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Western Press Review: World Justice, Slovenia, Jedwabne, EU Economics

Prague, 11 July 2001 (RFE/RL) -- Western press commentary touches on a variety of issues today. Commentators address the international justice system, Slovenia's success since declaring its independence 10 years ago, and the Polish town of Jedwabne on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of a pogrom carried out there and commemorated yesterday (10 July). Other analyses examine, among other issues, the European and global economies, as concerns grow of an imminent worldwide economic slowdown.


In the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung," Reinhard Mueller calls the establishment of international criminal tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and for Rwanda, as well as the likely institution of a permanent international criminal court, "harbingers of a new world legal order." He writes: "There is an impressive history that shows that it is becoming less and less possible to abuse the principle of national sovereignty to murder and ethnically cleanse entire peoples with impunity."

Mueller goes on to say that "in the context of [former Serbian President Slobodan] Milosevic's extradition, it is often overlooked that the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda has already called a former head of government to account. Former [Rwandan] Prime Minister Jean Kambanda was sentenced to life imprisonment for genocide. [At] least as far as international criminal jurisdiction is concerned," Mueller says, "the new world order [is] much closer now."


In "The Christian Science Monitor," Richard Hottelet describes Slovenia as "a quiet success story, standing out against the tumult and destruction that marks its Yugoslav neighbors." He says that since declaring its independence from the Socialist Republic of Yugoslavia on 25 June 1991, Slovenia has been "building a democratic administration from scratch, untangling the remnants of the communist command economy, holding elections, and passing budgets. [The] trend has been up," he adds.

Hottelet's commentary goes to say that Slovenia "will be among the next six nations to be admitted to the European Union in 2004, and it is certain also to enter NATO. Slovenian officers already participate in SFOR, NATO's Stabilization Force in Bosnia, and KFOR in Kosovo."

But he adds that "the sad thing about the Slovenian success is this: It is a special case that holds few general lessons. Slovenia is ethnically homogeneous and intellectually liberal, proof against nationalist pyromaniacs. It is geographically, politically and economically part of Europe. Too small to have any strategic weight, it does give the example of what -- with a measure of good fortune -- a small people can do when they are true to themselves. And that," Hottelet concludes, "is a lesson valid far beyond the Balkans."


An editorial in "The Chicago Tribune" looks back at the Polish town of Jedwabne, where victims of the pogrom that took place there 60 years ago were commemorated on 10 July by Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski. The paper writes:

"Perhaps the greatest horror of what happened at Jedwabne on July 10, 1941, was that it was so unexceptional for that place and time. [Hitler's] 'Final Solution' succeeded in Poland, where [currently] only a few thousand Jews remain."

The editorial goes on to note that "towns like Jedwabne first were under Soviet occupation and later invaded by Nazi troops in June 1941. Some of what happened next to Jewish Poles may have been due to perceptions that they had collaborated with the Soviets," the paper writes. "But there were deeper seeds of hatred to be nurtured. Even many Polish politicians and clergy, in their current mood of self-examination, admit that centuries of Catholic clergy indoctrinating Poles with contempt and hatred of Jews -- portraying them as Christ-killers -- planted bigotry that was easily exploited by the Nazis."


A commentary in "Die Welt" by Gerhard Gnauck welcomes yesterday's official recognition of past Polish anti-Semitic acts. Gnauck says that a new Poland is facing up to its murky history of Jewish pogroms, for which it had hitherto blamed Nazi Germany. He notes that President Kwasniewski asked forgiveness for the massacre following revelations in "Neighbors," a recent book by the Polish-born U.S. historian Jan Gross.

Gnauck says that the official recognition of these events is now an indelible part of the nation's history, and sees the development as a part of Poland coming to a new understanding of itself as a nation. He writes: "In this respect Poland redefined itself yesterday, providing itself with a new -- and yet old -- identity."


An editorial in France's "Le Monde" today acknowledges the sixth anniversary of the 1995 massacre at Srebrenica in Bosnia, calling it "the worst massacre that Europe has known since the end of the World War II." The paper notes that the anniversary coincides with the extradition of Slobodan Milosevic and the renewed calls for others -- such as former Bosnian Serb leaders Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic, as well as accused officials in Croatia -- to be similarly transferred to The Hague.

The editorial also notes that over a thousand Republika Srpska police officers have been mobilized for the event, to deal with the "high risk" associated with the anniversary. It writes: "Even if a discourse of reassurance and reconciliation is heard within the Serbian community, one can also dread the provocations that may come from extremist elements."


A commentary in the "International Herald Tribune" by economic analyst Lester Thurow says that if the Group of Seven summit meeting in Genoa later this month fails to produce decisive action to avoid a global recession, "the Group of Eight [the G-7, plus Russia] will look like Nero fiddling as Rome burns." He writes:

"The reasoning of the European Central Bank is simply mysterious. For some reason it seems to think that the only negative factor affecting Europe is the American slowdown. Since the slower growth in exports to the U.S. market makes little difference in aggregate demand, they have only slowly lowered their 2001 forecast of European growth."

"But this is not the heart of the problem," Thurow says. "As in America, the heart of the problem is found in telecommunications investment. And here Europe has a much bigger problem than that found in America." Thurow writes that European companies "bid too much" at the auctions of third-generation telephone licenses, citing British Telecom as an example.

"The downturn in telecommunications investment in Europe almost has to be bigger than that in the United States," he says. "As a result, the slowdown in Europe will ultimately be just as big as that in the United States. But that slowdown is being vigorously fought by the European Central Bank, whose motto might be 'too little, too late.'"


Another editorial in the "Chicago Tribune" looks at the failure of the General Electric-Honeywell merger, and how it illustrates trans-Atlantic differences in economic philosophy. The editorial notes that while U.S. regulators believe that an alliance between two companies in separate but related industries would benefit consumers, EU regulators feel that it would hurt other competitors in the industry. The paper asks: "Customers or competitors -- whose welfare should come first? [That] question is the crux of the controversy."

The paper writes that the GE-Honeywell merger "wasn't the first time European antitrust rulings have placed competitors' welfare ahead of customers'." It adds that the U.S. can allow such a merger because "if the merged firm abuses its market power down the road, the government or competitors can sue. But European antitrust law offers no such after-the-fact legal remedies. So regulators must consider as a deal-breaker the fact that the merged firm might abuse its market power in the future."

The editorial concludes: "This is a serious difference and it must be addressed. [It's] in the interests of everyone that the U.S. and EU spell out clearly what will be allowed -- and what won't. Right now, there's too much uncertainty."

(RFE/RL's Dora Slaba contributed to this report.)