Accessibility links

Western Press Review: From Macedonia To World Food Summit

  • Don Hill

Prague, 8 August 2001 (RFE/RL) -- In the Western newspapers our press review surveys today, commentary examines an array of issues.


Britain's "Financial Times" says in an editorial that U.S., EU, and NATO diplomats have done well to propel Macedonia away from its imminent civil war, but that they must think bigger about a proposed international force. The newspaper says: "Their efforts could be in vain unless they deploy a substantial security force."

The present plan is to send 3,500 international troops into Macedonia for 30 days, and to confine their task to collecting arms voluntarily surrendered by ethnic Albanian rebels. The editorial says: "This is unrealistic. Guerrilla armies rarely give up their arms so fast. At best, they hide them and wait to see whether they will be needed again."

The newspaper says: "The EU and the United States are understandably reluctant to create another international Balkan protectorate alongside Bosnia and Kosovo. A third deployment would strain NATO's resources. [But] if they fail, the country could be plunged into civil war. NATO might then be forced to intervene anyway, at much greater human and financial cost."


The "Los Angeles Times" editorializes that while the eyes of the world are fixed upon the Israelis and the Palestinians, another Mideastern drama is brewing. The newspaper says that the clerics of Iran, fearful of losing control over the country, have gone on the offensive. Iran's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, twice postponed the swearing-in of President Mohammad Khatami. Khatami's inauguration was finally held today.

The newspaper says: "Khatami is no Nelson Mandela, determined to bring freedom and democracy to his nation. He's more a Nikita Khrushchev, attractive only in comparison with the retrogressive hard-liners around him. But given the level of oppression in Iran, Khatami's tentative calls for liberalization are enough to make him the enemy of conservatives -- and the repository of society's hopes."

The editorial says that the outcome of the power dispute between Iran's reformists and conservatives will have far-reaching consequences. It says, "The dispute will have an important effect on whether Iran follows a reform course or remains hostage to Islamic fundamentalism." It goes on: "The divisions over Khatami's investiture are emblematic of Iranian society. Khatami's landslide victory shows that the clear majority of Iranians want change. But as history shows, a determined and fanatical minority can, up to a point, inflict its will."


In the "Sueddeutsche Zeitung," commentator Heiko Krebs in Vienna says that the Austrians have moved with good sense and grace to compensate Czech Nazi-era slave laborers. Austria followed Germany in paying the compensation, but, he writes, Germany could learn lessons in diplomacy from Austria. Krebs says: "[After] the wrangling over compensation that the Czechs experienced with Germany, Prague is much happier with the Austrians as a negotiating partner."

The writer says: "An agreement on compensation with Austria actually was reached only in October last year. Now both sides are concentrating their efforts on sorting out the payments as quickly as possible. [Czech Foreign Minister Jan] Kavan praised the 'transparent and simple administrative process for the victims' in arranging payment."

Krebs writes: "The trust has more than $384 million at its disposal. Half of it originated from public funds, the other half from the business community. [And] the ex-slave laborers only are obliged to declare that they have no further claims against Austrian companies beyond the statutory payment." Krebs concludes: "The payments are being handled by the Czech Savings Bank, another sign of Austro-Czech cooperation: the financial house was bought last year by Austria's Erste Bank."


Constanze von Bullion writes from Berlin in the "Sueddeutsche Zeitung" that the PDS -- the Party of Democratic Socialism, successor party to the Socialist Unity Party of Germany that ran communist East Germany for some 40 years -- is seeking a rebirth.

She writes: "To open [today] in what almost seems like an oversized fishbowl on Berlin's Karl Marx Boulevard, in the shadow of the monumental, white-tiled Stalinistic high-rises of East Berlin's first postwar public housing project, Gregor Gysi planted his campaign headquarters in one of the German capital's most down-to-earth and central sections. [Gysi's] party is the PDS."

"To score 20-plus percent in [coming parliamentary elections], and to break the five percent barrier in the West, the party is even willing to apologize for parts of its [communist East German] past."

Von Bullion writes: "[Andre] Brie, the PDS's traditional iconoclast, has taken on the job of managing Gysi's campaign. [He says] the party faces a strategic situation in the Berlin election [in October]. 'Here's where the PDS starts on its way into mainstream German politics -- and what a symbolic place to start,' he says, 'right in the German capital.' Indeed. Right in the German capital. Of course it starts right here, right at the foot of Karl Marx Boulevard."


Steven Everts, of the Center for European Reform, comments in the "International Herald Tribune" that Europe should take steps to repair the former closeness of its U.S. ties. Everts says, "Something is seriously wrong in the relationship between the United States and Europe." He writes, "The hard fact is that Europe and the United States are drifting apart in their overall world outlook."

Everts says that the United States has developed a "skepticism about the value of international rules and norms, coupled with a strong preference for both military spending and coercive diplomacy. As a result some have argued, with only a degree of exaggeration, that the team [of U.S. President George W.] Bush has a survivalist foreign policy doctrine." The writer says: "In Europe [the rule of law], international treaties and institutions are seen as the preferred means to harness power and advance common interests."

The commentator proposes the EU takes these steps to regain U.S. amity:

"recognize that regaining U.S. support for global agreements is a key foreign policy priority;

"improve its own performance in foreign policy by making greater efforts to match words with deeds;

"learn to use its considerable economic power and the various instruments at its disposal, such as trade policy, humanitarian aid, and economic and technical assistance, to support a political strategy;

"think more globally when it comes to hard security questions; and

"finally, [improve] the representation of their views to members of Congress."


Under the headline, "Fight or Flight," "The Wall Street Journal Europe" editorializes: "Surveying the havoc wreaked by anarchists at the [G-7 plus Russia] summit in Genoa, Italy's Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has now proposed moving an upcoming World Food Summit from Rome to Africa."

The editorial says: "We can only conclude that Mr. Berlusconi wants to send the First World suburban anarchists to a place where some other leader will get the blame when the balaclava-wearing set starts smashing store windows and daring the police to shoot them. [But] the real way to deal with the protesters is not to deny them an inviting target, like Rome, but to focus police counterintelligence efforts on the violent gangs that make up a part of the antiglobalization movement."

The newspaper concludes: "Prime Minister Berlusconi's proposed change of venue may be motivated by fear of violence, but support for it comes from hope for change. Let's not cave in to the protesters; let's educate them about the real world."