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Western Press Review: Albania's Turmoil Is Italy's Mischief Maker

Prague, 8 April 1997 (RFE/RL) -- In the Balkans, one country's rainstorms invariably tend to spatter the neighboring lands. Some Western commentary examines how the deluge in Albania is falling on politics in Italy.

WALL STREET JOURNAL EUROPE: The Italian leader has to take a stand against a minority party

Referring to Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi's shaky "Olive Tree coalition," the paper headlines an editorial "Italy's Olive Tree Cracks" today. The paper urges Prodi to take a stand against Italy's communists on the issue of leading a military peacekeeping force into Albania.

The newspaper says: "In the course of (Prodi's) first year in office, Fausto Bertinotti regularly has announced his definitive refusal to back the government in plans usually involving economic policy. In most cases Mr. Prodi has compromised with the Rifondazione Communista (unreformed Communist Party) leader, on whose votes (his coalition) depends."

The editorial says: "Ironically, the issue that now threatens to shatter the brittle coalition's alliance with Rifondazione, Mr. Prodi's proposal to send Italian troops to lead (an Albanian) relief effort, has nothing to do with the usual subjects of their fallouts."

The Journal concludes: "At some point, the Italian leader will have to make a principled stand against a minority party holding him hostage on so many important issues. Now seems as good a time as any."

CORRIERE DELLA SERA: Albania is a long way from a stable country

The Italian newspaper says in a commentary that the proposed mission is dangerous for Italy, and that even humanitarian aid carries political overtones. The newspaper says: "Albania is still a long way from becoming a stable country. Power remains in the hands of the Kalashnikovs (semi-automatic rifles). Should our fears be allayed by (Albanian Prime Minister Bashkim) Fino, who was sent packing home by armed men, or by the smiling President (Sali) Berisha, who remains besieged in his palace? Humanitarian aid yes or no, the mission is fraught with dangers."

The commentary says: "In a wounded Albania, gift packages from those who are assisting take on a political significance and will be exploited for blackmail and provocations of every kind."

WASHINGTON POST: Italy is taking a rare turn at leading an international military intervention

Foreign correspondent Daniel Williams wrote from Rome in a news analysis yesterday that Prodi's task is complicated by Italy's inexperience at taking the international lead. He wrote: "Italy is taking a rare turn at leading an international military intervention, and the prospects of trouble ahead have created intense nervousness here."

Williams said: "Risks are great because much of (Albania) is under the control of rebel groups and criminal gangs. In Albania, the lives of Italy's soldiers are at stake and so is the life of the Prodi government which, as a result of the desertion of Communist support in Parliament over the issue, is now in a de facto legislative minority."

The Post correspondent noted that Albanian refugees are flooding Italy, complicating any moral issue the Prodi government may hope to address. He said the government "is faced with a political reality -- Italians resent unrestricted immigration."

He wrote that even though Italy is a major trading partner of Albania, "The main concern of Italians is keeping the Albanians at home."

FINANCIAL TIMES: Albania is an important domestic and foreign issue in Italy

The British newspaper carries today a news analysis by Robert Graham, who says that the Italian government is readying for a showdown over Albania. He writes: "Over the past month, Albania has emerged as an important domestic and foreign issue (in Italy) because of the thousands of illegal immigrants that have fled to Italy." Graham writes: "All the parties in the government have become exasperated with Mr. Bertinotti's determination to go it alone regardless of the consequences."

POLITIKEN: The current anarchy stems from a collapse of morale and a hunger for fast money

Prominent Albanian author Ismail Kadare provided a commentary published yesterday in the Danish newspaper. Albania's problems go deeper, he said, than the current situation. They're the product of a black pessimism thrust upon Albanians by years of negativity.

Kadare wrote: "The current anarchy (not only) stems from a collapse of morale and hunger for fast money, but also has roots in the negative psychosis that for years has plagued Albania. Day and night, the Albanians have been told that their country is doomed and that they have no future. Foreign media have contributed to the despondency as they mirrored Albania only whenever something bad happened there. As Albanians have access to Western media, they became fed to a fatal degree with this picture of their country."

He wrote: "Albania needs political and moral help and it should be given not only to the sitting government and the opposition but also to the rebels themselves. They need a clear signal that Europe and the United States are ready to do whatever is necessary to prevent a tragedy of enormous dimensions."

Single European Currency

On a different topic, two German newspapers publish opposing analyses today about the prospects for a single European currency. Andreas Middel writes in "Die Welt" that European finance ministers meeting in Noordwijk over the weekend took positive steps toward a strong euro. In the "Suddeutsche Zeitung," Winifried Munster says, however, that the euro won't make a united Europe. The euro itself needs a stable European order to work, he says.

DIE WELT: The procedure should be complete by May 1998

Middel writes: "The 15 finance ministers and central bank heads fixed the timetable for introducing the euro, (and) the whole procedure should be finished by May 1998. Even more important than fixing the schedule though, was the agreement on the stability measures which will now be encoded into European law. (They) also removed some of the loopholes that could have let off more lightly countries breaking the deficit limit."

The writer says: "The two measures together -- hard penalties and cutting down loopholes -- can be only good for the future stability of the euro, especially as the participating countries have committed themselves to virtually balancing their budgets in the future."

SUDDEUTSCHE ZEITUNG: The euro has a remote influence on integration

Munster writes: "The euro only has at most a remote influence on European integration. The single currency has always been driven by the nationalist motives of member states. It has become necessary not because the participants have a united Europe in mind, but because France, and France alone, can no longer tolerate the dominance of the Bundesbank on currency, fiscal, and interest rate policies."

The writer says: "Even if the single currency had any chance of functioning, resistance would still be there because globalization offers no definite objective. In other words, what the Euro really needs is a stable order of European states."