Democratization and Change In Eastern Europe

by F. Stephen Larrabee


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The collapse of communism in eastern Europe in 1989 shattered the bipolar security order that characterized East-West politics for the previous 40 years, and has necessitated a rethinking of the foundations of European security. Eastern Europe's integration into a new security order will pose major policy challenges for the West--especially for the European Community (EC). Moreover, there are significant transition problems of the eastern European countries: (1) the postcommunist states in eastern Europe will have to undergo a dual transition--that is, they will have to change their political and economic systems at the same time; (2) the countries in Eastern Europe lack the advantage of strong democratic experience and traditions; (3) the enormous economic problems that the regimes in Eastern Europe face impose an important constraint on the ability of the new elites to successfully complete the democratic transitions recently initiated; (4) ethnic nationalism presents a threat to long-term stability in the region; (5) it is unclear whether the large heterogeneous movements that precipitated change in Eastern Europe can transform themselves into strong political parties able to carry out coherent reform programs; and (6) there is a public apathy and disillusionment that will inhibit the transition process. The success of the reform efforts in Eastern Europe will depend to a large extent on the response of the West, particularly the EC. Another key factor affecting Eastern Europe's future will be the role played by Germany. Immigration is likely to become an increasingly important security issue in Europe and the EC will have to work out a comprehensive immigration policy. In the final analysis, the migration problem is closely linked to the larger question of the success of reform in eastern Europe as a whole. The West's failure to support measures to help stabilize the reforms now under way could lead to instability and disorder in both parts of Europe.

Originally published in: The Shape of the New Europe, 1992, pp. 130-171.

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