Twenty Years After: Post-Communist Countries and European Integration

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In the words of the Polish journalist and dissident,Adam Michnik, 1989 was Europe’s annusmirabilis. The peaceful revolution of that year was a miracle effected by the people in central and eastern Europe. Hardly any one (and certainly no western head of state or politician) had foreseen that a popular movement active in different countries would, in just a few months, topple socialist regimes and force the mighty Soviet Union to retreat behind the borders of Russia. There was Ronald Regan’s legendary call “Mr. Gorbatchev, tear down this wall!” made in June 1987 as he stood at the Berlin Wall but neither U.S. diplomats nor European governments took it seriously and some did not even want it: to them two Germanys was preferable to one.

This wonder of freedom did not just fall out of the sky. It had a long history; the Czechoslovakian Charter 77 group was part of it as was the Polish trade union movement, Solidarnosc; one could also include the Prague Spring of 1968 and the Soviet dissident circle around Andrei Sakharov, or even go as far back as the Hungarian uprising of 1956 or the events of 17 June 1953 in the GDR, the first mass revolt in the Soviet sphere of influence after the war. [...]

The question we have to ask at the end of the first decade of the new millennium is: how valid is Fukuyama’s assessment today? Or is what we are experiencing in many of the post-communist countries an erosion of their newly won democracy against the backdrop of a global economic crisis that is questioning the legitimacy of capitalism? This crisis with the ideas of democracy and market economy does not, however, mean that alternatives will emerge that will create a similar impact as the communist and fascist oppositional movements in the 1930s.

The wave of freedom that began in 1989 has swept beyond Europe. The democratic movement in China that was crushed in the usual manner at Tiananmen Square is also part of it. The epicentre, however, was in Europe, including Russia. One of its most important achievements has been the political reunification of Europe on the basis of the rule of law and democracy. [...]

The contributors to this publication do not just look back with pleasure to those euphoric days when the people of central and eastern Europe overcame the continent’s division but they have also made sober assessments of the intervening period. What have been the results of 1989? How far have the expectations of the time been fulfilled and where have they been disappointed? What role has the example of the European Union played in the last twenty years? Where do the post-communist countries of central and eastern Europe as well as those of the Western Balkans now stand in Europe? What effect has all this had on “old Europe“, those members of the European Union whose historical experience took place on the other side of the Wall? In what way has the accession of post-communist countries influenced the European Union and its policies?

We have also looked to the future. How do the post-communist countries see themselves in twenty years time? Upon what goals and values should Europe’s future be based? One thing is clear: although a united Europe needs strong common institutions it cannot rely on institutions alone. Without shared values and ideals, without a clear public debate as how we want our society to develop, a united Europe will lack the necessary impetus to progress.


Product details
Date of Publication
October 19, 2009
Heinrich Böll Stiftung
Number of Pages
All rights reserved
Table of contents

4 Foreword

7 Central Europe: The New EU Member States

8 Ilana Bet-El Post-Cold War Enlargement and the Coming Age of the European Union

17 Adam Krzeminski Between Disappointment and Optimism: The Polish Experience

22 Jiri Pehe The Czech Republic and the European Union: A Problematic Relationship

31 Veiko Spolitis Amidst Centripetal and Centrifugal Moves: The Ongoing Transformation of the Baltic States

43 Werner Schulz Catching the European Train - German Unification: A Stepping Stone Towards a United Europe

51 The Western Balkans: The EU Perspective

52 Nicholas Whyte The European Union and the Western Balkan

60 Vladimir Pavicevic The European Perspective of Serbie, Montenegro and Kosovo

67 Tihomir Ponos Croatia: An Apprehensive Fan of Europe

78 Ugo Vlaisavljevic Bosnia and Herzegowin: The Continuity of Ethno-Politics in the Age of European Integration

91 Ex-Soviet Union: The EU's Eastern Neighbours

92 Fraser Cameron The Eastern European Policy of the European Union

102 Beka Natsvlishvili Georgia on the Way to Europe

111 Jens Siegert Russia and the European Union: A Deep Moat in Place of the Iron Curtain?

120 Juri Durkot Tales from Ukraine

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