SUNDAY'S bombs in Palma, though small and causing no casualties, underlined the chilling message the deadly attack on Guardia Civil officers ten days earlier at Palmanova had already delivered - that, despite the recent arrests of four of its leaders, ETA is still active and apparently able to operate even when under intense security surveillance. The effect of Sunday's explosions on Majorca's tourism industry is difficult to assess although any significant change will probably become apparent quite quickly. In a sense British people as a whole have become accustomed to the idea that nowadays nowhere is really safe from terrorist atrocities of one kind or another, whether motivated by national or international objectives. Whether that, and the residual loyalty which many British feel towards Majorca as their holiday choice, will be sufficient to prevent a serious fall in visitors remains to be seen.
The Spanish government has no choice but to pursue its present policy of containment until an opportunity arises for a resumption of the talks which were stopped at the end of 2006 after bombs at Madrid airport broke the ceasefire which ETA had declared only nine months earlier. ETA's goal of Basque separatism cannot be entertained without creating greater problems for Spain as a whole; it already enjoys far greater autonomy than any other province. However, the prospects for any early settlement are poor. Close observers of ETA believe that the older leaders arrested recently are being replaced with younger, harder-line activists among whom women are prominent.