NEWS

What the former president said about center-left, Kosovo, Imia

On Friday, October 5, Clinton addressed an event held by the Capital Forum and took questions from Kathimerini’s editor-in-chief, Alexis Papachelas on the following issues: On the crisis in PASOK and the center-left in general: All elections are about today and tomorrow, they are not about yesterday, but all of us find it difficult to give up the things about yesterday that we love. So if you are in a minority and you’ve lost two elections in a row, you should ask yourself what it is that we offered in the past that people want to hold on to, and what it is we had to risk letting go of to build a different tomorrow. You have to prove that you can be trusted with the security issues and then you have to manage whatever the specific conflict issues are in a given country My only advice is, when people aren’t buying what you’re selling, you have to ask yourself why? Is there something wrong with the product or is there something wrong with (the way you) conduct the election. I think you have to vigorously re-examine what you stand for and then constantly examine how you’re advancing it, and if you’re communicating with the electorate in an effective way, and answering the opposition’s charges effectively. But I don’t know enough facts here to make a suggestion. I also don’t know what it means that the re-election margin of the government was smaller than the election margin, maybe the opposition is moving in the right direction, and they can just do more (of) what they did this time in a more effective way. On the US’s role in the war in Yugoslavia: I thought about it a lot but it took us three years to get the Europeans and NATO united behind taking any action against what was happening in Bosnia and, in those three years, 250,000 people died and 2.5 million people were made refugees. And when it started in Kosovo, we could see it happening all over again. What I thought would happen was that the Serbs would throw Milosevic out, which they did. I’m worried about Kosovo becoming… well what’s happening now, because I didn’t know if the Kosovars would be able to support themselves. Now when I was (president) we asked the Kosovars to keep open the prospect of being a genuinely autonomous republic under Serbia, but the UN appointed Martti Ahtisaari, the former president of Finland, who concluded after several years that there is no reasonable alternative to allowing them to pursue independence. I tell you what I think will happen if it’s allowed to go forward. I think that Kosovo will still be (too) heavily dependent on all its neighbors, including Serbia, to have any kind of economically viable life. I think that they will then gradually over time develop more confidence in each other and maybe even wind up coming back to some sort of political union, perhaps as part of some larger deal with the European Union. I hope that the Russians will not delay some sort of implementation of this forever, and I think the Serbs should have confidence that under the Ahtisaari plan the Serbian minority will be protected and Serbian access to the important historical sites in Kosovo will be protected. On the Imia islet crisis between Greece and Turkey*: I was in my office with Prime Minister of Russia Viktor Chernomyrdin when Turkish Prime Minister Tansu Ciller called me… I told her she could not go ahead. I realized there was a dispute about sovereignty, so I looked for information on the issue, looked at the maps and treaties and thought about it very seriously and… tried to find out everything about what was obviously a very serious issue. I learned where the borders were and what the problem was exactly, and spoke to both sides. After talking for three hours, it was clear that at least there would not be war… I learned a lot from the Imia crisis. What seems small to us might seem very big to someone else and vice versa. We have to learn to respect what others think is a big issue… Certainly what happened in that incident was painful for you and for the Turks, but it helped me become a better president over the next few years of my term. I realized what it means to be an American president at such a time.