This week, all across the region, the German Press took note of the voters in Central Eastern Europe who went to the polls. In Bosnia-Hercegovina, in the Czech Republic and in Slovakia, the election trumpets sounded, and voters came to cast their ballots in two elections and one referendum. In actual fact, these events proved to herald little newsworthy news, good or bad.
In Bosnia, disappointment prevailed in the German reaction, and in Slovakia and the Czech Republic the apathy of the voters reigned supreme. In Slovenia too, there was news from the election front as a grand coalition was finally formed, four weeks after the parliamentary elections. The last piece of news from the region to receive some attention was the transfer of Montenegro's currency from dinar to deutschmark—also with little reaction in the German press.
Squeezing excitement from a stone
In Slovakia, the opposition called for a referendum on the question of whether the present government should call early elections. This referendum in turn lowered the opposition's credibility as fewer than 20 percent of Slovakians actually participated. The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung could have covered this item with the headline alone, which was "The Referendum in Slovakia Fell Apart," (Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 13 November.) An uncalled for referendum which cost approximately USD 3 million—certainly a good use of public funds.
Right next door, the German press took equally little notice of the elections in the Czech Republic. ("Czech Social Democrats Stand Before a New Beginning," Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 14 November) Die Welt also covered this event on the same day, saying that the Communists profited from another low voter turnout, this time at 30 percent. Slovenia got the same slight mention for the building of their grand coalition between four parties, four weeks after the parliamentary elections there ("Great Coalition in Slovenia," Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 13 November).
Bad news from Bosnia
More attention naturally fell to the elections in Bosnia. Die Tageszeitung in Berlin ran an opinion piece on 13 November saying, "Dayton has to adapt to reality." In it, the author, Erich Rathfelder, says that young people will continue to leave Bosnia as a result of the most recent elections, and that the "Bosnian Tragedy Will Perpetuate Itself."
The headline in Die Welt on 14 November called the elections in Bosnia a "(lost?) opportunity," saying further that in the future, Bosnia would probably not be able to govern itself. Both articles expressed the fear that the election results would lead to new nationalist standoffs.
At the same time, Koštunica promised deep-reaching reforms in Yugoslavia at the two-day meeting of the Balkan Stability Pact members. Der Tagesspiegel covered three events all in one article: this meeting, the offering of aid to Yugoslavia this winter and furthermore, the abolition of the Montenegrin dinar. The Süddeutsche Zeitung devoted a separate, albeit short, space on 15 November to the aid for Yugoslavia. DEM one billion will be given by the USA and Europe to help Yugoslavia through the winter.
Deutschmark or dinar, who cares?
Even that which should have interested Germans, for example, the introduction of the German mark as the sole currency in Montenegro, did not. A 14 November article in Der Tagesspiegel as well, focusing on the use of the German mark as the sole currency, wrote apathetically about currencies in the entire region. In the end, the author, Heik Afheldt, made his point abundantly clear, saying the importance of Montenegro as a country was too low. "It would be different," he said, "if Russia replaced the ruble with the mark." Different indeed.
Although the article also expressed fear over whether this would affect the stability of the German mark and furthermore the euro, Germans had little time to truly worry about Montenegro. This week, the disaster in Kaprun, Austria, took precedence along with the ongoing debacle over the US elections. It would be too much to expect the German press to take copious amounts of time and effort to write about elections in which, at least in the Czech Republic and Slovakia, the countrymen themselves could not be bothered to participate.
Too much and too little
The Poles seem to be worried over the timing of entry into the European Union, wrote the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung on 13 November. On the one hand, the suggested closure date of
Support for the European Union in Poland is wide-reaching, spanning the political spectrum, and furthermore, the Poles are on track for acceptance whether it be early or otherwise. It seems strange, that in a country so prepared, leading politicians like Prime Minister Jerzy Buzek are asking for more time, while in the Czech Republic the leading politicians have complained about their results, claiming a seemingly inherent right of entry to the EU, as if this could occur without initiating any reforms at all.
Andrea Mrozek, 16 November 2000
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