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Western Press Review: Institutions Fall Short of Lofty Goals

  • Don Hill



Prague, 30 October 1998 (RFE/RL) -- A variety of Western press commentators focus critically today on Western international institutions --from the European Union to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), from U.S. diplomacy to the gestating International Criminal Court.

TIMES: ECHO's sudden show of political correctness is counter-productive and excessively severe

The EU's European Community Humanitarian Office (ECHO) has ordered a halt to funding for humanitarian relief in Afghanistan. The Times of London says in an editorial that this decision --aimed at the repressive Taliban regime-- makes victims of politics out of ordinary Afghans, who The Times says are among the world's most desperately needy people.

The Times says: "Afghanistan is one of the world's poorest and most troubled countries. The indiscriminate laying of millions of land mines has left farmland unusable and civilians maimed. The ruthless brand of Islam enforced by the Taliban offers little material sustenance. And yet the last channels of assistance for some of the world's most desperate people are now being blocked." It adds: "If this decision is implemented some 30 foreign aid organizations will be severely curtailed, even forced to close down, among them one of the longest standing, Sandy Gall's Afghanistan Appeal."

The editorial also says: "Arguments that Taliban is a terrorist movement are understandable; it is certainly a vile regime. Its refusal to work towards a negotiated settlement of civil war is reprehensible. But foundations such as Afghanistan Appeal serve a humanitarian need that political decisions will not make disappear." The editorial concludes: "ECHO's sudden show of political correctness is counter-productive and excessively severe."

SUEDDEUTSCHE ZEITUNG: Terrorism must be combated as though there were no peace process, and the peace process must be continued as though there were no terrorism

The latest U.S.-brokered peace agreement in the Mideast, signed last week at the Wye Plantation in Maryland, leaves more issues unresolved than it settles, say writers in the Sueddeutsche Zeitung and the New York state newspaper Newsday. Thorsten Schmitz says in the Sueddeutsche Zeitung that peace and terrorism need to be de-linked. Schmitz writes: "The sad rule in the Middle East is that the closer peace appears to be, the greater will be the likelihood of a bombing."

The writer goes on: "It is a fact that Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat has yet to deliver on the security guarantee he promised at Wye Plantation and has still to implement." Schmitz concludes: "Peace will only return to the region once peace facts have been accomplished, and in two directions. Terrorism must be combated as though there were no peace process, and the peace process must be continued as though there were no terrorism."

NEWSDAY: Mutual trust would enable Israelis and Palestinians to reach a permanent solution

David Newman, chairman of the Department of Politics and Government at the Ben Gurion University of the Negev in Israel, says that a basic problem is that Israeli Premier Benjamin Netanyahu and Arafat have never made real human contact. In a commentary published by Newsday, Newman writes: "International negotiations are as much about the chemistry among the persons involved as they are about the issue themselves." Newman says: "It is (only) mutual trust, more than all the complex details in all the clauses in all the public and the secret agreements, that (would) enable Israelis and Palestinians to reach a permanent solution one day to this bitter conflict."

WALL STREET JOURNAL: The world needs an effective international intermediary to cope with sudden surges

The Wall Street Journal Europe publishes a commentary by David Hale, chief economist at the Zurich Group in Chicago. Hale says that the world needs an international lender of last resort and that the IMF may not qualify. Hale writes: "It seems that post-communist Russia poses a greater threat to global capitalism than the Soviet Union ever did. The Russian debt default in mid-August has generated financial shock waves that could drive next year's growth rate of the world economy to the lowest level in the postwar era." He says: "Making things worse is the perceived inability of the International Monetary Fund and the U.S. Treasury to act as global lenders of last resort." The commentator writes: "The world needs an effective international intermediary to cope with sudden surges and contractions of global liquidity."

INTERNATIONAL HERALD TRIBUNE: A burst of international outrage is essential to draw attention to the perverse trial of Alexander Nikitin

International affairs commentator Flora Lewis writes today in The International Herald Tribune that the treason trial in St. Petersburg of Alexander Nikitin deserved more international outrage than it got. Even though a Russian court yesterday dismissed all the evidence against Nikitin, the investigation --and his ordeal-- continues. Lewis writes: "A burst of international outrage is essential to draw attention to the perverse trial of Alexander Nikitin for espionage (involving) what the Norwegian ecological foundation Bellona calls a 'a slow-motion Chornobyl,' a buildup of radioactive pollution off the Kola Peninsula in the Berents Sea that can become a danger of the whole northern hemisphere."

The commentator notes that the French daily Le Monde said that, in Lewis' words: "Mr. Nikitin should (instead of being prosecuted) be decorated with a medal for alerting his compatriots, and be openly defended by the Council of Europe."

She writes: "Certainly, by loudly protesting against the Nikitin trial, it should be made clear that the West wants to work with Russia for essential common protection, and that attempts to cover up the menace can only be considered unfriendly acts by Moscow."

LOS ANGELES TIMES: Western governments must speak out for freedom of expression for Yugoslavia's media



Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic may have ended under Western coercion his campaign against the Kosovo ethnic Albanians, but he has opened another front against the free press in his own Serbian capital of Belgrade, says Ann K. Cooper, executive director of the New York-based Committee To Protect Journalists. Cooper writes in a commentary in the Los Angeles Times: "With one hand extended to the West, Slobodan Milosevic has promised to end his crackdown on Kosovo's ethnic Albanians. But while the West warily accepted the promise, the Serb leader tightened his other hand into a menacing fist and aimed it at another target: independent journalists based in the Serbian capital of Belgrade who dare oppose the nationalist line of the Serbian state."

Cooper concludes: "Without more public denunciations from the same governments that welcome the Kosovo settlement, the long-term struggle for democracy and free expression in Serbia may be dealt a fatal blow. If the U.S. and Western governments ever want to see an alternative to Milosevic, they must speak out now, loudly and clearly, against the censorship and threats of the Serbian government. And they must make clear that any resolution of the Kosovo crisis has to include guarantees of freedom of expression for Yugoslavia's media."

FRANKFURTER RUNDSCHAU: History has caught up with Pinochet, the old despot

Pierre Simonitsch writes in a commentary in the Frankfurter Rundschau that the International Criminal Court (ICC) set up in Rome on July 17 was severely needed in the case of Augusto Pinochet, the former Chilean dictator. Simonitsch says: "Pinochet is lucky: the ICC has come 25 years too late." The commentator writes: "The present, democratic government in Chile is both unable and unwilling to take any action against the 82-year-old Pinochet. On the one hand he is still popular with the armed forces and on the other, it does not wish to open old wounds. But history has caught up with the old despot. Modern times have shown how long overdue the establishment of the international tribunal was."

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