The news on Central Eastern Europe in the German Press paled in comparison with the quickly developing and progressively worsening situation in the Middle East this week. The opening of the nuclear plant at Temelín—the source of much Austrian consternation with its eastern neighbour—received little more than a couple of lines attention; the debate regarding issues of right-wing extremism and anti-Semitism in Germany continued this week; and finally, another debate that won't dissapate, that regarding the rights and possible compensation of Sudeten Germans.
Democracy reinstated in Yugoslavia?
First and foremost in the German press, however, was the discussion of the European Union's decision to immediately offer money (DEM 3.9 million) to the new regime in Yugoslavia. ("Slobo goes, the Euro comes," Die Tageszeitung, 9 October) Further to this topic were discussions of the sanctions, which will at least, in part, be dropped. ("The Oil Embargo should fall today," Der Tagesspiegel, 9 October)
With this, however, came concerns in the German press for the state of democracy under the new regime in Yugoslavia. Was democracy reinstated, or were old problems merely tucked neatly away, behind a shield of euphoria at the defeat of Milošević? Die Tageszeitung on 9 October asked the controversial question of whether the "revolution" in Serbia was real. ("Did Koštunica and Milošević forge a comprimise?") Essentially, the argument of the editorial by Erich Rathfelder goes that the revolution was too peaceful and Milošević remains safely in Belgrade, so some sort of secret deal between Milošević and Koštunica had to have been conducted behind closed doors.
Secret deal or not, the EU seems determined to hand over a large sum of money to Serbia almost immediately—a sudden turn around indeed from the sanctions and economic wrangling against the Yugoslavia of yesterday. The German press points out two problems: the old dictatorial ways of Milošević may not have completely disappeared in Koštunica ("Yugoslavia after the Change," Der Tagesspiegel, 9 October) and the EU is having problems pulling the money together. ("The uprising was not planned," Die Tageszeitung, 11 October)
Meanwhile, at home, Jewish communities called for solidarity and clarity of action against the criminal actions of right-wing extremists. ("Jews call for clear actions and solidarity," 9 October, Die Tageszeitung) "One cannot teach right-wing radicals, one can only give them hard punishments," said Michael Fuerst, President of the Lower Saxon Union of Jewish Communities. Harsh punishments are called for indeed, one would hope that these would, however, be accompanied by some education—"right-wing radicals" tend to be teenagers who will sooner or later conclude their "harsh punishments" and re-enter society.
Nonetheless, the point is well made: Jews in Germany must not retract from public life out of fear of the actions of criminals, and solidarity between all Germans should ensue in order to ensure that there is no tolerance for crimes against minorities.
Another minority in Germay are the Sudeten Germans, those expelled from their homes in Eastern Europe after the Second World War ended. The Sudeten German Landsmannschaft (SL) continually seeks compensation for their lost property, homes and recognition for the lost lives of family and friends. ("Sudeten Germans hope again for compensation," 10 October, Die Welt)
Their ongoing struggle for support tends to go unrecognised; their cause completely unsanctioned by German politicians. German Chancellor, Gerhard Schröder, following in the footsteps of Helmut Kohl before him, has said that the complaints of Sudeten Germans will continue to go unheard.
The article reports that it remains unclear whether the SL will seriously lodge a complaint—or a lawsuit—against insurance companies, for lost policies as a result of the expulsions. This would follow the example of the Sudeten Germans living in the United States.
The SL, based in Munich, has been in contact with American law firms for months now. It seems as though the only politician willing to take up the cause of the Sudeten Germans is Jörg Haider. Mainstream politicians would do well to recognise the genuine injustice committed against some of these Sudeten Germans, before this becomes a cause sanctioned only by the likes of Haider.
What does it mean to be European?
At the same time that there is an ongoing discussion of what it means to be European ("Those who don't belong to Europe," 11 October, Die Zeit), the European Union is busy making an effort to ensure that the new Yugoslavia is included within the boundaries of a democratic Europe. What with the continuing debate on minority issues, it seems there are certain re-emerging problems that Germans hope would just go away.
Andrea Mrozek, 16 October 2000
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