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Western Press Review: No End To The Serbian Crisis

  • Jolyon Naegele

Prague, 22 January 1997 (RFE/RL) -- The ongoing political crisis in Serbia is fodder for numerous European editorial writers today.

FRANKFURTER ALLEGEMEINE: Could Serbia be approaching a civilized political life?

Editor-in-chief Johann Georg Reissmueller writes a lengthy commentary in which he wonders: "Why has the regime not shot the protest movement to pieces in the street?" Reissmueller questions whether Milosevic fears that some Western powers, especially the United States and Germany, could turn their backs on him and ensure his overthrow. "Is he afraid that bloodshed will result in a similar end to that which met the Romanian despot Ceausescu? Does he no longer trust all his armed forces?" Reissmueller cites Serbia's violent past and notes that despite two months of struggle for power between the regime and the opposition in the streets of Belgrade and other Serbian cities, "there have been no massacres....Could it be," Reissmueller asks, "that Serbia with the rise of a new generation is approaching a civilized political life?"

DIE WELT: Milosevic can't make up his mind whether to give in or crush the protests

An editorial by Boris Kalnoky recounts the various failed attempts at silencing the opposition. Kalnoky argues "the Serbian regime apparently is not afraid of making a fool of itself." He terms the regime's behavior "a tragic farce....Partial concessions, that are immediately withdrawn, are intended to bring the protesters to heel," but adds that "the people know exactly what they want having stood firm for 60 days in the wintry streets of Serbia's cities: the full recognition of the opposition's democratic election victory in November."

The paper argues that since the people have demonstrated for so long and so consistently to achieve such a modest goal this rightly gives the regime reason to be afraid."Milosevic cannot make up his mind whether to give in or to crush the protests. The people are determined to persevere come what may." The paper concludes "this determination is their trumpcard against their president."

LIBERATION: The Kosovo question is Milosevic's trampoline

Kosovo, where recent bombings and killings have been ascribed by Serbian opposition leaders, including Vuk Draskovic, to Milosevic' tactics of stirring nationalistic tension with the prospect of a possible civil war in Serbia's overwhelmingly ethnically Albanian province, is the subject of an analysis by Marc Semo in the Parisian daily. Semo says "the last act of the ex-Yugoslav conflict is playing out in the same place where it all started: the 'Kosovo question' has become Milosevic's trampoline."

DIE TAGESZEITUNG: Milosevic would welcome an opportunity to declare a state of emergency

The paper agrees with that view in an editorial by Georg Baltissen. It says: "a military escalation in Kosovo would offer the Serbian president a welcome opportunity to declare a state of emergency not only in Kosovo but throughout the country."

Czech Republic and Germany

Yesterday's signing in Prague of a bilateral declaration by Czech Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus and German Chancellor Helmut Kohl provides an opportunity for press comments on how far the two countries have to go before overcoming their historically-based prejudices.

TIMES OF LONDON: Eastern Europe has reason to fear a new betrayal

An editorial says "the ghost of Munich was finally laid to rest cement the postwar reconciliation between Germany and the Czech Republic."

The Times says the "accord is intended to end one of the bitterest legacies of Hitler's aggression, remove the last barrier to German influence in Mitteleuropa and speed the entry of Germany's eastern neighbors into the European Union." But the Times also says that "all three hopes may yet be disappointed; and Eastern Europe has reason to fear a new betrayal."

The paper continues: "the crucial demand of Budapest, Warsaw and Prague is for access to EU markets, especially for their farm products," and says that Germany has "shown that it is far from championing the cause of the EU applicants" because it is basically interested in "appeasing the demands of inefficient farmers in Bavaria sways decision-making in Bonn."

The Times claims "there has been a clear retreat in Germany from a commitment to the earliest possible EU entry of the Central Europeans, with emphasis instead on consolidating monetary and political integration among the present members." The Times notes "East Europeans fear NATO backsliding over fast entry into the Atlantic alliance," and concludes that "nothing would be crueller than to encourage them to prepare for EU membership while holding up their exports at the frontier and their aspirations at the negotiating table."

TAGESZEITUNG: The next generation will throw away chauvinistic attitudes

A commentary by a Czech staffer at the European Academy in Berlin, Jaroslav Sonka, argues that the German-Czech declaration though not legally binding is necessary. "There would have been bitter repercussions had agreement not been reached on a document after such a long run-up," he says, predicting that "the next generation on both sides of the border will throw away the chauvinistic attitudes of their parents....In western Germany this process is well known," Sonka says, adding that "the countdown is underway in the Czech Republic"....a generation spans 20 years and seven have already passed."

Tageszeitung suggests that "In the end... Prague should no longer be the city in which German high school graduates get drunk on the cheap and sensitive intellectuals track their Kafkaesque dreams because they have no access to Czech literature. And for Czechs, Berlin should no longer be an ugly city in the flatlands that has nothing to offer. And Munich must be more than just a symbol of the treaty/Diktat! of the same name and of immense portions of beer."

Sonka says matters will be normalized "once the Czechs have come so far that they no longer only want to be "Anglo-Saxon....(and) the Germans look on the Czech lands not paternalistically as 'formerly Germany.'"