Big news day today on the international front. In addition to the news out of Libya that Gaddafi was killed we learned that the Basque separatist group ETA announced a “definitive cessation of its armed activity.” This is major news for Euskadi, Spain, France and the greater European community as well as for the entire world. It’s reported that over 1,600 attacks have been carried out by ETA resulting in the deaths of over 800 people.
When I studied in Spain my wife and I (we were in the very early stages of our dating period so she was my girlfriend at the time) traveled to Donostia-San Sebastián, which is a beautiful city and is located in the heart of the Basque region, for a mini-getaway. We had no fear of being caught in a terrorist attack. In fact, many of ETA’s terrorist attacks have been carried outside of País Vasco in such cities as Madrid, Barcelona and Sevilla as well as in many other popular tourist areas. This didn’t deter my wife and me from travelling to these major cities and it hasn’t deterred U.S. institutions and study abroad program providers from establishing programs in Spain or deterred U.S. students from studying in and travelling to these Spanish cities (Spain was the #3 study abroad destination with 24,169 U.S. students during the 2008-09 academic year). My study abroad group spent several days touring Madrid prior to heading to our host city of Valladolid during the spring semester of 1991. While in Madrid we went to see Picasso’s major work Guernica which was housed in a super secure section of the Prado Museum. In order to enter the Museum we had to walk past armed military/police guards and go through metal detectors. Why? In addition to being a major and historical piece of art, the painting is important to the Basque region and the Spanish Government wants to protect this piece of art.
It is important to note that this is not the first time that ETA has declared a cease fire. ETA has previously declared a cease fire in 1989, 1996, 1998 and in 2006. Only time will tell if this one will be permanent. I am hopeful that it will.
My question is what, if any, implications does today’s announcement by ETA of a cease fire have for international education and, in particular, on the U.S. study abroad market?