Best columns: Europe
Do we really need a new monarch?
Le Nouvel Observateur
President Emmanuel Macron sold himself as a radical democrat, said Pascal Riché, but he governs more like King Louis XIV. “As soon as he donned the clothes of head of state,” six months ago, “his nostalgia for absolute monarchy” came blazing through. Like the Sun King, Macron envisions a strongly centralized government, and he’s been “pretty hard on local authorities.” He has culled the ranks of local officials, slashed local budgets, and replaced the housing tax that funds local government with a promise of a block grant. And, as French history teaches, when a monarch oppresses, the people revolt. France’s mayors, gathered for a congress in Paris last week, bristled at being labeled spendthrifts and set themselves in opposition to Macron. They will find allies in workers’ unions, which feel pushed aside, and the media, who have been denied a press conference since the inauguration. Macron’s defenders point to the chaos in Germany, Italy, and the U.K. as proof that a strong president is better than parliamentary messiness. Yet of these countries, France is the one “where mistrust of government is strongest.” Macron does have a vision for economic reform. But imposing it from the top with no input from those affected “will surely backfire.”
Serbs still won’t admit their guilt
There is no punishment terrible enough for the Butcher of Bosnia, said Gojko Beric. Ratko Mladic, the Bosnian Serb general who ordered the massacre of 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys at Srebrenica in 1995, was finally found guilty of genocide and given a life sentence last week by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia. It’s the maximum sentence, but “even the death penalty” would not have been sufficient for “crimes of such enormity, such brutality.” With support from the government of Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, Mladic led a three-year military campaign in the early 1990s that saw tens of thousands of Bosnian Muslims driven from their land and into concentration camps, where they were tortured, raped, and killed. “Perhaps the only effective consolation for his victims” would have been an acknowledgement of culpability and remorse by the Serbs. Had Serbian or Bosnian Serb authorities tried and condemned Mladic, or at least approved the judgment against him, Bosnians could feel some closure. Instead, the head of the Bosnian Serb republic, Milorad Dodik, continues to defend Mladic as “a Serbian legend”—and why not? Mladic succeeded in his plan to kill or evict all non-Serbs from the ethnic-Serbian portion of Bosnia. Our country remains riven and broken. No verdict can change that. ■