The politician, theologian and sociologist Joseba Arregui Aranburu, a native of Andoain, has died at the age of 75 after a long illness, as it became known this Tuesday. Arregi began his career linked to Basque nationalism and came to occupy important public and organic positions with the PNV, including that of spokesman for the Government with the Lehendakari José Antonio Ardanza and that of a member of the Euzkadi Buru Batzar (EBB). However, at the end of his life he left the PNV, was moving away from the nationalist world and embraced constitutionalism and the harsh criticism of the management of the end of ETA.
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“The project for which ETA killed is still alive and encouraging political proposals to define the political future of Basque society […] at the service of a project that excludes a part of Basque society, with the intention of imposing a single and homogeneous vision of Basque society, denying its pluralism and therefore its freedom, “he wrote in 2019 in ‘El Mundo’. of his last public participations took place at the end of 2020 in an event organized by the Fernando Buesa Foundation, one of the ETA victims’ organizations that he had approached. “I am afraid that between so much word and so much image the shout of silence of the assassinated ”, it manifested behind a mask.
Arregi was born in 1946 into a Basque and nationalist family. Like so many people at the time, he studied at a seminary – he was ordained a priest, according to the Efe agency – although he was also able to train at universities in Germany. Married with three children, his brother was the promoter of the Basque language during the Rikardo Arregi dictatorship. Affiliated to the PNV in the municipal organization of Zarautz, he began as Secretary General of Language Policy in the first autonomous governments after the approval of the Statute of Autonomy. Later he became Minister of Culture (1987-1995), where he was one of the promoters of what in 1997 became the Guggenheim in Bilbao and has been the person who has been the spokesperson for the Basque Government in democracy for the longest time (1987 -nineteen ninety five).
Internally, he was a member of the Gipuzkoan Executive of the PNV and assumed important functions of reorganization of the apparatus after the traumatic break with Carlos Garaikoetxea, which crystallized in 1986 with the split of EA. It was precisely in Gipuzkoa where this schism was most affected. He was also a member of the Euzkadi Buru Batzar, the highest management body of the PNV. He had a seat in Parliament until 2001, the year in which he left the first political line. However, it was not until 2004 that he left the PNV. It was precisely that year in which the so-called ‘Ibarretxe plan’ was presented to the Congress of Deputies. Since the Lizarra pact, Arregi had criticized the sovereign turn of Basque nationalism. He reflected his disagreements in essays and opinion articles in the media.
In 2004 he participated in the creation of the ‘Aldaketa-Cambio por Euskadi’ platform, close to the PSE-EE and which defended the validity of the Gernika Statute against the ‘Ibarretxe plan’. He was the first president of this group. Until 2011 he was a professor at the University of the Basque Country (UPV / EHU). In 2013, Covite proposed Arregi as Commissioner for Human Rights and Coexistence, a position that finally fell to Jonan Fernández within the first government of Iñigo Urkullu. In 2018, together with people from the UPyD orbit such as Maite Pagazaurtundua or Fernando Savater, he promoted a manifesto against impunity after the end of ETA.
Bingen Zupiria, the current spokesman for the Basque Government and also Minister of Culture – the same position that Arregi held for so many years – has assured that he assumed “great responsibilities” in the work of revitalizing Basque and Basque culture after the dictatorship. The secretary general of the PSE-EE and vice-lehendakari, Idoia Mendia, has said “to receive with pain” the news of the death of a “firm defender of the Statute”, a “brave intellectual” who always had the victims of terrorism as a priority ” The former socialist leader Eduardo Madina has defined him as “one of the compasses” in a “Basque Country of blood.”
The Lehendakari from 2009 to 2012, Patxi López, has highlighted his figure as a “defender of self-government” and of the memory of the victims. Carlos Iturgaiz, president of the Basque PP, has pointed out that Arregi was “a great man.” Consuelo Ordóñez, from Covite, has defined him as an “intellectual reference” in the fight against ETA whose “words and teachings will survive.” Florencio Domínguez, director of the Vitoria Memorial, has described Arregi as one of the “fathers” of this project.