In spain and France, supporters of the Basque movement have held some of the biggest mass demonstrations seen so far this year.
In spain and France, supporters of the Basque movement have held some of the biggest mass demonstrations seen so far this year. Thousands of Basques in the troubled Spanish town of San Sebastian marched in support of their claims for autonomy, while just across the border in France a smaller demonstration added vociferous support.
SYNOPSIS: An estimated five thousand Basques took part in this demonstration in San Sebastian on Sunday (9 September). There were fears that the march could turn violent, and Spanish police took stringent security precautions to prevent any flare-ups. But no injuries were reported as the protesters marched to their rallying point -- San Sebastian's central square.
There are nearly three million Basques in this corner of north eastern Spain. In spite of efforts by the former government of President Francisco France to stamp out national feelings, the Basques retain their own distinct language and culture. They consider themselves a separate nation, and call their homeland Euzkadi.
With the liberalisation that followed Franco's death in 1975, the Basque nationalists have become a significant political force in Spain -- and one which the government in madrid is increasingly having to take into account.
Just across the Spanish border, Basques living in the French town of Biarritz held a similar demonstration a day earlier (8 September). The action was called to protest against a crackdown by the French government on Spanish Basque refugees living in south west France. French police mounted a strong security operation and strict checks at border posts prevented Spanish basques from joining the protest. A number of Basque refugees in this area of France have been the victims of bombings and shootings -- and three months ago, two Basques were mysteriously murdered near the town of Bayonne.