Feverish sheep and International Women's Day filled the pages of the German press this week but only with regards to Western Europe. The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, however did feature a picture of a man and woman in Russia on 8 March for International Women's Day.
In what little coverage of the region there was, Russia featured prominently. Besides this, there was coverage of the ongoing Ukrainian Gongadze affair, an article on the Hungarian minority in Slovakia and some limited coverage of the floods in Hungary and Ukraine.
Polish apology unnoticed
Perhaps most notable this week was the lack of coverage relating to the ongoing debate/problem in Germany over payments to survivors of the Holocaust. Only Der Tagesspiegel reported on 6 March that Poland apologized for the murder of 1600 Jews during Second World War in Jedwabno. Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski and Cardinal Jozef Glemp of the Roman Catholic Church both declared Polish guilt for the massacre.
Just a short brief was devoted to this item; perhaps the German press is waiting to devote more coverage to the 60th anniversary of the tragedy in July. President Kwasniewski said, as reported by Der Tagesspiegel, that it would be an appropriate time to apologize to the Holocaust victims. For many, this may well seem like a case of too little, too late. However, for many in Europe the blame for the entire Holocaust falls solely on the shoulders of the Germans and apologies from participants of other nationalities are not forthcoming. It is for this reason that this public declaration might well have been worthy of more media attention.
Putin concerned about peace in Yugoslavia
On the Russian front, Der Tagesspiegel reported on 7 March that President Vladimir Putin had complained about the power vacuum in Yugoslavia. Putin said that the present tensions in the border region with Macedonia come as a result of the withdrawal of Yugoslavian troops from Kosovo: "After the withdrawal of the Yugoslavian army without any international peacekeepers taking notice, a power vacuum has resulted, that is being quickly filled by extremists," said Putin.
The article reports that both the Macedonian and Greek governments have called upon Russia for help, and although the Russians might want to be of assistance, another article from Die Welt indicates that the dwindling Russian army is busy elsewhere.
Putin less concerned about peace in Chechnya
"Russia Bombs On" was the headline of an article on 7 March in Die Welt, accompanied by an opinion piece with the headline "Russian Rage." The article reports on the continuing war in Chechnya. In the latest move, the Russians have blocked one of the last exits out of Chechnya for "security reasons." Roughly 3000 people have flee Chechnya daily.
The accompanying opinion piece by Michael Stürmer concludes that European stability hangs in the balance as the war in Chechnya drags on. He writes that the Russians have not kept the war a secret, and the West is being presented with a restless image of Russia, a Russia still powerful and capable of fighting today. He goes on to write that the West has to be "polite" with this nuclear power. He concludes by saying that it is not enough "to complain in the choir of Europeans."
While the former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright had wanted to call Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov to express American concern, it would appear that most Western powers, Germany included, decided some time ago that they don't really care about this war. The opinion commentary in Die Welt calls for everyone to reconsider the repercussions of the conflict in Chechnya.
Everyone has an opinion on the Gongadze affair
The death of Ukrainian journalist Heorhiy Gongadze has generated much interest in the Western media, and on 7 March Die Tageszeitung ran an interview with Ukrainian author Andrej Kurkow (Picnic on Ice) asking him to comment on the affair. Die Tageszeitung does not give any further information on what Kurkow written and why he is qualified to comment on this particular situation.
Kurkow thinks that the murder of Gongadze was planned by Ukraine's secret police in order to trigger the demise of Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma. However, he then goes on to say that no one, throughout the intrigue, has stepped down willingly. The problem with this item is not so much what Kurkow says, but rather that he says quite a lot without any qualification.
The final question does not bode well for the reliability of the journalism in the article. The writer and interviewer Barbara Oertel asks, "The hero in one of your novels is Pinguin Mischa. What would he say about all this?" I personally might have preferred the opinion of a better known fictional character. What about Raskolnikov from Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment? Or the main character from Thomas Mann's Death in Venice?
Slip sliding away
It seems as if the coalition government in Slovakia, led by President Mikuláš Dzurinda may lose the Hungarian Coalition (SMK), as reported in Die Welt on 8 March. The SMK represents the rights of the Hungarian minority in Slovakia and appears ready to quit the government. The issue at hand concerns the opening a district of self-government where the Hungarians would have the majority.
The article reports that the Slovaks fear the separation of South Slovakia, especially when reminded of their "1000 year history when Slovakia was ruled by her neighbours to the South." It is questioned the party will actually leave the ruling coalition and if so, whether the departure would threaten the stability of the government. The article reports that President Dzurinda remains optimistic.
Slovakia also featured prominently on television reports from the EuroNews channel in France over their treatment of Roma—not a particularly positive view into the life of the Roma in that country. Images showed President Dzurinda dancing with Roma at a cultural event, while Günter Verheugen spoke rather bluntly on the problem, saying: "What is missing (to improve the situation) is money."
Odds and ends
Finally, Die Süddeutsche Zeitung reported on flooding in Hungary and Ukraine. 20,000 people have been forced to leave their homes. This short article was the only of its kind on these floods in the region. Instead, not only Germany, but the better part of Western Europe is panicking about possible repercussions of not just mad cows disease, but foot and mouth disease in sheep and other animals. This apart, there was little room for other stories, even in the newspapers that usually feature East Central Europe quite prominently.
Andrea Mrozek, 12 March 2001
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