8th May 2020

Every year, on 9th May, Europe celebrates its day. In spite of lock-down measures, the Ararteko wishes to commemorate this day especially because 2020 marks the 70th anniversary of France’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Robert Schuman famous declaration. This declaration of 9th May 1950 constitutes the foundational milestone of the European project, from which we continue to benefit today.
Despite the fact that outstanding Basque personalities participated in that foundational moment, the Franco dictatorship deprived us for 30 years from the European project. It was only after acceding to the Council of Europe in 1977, and to the European Economic Community in 1986, that society at the Southern side of the Pyrenees could start enjoying the advantages of European integration. Since then, the benefit we have obtained is unmeasurable. Returning to Europe not only brought us to the level of the best democracies worldwide. It also helped us enormously in our economic progress, in the development our infrastructure and in the expansion of our rights. Today, there can be no doubt that environmental protection, consumers’ protection and data protection would not be the same without the European impulse.
We have gone through tough times. Some of the decisions taken at European level had damaging consequences. The European response to the economic and financial crisis of 2008 deserved the rejection of those parts of the public who felt left behind and disadvantaged. This made us understand that it is not always easy to find agreements with our European neighbours. The response to the arrival of refugees from 2015 did not match the moral expectations of many, either. This is just normal in a community composed of different members. However, thanks to other European programmes such as Erasmus, we have become aware of the fact that, actually, we are not that different from each other. The truth is that we have a lot in common.

The Basque society has wisely maintained its European convictions. In the current situation, the strength of that conviction is key to find a common way out. In the context of COVID-19, the
response must be European. We in the Basque Country become all too aware of this as we see the French border closed. Precisely the European freedom of movement, which we dearly miss now and which we do not want to give up, compels us to think together about common, European responses to future pandemics. However, Europe is already delivering. Joint procurement procedures for the acquisition of medical and protection materials, joint repatriation flights bringing back to the European Union citizens from different member States, the European Central Bank’s 750 billion assets purchase plan, the different funds in support of health systems, companies and unemployed persons, or the European leadership in rising 7.4 billion Euros for accessible vaccines, have made clear Europe’s value to our lives. Again, negotiations were not easy, but they brought about agreements that equitable to the interests of all parties.
The Ararteko lives up to its European convictions, and takes part in the European exchanges with other Ombuds institutions within our continent. On Europe Day, it wishes to invite Basque citizens to cultivate their European values, to enjoy Europe and to get to know it better.

Vitoria-Gasteiz, 8th May 2020