UCSB’s Old Little Theater became a stage for European politics on Monday when Juan José Ibarretxe, former president of the Basque Country and a prominent economist, spoke about the disputed region of France and Spain. Ibarretxe’s talk, “When Europe Challenges Europe, or How to Articulate Minority/Peripheral Regions Without a State in the European Union,” attracted considerable interest on campus. Ibarretxe provided an auspicious model for rethinking regional power and possibility, and the very notion of a nation-state. Against the background of the Catalan autonomy referendum of 2017, as well as the prolifiation of right-wing nationalist ideology in Europe and the US, Ibarretxe described the practical successes of the Basque region, which has obtained increasing autonomy in recent decades. According to Ibarretxe, the high GDP and quality of life in the Basque Country, aka Basque Autonomous Community, are largely an effect of its status as a small region, as well as its broad embrace of cooperative business models.
Ibarretxe’s talk was introduced by Dean of Social Sciences Charles R. Hale and sponsored by Etxepare (the Basque Institute), which maintains a notable presence on campus at UCSB. In collaboration with the Institute, the UCSB Department of Spanish and Portuguese currently houses a popular Basque Studies program. The program has grown under the direction of Dr. Iker Arranz Otaegui, a beloved instructor who teaches courses in Basque language and culture, and who, with Professor Viola Giulia Miglio, helped coordinate the Ibarretxe event.