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Western Press Review: In the Balkans, an Agreement or More Division?

By Don Hill and Katerzyna Wysocka

Prague, August 8 (RFE/RL) -- In the Bosnian city of Mostar, European Union negotiators declared a victory Tuesday. Croatian and Muslim leaders at long last had agreed to work together to administer the town. Near Athens yesterday, Croat President Franjo Tudjman and Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic--at a Greek-arranged low-key summit -- evidently reached an accomodation for future diplomatic recognition and cooperation. Those involved called this a victory also. Western press commentators aren't so sure about either case.

WALL STREET JOURNAL EUROPE: Bosnia's fate will be sealed by the deal between the strongmen of Croatia and Serbia

Jonathan Eyal is director of studies at the Royal United Services Institute in London. He writes in a commentary today: "European Union negotiators are congratulating themselves. . . . With intense pressure and some brinkmanship, Croat and Muslim leaders (in Mostar) agreed Tuesday to cooperate. . . . Yet far from heralding a period of stability leading up to the September 14 general elections throughout the republic, the crisis in Mostar is but the latest indication of the litany of errors that Western governments still are committing in the Balkans."

Eyal concludes: "The latest agreement, which the EU brokered with American assistance. . . , is mostly irrelevant. It merely buys time for both Croats and Bosnian Serbs, who are counting on the international presence to legitimize the ethnic division of Bosnia. . . . It looks as if Bosnia's fate will be sealed by the deal that was being discussed yesterday in Athens between the strongmen of Croatia and Serbia just as the EU congratulates itself for having brokered a new peace."

LONDON GUARDIAN: The election in Bosnia could trigger a return to crisis

The paper today publishes an analysis by its Central Europe correspondent Ian Traynor. Traynor writes: "Former Yugoslavia moved closer to a post-war settlement yesterday when the two key strongmen. . . signalled their intention to conclude a mutual recognition pact later this month. . . . Under the U.S.-brokered (Dayton) peace process, Bosnia faces its first post-war election next month, a poll that the international community hopes will smooth the halting progress towards a peaceful modus operandi among the conflicting parties. But the election could just as easily trigger a return to crisis, confrontation and creeping war. . . . The two ruthless, shrewd and authoritarian presidents are widely viewed as the foremost villains in fomenting the bloodbaths that accompanied the dismemberment of the former Yugoslavia."

DIE WELT: The Croats evidently accept the results of elections only if they like them

In a commentary in today's edition of the German newspaper, Werner vom Busch writes: "The EU mission will remain for another six months in Mostar. But what is going to happen afterwards? The Croats have made clear by their behavior that oppose reunification of the city. Evidently they accept the results of elections only if they like them. Croatia's President Tudjman, who influenced the negotiations massively, probably wanted to avoid alienating the EU. He made his concessions mainly to keep the financial aid flowing. In 1994-'95 alone about ($126.5 million) flowed into Mostar. Further millions have been allowed for. So Tudjman finds it worthwhile to give declarations of intent which probably aren't worth the paper on which they are written. Apparently they will only be kept if they fit into the Croats' scenario. This was proven in the past."

FRANKFURTER ALLGEMEINE ZEITUNG: Western powers treat Serbia as a regional force for order

Today's paper says in an editorial: "It looks strange indeed that Tudjman, the president of aggression-victim Croatia, is meeting with the president of the aggressor Serbia. . . , but that's what the Western powers wanted. They have committed themselves to treat Serbia as a regional force for order. If Tudjman were to reject talking to Milosevic, the Western governments would fault him for it. . . . Tudjman profits from the fact that Milosevic needs him. The roads from Serbia to Central and Western Europe lead through Croatia. Croatia, though it has been hit hard by the war, is economically and socially far ahead of Serbia."

LONDON INDEPENDENT: Serbs may have a bitter taste in their mouths

Europe editor Tony Barber writes in an analysis in today's paper: "Yesterday's agreement may leave a bitter taste in the mouths of Serbs who thought the purpose of the Serb-Croat wars of 1991-'95 was to protect Serb minorities in Croatia, or merge their areas into an expanded Greater Serbian state. . . . Although the Bosnian war ended with Serbs gaining 49 percent of Bosnia, this was little compensation for the epochal defeat suffered in Croatia. Yet so tight is Mr. Milosevic's control of Serbia that he has paid no price for this catastrophe."

LE MONDE: The Serb-Croat agreement distorts the Mostar and Bosnian elections

In a commentary in today's edition of the French newspaper, Daniel Vernet writes: "The common vision for ex-Yugoslavia of Franjo Tudjmans and Slobodan Milosevic has a name; it is division, dividing the territory between a 'greater Serbia' and a 'greater Croatia'. They have been pursuing division -- with varying luck -- since the beginning of the conflict. They are trying to advance their vision by dividing -- this means cutting up -- Bosnia-Herzegovina. . . . With the Croats' claim of a Herzog-Bosnia to constitute their own state, (yesterday's) agreement distorts Mostar and the Bosnian elections scheduled for September 14. It threatens to be a triumph for the most nationalistic in each community. United Bosnia seems to be far away. And the wreckers of Belgrade and Zagreb still have to get down to work."