“A European success story? Central Europe from democratic revolutions to EU accession (1989-2004) and beyond” (IEP, Germany)

The year 1989 was a breakthrough moment in history not only for Central Europe but also Europe as a whole and the world. Places such as Gate Number Two at the Gdańsk Shipyard, the Wenceslas Square in Prague as well as the reburial ceremony of Imre Nagy at the Heroes Square in Budapest and the fall of the Berlin Wall became symbols of Central European democratic revolutions that took place that year. The democratic transitions that these events started were the necessary steps which Central European countries had to take to join the European Union and NATO. The processes of these transitions, from authoritarian rule to democracy, from planned economy to free market, were long but successful. Namely, the year 2004, which is when the Central European states joined the European Union, became the symbolic year of the reunification of Europe. The role of Germany was very important in this process. Specifically, while Germany had a large contribution to the 2004 EU enlargement, the German reunification in 1990 can even be regarded as the first step in the post-Cold War reunification of Central Europe with the rest of the continent. Unfortunately, the outcomes of these developments have turned out not to be always positive. We can see a reverse tendency in Hungary especially, but also in Poland, although to a smaller degree. These two countries are now said to have been backsliding from liberal democracy to an illiberal system.

Read the full essay collection here.