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Western Press Review: Kosovo And War's Aftermath

Prague, 2 August 1999 (RFE/RL) -- In the summer doldrums, Western press commentary turns largely inward, to domestic and provincial affairs. But commentators devote some space to Kosovo and the aftermath of war.

In a Wall Street Journal news analysis, reporter John Reed says that the Balkan Stability Pact summit last Friday in Sarajevo was more prologue than event. Reed writes: "For sponsors of the Stability Pact for Southeast Europe, the hard work is just beginning. On Friday, leaders of about 40 countries and half as many international bodies ended a 24-hour summit to launch the initiative, which aims to curb conflicts in the region and speed its integration with the West, with participants endorsing a sonorous final declaration promising to promote human rights and regional ties."

But, the writer says, the general promise lacked the conviction that more specific pledges would have provided. Reed writes: "The meeting yielded few concrete pledges of financial assistance, much less a sweeping aid package similar to the U.S.-backed post-World War Two Marshall Plan with which it has been compared." He says: "The pact aims to address the regions endemic poverty and instability, which (long-)delayed Western military interventions and piecemeal aid efforts have done little to help. It also is motivated by enlightened self-interest on the part of Europe, which has absorbed hundreds of thousands of refugees and economic migrants from the region since 1990."

The Wall Street Journal Europe also publishes a commentary by deputy editorial page editor Mike Gonzalez. He sees reasons for optimism about Kosovo aid efforts and also cause for concern. "There is," Gonzalez writes, "quite a lot of good will to build upon among the Kosovars of Albanian descent, who had endured years of Serbian oppression."

He adds: "Unfortunately, there are some people who want to see the Kosovo experiment fail. It runs counter to state sovereignty, for one thing, given that Kosovo still is legally a province of Serbia. There also is prejudice against Islam, and most Kosovars are Muslims. Some people who don't trust (British Prime Minister Tony) Blair or U.S. President Bill Clinton for other reasons would not be unhappy to see this effort fall apart."

Gonzalez writes: "But it would be awful if it did. The Kosovars are good people They have been treated like dogs but they came right back from abroad to rebuild their homes as soon as they could, contradicting many a prediction. It would be great if the international community could get this one right."

The Boston Globe said in an editorial this weekend: "If it is true that Washington and its NATO allies stumbled into an unwanted war for Kosovo, it is equally true that the victors have stumbled into a treacherous stewardship of postwar Kosovo." The newspaper says: "The basic concept of Kosovo as a temporary protectorate in the care of NATO peacekeeping soldiers and UN administrators is beginning to look like an unworkable contradiction. Because the international custodians have left ambiguous the crucial question of who will govern a territory that still belongs to Serbia only in the most technical sense, the province is being taken over, undemocratically, by the Kosovo Liberation Army."

The editorial declares: "The primary goal of the international community should be to foster true democratic governance by Kosovars, preventing Kosovo from becoming a replica of Albania's bandit state."

In an editorial today, the British financial daily Financial Times contends that stability in the Balkans will require prosperity and that the trip to prosperity necessarily must begin in the minds and governments of the region. The newspaper says: "The Sarajevo summit for stability in Southeast Europe should not be judged by its immediate achievements, which were extremely modest, but by its long-term results."

The editorial says: "A donors' meeting already is scheduled for the autumn. Detailed programs should be ready for implementation before the year-end. The aim is admirable: to integrate the Balkans into the rest of Europe by promoting peace and prosperity and preparing the region for eventual members in the EU and NATO."

It concludes: "External support is essential but on its own it can do little. Countries that want prosperity must achieve it largely by their own efforts (and) the next few months will show whether the Sarajevo summit has helped advance such thinking by even a little in the Balkans."

Two writers -- in the Financial Times and The Washington Post -- pursue two other Kosovo topics: punishing the criminals, and pursuing economic normalcy. Both are problematic, the writers contend. In The Washington Post, Charles Trueheart says in a news analysis: "The quick, massive arrival of investigators in Kosovo suggests that the machinery of justice may move toward a relatively swift resolution. Teams (from the former Yugoslavia war crimes tribunal in The Hague) were preceded by de-mining missions, surrounded by guards, and accompanied by planeloads of volunteers from documentation services and forensic agencies of many nations. They were flanked by more UN personnel, aid workers, and media."

Trueheart writes: "But the events in Kosovo obscure the reality of prosecuting atrocities. The process is slow, fitful, frustrating, perhaps doomed to be incomplete forever. And the course of justice in neighboring Bosnia and Croatia offers daily reminders of how much time it can take."

Kevin Dono writes from Pristina in The Financial Times: "The streets of Pristina, Kosovo's provincial capital, are bustling with trade and activity again only weeks after the departure of Serb army and police forces and the arrival of the NATO-led KFOR troops. But it is the commerce of a completely black economy that is thriving in an environment totally lacking in any form of regulation." Dono says: "With all its other tasks, UNMIK (the United Nations interim administration in Kosovo) must now create market institutions and regulations, but for the moment, in practice, it is the NATO-led KFOR forces that fill the gap."