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U.S.: Albright Comments On Globalization, Trans-Atlantic Relations, And RFE/RL

By Elena Nikleva

Former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright was recently on a private visit to the Czech Republic to promote her new book: "Madame Secretary: A Memoir." Albright, who is Czech born, found time to speak with RFE/RL.

Prague, 24 October 2003 (RFE/RL) -- Madeleine Albright served as U.S. secretary of state under former President Bill Clinton from 1997-2001. It was a period marked by increasing U.S. involvement in Eastern Europe, especially in the Balkans. The NATO-led bombing of Serbia aimed at halting atrocities in Kosovo came in 1999 and was a pivotal moment of Albrights tenure in public office.

Albright was recently on a private visit to the Czech Republic to promote her new book: "Madame Secretary: A Memoir." The visit had special significance. Albright was born in the Czech capital, Prague, the daughter of a Czechoslovak diplomat. She left her home country as an 11-year-old girl to become, 50 years later, the first woman ever to serve as U.S. secretary of state. Albright, who is fluent in Czech, still maintains a special relationship with her country of birth and has many friends here, including former president, playwright, and dissident Vaclav Havel. While in Prague, she gave an exclusive interview to RFE/RL's Elena Nikleva.

RFE/RL: "Do you see the recent trans-Atlantic rift over Iraq healing anytime soon? One of its consequences was that the new Eastern European democracies had to face hard choices -- between siding with the EU or the U.S. In fact, U.S. Ambassador to NATO Nicholas Burns said recently here at a NATO conference in Prague that those countries should not be put to loyalty tests."

Albright: "I do see an improvement [in the trans-Atlantic relationship], and I never liked the idea that the former countries that were under the auspices of the Soviet Union had to make choices. Why should you have to choose between two friends or between two possibilities? I am very glad that Ambassador Burns said that, because I have believed it, I think it is a mistake to divide Europe up. We worked very hard to bring Europe together -- that is, the Clinton administration and I worked hard to bring countries into NATO and leave the door open for countries in order to have a united Europe, not a divided Europe.

I am very disturbed by the trans-Atlantic rift, but I think that there is a beginning of a realization that we are better off together than trying to argue with each other, that the values in Europe and the United States are similar and we have to work together in order to ameliorate the situation in the rest of the world.... I hope that there is a mending. I am involved in some private efforts to continue the trans-Atlantic dialogue with former foreign ministers, whom I worked with when I was a secretary of state. And we talk about what the problems are without taking national positions and really try to work out how to improve the transatlantic dialogue."

Albright now chairs the Pew Global Attitudes Project, which presented a study on globalization at the closing session earlier this month of the Prague Forum 2000. The forum, initially founded by Vaclav Havel as a gathering of intellectuals from all over the world, focuses on bridging global and cultural gaps.

Conducted in 49 countries, the Pew survey showed that people generally support globalization but fear the benefits are going mostly to wealthy countries.

RFE/RL: "Tell us more about Pew's findings. Are fears about globalization similar to fears over democracy?"

Albright: "It is all much more complicated than people think at the beginning. Neither democracy nor globalization is an instant coffee -- you can't just put water on something and make it happen. It requires growth and evolution. On globalization, the Pew study was trying to figure out -- everybody talks about globalization, but we didn't have enough facts and we did interviews in 49 countries and questioned 66,000 people. What people say is that, on the whole, they like globalization and they like the idea of being part of a larger system. They like cell phones for instance, but what they do think is that the rich countries have more advantage out of globalization and that the rich people in the poor countries have more advantage out of globalization. So the question here generally is -- you cannot stop globalization, it is something that happens, so the question is how to manage it so that the benefits are spread more widely and the negative aspects are alleviated. Maybe part of it is not enough have understanding of what the possibilities for globalization are, which means that we all have to think about what the positives and negatives are."

RFE/RL: "Prague is the headquarters of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, which you visited in 1996. What are your thoughts on the radio and its mission?"

Albright: "I remember it very well, and we were here for the July 4th [U.S. independence day] holiday. I have been a great believer in Radio Free Europe and a great supporter of it. And so we talked about the importance of information to a free society. I actually do see a mission [for Radio Free Europe]. It's a different mission than it was, but I do think that Radio Free Europe has the ability to present objective news, to be a source of information for people. There is never enough information."