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Western Press Review: Economic Issues Dominate Press Comments

Prague, 26 August 1998 (RFE/RL) -- Europe's editorial pages today show no unified theme but rather run the gamut from the fate of Russia, to the Taliban, Kosovo and British Airway's landmark deal with Airbus Industrie.

FINANCIAL TIMES: Boris Yeltsin's decision means the dismissal of the reformist agenda

The Financial Times in an editorial today "Dealing with a new Russia, says "Boris Yeltsin's decision to sack his government on Sunday was much more than a search for a scapegoat. It was also the dismissal of the reformist agenda. The west must now decide how to deal with this abrupt and important change in Russia's policy direction."

The paper continues: "Viktor Chernomyrdin, back in office as prime minister, will undoubtedly continue to follow policies that favor Russia's powerful oligarchs, on whom he relies for funding and political support. His actions will also be constrained by the communists, who dominate the Duma and will form part of his government, and who are strongly opposed to reform. Add to this he pressure of the presidential election in 2000 and the chances of further reform are bleak."

DER BUND: Now is a good time for the West to open a dialog with the Taliban

The Bern-based Swiss daily Der Bund in an editorial on Afghanistan says now is the time to dialog with the Taliban: "The Taliban constitute anything but a consolidated regime. Nor are they a unified block. various currents and viewpoints are bouncing around and less visibly from outside, colliding with each other. Now is a good time for the West and for the US in particular to open a dialog with the Taliban. Only in this way can a further radicalization be avoided and the attraction of Afghanistan as a training and hiding place from extremists and terrorists be prevented. Whether one likes it or not, today the Taliban have the real power in Afghanistan."

INTERNATIONAL HERALD TRIBUNE: It is untenable for Belgrade to reject international involvement

The Secretary General of the Council of Europe, in a commentary today in the International Herald Tribune says "for far too long, the Belgrade authorities have rejected international involvement in what they regard as their own affair. This position is untenable for at least three reasons. Firstly, it reflects an antiquated notion of sovereignty. In the Council of Europe - to which Yugoslavia aspires to belong - we are deeply convinced that human rights issues are our common concern and not the exclusive domain of any one state...."

The commentary continues: "Secondly, repression in Kosovo had a significant impact on other European states long before the recent violence started. Several hundred thousand Kosovars reside outside Yugoslavia. Third, autarky is no realistic option for Belgrade. To find a way out of Yugoslavia's poverty and self-isolation, its leaders cannot merely pretend to accept fundamental standards. They must do so also in practice. ...The Kosovo struggle revolves around the issue of self-government. For the Kosovo Albanians, restored autonomy is no longer enough. For the Serbs, independence is unthinkable. The chasm between these two seemingly irreconcilable positions is not unbridgeable. Recent European experience, from Northern Ireland to Moldova, shows that tailor-made solutions can be painstakingly developed."

FRANKFURTER ALLGEMEINE: If the Serbs continue this way nothing is going to come to a head

The German daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung comments on repeated western attempts to impose embargoes against Yugoslavia: "The governments of the European Union find it hard to bear the burden of responsibility for Kosovo. An embargo against the state-owned Yugoslav airline JAT has been decided. (But) Aircraft of western companies will be permitted to continue flying to Belgrade; and Yugoslavia remains tied to the world air transport system.... So there won't be anything in the near future with the embargo. Another embargo appears to have taken effect: no weapons for Yugoslavia -- which has its own huge arms production. While the Western governments express outrage and tirelessly call on Milosevic 'turn back!', the Serbian military machine in Kosovo proceeds to destroy one village after another. The ethnic Albanians are being forced to flee, their basis for living there is being systematically destroyed. For example, the German government says 'if things get any worse military intervention may be necessary'. If the Serbs continue this way nothing is going to come to a head. The situation is as bad as it is. This is not enough for the western world to intervene."

Air transport, and particularly an important British Airways' contract with Airbus Industrie, is the subject of commentaries in several European dailies today.

INTERNATIONAL HERALD TRIBUNE: The decision by British Airways adds to the woes of Boeing Co

Joseph Fitchett writing in the Paris-based International Herald Tribune comments that "The decision by British Airways to start buying jetliners from Airbus Industrie adds to the woes of Boeing Co. and signals growing sophistication in Britain's industrial dealings with its European neighbors..."

Fitchett notes: "BA's order - for as many as 188 short-haul planes worth a total of $11 billion ended a situation in which it was the only airline in Europe that had never bought from Airbus, even though a British company, British Aerospace, is a partner in the European consortium. ...For Boeing, there is a risk of being shut out of a booming European market at a time when the US company has been hit hard by economic woes in Asia, home to most customers for its long-haul 747 wide-body jets and its more recent long-range liner, the 777."

DIE PRESSE: The Airbus deal concerns bitter competition between two continents

Andreas Schnauder comments on the editorial page of the Vienna daily Die Presse that: "the significance of the (BA-Airbus) deal is far greater than expressed by the sums of thousands of millions -- it is a matter of prestige and control of the skies, it concerns bitter competition between two continents for dominance in a key sector. That sordid means are put to use in such a duel is in the nature of the business. Airbus and the EU make no bones about propping up the European consortium with thousands of millions. The justification for the subsidies: the high development costs can not be covered by the private sector. On the other side of the 'great pond' the subsidies are more subtle. There is hardly any direct aid to Seattle, but Boeing does profit from state, mainly military, contracts that are frequently accompanied by nice price mark-ups.... Only when the Europeans stand on their own feet, will they be able to compete genuinely with Boeing."