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Central, Eastern European nations struggle on long road to reintegration

By Bai Le | 2014-11-03 | Hits:
(Chinese Social Sciences Today)
The Second Forum on China-Central and Eastern Europe was hosted on October 16-17 in Beijing. (CASS)

The Second Forum for China-Central and Eastern Europe was hosted in Beijing from Oct. 16 to 17. Sponsored by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) and organized by the Institute of Russian, Eastern European, Central Asian Studies of CASS (IREECAS), the forum drew more than 60 scholars from China and abroad.
This year marks the 25th anniversary of the post-socialist transition of the Central and Eastern European (CEE) countries and the 10th anniversary of the European Union’s eastward expansion. In the past 25 years, CEE countries have benefited from political, economic and social reforms as well as the realignment of foreign relations.
Ján Čarnogurský from the Pan-European University of Slovakia said that there are two issues that CEE countries must deal with during the process of transition. The first is to regulate the political system, economic and trade relations by adopting the legal framework of the European Union. The second is to transition from the former central planning economy to a market economy.
After the collapse of the Yalta System, the movement toward European integration continued to expand. CEE countries made reintegration into Europe a priority of their political goal. By now, most CEE countries have joined in NATO and the European Union.
However, CEE countries are making the transition at significantly different paces. Those countries nearer to Western Europe, influenced more by the market economy of the traditional European countries, are making greater progress relative to the members of Commonwealth Independent States, which are impeded by a combination of factors and as a result, lag behind in the phase of transition. Compared to other CEE countries, many Balkan countries also underperformed in reintegrating into Europe because of their backward economies and historical problems.
Wang Hongqi, a research fellow from the Institute of Eurasian Social Development at the Development Research Center of the State Council of China, noted that the prudence of the E.U. attitude as well as its ever stricter criterion of member accession will prolong the next period of E.U. expansion, which is predicted to take place during the span of years from 2025 to 2030.
Zhu Xiaozhong, research fellow and director of the East Europe Research Office of IREECAS, remarked that there are three major factors that influence CEE countries’ reintegration into Europe. From the perspective of civilization, CEE countries identify with European history and culture. From an economic standpoint, CEE countries hope to accomplish economic modernization by joining the European Union. It is also the desire of CEE countries to participate in the current multilateral organizations of West Europe.
Director of the Centre for Asian and Far Eastern Studies at the University of Belgrade, Dragana Mitrović said, the reintegration of CEE countries into Europe is not tantamount to “Westernization.” In the recent years since the European Union expanded eastward, CEE nations and the European Union both benefited substantially. Therefore, in the foreseeable future, the European Union, as a model of political stability and economic prosperity, will continue to appeal to CEE countries, especially the Balkan countries.
However, the frictions that have arisen in the adaption to the European Union’s new mechanism are what CEE countries should try to resolve. The underlying problems that they face include how to truly fit into the European Union in aspects of discourse and mindset. Given that they joined in the E.U. at different time periods with overly high expectations, and there are differences of opinion among E.U. members, CEE nations face great challenges in terms of social development. They have come to a new understanding of Europe, Mitrović continued.
In addition, due to the Ukrainian crisis, CEE countries have been embroiled in the diplomatic turmoil among the United States, Europe and Russia. So the issue of how to effectively respond to the crisis is one that CEE countries need to contemplate. Their future development, in the long run, depends on the overall prospects of the European Union.
The Chinese version appeared in Chinese Social Sciences Today, No.659, October 22, 2014.
Edited and translated by Bai Le
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