Spain. At the beginning of the year, the government
issued an amnesty for illegal immigrants who had been living
in Spain for at least six months and had work. It was
justified by the fact that the country needs manpower.
total of 700,000 paperless persons had been granted a
residence permit when the deadline expired in May. It was
estimated to correspond to about 90% of black jobs. The
Conservative opposition warned that amnesty would lead to
They got water on their mill when the constant stream of
Africans trying to get into the Spanish enclaves Ceuta and
Melilla in Morocco during the fall grew into a mass storm.
Thousands of Africans tried at night to get over high barbed
wire fences. Several hundred succeeded but at least eleven
died in clashes with security forces. S. sent extra soldiers
to guard the border and decided to make the fence even
higher. Harsh criticism was directed at Moroccan and Spanish
authorities for harsh handling of people who just wanted to
seek their livelihood in Europe.
Regional separatism continued to pose a challenge to the
government. In the Basque country, admittedly, the hardest
nationalists suffered a setback when an independence plan
approved by the regional parliament was voted down by the
Madrid parliament. However, when a regional parliament in
Catalonia adopted a similar proposal that the region is a
"nation" within Spain, the national parliament approved it
in a first vote. However, some amendments were required in
order that the proposal would not conflict with the
Constitution, and the outcome was unclear at the end of the
year. The proposal meant, among other things, that Catalonia
would have the right to collect taxes and enact its own
laws. A clear majority of Catalans supported it, while
opposition was great in the rest of Spain. The socialist
minority government's dependence on the support of two
Catalan parties contributed to the adoption of the proposal.
Europe's most extensive trial to date against terror
suspects ended in Spain in September, when 18 of 24
defendants were sentenced to prison. Syrian-born Imad Eddin
Barakat Yarkas received 27 years in prison for participating
in planning terrorist attacks in the United States on
September 11, 2001. Barakat Yarkas was named as al-Qa'ida's
leader in Spain. The other 17 were sentenced to between six
and eleven years in prison for contact with terror networks.
Several other suspected terrorists were arrested during the
In November, the largest trial in Spain's history began
when 56 people were brought to trial on suspicion of
conspiracy with the terrorist-stamped Basque separatist
movement ETA. The trial was a result of several years of
investigation and was initiated despite the fact that many
considered it likely that peace negotiations with ETA could
become relevant shortly.
Spain suffered the worst drought in at least half a
century during the summer. Hard-to-control forest fires
raged in many places and at one time eleven volunteer
firefighters perished in the flames.