Thursday, May 22, 2008

The 'Anti-Peace' Process Continues

The capture in France of four alleged members of ETA has dominated the headlines because one of them is said to be the leader who decided to end the last truce with the bomb attack at Madrid’s airport. Whilst such arrests always produce optimistic noises about ETA being nearly finished, the Basque regional government has already announced that it is increasing the level of alert in case of potential attacks. After a high profile arrest like this one, there is always the risk that ETA will attempt to show that their capacity to act has not been affected. Those responsible for their most recent bombings are still at large.

There is the possibility that the arrest of a notable hardliner could lead to changes in the direction being taken by ETA. Even if that were the case, however, there is no reason to believe that there will be any substantial progress towards ending terrorism in the Basque Country for some time to come. ETA’s current campaign continues either because the group wants to try and bomb the government back to the negotiating table, or simply because they are unwilling to contemplate any other future. In either case the result is likely to be the same, after the failure of the previous process it would be hugely dangerous for the government to try again without additional guarantees on the part of ETA. Even if ETA were to unilaterally declare a new ceasefire that would not necessarily mean that the conditions existed for any resumption of the peace process. Equally, high profile successes like the latest arrests show how much the pressure is on for ETA in France, but don’t mean that the group is about to disappear.

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