One year after the Basque separatist group ETA's unilateral declaration of a ceasefire, and one day before fresh regional elections, analysts say a new optimistic mood is capturing this mountainous region straddling the border between Spain and France.

Iñigo Urkullu, the leader of the nationalist party, is becoming increasingly popular in the region, according to opinion polls, giving more hope to Basque voters seeking an independent state.

Their calls for independence have been boosted by their relatively robust economy, while Spain suffers from a severe economic crisis.

"People today feel at ease, the political possibilities have opened up and going forward there is an opportunity for society to go wherever it wants," Xabier Aierdi, a professor from the department of sociology at Basque Country University, says. 

ETA had launched a violent struggle for an independent state in 1962. After killing more than 800 people across Spain over the past four decades in its fight, ETA said on October 20, 2011, that it would lay down its arms but stopped short of declaring it was defeated.

Al Jazeera's Paul Brennan reports from Bilbao.

Source: Al Jazeera