Accessibility links

Breaking News

Western Press Review: Commentary Focuses On Kosovo And Other Topics

Prague, 31 October 2000 (RFE/RL) -- Kosovo remains the most discussed topic in commentary published by newspapers monitored, but it's joined today by a number of other topics.


On the Balkans, a Wall Street Journal Europe editorial hails 'Peace in the Balkans' but adds a question mark. The newspaper also offers a constructive suggestion on Kosovo. The editorial begins: "Suddenly the Balkans are becoming, well, normal. At least relatively speaking. The wars are over and democracy is taking hold. Of the region's two great strongmen, one, Croatia's Franjo Tudjman is dead; the other, Yugoslavia's Slobodan Milosevic, has gracelessly departed."

The Wall Street Journal Europe says that Western troops are needed for the foreseeable future to keep the peace in Kosovo. It concludes: "Beyond that, the West might consider applying the Balkan equivalent of the United States' One China policy to Kosovo. In other words, the West could provide Belgrade with an ambiguous endorsement of its sovereignty over Kosovo while insisting on a peaceful resolution of differences, thus guaranteeing Kosovo's security. On current trends, that should give Pristina and Belgrade several years to cement the rule of law and implement market reforms. As prosperity rises and democracy takes root, the saliency of the sovereignty question is bound to fall. Even in the Balkans."


The International Herald Tribune publishes today a commentary by International Crisis Group analyst Anna Husarska. Husarska comments on a poll in Serbia on prospects for bringing ousted leader Slobodan Milosevic to trial. The poll found the few Serbs want Milosevic tried by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in the Hague. More than half think he should not be tried anywhere, and about a third say he should be tried, if at all, in Serbia.

The commentator writes, "But if the Serbs are to accept that Mr. Milosevic be tried in a court set up by the United Nations, the most urgent task is to make them understand what crimes against foreign citizens Mr. Milosevic is indicted for. Once they start accusing him not only of electoral fraud, corruption, nepotism and repression against Serbian media but also of waging foreign wars against non-Serbian ethnic groups, of ordering mass murder and rape of foreign citizens, then they may want to expurgate him from their midst.

"Perhaps then when [Yugoslav President ] Mr. [Vojislav] Kostunica says, 'Sorry' [that is, apologizes for Serbian war crimes], his office will not be rushing to explain that it was a slip of the tongue."


Rarely do The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal Europe editorial pages agree. Today, a Washington Post editorial joins with the conservative Wall Street Journal Europe in contending that Western troops must remain in Kosovo.

The Post notes that critics of NATO's bombing in Yugoslavia said that bombing wouldn't force Milosevic to withdraw; that NATO's assault would strengthen Milosevic's hand among his countrymen; and that Western support would assure hegemony in Kosovo of the most thuggish of Kosovar Albanian killers. The newspaper says that the weekend local elections in which Kosovar Albanians put their weight behind the pacifist circle around Ibrahim Rugova proves the critics wrong on all three counts.

The Washington Post editorial says: "Governor [and U.S. presidential candidate] George W. Bush has indicated that he wants to withdraw U.S. peacekeepers from Kosovo. Other Western leaders, also hoping for an early exit, may be tempted to view limited autonomy within a democratic Serbia as an acceptable option for Kosovo." The editorial concludes: "Saturday's vote was a victory for moderation and a sign that, given time, peace in the Balkans may be attainable. But if the world turns its back on the region prematurely, the momentum will be lost."


The Times, London, editorializes approvingly that the West has supported the election of Vojislav Kostunica in Yugoslavia and the choice of Ibrahim Rugova in Kosovo. Yet Rugova, with Serb atrocities burned in recent memory, must stand for Kosovar independence. And Kostunica, however moderate, could not have been elected other than as the Serb nationalist, and adamant foe of Kosovar independence, that he is.

The British newspaper says: "How, then can the West continue to support both the leaders it has promoted, if they are set on a collision course with each other." The editorial says: "it would certainly be rash to nudge Kosovars into more active pursuit of independence." The London Times continues, "Nor should the genie of Greater Albania be let out of its bottle".

The editorial concludes: "Kosovans weary of war have chosen a conciliatory leader who favors talks, not terrorism; while not recognizing the poll, Belgrade has praised the choice of Rugova rather than [ex-guerilla Hashim] Thaci. The next electoral step for Kosovo is parliamentary elections, due some time in the next year. Lengthy delays now could trigger a hard-line nationalist backlash. Since Kosovans have shown their moderate intentions, the best next move now would be to push the region's flabby UN administration into setting a voting date."


The other Times, The New York Times, looks editorially beyond the fall of Milosevic to what it calls 'Europe's Last Tyrant' -- Alyaksandr Lukashenka of Belarus. The U.S. newspaper says it sees small chance that Lukashenka will be dislodged soon, but contends that what chance there is lies in continued Western distance from Lukashenka and in a fledgling unity among the fractured Belarus opposition. The editorial says: "There is discontent in Belarus, but opposition forces have not been unified enough to translate this frustration into political power. That may change. The nine major opposition groupings have agreed, in theory, to work together. That is the only chance to defeat Mr. Lukashenka when he runs for re-election a year from now."


The Wall Street Journal Europe looks editorially at China and Hong Kong today and identifies what it calls a sign that "doesn't bode well for [a free press in] Hong Kong." The newspaper says that a denunciation of the Hong Kong news outlets by Chinese President Jiang Zemin has damaged both the press and the confidence of Hong Kong residents and businesses. It says that the impression Jiang left was that of "an emperor forcing his will on his subjects."

The editorial said: "Part of having a free press means that there will be good journalists and bad ones. And, yes, on occasion insignificant news items are trumped into farcical blockbuster stories in Hong Kong. But in this case, the query that sparked the president's vitriol was neither irresponsible nor immaterial. Simply, a reporter asked if the Communist Party chief's support of a second terms in office for Tung [Chee Hwa, Hong Kong leader] amounted to 'an imperial order' from the mainland."