By Khatya Chhor and Dora Slaba
Prague, 27 July 2001 (RFE/RL) -- Several commentaries in the Western press today look at the situation in Macedonia, where a cease-fire continues to stave off what some observers are calling a "full-scale civil war" between Albanian insurgents and the Macedonian government. Other issues addressed include EU and NATO Eastward expansion, the violence at last week's G-7 plus Russia conference in Genoa, and whether Third-World producers will benefit from globalization. Yesterday's release of two U.S.-based Chinese scholars and last week's climate-control agreement in Bonn are also discussed.
THE WASHINGTON POST:
An editorial in "The Washington Post" considers the situation in Macedonia and says that Western intervention -- both diplomatic and military -- is needed to address the conflict. The "Post" writes: "Concerted and intensive Western diplomacy now will be necessary to prevent the kind of ethnic crackup that previously devastated Bosnia and Kosovo -- and that would require a still greater Balkan commitment by NATO. [Macedonia] may prove impossible to reconstruct once it falls apart. Already, refugees are fleeing across ethnic lines, the familiar first stage of a Balkan 'ethnic cleansing' that could segregate Slavs and Albanians in two hostile territorial enclaves. For the West, such a de facto partition would be disastrous: It would not only likely require yet another long-term peacekeeping force but also would greatly complicate the already thorny problem of how to respond to the demand of Kosovo's Albanians for full sovereignty."
The paper continues: "Saving Macedonia, if that is possible, will probably require the kind of extraordinary effort that the Bush administration wants to avoid in the Balkans. [But] American intervention is vital for swaying the Albanian leadership -- both political and military -- which, after the Kosovo war, sees the United States as an ally and protector." The editorial concludes: "As so often before in the Balkans, the price in diplomatic and military resources will seem high; and as before, a failure to pay that price now will probably mean paying a still higher one later."
THE WALL STREET JOURNAL EUROPE:
In "The Wall Street Journal Europe," Vitomir Raguz, the former ambassador of Bosnia-Herzegovina to the EU and NATO, writes: "Thursday's announcement of a resumption of talks between [the Macedonian government in] Skopje and the [ethnic Albanian] rebels came as a relief to many. But even if the two sides are willing to negotiate, and eventually reach a settlement, the likelihood of it sticking for long is very low. The West may be better off putting the plan on hold until it fully reconsiders its overall policy in the Balkans. [The] current policy is based on the goal of ensuring that each person in the Balkans enjoys basic rights, as an individual. [The] Dayton peace agreement lists a plethora of international individual rights conventions, but none dealing with a key element of the state structure -- the rights of 'constituent peoples.' The issues related to interactions among distinct communities have been overlooked. [Yet] these lie at the heart of current tensions."
Raguz continues: "Collective rights are in question: either the right to associate with a 'mother' country in an institutional way, or to have effective political and economic power as a distinct ethnic group of citizens of a new country. [The] new policy in the region, therefore, will need to address national-group questions -- developing a consistent collective-rights architecture based on autonomy in an institutional and territorial sense."
Commentators in the German press, meanwhile, seem to be united in the opinion that Macedonia is on the verge of war. Rolf Paasch in the "Frankfurter Rundschau" says: "Whether the Albanian extremists are ready to withdraw to their former positions, whether the government in Skopje is prepared to undersign another cease-fire, the situation in Macedonia remains hopeless, since all plausible compromises are lacking the appropriate instruments and political will." This applies to both conflicting parties who have long viewed themselves as at war, as well as to the EU and NATO mediators, who are in the process of losing their role.
However, Paasch says, fighting will not solve the problems. He writes: "Much can be deduced from the current situation in Macedonia -- except for anything approaching a paradise situation. The basis for NATO's stock resolutions serve as a scenario for a voluntary fire-brigade, not for NATO." Moreover, he adds, the situation is not as "confusing" as German officials claim. Unfortunately, the plans drafted in Brussels and Berlin can in no way meet the requirements of solving the conflict between Skopje and Tetovo. Wishful thinking is useless. Paasch concludes: "A realistic analysis of the situation in Macedonia should be the subject of the debate."
An editorial in the "Sueddeutsche Zeitung" likewise sees Macedonia poised on the brink of war. "Military advance and political retreat point in the same direction: Macedonia is drawing toward a civil war."
Meanwhile, it says, the negotiations being conducted by Western diplomats are overloaded to a great degree by real apprehensions and unrealistic expectations, so that the mediators can in fact do little more than maintain their own courage. They have no effective means at their disposal to impel the contracting parties to feel an obligation to reach a compromise. There is no way of buying or forcing attitudes.
The editorial concludes: "When only one side boycotts an agreement, bringing pressure to bear can help. But in Macedonia, both sides are in favor of escalation."
Finally, Boris Kalnoky in "Die Welt" looks at the role of Macedonian Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski, tracing the premier's political development from a liberal to a nationalistic stance. Kalnoky says now that Georgievski has shifted blame to the West -- claiming it is responsible for the conflict for aiding the Albanian National Liberation Army (UCK) -- he has become a national hero.
Kalnoky writes: "Only when Georgievski lends credibility to his opinion that people will not take the situation lying down will the West, out of fear of a popular uprising, strengthen its pressure on the Albanians. [Georgievski] sometimes appears to be mad, [but] in actual fact he is the most capable of the UCK's opponents. The West would be ill-advised to underestimate him."
THE INTERNATIONAL HERALD TRIBUNE:
In the "International Herald Tribune," columnist Flora Lewis says that Europe's two main institutions, the European Union and NATO, act as beacons of normalcy in the continent's volatile history. Lewis writes: "Europe's former communist countries struggle to emerge from the damage and to create liberal democracies, with differing degrees of success. [The] fact that the EU and NATO exist as model and magnet provides the most encouraging hope that at long last even these often benighted and belligerent countries of the East will evolve into stable [societies]."
She continues: "In the last years of communism, when dissidents were asked what they were trying to create to replace the system they had learned to detest, they often avoided what seemed like utopian abstractions and said, 'a normal country.' That meant: like a country of Western Europe, free, productive, confident, unafraid. That is what the EU and NATO mean now to aspirant members. If they didn't exist and didn't offer eventual admission, [there] would not be much assurance that narrow political passions, historic enmities, selfish ambitions and destructive populism could not repeat traditional triumphs over dedicated democratic ideals. These two major institutions assure the watershed change to peace for Europe."
Lewis concludes: "Europe's two key institutions represent the essence of its advance out of war and oppression. As Jean Monnet, the founder of what has become the EU, kept saying, the only way the lessons of history stay learned is when they are embodied in institutions."
An analysis in the French daily "Le Monde" by Rome correspondent Salvatore Aloise says that in the wake of violent clashes between police and protesters at last week's G-7 plus Russia conference in Genoa, Italian opposition parties are demanding explanations from Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.
"Le Monde" says that Berlusconi should be speaking to the Italian Senate today to draw final conclusions on the Genoa summit. It writes: "The line of defense of the right has not varied since the debate exploded concerning the behavior of the police. [It can be put] in a phrase: 'each one carried out his duty within the framework of a strategy of violence that was targeted at the summit.' In spite of criticism, Mr. Berlusconi remains confident."
"Le Monde" notes that in 1994, some months after Berlusconi's entrance into politics, he welcomed the world leaders of the G-7 to Naples for a UN conference on organized crime. At this meeting, in front of the whole world, he received an indictment for corruption, which eventually led to the fall of his short-lived first government.
The current controversy over the Genoa summit, "Le Monde" says, risks reinvigorating the social opposition. And while waiting for Berlusconi's controversial pension reform plan, the government risks finding more demonstrators in the streets than those who, in 1994, contributed to the fall of the first Berlusconi team.
Also in "Le Monde," Jean-Luc Duval writes in a commentary that U.S. President George W. Bush's conviction that the prosperity of the richest countries will allow the poorer countries to create wealth is not just inaccurate, but also dangerous. Of the 6 billion individuals on earth 800 million go hungry every day, and more than 2 billion suffer from nutritional deficiencies, he says. According to most forecasts, the earth's population will be 10-12 billion in about 50 years.
"The calculation," Duval writes, "is simple. It is necessary to multiply world food production by more than three." Duval notes that there are currently about 1.3 billion farmers responsible for food production. About 1 billion work land equal to about 1 hectare, he says, producing the equivalent of 10 quintals (one quintal is 100 kilograms) of cereal equivalents per worker per year. The others have basic farm equipment and are responsible for up to 10,000 quintals of cereal equivalents per worker per year. He writes: "Bush's project proposes putting these producers of 10,000 quintals per year [in a market] with those that produce 10. You call this 'competition'? I call it [a] massacre."
Duval writes that free-trade advocates believe wholeheartedly that any stake in competition is good. But in agriculture it is an absurdity, he says. Placing the agriculture of the world in competition will have the same effect it does in other economic sectors: prices will fall. When the prices fall, the least-successful farmers will stop producing and move to the cities.
Duval writes: "I am for globalization: But for the globalization [of] protected common markets. For the free-market economy where everyone is in the same category." By entrusting agriculture to the forces of competition, he says, one generates more insolvency than income.
THE NEW YORK TIMES:
In "The New York Times," Craig Smith looks at yesterday's release of two U.S.-based Chinese scholars and says that in spite of occasional high-profile successes, "most cases fall by the wayside." He notes that among many others, Qu Wei, a Chinese citizen also jailed in the case, remains in a Beijing prison cell, charged with providing photocopies of speeches and magazine articles to the released Gao Zhan.
Smith writes: "Some people charge that the Chinese government adeptly manipulates American concerns for individual rights by releasing people like Ms. Gao ahead of important meetings with American officials, creating a subtle undercurrent of indebtedness on the part of the Americans that can color bilateral talks. [U.S.] Secretary of State Colin Powell, the most senior Bush administration official to visit Beijing, arrives on Saturday."
Smith quotes Perry Link, a China specialist at Princeton University, as saying: "[The two releases] may have the effect of making Powell feel grateful and then perhaps not being as firm on underlying issues." Smith remarks that "China has often released well-known political dissidents from jail shortly before meetings with American officials. [By] releasing Ms. Gao and Qin Guangguang, China may have won something of a reprieve on human rights. [Secretary] Powell suggested in comments earlier this week [that] the United States was not going to fall for such a strategy. [But] other cases of people jailed in China for political crimes [risk] slipping back down the diplomatic ranks to a level where movement is excruciatingly slow."
An editorial in the "Chicago Tribune" discusses the climate-change agreement reached in Bonn. It writes: "The Bonn negotiators patted themselves on the back and the crowd jeered the U.S. for staying out of the talks. But, in the end, the only way the negotiators could walk out with an agreement was to produce a treaty that greatly scaled back its aspirations to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, let some of the largest nations off the hook and carried no threat of enforcement."
The "Tribune" remarks that earlier, negotiators had refused to consider "concessions that would give industrialized nations more flexibility to meet emissions goals. In the end, to salvage the talks, they wound up making some of the concessions that might well have kept the U.S. in the process. Kyoto, in its current form, won't deliver on its promise. [It] is flawed, in part, because it relies so heavily on reducing carbon dioxide emissions produced by burning fossil fuels rather than on reducing all greenhouse gases, including methane and industrial soot. [But] what has happened of significance in recent months is the growing acceptance that global warming is, indeed, a problem."
The paper concludes: "Any solution to this problem clearly requires American participation. The U.S. contributes about one quarter of the world's greenhouse gases and 36 percent of carbon dioxide emissions. But a solution that devastates the U.S. economy or throws the world into global recession is no solution at all."