Nationalism in the Balkans
Die Süddeutsche Zeitung wrote about the EU-Balkan Summit on 24 November. The Balkan states will start on the track toward the European Union. This is the most important message of the summit, according to Bodo Hombach, the EU coordinator for the Stability Pact.
The EU has been sending this message for quite some time to all the candidate countries, rather optimistically placing early deadlines for accession. One cannot deny the importance of sending this message to the Balkan countries, however, it will be also be important to wait and see the outcome of the summit at Nice before any more promises to additional candidate countries are made.
This very concern was subtly expressed by Die Welt on 20 November. "The European Union opens their door to the Balkans," reads the headline, with the subheading, "EU Foreign Minister outlines the next enlargement round, before the first one has started." Nonetheless, the message of inclusion has been sent, along with DEM (German mark) nine billion (USD 3.86 billion) before the year 2006. Hopefully, the EU can successfully conclude their own reforms before extending the hand of membership to more and more countries.
The German press also devoted a lot of time, and regret, to the results of the vote in Bosnia. Die Tageszeitung in Berlin ran the headline, "Prisoners of Fear" on 23 November; Der Tagesspiegel of the same day chimed in with an article called "Five Years after Dayton."
The focus of the article in Die Tageszeitung (TAZ) was largely on the human side of the conflict. "The third free, internationally supervised vote since the end of the war has proven: Bosnia-Herzegovina remains a "black whole."
The article further writes of a "disappearing optimism" and focuses on the poverty of the region. "What the international community continually forgets: in the shadow of politics, the totally normal life of most inhabitants of Bosnia has disintegrated into a merciless struggle for existence. Bosnia has, with over 30 percent, the highest rate of unemployment in Europe. Between 400,000 and 500,000 people are officially looking for work..."
What Der Tagesspiegel offered was an interview with the former chief of the affairs in Bosnia during the time that Dayton was signed, Wolfgang Ischinger. More general in focus, Ischinger was asked to consider the balance of affairs in Bosnia five years after the signing of the Dayton Peace Accord. Ischinger recalls that the work at Dayton was like house arrest: "no contact with the outside world and one was only allowed to go anywhere when a result was on the table."
Ishinger was asked what really came of Dayton, and this is where the greatest contrast with the article on Bosnia from the TAZ—and perhaps the greatest controversy in general—can be found. He answers, "For five years now there is no more shooting. Economic repair is taking place everywhere." For the negative side, he has this to say: "But still, no lasting peace has been created. The resettling of those who fled is partly completed. They have, for the most part, returned to Bosnia, but cannot, for the most part, go back to their home towns when these towns lie today in the area of another ethnic group. The main problems are in the Serbian and Croatian areas."
One is given impetus to ponder: people cannot go back to their homes, they are surrounded by instability and faced with 30 percent unemployment. In what area was there success?
Die Welt on 22 November offered the headline, "17,000 still missing in Bosnia." Commenting only briefly on the election win of the nationalists, the article says that those who are missing are likely dead. But there are many waiting to hear with certainty what has happened. As the leader of the Red Cross Commission in Bosnia points out, "To know nothing is really worse than to know." For many in Bosnia, nothing of the suffering from the war from 1992 to 1995 has diminished.
Death of a Czech hero
Early in the week, the German press took note of the death of the Czech sports hero, Emil Zatopek, the "locomotive from Prague," at the age of 78. (Der Tagesspiegel, 22 November) Zatopek won four Olympic medals: he won the 10,000m in 1948 (London), and in 1952 he won the 5000m, the 10,000m and, the first time he ever ran one, the marathon (Helsinki). It was also Zatopek, the article informs us, who climbed on a tank during the Russian invasion of Prague Spring in 1968, asking the Soviets to go home.
Another interview worth mentioning was again written by Die Welt on 23 November. "No one should Fear a Berlin-Moscow Axis," reads the headline of an interview with the Russian Foreign Minister, Igor Ivanov, visiting Germany for four days. "The whole visit is an expression of our good relationship. This working visit was planned during Putin's visit to Germany in June of this year. The goal is to verify our positions on the most important international questions," Ivanov stated.
Among other things, the Foreign Minister was also asked about the solution to the political conflict in Chechnya. Ivanov wants a "political solution," but Chechnya "must be brought into the constitutional realm of the Russian Federation."
He concludes his comments on this topic with these words: "It must also be clear, however, that we will not speak with people who have blood on their hands." Does that then refer to the fact that Chechnya should not talk to Russia, or vice versa? Another fine example of Russian diplomacy: they will not talk to the enemy. As a result, hope for a political solution seems slim indeed. And historically, Russia under the name of the former Soviet Empire has not proven itself to be fond of political solutions. Hence, we have Czechs like Zatopek, representing small Eastern European states' past and present from all over the region, telling the Soviets to just go home.
Andrea Mrozek, 27 November 2000
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