In Brief

Spain’s Basques form 125-mile human chain calling for independence vote

Tens of thousands of people hold hands to demand referendum

Tens of thousands of people from Spain’s Basque region have joined hands to form a human chain extending 125 miles in order to call for an independence referendum.

The protest, organised by Basque separatist group Gure Esku Dago (In Our Own Hands), stretched from Donostia (known in Spanish as San Sebastian) to the Basque parliament in Gasteiz.

Reuters says that “while most from the Basque Country, which already has a high level of self-determination and, like Catalonia, has its own language and culture, do not support independence, many believe the population should be given the right to vote”.

Earlier this year the Basque nationalist terror group ETA announced it was formally disbanding.

Calls for a vote on Basque nationality will provide a early test for Spain’s new prime minister, Pedro Sanchez, who ousted his predecessor Mariano Rajoy in a vote of no confidence which he narrowly won thanks to support from Basque and Catalan nationalists.

Rajoy was roundly criticised for his heavy-handed approach to last year’s Catalan independence referendum which saw police clash with protesters.

The ballot on Catalonia's separation from Spain and consequent unilateral declaration of independence by the regional government prompted Madrid to take control of the region and arrest the civil servants involved in the vote.

Sanchez will be looking to avoid a similar showdown in the Basque region which already enjoys relative autonomy. However, he is expected to take a similar line to his predecessor and maintain that any ballot on regional independence is illegal under the Spanish constitution.

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