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Western Press Review: From the Bonn Accord To Macedonia And Indonesia

  • Khatya Chhor

Prague, 24 July 2001 (RFE/RL) -- Several commentaries in the Western press focus on the agreement reached in Bonn, Germany, between 178 countries pledging to cut greenhouse gas emissions. There is also continued discussion of the achievements and failures of last weekend's Genoa summit of the G-7 nations plus Russia, as well as comments on U.S.-Russia relations. Other issues addressed include the situation in Macedonia and Indonesia's new president, Megawati Sukarnoputri, who was sworn in yesterday.


An editorial in Britain's "Financial Times" says of the Bonn accord: "After months of acrimonious squabbling, four days of tense negotiations and ever-diminishing expectations of the treaty's survival, the politicians confounded the skeptics by reconciling their differences over the details of the [1997 Kyoto] protocol." The paper says the significance of the agreement goes beyond its consequences for global warming, noting that it is being hailed "as a triumph of international cooperation."

In contrast, the editorial agues, the Bonn agreement represents a foreign policy defeat for the United States. It quotes Jennifer Morgan of the World Wildlife Fund, a conservation group, as saying, "Other countries have demonstrated their independence from the Bush administration on the world's most critical environmental problem."

The "Financial Times" goes on to say: "Admittedly, the [European Union] made significant concessions in Bonn. During the course of the talks, it abandoned several principles it had previously maintained were crucial for the treaty's environmental integrity. It decided to relax its demands for tough limits on the trading of carbon 'credits' and the use of carbon 'sinks' -- namely forest and croplands -- which absorb carbon from the atmosphere. But the EU's pragmatism paid dividends," the paper adds. "Its flexibility gave Japan a much-improved chance of meeting its emissions reduction target, which would otherwise have been extremely demanding."


In the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung," Manfred Schaefers says that the Bonn accord was an important 11th-hour compromise, which now makes it possible for the ratification process of the Kyoto Protocol to begin. He writes:

"It is too early, however, for a proper evaluation of the Bonn agreement, for all the consequences of its finer points cannot yet be assessed. But one important outcome is already clear: The climate caravan will move on. Not even the United States was able to stop the others from making further headway."

"[The] Europeans," Schaefers continues, "have kept alive a treaty that stipulates fixed reduction targets for states that ratify it. The developing countries have accepted that the industrialized countries will lay down the rules governing the protocol's flexible mechanisms as they see fit. In return, they have received new financial pledges. The outcome is a deal in which everyone went to the very limits of where they could afford to go."

Schaefers remarks that "if one takes the ever-more-frequent warnings given by scientists seriously, [nation-] states will have to enter into firm obligations that include penalties." He concludes: "[Just] how much the reduction requirements are worth in the end will become apparent once the last open issue has been resolved -- compliance control. [Soft] sanctions can undermine hard reduction requirements."


"The New York Times" calls the Bonn agreement "a deal that salvages the 1997 Kyoto Protocol and commits the rest of the industrialized world [apart from the U.S.] to orderly, mandatory reductions in the gases that are believed responsible for the warming of the earth's atmosphere."

The editorial continues: "The agreement must still be ratified by 55 industrialized countries, and even then will not be nearly as effective as it might have been if the United States, which emits one-fourth of the world's greenhouse gases, had signed on. Even so, the agreement will immediately increase the pressure on the [U.S.] administration to develop a plausible alternative strategy."

The paper goes on to note that "cementing the [Bonn] deal required softening some of Kyoto's emissions targets as well as making concessions to Japan, which sought and received extra credits toward its target for protecting its forests, which act as a 'sink' for carbon dioxide through photosynthesis. And while the revised agreement gives extra credit to Japan for protecting its own forests, it perversely awards no credit at all for projects designed to stop tropical deforestation elsewhere." But the paper says that "even the severest critics conceded that these shortcomings were not disqualifying, given the importance of the agreement as a whole."


In the French daily "Liberation," Gerard Dupuy says in a commentary that the problem with the agreement concluded in Bonn on the Kyoto Protocol is that it is difficult to know whether the concessions made were necessary or were actually watered-down compromises. He writes: "To save the protocol, [the] Europeans knew how to exhibit true internal cohesion, [but] they also had to make so many concessions regarding the most reluctant participants that their success is not such that they [can truly] proclaim victory."

Dupuy adds that environmental policy should be what he calls "imperturbably reasonable and indefatigably consensual." The virtue of some is of no use if it leads others to laziness, he says. More specifically, the fight against the greenhouse effect will remain in vain if the aid of the United States and China can not be enlisted. Dupuy concludes that the Bonn agreement represents a victory -- perhaps only temporary -- of the spirit of diplomacy, based on the principle of responsibility. But he concludes that without a jump-start, particularly in regard to U.S. public opinion, the outlook on climate change will remain dim.


"Newsweek International" editor Fareed Zakaria says in a commentary that the protesters in Genoa were correct about a number of things. One is that the great political issues of our times are those surrounding globalization. He writes that the protesters were also correct in thinking that "globalization is probably widening inequality around the world."

Zakaria continues: "The world is being reshaped by a synergy between technological revolution and global capitalism. These twin forces have produced a series of concerns -- over environmentalism, bio-ethics, pharmaceutical research, cultural preservation, the future of the welfare system and state sovereignty itself -- which are being debated around the world."

He says that "Still, one of today's stark realities is enduring poverty and disease in large parts of the world. The protesters are right to say that this is in some ways linked to turbo-charged capitalism -- a system that rewards the talented and by the same token leaves behind those less skilled or suitable."

Zakaria says further: "It is a sad irony that many of the same people who highlight the desperate condition of poor countries oppose the only realistic solution for them: that they quickly and wholeheartedly embrace the technological revolution of our times. If there is a way for countries that seem mired at the bottom of the heap to climb their way out, it is a technological jump-start. [The] revolutions in science are taking place in three areas: medicine, food, and information. For a poor, disease-ridden country to break its free-fall, it must exploit all of them -- and fast."


In "The Washington Post," correspondent Peter Baker writes in a news analysis: "Bush's agreement with President Vladimir Putin on Sunday (22 July) to begin new discussions linking the future of the planned U.S. anti-missile program to further disarmament holds the promise of creating a new security framework between the two powers." But he adds, "the trail from concept to concrete could be a difficult one, complicated by domestic politics on each side."

Baker goes on: "Both presidents face military establishments that could be resistant to a deal. The Pentagon has opposed cutting strategic nuclear warheads to 1,500, as proposed by Putin, while the Russian military has bristled at the notion of acquiescing to a U.S. nuclear shield."

Baker says that according to analysts, "in his maneuvering with Bush, Putin was playing from a position of weakness. He understands he cannot dissuade the United States from pursuing missile defense and so has decided to try to get what he can from it." The commentator adds that analysts have noted that "Putin would prefer to find a pragmatic solution -- and be seen as an international player -- than to reveal Russia's impotence by complaining fruitlessly."


An editorial in the "Financial Times" also looks at the decision reached in Genoa between Putin and Bush to consider cuts in nuclear weapons and to continue discussion on missile defense. The paper writes: "The potential trade-off is that Russia may possibly concede basic changes in the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty of 1972, which severely restricts missile defenses. The U.S. may possibly accept that future cuts in nuclear weapons should be made in coordination with Russia and not unilaterally. Russia is ready for cuts too, but thinks unilateral action by the U.S. would be neither verifiable nor binding."

The paper adds that "the wording [of any agreement] will be all-important. Russia has joined China in arguing that the ABM Treaty is essential to world security. To save face, it will need to present any deal as providing for amendment or modernization of the ABM Treaty and not as the scrapping of it. A quick deal is important, too," the editorial adds, "because missile defense is only the first of two big security questions testing Russia and the West. The other question, of NATO enlargement, is less fudgeable and looming fast."


In the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung," commentator Klaus-Dieter Frankenberger writes: "European governments apparently do not know how to react to the agreement reached by the United States and Russia in Genoa. Their silence sounds like an admission that they were caught off guard. But it was entirely predictable that Moscow would agree to talks on Washington's planned missile defense system if they were linked to negotiations on cutting strategic nuclear arsenals. Both sides benefit from such a link," Frankenberger says.

"It enables Washington, which had already announced a reduction in offensive systems, to clear an early hurdle on the way to missile defense. And Moscow, by negotiating with Washington as an equal, remains a major player in the international arena."


An editorial in "The Wall Street Journal Europe" looks at the tenuous NATO-brokered cease-fire in Macedonia -- in place since 5 July -- and the politics behind it. The paper writes that "this drama may [illustrate] the fatal flaw in much contemporary conflict resolution." It says that with the ethnic Albanian National Liberation Army, or UCK, holding to a cease-fire, this month's talks in Skopje between Macedonian officials and Albanian politicians are "presumptively between rational, democratic parties bent on a fairer, freer country. That's a pretty picture, but the reality is less wholesome."

"Typically," the editorial continues, "the post-cease-fire insurgency enjoys a best of both worlds. It can punch above its democratic weight, since the grateful government is terrified of violent backsliding. Yet an insurgency on cease-fire is unburdened by the stigma of brutality, and can therefore more easily attract outside supporters like the U.S. and EU, now mediating the Skopje talks."

The paper sums up: "The political advantage conferred by military muscle at rest also transfers to nonviolent representatives of the same minority. We peaceable folk would never do anything disagreeable, runs the subtext, but our twitchy friends -- with the same agenda -- might get upset if you don't fold. Hence lawful Albanian nationalists can't help but have an ambivalent relationship to violence that so magically enhances the urgency of their cause."


An editorial in "The New York Times" says: "The swearing in of Megawati Sukarnoputri yesterday as Indonesia's fourth president in the last three fractious years brought an abrupt but largely peaceful end to the ineffectual rule of [former President] Abdurrahman Wahid. Though Mr. Wahid refused to vacate the presidential palace, his resistance appeared to be futile. With the elevation of Mrs. Megawati, who was vice president, Indonesians must now belatedly address daunting economic and social problems that continue to threaten the stability of the world's fourth-most-populous nation."

The editorial goes on to say that, with her accession to the presidency, Megawati "inherits a bewildering array of political and economic challenges, to which she brings limited experience and an opaque outlook."

The paper makes several suggestions as to how Megawati should approach the role of head of state. "As vice president she surrounded herself with respected economic advisers and tightened the state budget," it writes. "She now needs to sit down with lenders and re-negotiate the country's crippling debt. She must also move to fight corruption, build the rule of law, and reduce the military's role in business."

The paper also contends that Megawati should "use her ties to the military to assert civilian authority over the army and rationalize its command structure, bringing local commanders under national control. She must recognize that negotiations rather than repression represent the only solution to Indonesia's separatist conflicts."