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Western Press Review: Kosovo One Year Later, EU Summit

  • Joel Blocker



Prague, 23 March 2000 (RFE/RL) -- Our selection of today's wide-ranging Western press commentary centers on Kosovo and the European Union. A year after the start of NATO's air campaign against Yugoslavia, several analysts assess Kosovo's continuing interethnic troubles. Others discuss the EU's special summit on jobs, which begins later today in Lisbon.

TRIBUNE DE GENEVE: The war's principal aim was attained. As for the peace, that's another story

Switzerland's Tribune de Geneve daily carries a signed editorial by Andre Naef that asks whether NATO's campaign was worthwhile. He says that, "12 months later, doubts about the war's appropriateness have begun to appear." Naef does not share those doubts, writing: "[Armed conflict] was bound to occur when democracies were confronted with an adversary like [Yugoslav President] Slobodan Milosevic, for whom war is a 'political instrument.'"

He goes to say that a myth has arisen that NATO waged a "war of conquest conducted by a superpower eager for carnage." In reality, he argues, "this was a European war fought with U.S. weapons, made inevitable by the dictator in Belgrade, and accepted by Western public opinion, which saw no other choice."

The editorial says that the war's principal aim -- "to save the ethnic Albanian population from premeditated ethnic cleansing" -- was attained. As for the peace, Naef concludes, "that's another story: We can't bring it about on behalf of the Serbs and the Albanians."

GUARDIAN: The U.S. is selective in the responsibilities it wants to undertake

In a commentary for Britain's Guardian daily, columnist Hugo Young says that if the U.S. won the war, "Europe must make the peace in Kosovo." Writing from Washington, he observe that the U.S. Congress feels "real anger with Europe" for Europe's failure to live up to its responsibilities in Kosovo.

Young agrees that "Europe hasn't done well. Even Britain," he says, "worried about over-stretch, has been pulling troops out of Kosovo, as the U.S. continues to put more in. Pledges on a civilian police force are woefully unkept [by Europeans. Kosovo's] infrastructure isn't being rebuilt anything like fast enough, for reasons that are as much fratricidal as external."

He goes on: "But the external failures enrage the Senate, where half the latest U.S. pledge, for $2 billion, may be made conditional on the president certifying that the other allies are meeting their commitments. If they don't, there's talk [in Washington] of U.S. withdrawal from Kosovo in 18 months' time. The [U.S.] is selective in the responsibilities [it] wants to undertake."

LOS ANGELES TIMES: The age of 'humanitarian interventions' turns out to have made only a tentative and confused arrival on the international scene

Los Angeles Times syndicated columnist William Pfaff uses the Kosovo anniversary to put forward his thesis that "the West lacks a clear rule on 'humanitarian intervention.'" Pfaff says: "The common theme to three of the world's most significant current conflicts --Kosovo, Chechnya and Taiwan -- is the recovery of lost lands. The lost territories embody the conflict of ideas and the rivalries of national aspiration: whether Kosovo should be Albanian or Serb, Chechnya independent or Russian, Taiwan independent or Chinese."

But, he adds, "the international community [has responded to the three challenges] in contradictory ways, influenced by the history of each conflict, the commitments already made by foreign actors and, above all, by the practicality of doing anything useful. The age of 'humanitarian interventions,'" he adds, "the subject of much optimistic but speculative discussion in the West, turns out to have made only a tentative and confused arrival on the international scene."

Like Young, Pfaff argues: "Washington is convinced that Europe has not met its Kosovo commitments." He goes on: "There is serious danger that the intervention in Kosovo will fail. NATO itself could fail as a consequence of what happens there." While Europe dallies, he says, "two of the main actors in Kosovo -- the ethnic Albanians and the Serbs led by Milosevic -- are determined to provoke violence, each to serve its own national ends."

INDEPENDENT: Support of Kosovo's Albanians appears to be evaporating

Britain's Independent daily runs a news analysis from Brussels by Stephen Castle that says European Union leaders are being warned of "a new crisis in Kosovo." He writes: "A starkly written paper by the EU's most senior foreign policy officials argues that the United Nations is having 'considerable difficulties' in Kosovo, that ethnic violence is 'at high levels' and that the UN administration has 'insufficient personnel and resources.'"

Castle says the document, "prepared by Javier Solana, the EU's foreign-policy high representative, and Chris Patten, the commissioner for external relations, is to be presented to EU heads of government at today's Lisbon summit." The paper says that too many "decision-making bodies [are] involved with the Balkans, [which] means duplication, delay and ad hoc [that is, improvised] procedures. The time has come," Castle quotes it as saying, "to take a fresh look at the situation and to develop a coherent [EU] strategy."

Castle also says: "This unprecedented exercise in soul-searching is designed as a wake-up call for the EU's leaders as the Balkans slips down their list of priorities." He adds: "The paper calls for a streamlining of the West's Balkans initiatives and it argues that technical problems which have stopped Kosovo and Montenegro being eligible for international funding -- because they are not independent countries -- must be overcome. All this could be a race against time," the commentator concludes, "as the support of Kosovo's Albanians appears to be evaporating, which could make the province ungovernable."

IRISH TIMES: The EU meeting is being advertised as the dot-com summit

In a commentary for the Irish Times on the EU's Lisbon summit on employment, Patrick Smyth writes that the 15 member-states will be seeking to redefine "the union's economic strategic objectives for the next 10 years and lay the basis of a new knowledge-based society." The meeting, he adds, is being advertised as the "dot-com summit."

On jobs, Smyth says this: "To remedy the longstanding problem of the EU's inability to turn growth efficiently into jobs, the summit will address the old familiars of structural reform of labor markets, education, training and research coordination, most of which were the preoccupations of [former commission president Jacques] Delors's White Paper of 1993. Targets," he adds, "will be set to ease the burdens on small business and merchants and make access to integrated venture capital markets possible."

Smyth also says: "The only thing likely to cause [EU] leaders [problems is the presence of] Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel, [who] is expected to raise the issue of his country's diplomatic isolation and to urge fellow leaders to begin to explore an exit strategy." Smyth adds: "[Schuessel] is unlikely to find much sympathy."

TIMES: Little on the summit table is new



The Times of London -- not an enthusiastic supporter of EU federalism -- warns Prime Minister Tony Blair today that he cannot count on Lisbon to make the union more popular in the generally euro-skeptical U.K. The paper writes in an editorial: "Tony Blair has spent weeks talking up the Lisbon special summit on 'economic and social renewal.'" Yet he is bound to be disappointed, it says, because "little on the [summit's] table is new."

The editorial comments: "Unemployment and labor market flexibility have been on the [EU] agenda at least since the [1993] Delors White Paper. So has been the new information economy. The EU already has [economic] 'processes' galore -- Luxembourg's [summit], on employment; Cardiff's, on economic and structural reforms; and Cologne's, on macroeconomic dialogue. So little has come of these processes that the word has been avoided this time -- quite deliberately, according to Romano Prodi, the president of the commission."

The paper also says: "This will not be the first summit where Mr. Blair has made his wishes the father of his thoughts. But what could be taken for idealism in 1997 begins to look, in 2000, like disingenuousness."

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