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Cablegate: Spain: Basque Region Will Not Close Its New York

VZCZCXRO0583
RR RUEHIK
DE RUEHMD #1004/01 2880905
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 150905Z OCT 09
FM AMEMBASSY MADRID
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 1328
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUEHLA/AMCONSUL BARCELONA 4149
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RUEILB/NCTC WASHINGTON DC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 MADRID 001004

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

EUR/WE FOR ALEX MCKNIGHT AND STACIE ZERDECKI

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV SP PINS
SUBJECT: SPAIN: BASQUE REGION WILL NOT CLOSE ITS NEW YORK
OFFICE

REF: A. MADRID 499
B. 08 MADRID 1088

MADRID 00001004 001.3 OF 002


1. (SBU) SUMMARY: Senior Basque officials within the Office
of the Lehendakari (regional premier or U.S Governor
equivalent) have indicated that - contrary to Spanish press
reporting in early September - the regional government under
new Socialist (PSE) Lehendakari Patxi Lopez (Ref A) will not
be closing down all of its overseas "delegations" and
specifically stressed that the Basque office in New York City
will remain open. These offices - not to be confused with
the trade development offices run by the Sociedad Para la
Promocion y Reconversion Industrial, a public society known
as SPRI (Ref B) - have been and remain controversial for
their alleged role as de facto "Embassies" for the Basque
Country. END SUMMARY.

2. (SBU) Andoni Unzalu, Secretary General for Communications
and a key Lopez political adviser, Guillermo Echenique,
Secretary General for Foreign Relations, and Irune
Aguirrezabal, Director of Foreign Relations, on September 9
explained to POLOFF that the regional government would submit
a report in mid-September evaluating the role and number of
the offices abroad and indicated that some offices may be
closed to achieve financial efficiencies during this time of
economic crisis. These officials - who prefer to call these
offices "delegations" - stated that the role of the
delegations will be revised to focus more on commerce and
Basque cultural issues and that these offices will begin to
work more closely with the Embassies in those countries.
They also indicated that the Lopez Administration had decided
that the names of the offices would be renamed as Delegations
of the Basque Country, in which the Spanish "Pais Vasco"
rather than the Basque-language "Euskadi" will be used to
refer to the Basque Country. Idoia Mendia, spokeswoman for
the regional government, on September 10 told POLOFF that,
under Basque Nationalist Party (PNV) rule (1980-2009), the
delegations were challenging the authority of the Spanish
central government.

3. (SBU) These officials described New York City as "a
fundamental market" and said that it, along with the Basque
office in Brussels, would not be closed. (COMMENT: Spain has
both a Consular office and its Permanent Mission to the UN in
New York City. END COMMENT) The New York office - which has
a staff of three - currently is up and running and is
planning an expo on Basque immigration to take place on Long
Island in February, 2010. The naming of a new director is
pending and the formal inauguration of the delegation office
in New York is planned for the first quarter of 2010.
Aguirrezabal planned to visit the New York office in
September 2009 while she was in the United States as part of
the Department of State's International Visitor Leadership
program.

//DECIDEDLY MIXED REACTION FROM OTHER PARTIES//

4. (SBU) The PNV, which remains the largest party in the
regional parliament despite having lost power following the
March 2009 regional election, categorically rules out
supporting any reduction in the number of Basque offices
abroad, which the party considers one of the "fundamental"
points of its accomplishments during the last 20 years in
office. Inaki Goikeotxeta, the PNV's pointman of foreign
policy issues, on September 8 asserted to POLOFF that these
"delegations" emphasize cultural, sports and folkloric
aspects of the Basque people and have "nothing to do with
politics." He argued that the Basque culture transcends
politics and derided as a "a pure lie" any assertion that the
overseas offices were used to proselytize separatist policies
to the Basque diaspora.

5. (SBU) Members of the conservative Popular Party's (PP)
Basque wing - the de facto junior partner in the Basque
regional government - blast the existence of Basque offices
around the world as "ridiculous." In a meeting with POLOFF
on September 9, Anton Damborenea, President of the PP in the
Basque province of Vizcaya, and Leopoldo Barreda, spokesman
for the PP caucus in the regional parliament, asserted that
the PNV opened these "Embassies" to gain publicity for the
PNV's policy of seeking increased self-determination and to
raise money in sympathetic countries for the PNV's policies.
The PP argued that the existence of these Basque "embassies"
conflicts with the activities and representation of Spanish
embassies. The PP officials further alleged that - an
estimated annual cost of roughly USD $7 million - these

MADRID 00001004 002.3 OF 002


offices are "a waste of money." The PP officials further
derided the Lopez administration's interest in keeping these
overseas offices open as an opportunity to reward political
cronies with cushy "Ambassadorships" overseas at taxpayer
expense.
CHACON

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