‘s opinion, what we have experienced is a social stress test, which has served to gauge the muscle of the public sector. With regard to the healthcare sector, we still have a structured health system, despite its weaknesses and the need to improve it. Debate about the care model is nevertheless unavoidable because, as Zabaleta points out, we have not managed to create a quality, integrated public care system. We need to rethink the Basque care model, and to do this we need to rethink our model of governance. If the crisis has made one thing clear, it is the decisive importance of citizens.
This has consequences particularly in the Basque Country, where the ageing of the population is so obvious: in the Basque and Navarrese autonomous regions there is a negative ratio – the birth rate is below the European average, and the Basque population pyramid is being turned upside down. While there has been positive population growth in the Basque Country in the last year, this was thanks to migration from abroad, and even this was not enough to halt the trend of an ageing population. We have a lot to think about regarding these issues.
What kind of governance do we want?
Another of the questions raised by the pandemic is that of national security. Whose hands is the security of the Basque nation in? As David Bajona and Daniel Soler i Gonzalez define it, national security is the ability to keep up national welfare and stability, and is manifested in the tools necessary to prevent or minimise major damage in crisis situations. This approach prevails over the traditionally military or security-oriented point of view, requiring work from a standpoint oriented more towards civil risk management, taking care of the critical structures responsible for keeping up minimum standards of quality of life for citizens; it also generates policy to strengthen our resilience as a society. However, we have not yet had this debate. What security policy does our people need? What are the risks, threats and so on? What is our level of resilience and how can we strengthen this? The imposition of the state of alarm has also made clear the degree of sovereignty of our institutions. As David Bajona and Daniel Soler i Gonzalez point out, the autonomous regional authorities, security and emergency services and the authorities responsible for implementing the whole health system have been excluded from the decision-making centres, making it clear that the degree of sovereignty of these institutions is at the whim of central government.
Digitalisation has been another of the areas on the front line during the COVID-19 crisis. As Iratxe Esnaola Arribillaga says, the quantity of data we have received and generated has grown exponentially, and this has made it clear that net neutrality is essential: the Internet must be a public service, and access to it and a minimum of digital literacy must become basic rights. This crisis has strengthened the small number of technology multinationals and platforms that currently control the digital environment and use our data to increase their own value. Iratxe Esnaola Arribillaga discusses the need to develop an awareness of the ownership and sovereignty of data, warns that the digitalisation of the Basque education system is in the hands of US multinationals and underlines the need for an overall digital strategy based on sovereignty in terms of data and technology.
In this respect, as Igor Calzada points out, digital governance, the data economy and artificial intelligence now entirely condition our national strategy, and in the medium and long term the digital vector will do so even more. To cope with this situation, the author argues for the need to create “an algorithmic Basque nation”, exploiting the possibilities offered to us by technological sovereignty in the European context.
At the same time, COVID-19 has intensified the crisis and the shock to models of governance at this time of rapid, far-reaching change: a vertical, centralised and authoritarian model based on mistrust of society and participation as opposed to a decentralised, collaborative model that creates decision-making spaces involving participation by society and closeness to the problems it seeks to solve. Which of them do we want to foster in our context? What model do we have in mind? Discussion of new mechanisms for governance is also vital, as well as finding and implementing mechanisms to allow participation by citizens and other actors, both in making policy and in implementing and monitoring it.
In this debate on the model of governance, Imanol Esnaola reminds us of the territorial dimension of this factor in our context. COVID-19 has made clear the strength of the regional division in administration (when the border between the French and Spanish parts of the Basque Country was closed, there was hardly any reaction). While there has been progress in recent years in the economic, institutional and social spheres, the pandemic has made it clear, as Imanol points out, that cross-border co-existence is still far from being a protected social and economic phenomenon. We are still a long way from creating centripetal dynamics strong enough to ensure regional cohesion, and COVID-19 has made this clear. It is obvious that we need to give a real dimension to cross-border co-existence. Turning the Basque Country – in France and Spain – into a real space for co-existence is one of the challenges for our people, and it calls for the creation of an agenda valid for all. Forging this solidarity is, as David Lannes and Nicolas Goñi state, one of the main goals to bear in mind in regaining our conditions of life.
We are also conscious of the debate on how our people should position itself in the new international context. Urko Aiartza Azurtza tells us that our nation will hardly determine the course of the world, but the course taken by the world will certainly affect the future of our people. It seems that the 21st century will be the Asian century and the global centre of gravity is shifting towards the Pacific Ocean. Europe’s course is unclear: Duroyan Fertle describes Europe’s limitations clearly, and we could find ourselves de facto facing a multiple-speed Europe. We must decide whether we want to be close to the locomotive or among the carriages at the back. As Aiartza points out, our people must get ready to adapt to this new context, and we must also make sure the generations to come are able to navigate this new sea. To this end, as Ander Caballero says, we must decide where we want to position ourselves and what we want to be as a country in the coming decades. To do this we need to equip ourselves with “node ideas”; we must forge connections with knowledge nodes all over the world that can offer us the most advanced knowledge, to build and publicise our personal and institutional capacities as a people. If we do not want to live under domination, it is essential that our nation be directly connected to centres of knowledge, know-how and technology without having to pass through Madrid or Paris. This also involves talking about a strategy for the internationalisation of our people.
It is time to unleash our strengths
Of course, all these debates cannot ignore our subjection to two states that impede the realisation of our full potential as a people, and our division into three administrative units. This is the cost of the dependence mentioned by Iñaki Goirizelaia. We will also have to talk about a legal framework to allow us to meet all these challenges as a country on reasonable terms, bearing in mind our strategic goals. On the basis of sovereignty, we must discuss a legal framework to give our nation the place it deserves in the world, and a national strategy to achieve this. We must not forget that constructing political sovereignty, as David Lannes and Nicolas Goñi point out, also means finding the necessary means to free ourselves from the limitations that stop us regaining control of our living conditions. This certainly calls for an honest, clear debate between all those of us who believe in our people’s sovereignty. Because, as Monzon said, we will not achieve freedom if we are not strong and we will not be strong if we are not united. The time has come.
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ANDER CABALLERO. Visiting Scholar. Harvard University Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.