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Western Press Review: Macedonia, Milosevic, European Expansion, Euro-Zone Inflation, AIDS

  • Khatya Chhor

Prague, 28 June 2001 (RFE/RL) -- Western press commentators take a close look at the situation in Macedonia today, as sporadic clashes continue to erupt between ethnic Albanian insurgents and government security forces. Some analysts continue to urge decisive Western intervention to prevent another extended interethnic war in the Balkans. Others cite diffidence and even incompetence as the reasons behind the West's lack of involvement thus far. Additional commentary deals with AIDS policy after the UN concluded its special session yesterday on the spread of the disease, the likely transfer of former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic to The Hague tribunal on war crimes charges, the perils of European Union expansion, and the fall in value of its common currency, the euro.


An editorial in "The New York Times" says that the efforts of European envoys who are currently negotiating with Macedonia's leaders for a peaceful solution to the country's interethnic crisis "deserve strong American support" -- but the paper adds that "not much more time may be left to work out a peaceful solution."

The editorial notes recent pledges by NATO to help disarm ethnic Albanian fighters if a peace accord is reached, and says: "That kind of non-combat role would be appropriate and useful, as was Monday's impromptu escort of guerrillas out of a battle zone by American troops to reinforce a local cease-fire. NATO can help secure a peace agreement if one is reached," the paper concludes, "but first Macedonia's leaders must act responsibly to spare their country the agony of another Balkan war."


Thomas Schmid writes in the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" that "the West's policy is one of reluctant, ill-considered decisions that must seem like expressions of weakness to the political parties and combatants in the Balkans." He adds that "it was absurd to allow National Liberation Army, or UCK, rebels to retreat from the Skopje suburb of Aracinovo with all their weapons."

However, it is with good reason, Schmid adds, that the West "shies away from the final consequence of becoming the inevitable [chief] authority in what are in fact protectorates." But he says that as a result, Western policy "stumbles from one measure to the next, giving little thought to the possibly evil consequences of its well-intentioned deeds." Schmid writes further: "It is obvious what NATO should wish to achieve in Macedonia. The alliance must become the strict guarantor ensuring that Slavic and Albanian Macedonians deal with their conflict on the basis of the rule of law."


A "Stratfor" commentary says that "NATO's entry into Macedonia will be a victory for the [ethnic Albanian] militants." It writes: "NATO plans to go in and transform Macedonia into a two-nation state. [But] as in Bosnia and Kosovo, NATO troops will have to stay in the country indefinitely, or major fighting will resume."

"Stratfor" continues: "Since most Macedonians want the government to wipe out the rebels and preserve the country's current status, massive protests or even an uprising are likely to topple [President Boris] Trajkovski's [pro-Western] government." It concludes: "By luring NATO in as an unwitting ally, Albanian guerillas will achieve by peaceful means what they were unable to do through military action."


An editorial in "The Wall Street Journal Europe" says that if Slobodan Milosevic is extradited to The Hague for war crimes, "his fate should serve as a deterrent to other like-minded thugs. His extradition would also be an example of how the 'international community' -- that amorphous institution often heard about but seldom seen -- can get one [thing] right."

The paper continues: "There are many aspects of international courts that give reasonable people pause. If and when [Milosevic's trial] does take place, [it] will not lay to rest the real disquiet many feel about [them]. An unwieldy permanent tribunal, answerable to no one and looking at all charges under the sun, is in the interest of none. [But a] court instituted to look at discrete events that took place in a particular time and place, and which enjoys bipartisan support, could well become a useful tool in international relations, especially if used sparingly."


In the "Financial Times," analyst Charles Grant writes that "it is now likely that the European Union will enlarge by a 'Big Bang': all those currently negotiating for accession, bar Bulgaria and Romania, would join in 2004 or perhaps 2005." This approach to enlargement, he warns, has its risks. "First, enlargement is likely to impair the quality of EU decision-making. [It] will be harder for 25 ministers to reach a good decision than 15. [Second,] enlargement is likely to aggravate the already serious problem of the EU's lack of legitimacy. The recent Danish and Irish referendums have shown that it is not only the British who have deep concerns about the way the EU is developing and a serious lack of trust in its leaders and institutions."

In addition, Grant says, "Greater diversity will weaken the sense of solidarity that helps to bind the Union together. [Will] rich West Europeans be as willing to pay for roads in Latvia, for example?" He suggests that in order to combat any divergence, the EU should emphasize common European values, and insist that applicants meet "the highest standards on human rights."

He concludes: "To highlight the perils of enlargement is not to call for a postponement. But Europe's leaders must think more seriously about the consequences."


Analyst Arthur B. Laffer writes in "The Wall Street Journal Europe": "Inflation in Euroland is a time bomb just waiting to go off. [As] the euro falls in the foreign exchange markets, [Wim] Duisenberg, the head of the European Central Bank, sits there twiddling his thumbs." Laffer continues: "The relationship between exchange-rate changes and inflation has long and visible lags. This confuses people and makes it hard for them to perceive the relationship clearly. But it's there."

He adds: "Very recently, [euro-zone] inflation has begun to rise while the euro continues to fall. Putting it all together paints a scary picture for Euroland inflation. Either the euro will rebound sharply, or Euroland's inflation rates will soon exceed those of the U.S. [and] be accompanied by significantly higher interest rates." He concludes: "If the ECB does not turn its attention to reversing the decline of the euro, last month's 3.4 percent inflation will seem like [nothing] in comparison."


Analyst George Ayittey writes in "The Wall Street Journal Europe" that this week's UN special session on AIDS was largely misguided in its assessment of the issue. He writes: "After bickering over the inclusion of words like 'homosexuals' and 'prostitutes,' the conference patched together an essentially rhetorical document, calling on governments to reduce infection rates and protect those at risk. Such gestures will not affect the spread of the disease in Africa."

He notes that several major pharmaceutical companies, after coming under much pressure to do so, "have offered to sell their AIDS drugs to poor nations at cost." But, Ayittey writes, "at cost" is still beyond the means of most Africans. He adds: "This is the wrong approach. For a disease which has no cure, prevention is a better approach."

He notes that African governments are largely to blame for the epidemic for spending scarce resources on military goods for "senseless civil wars." Health care systems for administering medicines have also largely broken down, as have other elements of infrastructure, further crippling the response to the epidemic.

Ayittey writes: "A solution will remain beyond our reach if there continues to be an excessive focus on drug companies and patents. This not only distracts attention from the delivery and prevention aspects of combating the disease, but also shields African governments from responsibility for its lightning, and lethal, spread."