Poland was central in the German press's coverage this week, while the re-inclusion of Yugoslavia in the UN, the elections in Kosovo and the strife surrounding the Temelín nuclear plant in south Bohemia also made headlines.
Not quiet on the eastern front
What does it take to undo centuries of traumatic co-existence? The relationship between Germans and Poles is one of the most strained of all relationships between larger European powers and their neighbours. This tension existed long before the Second World War, was exacerbated during the Second World War and has continued for 50 years after it.
Poles are anxious to prove that they are worthy of the status of a member state in the European Union. However, for both Germans and Poles, the concept of working together from the same side of the diplomatic fence seems to be a stretch. On 24 October, Der Tagesspiegel published an article by Richard Schröder, the former vice president of Humboldt University, entitled "Not Quiet on the Eastern Front."
In it he outlined the nature of Polish-German relations over time and concluded by saying that Poland should be able to count on Germany's support in the upcoming enlargement talks. He pointed out that Germany has many reasons to respect Poland. This needs to be pointed out explicitly perhaps, because anti-Polish sentiment among some in Germany runs high.
The new and improved Poland
Poland was also made it into the German papers this week in the context of eastward enlargement of the EU.
Die Tageszeitung published an interesting article on 31 October which drew attention to one of the major issues surrounding Poland's entry into the EU: agriculture. A number of journalists were invited to farms near Warsaw to get an inside look at Polish agriculture.
Offered the best of Polish farm specialities, these journalists were to see a new and improved Poland. The Polish government recently launched an expensive campaign to spruce up Poland's image.
In an age in which agriculture accounts for one to two per cent of employment in industrial countries, Poland's farming sector involves up to 20 per cent of the country's workforce. Can Poland change its image? Even if it can, how will EU agricultural subsidies apply to a country so dominated by agriculture?
Strangers from Western Europe
Daniela Weingärtner of the Tagesspiegel posed these questions and wrote: "Of course the host, Jan Maczewski remained hospitable to the end, until the last of the strange visitors got on the bus and, waving, drove to Warsaw. But his original efforts to please the strangers from Western Europe had at this point long since changed into amused composure."
It appears that when all was said and done, this was not a social visit to taste the best of what Polish farms have to offer, but rather an evaluation for acceptance into the EU.
Quite different from the question of EU acceptance and agriculture was the article in the Tageszeitung from 2 November. Gabriele Lesser commented on the crisis in Poland's government instigated by Marian Krzaklewski, leader of Solidarity Electoral Action (AWS). Three of four parties are demanding that Krzaklewski step down. The fact that he won't even consider doing so threatens the stability of the entire government. At this point, it remains to be seen whether this will have drastic consequences, as the article implies.
First free elections
This week's events in Yugoslavia and Kosovo were also heralded by the German press. The Tageszeitung of 30 October wrote of the first free elections in the history of Kosovo. A slightly anti-Serb slant became evident as author Erich Rathfelder wrote, "For Albanians to continue to live in a Serbian state is unbearable. Why, so they ask, and with reason, should we, connected with Serbia in neither culture nor language, stay in Serbia, when the rest of the republics of Yugoslavia... have gained independence?"
Longing for normalcy
The Tagesspiegel ran this headline with regard to the Kosovo elections: "The Longing for Normalcy" (Der Tagesspiegel, 1 November). There was less of a focus in this paper on Albanian-Serbian tensions and more on the future of Kosovo. "There should be no taboo topics in the debate over the status of Kosovo. From a federation of Serbia, Kosovo and Montenegro to the possibility of complete independence, everything must be up for debate" (1 November, Der Tagesspiegel)
The Tagesspiegel also reported that Yugoslavia's new president, Vojislav Koštunica, was ready to discuss this matter with the Kosovar Albanians, quoting him as saying: "We are happy about this election [in Kosovo]."
Back in the fold
2 November brought more joyous news regarding Yugoslavia. The Süddeutsche Zeitung welcomed Yugoslavia back into the fold of the United Nations after an eight-year hiatus with an article on this day. The inclusion of Yugoslavia in the UN was seen by many as a step out of isolation. [See CER's article on this topic in this week's issue]
Finally, the Czech nuclear plant at Temelín reappeared as an issue in the German press. The Süddeutsche Zeitung reported on it on both 1 and 2 November. The plant, which is currently running at only about one per cent of its capacity, is the source of ongoing tension between Austria and the Czech Republic.
Czechs are adamant that the plant is safe; Austrians want to see it closed, requesting a full reassessment of safety at the plant by the EU. In its article, the Süddeutsche Zeitung tersely reiterated Austria's request that the plant be shut down until further safety tests are conducted and stressed that this request was denied by Czech Prime Minister Miloš Zeman.
The Tagesspiegel gave a more in-depth report on the same day. However, in the final analysis, both papers said the same thing: Austrians want the plant shut down; Czechs want the plant to function at full capacity; talks are to continue in mid-November. However, it is difficult to imagine that the vision of anti-nuclear Austria will ever be reconciled with those of a pro-nuclear Czech Republic.
Andrea Mrozek, 3 November 2000
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