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Western Press Review: The Ever-Contentious Balkan Peninsula

  • Don Hill

Prague, 24 September 1997 (RFE/RL) -- Since the 1920s, when two British publications -- Public Opinion and 19th Century -- began using the term, "balkanization" has become an international expression describing fragmentation of national entities. Western commentators, distracted recently by other news, now are turning their attention back to the contentious Balkans.

DIE WELT: The real power in Bosnia will continue to be Slobodan Milosevic

Boris Kalnoky comments today that the next government in Serbia after Sunday's elections is an open question, but that the former president, Slobodan Milosevic, is likely to remain the center of power. Kalnoky writes: "With Serbia's Socialist-led government having lost its parliamentary majority, the question now is whether the conservative opposition can form a viable government."

Kalnoky says: "On the right, the ultranationalist Radical Party, lead by Vojislav Seselj, won 80 seats, (and) the monarchist Serbian Renewal Party of Vuk Draskovic picked up 45." And adds: "In Serbia nothing could be less certain than agreement between Seselj and Draskovic. They were co-founders of the party Draskovic now heads, but they rarely speak to each other any more -- and when they do they have nothing good to say."

The commentary concludes: "Now elevated to the presidency of all of Yugoslavia, the real power in Bosnia will continue to be Slobodan Milosevic - at least if his candidate, Zoran Lilic, lives up to expectations and defeats Seselj in the runoff round of the Bosnian presidential election on October 5."

FINANCIAL TIMES: The Serbian Renewal Movement has emerged as the potential kingmaker

Guy Dinmore writes from Belgrade that Serbia's Socialist Party is likely to form a coalition government with the Serbian Renewal Movement. Dinmore writes that the movement "has emerged as the potential kingmaker. Its leader, Vuk Draskovic, rode a wave of mass antigovernment protests last winter but could be persuaded to join forces with his Socialist foes if promised senior cabinet positions."

LONDON TIMES: The diplomatic community fears a wreck of the Dayton peace accord

Tom Walker in Belgrade says that the Socialists could be forced out of government altogether. Walker adds: "Neither is it a foregone conclusion that a Socialist president will succeed Mr Milosevic. Vojislav Seselj, one of Europe's most extreme nationalists, has proved a popular choice and will contest a run-off for the presidency with Mr Milosevic's puppet candidate, Zoran Lilic, on October 5.

"There has been little celebration in Belgrade at Mr Milosevic's reverses. Many of Serbia's students and struggling middle classes are just as wary of Mr Seselj's firebrand nationalism. The diplomatic community fears likewise that Mr Seselj could spark instability in the Balkans and even wreck the Dayton peace accord."

LOS ANGELES TIMES: The Russian decision on the election removes a major cause of friction

Norman Kempster analyzed an unexpected diplomatic congruence between Russian and U.S. leaders at the United Nations. He wrote: "In a surprisingly quick victory for U.S. policy, Russian Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov assured President Clinton on Monday that Moscow will not try to block parliamentary elections that have been called to undercut indicted war-crimes suspect Radovan Karadzic in the Bosnian Serb entity." Kempster wrote: "Although the United States and Russia do not see eye-to-eye on every aspect of policy toward Bosnia-Herzegovina, the Russian decision on the election removes a major cause of friction."

NEW YORK TIMES: The United States and its European allies must be prepared for an extended stay in Bosnia



Clifford Krauss in his news analysis writes that an official of the administration of U.S. President Bill Clinton is suggesting that the NATO-led peace force in Bosnia will be extended beyond next summer's mandated end. Krauss writes: "President Clinton's national security adviser, Sandy Berger, said on Tuesday that the United States and its European allies must be prepared for an extended stay in Bosnia beyond the scheduled withdrawal of NATO forces next June."

The writer says: "His speech echoed the arguments Clinton advanced last year to support the deployment of 8,000 American soldiers." He adds: "Countering congressional friction as well as public skepticism, and still bruised by the Clinton administration's early embarrassment in Somalia, administration officials have offered distinct and at times contradictory statements over how long American troops will remain."

GROOT-BIJGAARDEN DE STANDAARD: The power struggle in the Republika Srpska continues to be a cause for concern

Peter Dejaegher reports today: "NATO wants to use the remaining time of the SFOR mandate in Bosnia-Herzegovina to get all parties to respect the Dayton peace agreement in detail, NATO Secretary General Javier Solana said on Monday." Dejaegher adds: "The power struggle in the Republika Srpska continues to be a cause for concern for the secretary general."

CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR: The Serbs are sinking into poverty and despair

Richard Mertens describes today how the Bosnian Serbs are lagging economically behind even the other Bosnians. Many Serbs blame the West, he says. Other observers blame Serb intransigence and widespread corruption. Here are excerpts from the Mertens analysis:

"Almost two years after war ended in Bosnia, many parts of the country are seeing a glimmer of economic recovery. The Serbs, meanwhile, are sinking into poverty and despair. Much of the blame belongs to the Serb leaders. Their refusal to cooperate with Bosnia's Muslims, as the Dayton peace agreement demands, has isolated the Serbs from Western Europe and denied them foreign aid."

"The contrast between life in the two halves of Bosnia is already stark, In the Muslim-Croat Federation, unemployment has dropped below 50 percent. The average wage has risen to 145 dollars a month. New businesses are springing up, and Western money is rebuilding houses, roads, and other infrastructure. In the Bosnian Serb republic, 70 percent of workers are unemployed. The average salary is 40 dollars a month. Private companies cannot obtain credit or find markets for their products. State-owned factories lack capital to start up again."

FRANKFURTER RUNDSCHAU: Can the tribunal force the states to surrender evidence?



Thomas Roser examines the refusal of Croatia to provide documentary evidence called for by the United Nations War Crimes Tribunal at The Hague. Roser says the Croat leadership is creating technicalities to cloak their own substantial guilt. He writes: "Croatia is refusing to make available evidence to the UN War Crimes Tribunal in the trial of General Tihomir Blaskic. Zagreb is arguing that the tribunal is going beyond its brief in threatening sanctions. There is another reason why the Croats are refusing to produce the documents: their contents could badly incriminate the country." Roser says: "The Tudjman government accuses the tribunal of overstepping the mark in threatening sanctions. Only the UN Security Council has the power to present states with an ultimatum, it says. The question whether the tribunal can force states to surrender evidence material is a crucial case of precedence for the investigators."
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