Basque nationalists have been struggling against the central government of Spain for close to half a century. Repression under General Francisco Franco served to radicalise factions of the independence movement, which eventually organised into the militant Euskadi ta Askatasuna (ETA) group and its political wing, the Herri Batasuna party. In 1978, Basque provinces were granted considerable constitutional autonomy. As a result, popular support for ETA’s secessionist agenda has been declining.
A number of ceasefires called by the group since 1998 have been broken, further damaging its credibility and isolating the group from the wider Basque society. However, popular appeal is not completely absent and the hard-line stand of the conservative Spanish government in power until 2004 brought little tangible results. The socialist government, which succeeded it, embarked on a more conciliatory route, making the proposal to hold limited talks should ETA renounce violence. This approach, however, proved similarly ineffective, and the government has since toughened its line. As a result, Spanish, French and Portuguese authorities have been increasingly aggressive and successful in uncovering and dismantling ETA's militant and financial networks. At the beginning of 2011, a massively depleted ETA formally renounced armed struggle, but its legacy of broken promises means that few amongst the Spanish government are willing to announce the conflict as over.