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Western Press Review: Czechs Reach Political Settlement, Kosovo Remains An On-Going Problem

  • Joel Blocker
  • Dora Slaba

Prague, 10 July 1998 (RFE/RL) -- The likely formation of a Left government with Right support in the Czech Republic later this month evokes some press comment today. Other topics discussed are the continuing crisis in Serbia's embattled Kosovo province and an unusual meeting between politics and soccer at the World Cup tournament, due to end Sunday in Paris.

DIE PRESSE: The new government will have to fight

Austria's Die Presse today sees both Czech opposition leader and former prime minister Vaclav Klaus and his Civic Democratic Party (ODS) as the winners in the recent negotiations with Social Democrat Milos Zeman that led to the formation of a Social Democrat minority government. The paper writes in an editorial: "Whether and for how long Milos Zeman will succeed in ruling the Czech Republic is not foreseeable. (But it is clear that) the new government will have to fight for assent from Parliament on every issue. That is not going to be easy and could lead to speedy fatigue." It adds: "Given the great economic problems facing the country, Zeman will not be able to become a shining hero as the head of a Left government, in the manner of (Britain's) Tony Blair. But the ODS, in opposition, now has a chance to regenerate itself and gather strength."

SUEDDEUTSCHE ZEITUNG: The agreement assures ODS will not initiate a no-confidence vote

The Sueddeutsche Zeitung says that earlier this week, when Klaus signed the coalition accord with Zeman, he "described it as an 'opposition agreement'" In a news analysis, correspondent Peter Brod writes from Prague: "The agreement assures the Social Democrats that the ODS will not initiate a no-confidence vote. (Both parties) want to initiate within a year proposals to change the constitution that could lead to future elections by majority representation (and not the present proportional representation) and hence the probable exclusion of smaller parties....(One of those parties' leaders, Christian Democrat) Josef Lux, described the pact between Klaus and Zeman as 'contravening democracy and counter to the Constitution.' He mentioned specifically a passage in the accord that commits ODS parliament members not to introduce a no-confidence vote."

ASAHI SHIMBUN: A UN resolution is indispensable

Turning to the Kosovo conflict between Serbia's rulers and the province's 90- percent ethnic Albanian population, Japan's Asahi Shimbun writes: "There is a danger that the tense situation will spill over into neighboring countries like Macedonia and Albania. Even though a country's sovereignty is important, the principle of non-intervention in its internal affairs is no longer so sacrosanct. The problem is to solve the question by striking a balance between the two." The paper's editorial asks: "When international intervention is required, what procedures should be taken?" It answers: "This is not a time for big powers to call the shots forcibly. For the moment, the reliable basis for action is a resolution of the United Nations Security Council. NATO is studying the use of military force. Some in the U.S. maintain NATO troops can be used without a UN resolution. But European countries broadly agree that a UN resolution is indispensable. We support the latter position."

BASLER ZEITUNG: The mission appears to be an indication of Western helplessness

Switzerland's Basler Zeitung says that "Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic can rest content. Western diplomats are dancing in his direction (and) Western threats toward the authoritarian Belgrade regime have long been forgotten. (The West) is now limiting itself to sending its diplomats (to Kosovo) on observer missions. Since Milosevic wants no foreign meddling, only diplomats who already have approval from Belgrade can take part in visits." The paper's editorial continues: "For years, Belgrade has frustrated effective crisis prevention in Kosovo. As early as 1993, observers from the OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe) were thrown out of the country. Since then...the conflict has developed into a small war that threatens to envelop the entire Balkan region. With this background, the (diplomats') mission appears to all to be an indication of Western helplessness."

LIBERATION: The World Cup has put Croatia on the map

France's daily Liberation comments on the connection between politics and soccer, as reflected in Croatia's unexpectedly excellent showing at the World Cup:. The paper writes in a editorial: "As much as the war that ravaged the Balkans, the World Cup has put Croatia on the map. Make no mistake about it, soccer is a political tool: Behind the celebrations are nationalistic aspirations." The editorial continues: "For the young Croatia hoping to project a more democratic image, gaining recognition on the playing field, as opposed to the recognition they gained on the battlefield, would be the best flag of all. Miroslav Blazevic, colonel in the Croatian army reserves, former coach of leading club Dinamo Zagreb and intimate friend of Croatia's President Franjo Tudjman, is now his country's best ambassador." It concludes: "The team with the red checkerboard shirts wants its history written with the path of a soccer ball, not with the deadly etchings of the bullets and shells used against Serb and Montenegro enemies --who, under the Yugoslav banner, were eliminated in the (Cup's) second round."