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Western Press Review: Debating Globalization, The Middle East, Macedonia, The International Criminal Court

Prague, 22 August 2001 (RFE/RL) -- Commentary in the Western press today includes debate over the roles played by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, as well as deliberation over the institution of an international criminal court. Analysis also continues to focus on the prospects for peace in the Middle East, in view of German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer's visit to the region. Other topics include the Caucasus and Central Asian states a decade after the Soviet Union's collapse, and the ongoing situation in Macedonia.


An editorial in Britain's "The Guardian" suggests that both the International Monetary Fund and World Bank should take part in more public debate. While violent demonstrations against these groups receive most of the media attention, it is the well-organized and well-informed lobby groups that pose a bigger "threat" to the institutions. The paper says that this so-called "threat" is "backed up by detailed analysis, local knowledge, and direct testimony from the recipients, some would say victims, of the particular brand of unregulated neoliberal globalization which the IMF and World Bank have been pushing."

"The Guardian" notes that the two organizations have been challenged to a series of debates by American fair-trade lobbies, and the newspaper urges them to accept.

"There is no value in having debates turn into stunts, but if security can be guaranteed, the IMF and World Bank ought to put their arguments to debate not only in the United States but in every continent. Public exchanges of this kind need to be regular and sustained. The IMF and World Bank can no longer behave like private corporations hiding behind a culture of minimal disclosure. They are publicly financed bodies which need to admit they have no monopoly on expertise, have often made mistakes and opted for wrong policies, and can learn from the voters."


A contribution to the "International Herald Tribune" by the former U.S. ambassador to the UN, Bill Richardson, urges the United States to be more involved in the creation of an International Criminal Court. The U.S.'s persistent concerns about the dangers inherent in such an institution are best addressed by being engaged in its development, Richardson says.

He writes: "In the end, there will be some kind of International Criminal Court. It could be a good court or a mediocre one, or genuinely dangerous. But the United States will not be able to affect the outcome if it is not involved in the process of establishing it."

Robertson says that establishing such an international court may help prevent the carnage and genocide that the world has recently witnessed in such places as Bosnia and Rwanda. But he adds: "The International Criminal Court is not a panacea. The only lasting solution for genocide and other egregious crimes is the global expansion of democracy. But a permanent court [holds] the promise of adding to the world's arsenal against human rights violations."


"Arafat Will Have To Go" is the headline of an analysis in "Die Welt" by Edward Said, a commentator for "El Pais." The world feels desperate and bitter regarding the Palestinian political leadership, he writes, which is causing one problem after another without ever having a clear purpose or aim.

"Thanks to Yasser Arafat's miraculous survival, he maintains his position as ever before," Said writes. "Although it must be obvious to him that the end is in sight, he has no intention to resign from power. The illusion that he is Palestine and Palestine is Arafat is deeply ingrained in him, and as long as he lives he will not cease to believe this."

The commentator also defends the rights of the Palestinians vis-a-vis the Israelis: "...there must be a clear statement of our aims and prospects. This means, first and foremost, an end to the Israeli military occupation and an end to the settlement policy. There is no other way that leads to peace and justice for both Palestinians and Israelis. [Likewise], it is out of the question that Palestinians are only entitled to semi-rights. That is indisputable nonsense. A right and law for all, common aims and prospects for all. On such a basis a new Palestinian peace movement can be organized that must involve Israeli and non-Israeli Jews."

The commentary concludes with a demand to face realities, and a call for Arafat's resignation. The writer says, "It is regrettable that the current Palestinian leadership is absolutely incapable of understanding the problems and therefore it must resign, which will certainly happen sooner or later."


Germany's role as a peacemaker in the Middle East is discussed in the "Sueddeutsche Zeitung" by Thorsten Schmitz. "Currently," he says, "it is impossible to leave the Israelis and Palestinians to their own devices. That is why Joschka Fischer has returned after two and a half months. And lo, something is moving again. Even before he met [Israeli] Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and requested the payment of tax reimbursements to the Palestinians, the Israelis allowed thousands of Palestinian workers into Israel."

This seems to be a gesture of goodwill on the part of the Israelis, Schmitz says. In actual fact, it is thanks to pressure from the EU and U.S. It also shows Germany's growing influence in the Middle East, he says.

Schmitz writes: "Israeli criticism of the U.S.'s absence is becoming ever more vocal, and Fischer sees himself regarded by the media as a harbinger of salvation. He is earning much praise...which suits the German foreign minister"


In "Eurasia View," analyst Anatol Lieven examines the problems of emerging states in the Caucasus and Central Asia in the post-Soviet era. He compares their difficulties in adapting to the new international order to those faced by former colonies after winning independence.

Lieven says that while some countries have progressed greatly since the Soviet collapse, in a number of cases the past decade has seen severe decline and demodernization. He writes that in many countries "the modern sectors of the economy have decayed or collapsed. A large proportion [of] the working population has been pushed out of the formal economy into the informal, gray, or black economies. [Modern] public services have decayed, or collapsed altogether. [State] servants, instead of being paid regularly by the state, have taken to preying on the population; and states have lost the fundamental characteristic of a modern state, effective control of their territory and a monopoly of armed force."

Lieven concludes that the world must recognize that "in many areas the obstacles to progress are at least as powerful, as deep-rooted and as complex as those in the former European colonies, and that they will therefore take as long to overcome."


An editorial in the French daily "Liberation" looks at the Taliban regime's decision yesterday not to allow Western diplomats to remain in the country to see the eight foreign humanitarian aid workers detained earlier this month for allegedly proselytizing Christianity. The paper notes that allowing diplomats from their respective countries access to the prisoners is particularly difficult since "no Western nation has diplomatic representation in Afghanistan, given that nobody recognizes the regime of the Taliban."

"Liberation" suggests that in order to defuse the crisis, "Kabul could make an opening by authorizing the International Committee of the Red Cross, considered 'neutral,' to meet the humanitarian [aid workers]," but notes that the ICRC has indicated they have not yet received a response from Kabul on this matter.


In Britain's "The Times," Simon Jenkins describes the deployment of troops to Macedonia as "bizarre," and says that they are "going to Macedonia on the craziest mission British soldiers have endured at the hands of politicians." Jenkins says that to tell any army, however disorganized, to hand over their weapons or be allowed to keep them "makes no sense" -- if the parties truly wanted peace they would disarm themselves.

He writes: "The reality must be that this is not about weapons. British troops are going to another Balkans theater indefinitely as a symbol of Western commitment and an admission of NATO's guilt. The Macedonian civil war is the direct result of Albanian expansionism, sponsored from within NATO-ruled Kosovo."

Jenkins goes on to suggest that this mission is yet "another Balkans lie," and says that the real mystery is why nothing is ever learned. "These half-baked, short-term interventions merely turn local brushfires into major conflicts. Foreign powers cannot pretend to be impartial in domestic civil wars. Whatever they do takes sides. Disarming takes sides. Humanitarian relief takes sides."

Macedonia should be left to handle its own internal affairs, he concludes. But if NATO must get involved, the alliance "should occupy the rebel areas, disarm the troops, and keep the peace."


In "The Wall Street Journal Europe," Gareth Evans of the International Crisis Group writes that there are two essential tasks that NATO must carry out in Macedonia. First, to disarm the rebels effectively, in order to renew the confidence of ethnic Macedonians. The second is to reassure ethnic Albanians that the Macedonians will not take advantage of the situation to resume military assaults.

But he says that the NATO mission, as presented, "has neither the mandate nor the capacity to create sustainable peace. This is Macedonia 2001, but it looks unnervingly like Bosnia 1992." Evans warns that there is more at stake here than the fate of a single nation: "Collapse in Macedonia would likely delay achievement of a stable, multiethnic Bosnia; damage prospects for peacefully negotiating Kosovo's final status; jeopardize Serbia's democratic transition; and significantly damage NATO's credibility in Europe and beyond."


In an editorial in "Sueddeutsche Zeitung" entitled "Operation Sunshine," Stefan Kornelius comments on the NATO mission. He says the fact that NATO's mandate is so limited that it gives the organization few options in what may prove a dangerous mission. "[If] there is an escalation of force, this will send shock waves through the NATO countries. [The] damage for the alliance and the Balkans will be immeasurable. [Hence] the alliance should have the courage to state these dangers clearly, even as they sign a fair-weather mandate."