The situation in Kosovo dominated editorial comment in Friday’s European newspapers. Others commented on the one year anniversary of the start of the war in Iraq.
There is an unsolved conflict in the middle of Europe - that’s what the unrest over the past days has shown, according to Austria’s Der Standard: As long as there was peace and quiet, the paper continued, it was easy to maintain the illusion that the situation in Kosovo was normalizing, that the deep war wounds would heal, and a new generation would put an end to the hatred between Serbs and Albanians.
But as Britain’s Independent also pointed out, the latest violence in Kosovo has not erupted out of nowhere. The paper explained that while tension there has been kept out of the headlines by more contentious military conflicts elsewhere, it’s been simmering more or less quietly ever since the official end of hostilities in 1999. Is five years without a perceptible lessening of tensions the time it takes for even the most expert of diplomatic confections
to come apart, the paper asked. It believed that a large part of the problem is the fact that the future of Kosovo still hasn’t been determined – should it remain inside Serbia, inside the rump of Yugoslavia, or become independent?
Denmark’s Politiken remarked that recent developments in Kosovo raise the question of whether negotiations on its status will go ahead as planned next year. Before that can happen, the paper commented, the UN is demanding to see progress in economic developments, democratization, and respect for the rights of Serbs and other minorities. And this is exactly what is postponing the reconciliation process, the paper concluded.
La Repubblica from Italy was convinced that if NATO weren’t in Kosovo, we would be counting the dead by the hundreds-of-thousands - and that not only in one province, but in large parts of the Balkans. It is however clear, the paper wrote, that the alliance has made mistakes, and hasn’t fought Albanian nationalism with the necessary toughness.
Other European newspapers reflect on the situation in Iraq one year after the beginning of the war. The Tages-Anzeiger from Switzerland commented that American bombs managed to break Saddam’s regime, but after one year, it’s still not clear who can fill the vacuum. The paper believed it would be a catastrophe for the country if the transfer of power from the foreign occupiers to a freely-elected Iraqi civil government were to fail.
On the other hand, Italy’s Corriere della Sera sees positive developments in Iraq. The paper pointed out that while the bombs and bloodshed and the disunity among the allies have cast a shadow over signs of hope, Iraq does now have a worthy constitution, and an economy that is on the way to recovery. The paper also noted that there is a lively political, religious and cultural debate for the first time in the country’s history. The conditions to build a new Iraq
are there, the paper concluded --- but time is running out.