Accessibility links

Western Press Review: Commentaries Range From Migration To Borodin, Neo-Nazis And Lockerbie

  • Don Hill

Prague, 2 February 2001 (RFE/RL) -- The International Herald Tribune makes space editorially today for Samuel Huntington, author of the book, "The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order." In a commentary, Huntington says "migration flows are the central issue of our time."

Huntington's commentary is broad and thematic. In a separate comment appearing today in the Sueddeutsche Zeitung, writer Peter Muench illustrates Huntington's theme with an example that is focused and specific.


Huntington writes: "So far, the West has done reasonably well containing terrorist threats. A year ago Osama bin Laden had a very elaborate plan to cause trouble in various places across the planet. The high level of vigilance in the West against this threat seems to have paid off."

But, the writer says, the West now faces the intransigent issue of human migration, which may prove a tougher challenge. Huntington writes: "In the developed world there is an aging and, soon, shrinking population. In the larger part of the rest of the world, a population expansion continues, generating mainly a youthful population that is the source of migration, instability and terrorism." He cites Europe and Japan as particularly affected.

Huntington writes that the United States, which traditionally has gloated over its ability to assimilate and gain from immigrants, is a developing trouble center also. He comments: "The factors that made assimilation work in the past waves of immigration -- [immense variety of races and national backgrounds, dispersal across the country] -- in the mid-19th century and just before World War One are no longer present." The new U.S. in-migration, he says, is overwhelmingly Hispanic, is concentrated in the Southwest and wants neither to be assimilated or to go back home.


The Sueddeutsche Zeitung's Muench writes that thousands upon thousands of refugees fleeing internal warfare, drought and famine have converged on Afghanistan's borders with Tajikistan and Pakistan. He writes: "The refugees are in desperate need of assistance -- to the tune of $205 million, according to UN estimates."

But Pakistan and Tajikistan, fearing inundation in needs that they are unprepared to meet, have closed their borders to the refugees, insisting that any international aid they receive be delivered to them where they are.

That is a problem, the commentator writes: "Cooperation with [Afghanistan's ruling Islamic Taliban militia] is proving extremely difficult, especially since UN sanctions took effect in mid-January [in an effort to force the Taliban to cease sheltering bin Laden]. Meanwhile, hundreds of new refugees arrive daily at [the borders]. The hunger remains. The cold continues." Both are killing, especially women, children and the elderly.


Two at home issues are overheated in Russia, one the question of government control of news outlets; another, the continuing imprisonment in the United States of Pavel Borodin, former Kremlin official and still Kremlin insider. The Independent, London, addresses the free press issue in an editorial: "Back in Soviet times, the all-powerful Communist Party would punish journalists who dared disagree with it by withdrawal of privileges, by dismissal and by disgrace. The ruler of the new Russia [President Vladimir Putin] prefers the more modern techniques of financial pressure, legal harassment and gilded exile to bring his opponents to heel. But the net result is the same. Like the czars and general-secretaries before him, [Putin] is making sure that the Kremlin controls the press -- all of it."


On [detained Kremlin insider Pavel] Borodin, Sueddeutsche Zeitung commentator Tomas Avenarius writes from Moscow: "There are more than a few curious minds in Moscow at the moment who would dearly like to know how Pavel Borodin is getting on in his New York cell. The sort of details like whether the portly man still looks quite as pleased with himself as in the days when, as Kremlin housekeeper, he used to take his guests on tours of the Kremlin's royal quarters and sumptuous ballrooms, wearing that self-adulating look as he wove his way past golden columns and silken [tapestries]."

Avenarius says he finds the Kremlin's reaction curious: "What is peculiar is that Russia's president has so far failed to voice strong criticism of Borodin's arrest. [Borodin] is after all a leading Moscow government representative. Instead, a deputy was conspicuously installed for Borodin in the Russo-Belarusian Union. That gives the appearance that no early release date is expected and, despite all the official declamations, that there is really no great interest in his return."


In the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung today, Reinhard Old comments that the once-vilified ruling coalition of the Austrian People's Party and the Austrian Freedom Party seems to be working astoundingly well, with neo-Nazi problems, if any, invisible to the naked eye.


Matthias Arning writes in the Frankfurter Rundschau that neo-Nazis in Germany are roiling that Austrian neighbor.

Old writes: "[Austria's] foreign policy now demonstratively focuses on solidarity with the smaller EU states. A short time ago, the Belgian foreign minister said it was immoral to ski in Austria, now Saint Anton is hosting the World Ski Championships. Tourism in Austria, especially in the capital, is booming. The EU monitoring body that opened in Vienna last year in the midst of the uproar has reported neither racially motivated crimes of the kind that take place in other EU-member states nor a deterioration in the situation of immigrants in the Alpine republic. Instead, it acknowledges that the new government's policies are in fact slightly more favorable to foreigners. It is another irony of history that in times of cutbacks and austerity packages, the government quarantined under suspicion of fascism has managed to make allowance for a generous compensation for Nazi-era slave laborers and those who had their property stolen by the Nazis -- in spite of populist muttering at home and with the approval of the American East Coast."

In Frankfurt, Arning says of Germany: "The spectrum of extreme right-wing symbols is far broader than just [those expressly forbidden by modern Germany's penal code]. Neo-Nazis today use the [Hitler Youth] cloth triangle in a modified form, which in 1997 resulted in a young man from Saxony state going on trial in Upper Bavaria to answer charges relating to the same. The public prosecutor accused him of wearing a sewn-on badge at a gathering of the far-right whose appearance was confusingly similar to that of BDM [Federation of German Maidens] notoriety." A lower court acquitted the defendant.

Arning quotes the historian at the Institute for Contemporary History, Volker Dahm of Munich, "who is constantly involved in preparing expert opinions in similar cases," as saying, "The real problem lies in the growing body of case law." That shows a tendency," Arning writes, "which if it gained roots, would in the future mean that only the swastika and runes (that is, certain characters from ancient German alphabets) would be prohibited [unless the law is amended or the Federal High Court provides more guidance]."


Continuing yesterday's storm of Western commentary on the Lockerbie verdict that convicted a Libyan intelligence agent of bombing an international airliner in 1988, the British magazine The Economist, urges in its current issue that the West continue to gather evidence to pursue a case against Libyan ruler Muammar Gadhafi. The Economist says, "In addition to opening the way to a possible prosecution of Colonel Gadhafi, the Lockerbie trial has achieved something else -- [evidence] that professional jurists can run a fair trial, free from political influence, even in the most emotive and contentious of cases."