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Home / Press review / Archive / Press review | 30/01/2007

 

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Limited independence for Kosovo?

Serbia's incumbent president Vojislav Kostunica has announced that he will not receive UN Special Envoy for Kosovo Martti Ahtisaari on Friday in Belgrade. Ahtisaari intends to present his plan for a "supervised autonomy" of the Serb province of Kosovo on that day. What are the chances of limited independence for Kosovo? » more

With articles from the following publications:
Hufvudstadsbladet - Finland, Frankfurter Rundschau - Germany, The Economist - United Kingdom, El Diario Vasco - Spain

Hufvudstadsbladet - Finland

The proposal made by Martti Ahtisaari, UN Special Envoy for Kosovo, to accord the Serb province of Kosovo limited independence, foresees special guarantees for the Serb minority and EU monitoring of the situation. According to Yrsa Grüne, Kosovo is hardly closer to a solution now than after the breakdown of negotiations in 1999 and the ensuing NATO air strikes: "The EU can't ignore the UN Security Council. Russia is preventing the council from moving ahead, at least for the moment. Any revision of the borders of nation states, even with UN approval, could set a precedent for other regions trying to gain independence. Moreover, if individual states start recognising Kosovo's independence before the Security Council has reached a decision, the UN's authority will be undermined." (30/01/2007)

Frankfurter Rundschau - Germany

According to Wolfgang Benedek, a specialist in international law from Graz, an independent Kosovo would not "set a dangerous precedent." Talking to Norbert Mappes-Niediek about the "restricted independence" model for Kosovo he comments: "This is not a typical case of separatism. This is about the unfinished process of the splitting up of Yugoslavia. If Kosovo had had only a slightly different status within Yugoslavia, it would have been recognised as an independent state from the very beginning. We should be asking the opposite question: would a Kosovo under Serb rule be a feasible alternative?... International law used to have provisional solutions, such as protectorates. Many developments are taking place that have not yet been settled from a legal point of view. We should be asking ourselves: who could prevent limited independence if the principle actors have already decided in its favour?" (29/01/2007)

The Economist - United Kingdom

The weekly considers what might happen once Martti Ahtisaari, former Finnish president charged by the UN with finding a solution for the problem of Kosovo presents his proposals to the Serbs and Kosovars on February 2nd. "Kosovo's Albanian-dominated parliament could declare independence anyway ... Unlike in Croatia and Slovenia, legal authority in Kosovo lies with the UN and its administration there. Kosovo is expecting a large EU-led mission to replace this and guide it on its Ahtisaari-defined path - but how could this happen if Russia vetoes a resolution to end the existing UN mission ? 'There is no plan B,' says one diplomat. In the meantime, Fatmir Sejdiu, Kosovo's president, says that delay will only create 'tensions' and 'challenges'. He means violence. If that happens, the 17,000-strong NATO-led peacekeeping force might come under attack and the UN would almost certainly be ejected from the Serbian-dominated north." (25/01/2007)

El Diario Vasco - Spain

Before finding a peaceful solution for the status of Kosovo, the Spanish historian Daniel Reboredo considers that it is first necessary to denounce the violent deviation of both parties. "The responsibilities of Serbian politicians are obvious and punishment is necessary, but it is no use gratuitously humiliating, ruining and maiming a population whose responsibility is debatable while the Kosovar war criminals of the Kosovo Liberation Army (UCK) are respected, rewarded and admired by their government whilst tolerated in the west. The Serbian election results demonstrate a rejection of the badly behaved West that, according to them, spreads resent rather than concord. And this is true despite the Democratic Party negotiating with the four other reformist parties to rapidly form a government that meets the demand of the EU, which desires a pro-European and democratic government." (29/01/2007)

REFLECTIONS

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Prospect Magazine - United Kingdom

Timothy Garton Ash loves Europe

The British historian and political writer Timothy Garton Ash considers in an essay published in the monthly that the EU has "lost the plot" and needs a "new narrative". "I propose that our new story should be woven from six strands, each of which represents a shared European goal. The strands are freedom, peace, law, prosperity, diversity and solidarity." The author places each of these 'strands' in an historical context before concluding that "woven together, the six strands will add up to an account of where we have come from and a vision of where we want to go. Different strands will, however, appeal more strongly to different people. For me, the most inspiring stories are those of freedom and diversity. I acknowledge the others with my head but those are the two that quicken my heart. They are the reason I can say, without hyperbole, that I love Europe." (30/01/2007)

Die Tageszeitung taz - Germany

Claus Leggewie on the difference between criticism of Islam and Islamophobia

Political scientist Claus Leggewie calls for the terms "Islamofascism" and "Islamophobia" to be barred from public discourse. The latter, he argues, equates the legitimate criticism of a religion with discrimination. "This term has to be limited – to cases where Muslims are really exposed to attacks, in which their mosques, schools and cemeteries are being vandalised and they are being discriminated against at school, work or in public institutions on the basis of their religion or outward appearance. If we don't make this distinction, false tolerance and sensitivity only create a protected area into which the Islam world can retreat, refuse to make any attempts at self-criticism, and continue to portray itself as a victim. Another term that has unfortunately become widely used in anti-Islam circles is 'Islamofascism'... Despite the similarities, there are too many differences between Jihadism and the European phenomenon of fascism. Unlike the jihadists, who advocate a synthesis between traditional religion and a social movement, European fascism postulated a strong nation state and a radical heathenism that rejected Christianity and all other religions." (30/01/2007)

La Repubblica - Italy

Agosto Giovagnoli supports the law on Holocaust denial

The historian and writer Agostino Giovagnoli considers the proposal presented by the Italian Minister of Justice, Clemente Mastella, for a law allowing the prosecution of negationists. "Over the past few days, 150 historians agreed to refuse the adoption of a judicial sanction of negationism. It is impossible not to compare this bill to the text against racism that has just been approved by the last Council of ministers. It is in the name of freedom of expression that the historians rejected this text ... . However, the distinction between negationism and anti-Semitism, difficult in theory, is virtually impossible in practice. Thus the question no longer concerns freedom of expression, but the best-adapted way to thwart anti-Semitism." (30/01/2007)

POLITICS

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Le Monde - France

Paris reminds public services of secular principles

On Monday, January 29th, France unveiled a Charter of non-religious, secular values addressed to the users of public services. According to this instructive and non-prescriptive aid, people should "'refrain from all forms of proselytism' and above all 'cannot object to employees or users of the public service for reasons related to their convictions, or demand the adaptation of the public service to their convictions'. Thus, women will no longer be able to refuse in the name of their religion, notably Islam, to be examined by a man in a public hospital [as has already occurred in France]", explains the daily in its editorial. It regrets that it should be necessary to recall this. "To be obliged to codify rules that should be natural in society's public life ... goes to show the limits of integration policies in an increasingly multi-cultural country. This is a failure of 'living together', that a sort of civil fracture, however useful, will not suffice to reduce." (30/01/2007)

Sega - Bulgaria

The new self-confidence of the citizens of Bulgaria

Declarations of solidarity with the imprisoned Bulgarian nurses in Libya; the protests of the distilleries against European directives; the weekly mass demonstrations of pensioners who dream of better living standards – Ljuben Obretenow notes that lately more and more people are taking to the streets in protest in Bulgaria. "Whether it's a coincidence or not, the country's accession to the EU has coincided with a wave of public protests. Over the past 20 days our country has witnessed a flood of public protests and demonstrations... The loss of national ideals and 45 years of communism had dulled the citizens' sense of justice. Perhaps the EU can now help us regain the self-confidence our ancestors once possessed." (30/01/2007)

Magyar Hírlap - Hungary

Hungary plans to give public full access to Stasi files

Political parties in Hungary yesterday began talks about a new law which would guarantee the public unrestricted access to Stasi files, while at the same time protecting the rights of victims of the organisation's spying activities. According to Balázs Stépán, the current law is "pathological" and "full of compromises" and therefore in urgent need of reform: "When it became known that former Prime Minister Medgyessy had worked for the secret service under the codename 'Comrade D-209', he promised full access to all Stasi files, but was forced to resign soon afterwards. His successor, Ferenc Gyurcsány, went back on this because anonymous letters – presumably from former functionaries of the secret service – put the socialist party under pressure. The letters stirred up fear, with the result that a completely harmless version of the law entered force... Access to the files was heavily restricted. The director of the national security service declared many files secret, and the Supreme Court approved the measure. Once again, the public was excluded." (30/01/2007)

Sme - Slovakia

Slovakia's difficult confrontation with its totalitarian past

Since the death of its founder and director Jan Langos, the future of the Slovak Institute of National Memory, which is dedicated to keeping the memory of the totalitarian rule of the country alive, has been uncertain. Some of the new candidates for the post of director have called for the closure or restriction of responsibilities for the institute. Slovak sociologist and political expert Peter Weiss warns: "The institute should focus not only on the era between 1948 and 1989, but also on the period between 1939 ad 1945. The repeated attempts of the Slovak Archbbishop Jan Sokol and other members of the Bishops' Conference to restore the reputation of [the clerical-fascist Slovak head of state] Jozef Tiso, who was personally responsible for the killing of thousands of Slovak Jews and Roma, illustrates how full of gaps the memory of one of the country's most important institutions is. Statements according to which the Church has no reason to distance itself from Tiso's regime – a regime that collaborated with Hitler – are nothing less than scandalous." (30/01/2007)

MEDIA

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La Tribune - France

Music downgraded by down-loading

Valérie Segond anxiously observes how modes of music distribution have been shaken up by the Internet and new technology. "Digitalisation has brought on a radical redistribution of wealth between music creation, production and distribution benefiting those who have astutely slipped into the redistribution process: the Internet service providers and various manufacturers such as Apple and Microsoft, having managed to convince everyone that value lies entirely in free access... Music is not only suffering from a displacement of value, for if down-loading does not compensate the fall in mainstream record sales it is because the dematerialisation of music has gone hand in hand with a fantastic discrediting of it, a downgrading best exemplified by the zero cost of down-loading. Will this generation some day have to pay for having learnt to never pay?" (30/01/2007)

CULTURE

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Cotidianul - Romania

Romanian Young Pioneers are trendy

An exhibition about Romania during the communist era titled "The Golden Era – Between Propaganda and Reality" is currently on show at Bucharest's Museum of National History. Silviu Mihai approves: "People are starting to buy red neckties and pop songs sung by Young Pioneers again, just like in Berlin in the 1990s when the soviet uniforms, coffee and gherkins of the GDR sold like hot cakes. Pioneers are trendy... Of course, it would be better if the period was dealt with in a juristically correct manner, but there won't be any more trials for lack of defendants... In a way it's a good thing when socialist emblems become trade marks. Once the patriotic songs and official portraits have acquired the harmless character of fashionable souvenirs, the discussion about communism and the left will become more serious and less naïve here in Romania." (30/01/2007)

La Libre Belgique - Belgium

The Pompidou centre is 30 years old

The Centre National d'Art et de Culture Georges-Pompidou in Paris, a showcase of 20th century fine-art, design, music and cinema, will be celebrating its 30th anniversary on February 1st. Guy Duplat salutes "an incredible success", but highlights the necessity for Beaubourg to make more room for contemporary work. "With a record, albeit insufficient, annual State subsidy of 104 million euros, with contemporary art eluding it, with the on-going necessity of block-buster exhibitions and all that they entail, Beaubourg is seeking a new lease of life under the direction of its president Bruno Racine. ... Beaubourg needs to expand. First of all it is seeking a location in Paris to exhibit more contemporary art. The centre is coveting the 200,000 m2 of stockrooms unused by the Palais de Tokyo [Parisian museum itself dedicated to contemporary art]." (30/01/2007)

LOCAL COLOURS

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Corriere della Sera - Italy

Italians are taking up smoking again

The journalist Margherita De Bac has read the latest statistics on tobacco consumption in Italy and noted a rise in sales. And yet the law that has forbidden smoking in public places for two years had appeared to have proven efficient. "So, it was only an illusion, a premature cry of victory. Two years after the adoption of the Sirchia law, the latest figures on tobacco consumption seem to indicate that Italians have not changed their bad habits. In 2006, tobacco sales indeed increased to 1.1 %, signifying the inversion of a trend observed these last years... And if people no longer light up in bars and restaurants, they continue to do so elsewhere. As for the impact of health warnings written on cigarette packets, it has completely evaporated." (30/01/2007)

Tygodnik Powszechny - Poland

EU confers Polish Oscypek trademark protection

Starting this February, Oscypek, a Polish mountain cheese, will be a protected EU regional product, like French Champagne or Italian Parmesan. Oscypek is produced and smoked in south-east Poland mainly from sheep's milk. Czech beer is the only other Eastern European foodstuff that currently enjoys EU protection as a regional product. In a commentary Henryk Wujec of the Polish Chamber for Regional and Local Products points out that the EU decision is a great chance for the Gorals, a Polish ethnic group. "A protected regional product can become an incredibly strong advertising medium and bring considerable benefits. This could greatly improve the situation of the shepherds who produce the cheese, most of whom are extremely poor. But they must also ensure that producers who make fake Oscypek cheese withdraw from the market... Fake products, like Oscypek made of cow's milk or cheese dyed with tea, could cause irreparable damage to the product's image." (29/01/2007)

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