The Summit at Nice is fast approaching. And almost as if it were a New Year's celebration, Die Tageszeitung (TAZ) from Berlin is running an article every day as a countdown to the start of the summit on 7 December. Much of this coverage is devoted to the issue of enlargement. However, like a plant slowly wilting, expectations of the general success of the summit, as expressed in the German press, are clearly drooping. Nevertheless, a certain amount of optimism has been retained for the prospect of enlargement. Whether these two concepts converge in any way is another story.
Die Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung ran an article on 29 November with the headline, "Kwaśniewski Demands Ambitious Reform." Polish President Aleksander Kwaśniewski is asking that the European Union (EU) clear the way for a successful enlargement of 12 new countries. The same article reports that Kwaśniewski claims Poland will be ready to enter the EU in the year 2003.
Die Tageszeitung of 28 November expressed astonishment at the fact that the candidate countries will not be contributing to the discussions at Nice. The title of the article is "Poland's Unsolicited Advice." It would seem that the attempts to agree are difficult enough among 15 member states without the contribution of additional, non-member states.
Second-class eastern neighbour?
Nonetheless, it is admirable of the TAZ to consider the viewpoint of the candidate countries. Who, if not the media, should exert some pressure on the EU bureacrats to get the enlargement ball rolling? Poland sees that there are high stakes at this summit. The TAZ rightly asserts that "for the intellectuals east of the Oder [the river which marks the border between Germany and Poland, ed] the process of enlargement and reform means more than just the extension of grants for Polish farmers." Could it be that the German press is finally acknowledging what the Poles have thought all along—that Poland is not a second-class neighbour to a major power (Germany) but a strong nation in its own right. That would be a step forward, indeed.
Die Tageszeitung ran an article on the EU and asylum rights on 27 November. The jist of the argument was that Germany's liberal asylum policy cannot be applied Europe-wide, at least according to Daniel Cohn-Bendit, a Member of the European Parliament from the Green Party of France. Cohn-Bendit alleged that Germany's specific asylum policy stemmed largely from guilt over its National Socialist past and should not be forced on Europe as a whole.
No Heimat in Deutschland for Bosnians
In a related story of the same day, 27 November, Die Tageszeitung ran this headline: "Germany's Ministers of the Interior send Bosnian Refugees Home." Leave it to the TAZ to win the prize for most dramatic opening lines: "It is inconceivable," the first sentence simply states, "instead of the 35,000 Bosnian war refugees finally receiving the long-term right to stay, the ministers of the German Bundesländer [states, ed] have decided that all refugees from the former Yugoslavia should return to their home country."
To summarise, the article says that the ministers who made this decision do not care what happens to these refugees. This in spite of the fact, the article concludes, that the German press reports almost daily on the catastrophic conditions in Bosnia-Hercegovina.
Tensions in southern Serbia
However, it was not the circumstances in Bosnia which were front and centre in the German press this week. Serbia, and conflicts in southern Serbia were more predominant. At a meeting of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in Vienna this week, President Vojislav Koštunica held the United Nations and the Kosovo Force (KFOR) responsible for the present conflicts in the region, as reported by Der Tagesspiegel of 28 November.
Die Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung also ran a headline on the subject: "Dangerous Sharpening of Tensions in Southern Serbia." Tensions in the area are rising: Yugoslav Albanians shot four Serbian police, resulting in the flight of 2000 Albanians from the southern border region in fear of Serbian retribution. Not a promising situation, and the newspaper rightfully asks why these tensions would arise now.
Its conclusion: "Possibly, the Liberation Army of Preševo, Bujanovac and Medveđe (UÇPMB) wants to provoke a huge reaction from the Serbs in order to show the world that the new leadership in Belgrade under President Koštunica is not any better than it was under Milošević." Alternatively, the paper thinks that the commander of the UÇPMB wants to use the alleged current weakness in Belgrade in order to extend the Army's power. Either way, the end result is weak. They conclude, finally, that Koštunica stands now before a difficult trial.
Interestingly, Milošević has been in the press too, owing to his re-election as leader of the Serbian Socialists. What has happened to dramatic ends for dictators of yore? Milošević is kicked out of power, widely despised, only to return to his office and continue leadership in relative comfort.
Satan or Beelzebub?
On 10 December, the Romanians will go to vote in a second round of presidential elections in which the choice is bleak, indeed. The TAZ outlines the competition in the headline, "A Racist Against an Ex-Communist," which seems to sum up the race neatly. Die Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung headlined with the words "Romania's Last Chance" and then went on to outline the situation in Romania. The economy is bad; there is a lack of investment and initiative; inflation and unemployment are too high; and poverty has the country firmly in its grip, the paper says. To top things off, Romania is the very last on the list for acceptance to the European Union. A bleak picture was painted by all papers who addressed this topic—usually with the conclusion that Romania has a long road ahead.
AIDS in Eastern Europe
Finally, amidst all the talk of the Nice Summit, southern Serbia, and Romania, Der Tagesspiegel ran an article on the spread of AIDS in what the UN refers to simply as Osteuropa—Eastern Europe. Never does the article specify which geographic region exactly this includes. The UN reports that there has been an increase of 280,000 people living with the HIV virus in this unidentified region, specifying further that the majority of these cases have resulted primarily from intravenous drug use. International responsibilty, Minister Fischer says, is called for. International responsibility and personal responsibility and accountability, too; international aid alone will not stop the spread of the disease.
Andrea Mrozek, 1 December 2000
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