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Western Press Review: Kosovo -- The UCK And Other Problems

  • Joel Blocker



Prague, 23 June 1999 (RFE/RL) -- Western press commentary today continues to focus on the problems that have developed in Kosovo after Yugoslavia's withdrawal of its armed forces. Among the problems, the future role of the Kosovo Liberation Army (UCK) elicits much comment.

NEW YORK TIMES: The most important challenge comes from the ethnic Albanian guerrillas



The New York Times writes in an editorial today: "With Serbian troops gone from Kosovo, the most important challenge to peace in the province comes from the ethnic Albanian guerrillas, the [UCK] ... The UCK, like virtually every ethnic Albanian in Kosovo, wants an independent state, an option opposed by NATO nations, who are wary of changing borders in the Balkans."

The editorial continues: "But there are not yet enough NATO peacekeepers in Kosovo to protect Serbs from intimidation, beatings or worse. The agreement [signed by the UCK Monday with NATO] will help by speeding UCK disarmament and warning Kosovar Albanians that the international community will be considering their behavior as it contemplates whether to allow the establishment of an army."

The NYT adds: "The long-range danger posed by the UCK is that its members could turn Kosovo into a hard-line military dictatorship ... While the UCK is popular, many ethnic Albanians fear its rule, well aware of the ruthlessness and criminal acts of some leaders and fighters." It concludes: "So far, fewer than half the promised NATO troops have reached Kosovo, which leaves many villages unpatrolled and makes verifying UCK demilitarization difficult. The remaining troops are urgently needed, as Serbs are now deciding whether to stay in Kosovo or leave. The chance for a multi-ethnic Kosovo soon may vanish completely."

BERLINGSKE TIDENDE: The two main ethnic groups deserve stability, not violence

In Denmark, the daily Berlingske Tidende says "the UCK has already sent a signal that it is ready to transform itself from a partisan guerrilla movement to a political organization. Its next step," says the paper, "should be to ensure that all its promises, including the delivery of all arms, are kept." But, the editorial continues, "a more important task for the UCK is to make sure that none of the Kosovo refugees who are expected to go back to the province in the next days or weeks succumbs to revenge when they see their homes destroyed and their relatives murdered."

The editorial also says: "It will require a lot of self-discipline and strong leadership to avoid a replay of the 'Night of the Long Knives' in Kosovo. A new wave of violence in Kosovo would further reduce the chances of the two main ethnic groups in Kosovo living peacefully side by side. They have been singled out for great suffering in the past. Therefore, they deserve a future with stability and security, not more violence."

AKTUELT: The war has only one lesson for Europe

Another Danish daily, Aktuelt, asks a series of questions in its editorial about what it calls the "incomprehensible" war in Kosovo. Among them, the paper asks: "How could Milosevic believe that in today's Europe that he could go unpunished with his denial of basic human rights to a large group of people in his own country? How could he believe that he would succeed in driving a million people out of their homes? How could regular Serb soldiers give in to rape, torture and murder, and be supported by elected politicians? How could Serbia's neighboring countries watch quietly what had been going on in Yugoslavia for a long time? And how could some intellectuals in the West put greater blame for the violence on NATO than on the dictatorship that started the violence in the first place?"

The paper also says: "The war has only one lesson for Europe: that this kind of repression and violence must never happen again. [The European Union, together with other multi-national organizations like] the Council of Europe, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the European Court of Human Rights ... should have been able to forestall the events in Kosovo. But they failed."

The editorial concludes: "The priority now is to democratize Serbia. But we should remember the lessons of history. It has taught us that military aggression should be countered with political civilization. Still, there are some virtues that must be defended with weapons. One of them is the right of a group of people to defend itself against violence of Kosovo proportions. That was the basic reason we established NATO. After the Berlin Wall's fall, it [is now becoming] a real pan-European security organization."

LIBERATION: Sick Serbia must be Europeanized

In the French daily Liberation, Foreign Editor Jacques Almaric calls for the "Europeanization of Serbia" [that is, integration of Serbia into European institutions such as the EU] in a signed editorial today. He writes: "Peace has no chance of establishing itself permanently in the Balkans as long as [Yugoslav President] Slobodan Milosevic succeeds in hanging on to power. A devastated Serbia," he goes on, "able to rely only on itself, will continue to be kept aboil by its historic combination of revanchism, authoritarianism, and nationalism, which would be bad not only for its own inhabitants by for all in the [Balkan] region.

"That's why," the editorial continues, "this sick Serbia and its demons must be Europeanized, just as Kosovo must be Europeanized, in order for all its inhabitants to overcome their hatreds and turn their attention to matters other than vengeance."

Amalric admits "that the job will be long and costly for the Western democracies if they want to really end the Serb-Albanian problem. It will also," he adds, "require a lot of imagination to contain the aspirations of the UCK and to frustrate and undermine the Milosevic regime." But, he insists, "the area must open itself up in every possible way to that Europe which can, in the long run, help the [Balkan] mentalities evolve."

LIBERATION: The therapeutic art can re-install humanity in broken lives

Liberation also runs a commentary written by two French psychiatrists and a psychologist -- Alain Vernet, Michel Henin and Emmanuelle Papazoglue that says "the refugees from, and victims of, Kosovo will need long-term help to return to normal life." The three writers say that "of course, urgent humanitarian action, material aid, a return to conventional social life (including school for the young) is a necessity. ... But therapeutic methods are also necessary to relaunch a normal life."

These therapeutic practices, they say, "respect the sufferings [incurred by the refugees and victims] and will allow them to start a new human trajectory. ... It's not enough merely to debrief them. ... Other actions, particularly in regard to children, are necessary, because what they have experienced will remain traumatic for years ... becoming more and more disturbing. ... Studies made on the victims of terrorist attacks, or even severe car accidents, show this to be true."

The commentary concludes: "The therapeutic art offers the means best adopted to the circumstances [of these battered personalities]. It can re-install humanity in broken lives by making the breakage a part of their conscious story, however tragic that might be."

INTERNATIONAL HERALD TRIBUNE: Kosovo will not threaten the prevailing international order



Today's International Herald Tribune carries a commentary by U.S. international legal analyst Jonathan Tepperman, who asks: "Does NATO's intervention in Kosovo rewrite the rules on self-determination [for aspiring ethnic groups]? Has the go-ahead been given every ethnic group that wants to carve out its own mini-state? The answer," he says, "is no."

He writes: "Kosovo has been an extraordinary episode in modern history, but not because some new, destabilizing principle was established. Rather," he says, "Kosovo is the rare case when the strict conditions set by international laws for secession were met. Even more remarkably, the world community noticed and came to the aid of the separatists."

Tepperman writes further: "International law strikes a good balance between encouraging stability and allowing secession in extreme conditions. NATO's intervention in Kosovo has not changed that. So," he concludes, "Western powers can stop prevaricating about Kosovo's status. Kosovo will not threaten the prevailing international order."

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