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At an emotional event that highlights success of exemplary collaboration between the two countries

France and Spain pay tribute to triumph of victims and rule of law over ETA terrorism

Moncloa Palace, Madrid, Monday 1 October 2018

By holding this event, the two countries pay tribute to the triumph of the victims and of the rule of law over ETA terrorism, whilst stressing the success of the exemplary collaboration between France and Spain, which brought about the end of this terrorist gang.

The event began with the playing of a video in which different moments were shown during this long process in the fight against the armed gang: demonstrations of civil society, law enforcement actions, judicial actions, etc. After the statements from the President of the Government of Spain and the Prime Minister of France, the seals and decorations were formally handed over. The day ended with a minute's silence in memory of the victims and a dance of tribute (aurresku) performed by a txistulari and two Basque dancers.

Cooperation between France and Spain, a global benchmark

In his speech, President of the Government Sánchez thanked France for its involvement in fighting terrorism, since "its role has been fundamental in definitively defeating ETA". "Today marks the end of a path that our society never wished to go down", remarked the President of the Government. "ETA began a wave of violence that seemed uncontrollable, but the gang was weakened by the strength of a free society, because the defence of liberty is the worst enemy of terror, because political consensus reigned, because police and judicial effectiveness was crucial and because the international cooperation of France was decisive", recalled Pedro Sánchez.

The French Prime Minister, during his speech, praised the actions of the law enforcement agencies and intelligence services of the two countries, that "worked with total confidence in one another". Édouard Philippe recalled that "for us, this complementary collaboration now constitutes a worthy and formidable advantage".

The bilateral model of the counter-terrorism fight by France and Spain is a global benchmark, and hence, remarked the President of the Government, "what we are witnessing today constitutes an unprecedented operation in the European field of security and justice and represents progress in police and judicial cooperation mechanisms. We symbolise the present and we continue looking to the future because, when faced with common causes, we can only offer common responses".

Handover of seals and decorations

Pool Moncloa / Fernando CalvoThis recognition of the work by France, as well as the gratitude at the handover to Spain in February of the so-called "ETA files", was reflected in a symbolic act in which the French Prime Minister handed over to the President of the Government of Spain a copy of the files known as the ETA seals, and during which Pedro Sánchez presented the French judges Laurence Le Vert and Hèléne Davo the Commendation of the Order of Isabel the Catholic, for their significant work in the whole process against the terrorist gang.

The name of the ETA seals refers to the Judicial Seal that was established in France in the Napoleonic Code as from 1804 at a civil level, and as from 1810 at a criminal level. The stamped documents are sealed with red wax with the seal of the authority that stamps them or requests their stamp. At present, the term seal refers, by extension, to objects or documents that constitute evidence in judicial proceedings. Stealing or breaking these seals is considered a serious criminal offence, which shows the importance granted to them.

"These documents tell the story of men and women who, on both sides of the border, risked their lives to fight the terrorist group ETA"; underlined the French Prime Minister.

Operation 'Mémoire vivante'

On 5 and 6 February this year, France handed over to Spain the so-called "ETA files", in an operation named 'Mémoire vivante', involving the participation of both the Guardia Civil and the French Gendarmerie. This led to thousands of files and effects seized from the terrorist gang during operations and judicial procedures carried out by the French authorities over the last 20 years being brought to Madrid. All of this documentation formed part of the 50 summary trials brought by the French justice system against ETA and which were definitively concluded.

Specifically, France handed over to Spain more than 40,000 sheets of paper, a significant number of digital files and more than 300 weapons and weapon parts. With all this documentation, the aim will be to shed light on ETA attacks that remain unresolved. Since they were handed over in February this year, the murder of the prison worker Máximo Casado has been cleared up.

Memorial Centre for Victims of Terrorism

Pool Moncloa / Fernando CalvoOnce all the effects have been analysed, they will be handed over to the Memorial Centre for the Victims of Terrorism, based in Vitoria, which will be inaugurated shortly. This Centre "will continue to dignify the memory of the victims, because remembrance is much more than a simple act of respect. This is an exercise in justice, dignity and a moral requirement due to the values these represent", he stressed. In this regard, the Memorial Centre will thus become a "memory bank" for the victims of terrorism and the main instrument of policies to prevent violent radicalisation.

Many of the effects hold considerable historical value, and hence will serve to analyse the strategies employed by ETA and contribute to the construction of a reliable account on the tough years of the terrorist scourge.

Attendance by main Spanish and French authorities

This act of recognition of collaboration between Spain and France in the fight against terrorism was attended by the main civil and military authorities of both countries. Political leaders from different eras of both governments, representatives of the judiciary of both countries and the French and Spanish law enforcement agencies were among those attending. The dignitaries included the former Presidents of the Government Felipe González and José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero.

Non official translation