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Western Press Review: Eastern Germany, IMF, Milosevic, Macedonia

  • Khatya Chhor

Prague, 27 June 2001 (RFE/RL) -- RFE/RL's Western press review looks at a number of issues today, from the economic troubles of a former communist state to the Nice Treaty. Several analyses also look at the impending transfer of former Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic to the The Hague, with commentators considering the broader significance of his possible trial and what it means for world justice, as the international community seeks redress for his alleged crimes against humanity. Other analyses focus on the situation in Macedonia, as President Boris Trajkovski appeals for calm in the wake of demonstrations at the parliament building in Skopje.


An editorial in the "Financial Times" looks at the economic difficulties of Germany's unification, which the paper says are "now a fact of life in Germany and the cost [of which] has been widely accepted as unavoidable." The government has poured billions of marks into the former East Germany to "transform its decrepit infrastructure and ease the pain of soaring unemployment," the paper writes.

However, "this massive transfer of money has failed to galvanize the economy of eastern Germany," the paper notes, adding that unemployment remains at almost 18 percent. Moreover, this financial burden has been a significant factor in Germany's recent frugality in other areas, the paper writes, "not least toward the budget of the European Union. There is far less willingness to shoulder the bulk of the cost of EU enlargement, for example, because German taxpayers feel they are already paying for their share of the cost of dismantling the Soviet empire."

The paper remarks, "Other former communist economies, such as Poland and Hungary, have done better than eastern Germany without having any wealthy benefactors." One reason for this, it says, is that they have "generated more home-grown jobs and enterprises. While eastern Germany came to rely on western investment, its neighbors were forced to develop their own talents."

The massive monetary transfer from Germany's west to east, the paper continues, also caused an "artificial boom in the construction and real estate sectors, without generating lasting employment." The paper concludes that Germany's potentially "blooming" landscape "may not really come to pass until eastern Germany is allowed to rely on its own resources."


An editorial in "The Washington Post" looks at recent calls to reform or even dismantle the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, and says that although the IMF does not always solve the crises it sets out to solve, "attacks on the fund's existence are misguided."

The paper continues, "The world does need an institution to respond to financial crises, which have become more common as the movement of capital around the world has accelerated," and adds, "It makes little sense to scrap the fire brigade just because it fails to put out all fires."

The paper continues: "The World Bank also does useful work. It supports many good projects in poor and middle-income countries [although] its bureaucracy remains unfocused. [The] bank's own leadership has recognized that it needs to measure the results of its lending better." The paper suggests that the bank should "shed its peripheral goals and concentrate more on poor countries."


In an editorial, the French daily "Le Monde" says that after Ireland's rejection of the Nice Treaty, the future of Europe more than ever needs a thorough discussion. "Although a vast process of reflection was launched," the paper says, "Europeans are divided."

Moreover, it adds, continued disagreement over future governing models are harming the "legibility" of the Union. "Europeans must again convince a reluctant state of the legitimacy of a rickety treaty," the paper says. It adds that while gathered for the Goteborg, Sweden summit in mid-June, European Union members "confirmed the expansion of the Union [but notably] without fixing a deadline for the end of negotiations."


An editorial in "The New York Times" says that "some once-powerful dictators and strongmen are finding the world an increasingly inhospitable refuge." From Peru's former intelligence chief Vladimiro Montesinos, to General Augusto Pinochet of Chile, to former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, the paper writes: "Among the many things these men shared was the belief that they were immune to prosecution. This belief has now been shattered."

Others like them should take note of these developments, the paper adds. It writes: "A few years ago, dictators and strongmen who wielded absolute power in their nations never had to think about facing trial. Today leaders who commit the most serious crimes must worry that someday, somewhere, they will be held accountable."


An analysis in the "Stratfor Commentary" says that when former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic is transferred to the International Criminal Court for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), charges of genocide will be "notably absent." Accusations of Milosevic's responsibility for the mass killings in the early days of the 1999 war in Kosovo "have not been borne out by two years of excavations and investigations," "Stratfor" writes.

As a result, it says, "the prosecution in The Hague appears to have settled on [pressing] lesser charges that will more easily result in a guilty verdict. [But these] charges Milosevic must answer to in The Hague are significantly different from the charges of genocide leveled by London and Washington just two years ago."

It continues: "Rwandans have recently stood trial for genocide. A number of Serbs are [also] under indictment for genocide in Bosnia. In contrast, Milosevic would stand trial for war crimes [as] well as crimes against humanity, but not genocide."


Another editorial in "Le Monde" calls Milosevic's political demise a "poignant end." The international court is anxious to try him for crimes during the wars of the former Yugoslavia, the daily notes, "although President Vojislav Kostunica is rather hostile to the extradition of his predecessor."

The paper writes: "Moderate with regard to Milosevic, President Kostunica is the big winner in this new Yugoslav crisis. On one hand, he puts an end to the activities of a man who still benefits from certain support in the country. On the other hand, he is rewarded by Western countries, which will have to grant him significant help for his cooperation with justice."


Turning to the conflict in Macedonia, commentator Berthold Kohler writes in "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" that the West "is sending signals of minimal engagement in this Balkans crisis. [It] wants to interfere as little as possible in the escalating conflict, [and] certainly not militarily." Kohler continues, "That is why Western policymakers insist that Macedonians end the conflict over a fair distribution of rights and obligations within their borders themselves and do so without violence."

But, Kohler adds, "the political solution to the conflict that everyone is talking about must have the long-term support of a majority of Macedonians. It cannot, therefore, be dictated by a minority," he says. "The West would be making another mistake were it to categorically rule out the use of military force," Kohler says, adding, "Of course, the West started intervening in Macedonia a long time ago -- when it made the Kosovo Liberation Army its infantry in the Kosovo War."


In "The New York Times," analyst Anna Husarska looks at the recent demonstrations in Skopje and says that "the reasons for this were what many Macedonians [saw] as a double humiliation. The military humiliation happened Monday (25 June) [when NATO] troops escorted Albanian rebels, with their weapons, out of the suburb of Aracinovo in a deal struck by [NATO security chief Javier] Solana. Meanwhile, in Luxembourg that same day, Macedonia's foreign minister was informed by European Union ministers that Macedonia will not receive further economic aid unless a political settlement is reached with Albanian opponents of the government."

Husarska suggests that the United States should send a high-level delegate to join the EU's new special representative, Francois Leotard, to work together to prevent the conflict from reaching the proportions of a "full-fledged civil war." She continues: "This can and should be done by assisting -- not mediating but leading -- the two parties [toward] what they are incapable of achieving on their own: a road map and clear talking points, if not objectives, for a political settlement."