We find ourselves at the threshold of a new era. The ways of life and culture that have defined the modern world are being changed for others that take shape on a daily basis before our very eyes. The pro-European historian Gonzague de Reynold stated that “The past and the future always manage to question and answer each other over the present”. A society takes control of its process of development to the extent that it is prepared to lead its own evolution and is aware of its own nature and the fact that it will drift over time.
We are protagonists of a period of profound structural transformations, but also of vast paradoxes. On the one hand, an unprecedented generalisation of learning and knowledge is produced; on the other, the gap between rich and poor regions as regards economic and cultural development is increasing greatly. Markets are now globalised, however, the free flow of capital and wealth causes uncertainty in view of new emerging powers that are not affected by social control and have no territorial influence. The industrial economy, which has been dominant over two centuries, loses ground to another post-industrial economy based on science and technology. The model of progress based on mass consumption of natural resources has proven to be unsustainable, and it inflicts a change of paradigm upon us for which we are not suitably prepared. The State-nation loses weight to the benefit of supra-state and sub-state bodies; however, national egoisms, together with religious fundamentalisms, become established once again as a threat to peace, as has often been the case throughout History. In short, the social body is enriched with the active incorporation of women at the same time as important progress is made towards equality; however, the accelerated ageing of prosperous societies is fuelling demographic instability.
These are some of the mutations that are shaking the foundations that have secularly supported our social architecture. With an open mind and a desire for constructiveness we have to accept that we find ourselves in the early stages of a new era which, as such, will mean that many of the stereotypes become outdated and sterile, but which up until now was successful in the cultural, ideological, economical and social areas. There is no room for reflex responses: we must innovate and design models that anticipate present and future needs; we must adopt the intellectual attitude of someone who faces up to a “constituent period”.
This changing world poses important challenges for the Basque society, but is also brings with it new opportunities. The emergence of new areas, which break the traditional mould of States, represents an invitation to configure a Euskal Herria-Vasconia (Basque Country) that is geographically open and culturally adapted to its current nature, which is characterised by its multi-territoriality and the complex forms of adhesion of its inhabitants. The new demographic and migratory panorama urges us to create flexible integration frameworks that avoid the creation of culturally excluded and socially marginalised towns. Cultural consolidation, together with the recovery of Basque as the unifying language, is a key factor in integrating all the people involved in a project of coexistence and belonging. A comprehensive belief in Basque autonomy will incorporate the plural feelings of the inhabitants of the territories that make up Euskal Herria, and will encourage the coexistence of multiple identities.
The same logic of change should also encourage us to imagine areas of collaboration in the area of the economy and social development that go beyond the traditional frontiers. Along these lines, there is no doubt that Vasconia has solid foundations on which to establish itself in the centre of a larger international region, geographically speaking. The Atlantic Euroregion represents a real, attainable objective, as long as we are capable of ensuring the evolution of the dimension of our productive fabric and of establishing its commitment in coherence with the political and social forces.
However, in addition to a cultural and economic community, we must aspire to make plans concerning values. This is the third aspect that I consider essential in building our future. As a result of historic tradition, I believe that the Basque people have a high sense of solidarity, with a qualitative density, which we need to explore more closely. In the light of the utilitarian perception of human beings as an influence for ambition and greed, we must defend a moral rearmament that places the person as the “measure for all things” in the words of the outstanding historian.
This same spirit must reach the natural environment, of which we are not the owners but merely the users. Over the coming decades, Humanity will have to prove that it is a sustainable species, which is a colossal challenge that we must begin to tackle straight away. In 2003, Eusko Ikaskuntza-Sociedad de Estudios Vascos (Society of Basque Studies) set up the Special Multidisciplinary Project on Sustainable Development, which has involved more than 300 people from the economic, social, business and university areas and has taken shape as a plan of clear, specific actions aimed at ensuring rational, balanced progress in our country.
We believe that this beneficial experience can be applied to areas of reflection related to the subjects I have already mentioned, in particular the following three: Regional competitiveness; New world order: demography, immigration and citizenship; Cultural consolidation and extension.
From its beginning, Eusko Ikaskuntza established the mission of encouraging the formation of a “collective vocation” in the Basque communities; i.e. it took on the task of uniting intentions aimed at individual and general progress. Now more than ever we feel the need to become actively involved in the challenges facing the Basque society by contributing, as far as possible, to successful reformulations that place Euskal Herria-Vasconia at the forefront in the 21st century. Along these lines, the more than three thousand members of this almost centennial institution will work together to ensure Basque civil society takes charge of its future.
For the full version of the report “Eusko Ikaskuntza: Bokazio kolektiboa / Vocación colectiva” (Society for Basque Studies: Collective Vocation)
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