Teildokument zu: Can the young democracies of East-Central Europe cope with the double impact of transformation and integration?
1. Economic and Societal Differentiation
Economic reform has brought about conflicting results. In the area of
regulatory and economic policy, most analyses
see the four countries having almost attained the level of the more
advanced market economies in most areas (privatisation, liberalisation,
capital market reform, legal framework). In macroeconomic terms, the initial
result was massive recession, double-digit inflation and a marked rise
in the unemployment rate. Recession and inflation have now tapered off.
In terms of foreign policy and foreign trade, the four countries have
integrated themselves into Europe. They are in the Council of Europe and
they are associated with the EU, which implies the prospect of full membership.
Some are already in the OECD and all are closely tied to NATO. In only
a few years time, their foreign trade has largely reoriented itself toward
Western Europe. Most of their direct investment and other types of capital
flows also come from Western Europe.
Despite favourable growth rates since 1993/94, the countries have not
yet reattained their 1989 income levels. Moreover, even if growth should
continue - and global business cycles make this appear unlikely - the emerging
changes in the socio-economic structure will continue.
These burdens are only partially alleviated by positive developments:
A rapid increase in the inflow of durable consumer goods, an inscrutable
underground economy, and a social welfare system highly developed in relation
to the income levels of the countries. But these "premature welfare
states" are no longer sustainable. The
probably unavoidable reorientation towards market-oriented social security
systems will individualise life-risks and the levels of protection against
them, which will clearly exacerbate social inequality.
This social differentiation only partially corresponds to the economic
differentiation within these countries. Social groups do not only define
themselves on the basis of their economic position - which anyway can rapidly
change during the transformation process - but also on the basis of their
socio-cultural, ideological and political characteristics and organisational
forms. To speak of a system of political and social "cleavages"
is helpful in portraying such differences.
The structure of the cleavages in East-Central Europe has changed and
differentiated in the years since 1989-1990. The most distinct cleavage
was that between the Communists and the democratic opposition during the
upheavals of 1989/1990. But with the exception
of Solidarity, the opposition movements against dictatorship were not organised
mass movements. Their political organisations (Solidarity, Citizen's Forum,
the Public Against Violence) have since largely disintegrated. On the other
side of the cleavage, there is also little that has remained, as even the
Communists, with the exception of extreme splinter groups and the orthodox
Czech party, do not actively defend the old system.
New cleavages have developed, the significance of which varies from
country to country:
These cleavages are hardly comparable to the well-known left-right conflicts
of Western Europe. They are also only partially reflected in the party-political
spectrum. Their structure is more dependent on the specific form of the
old system, the transition path and the pre-Communist traditions.
The political systems of the young emerging democracies are developing
in a context of rapid socio-economic change. The stability they must attain
requires successful management of the transformation - and in the long
run, of the process of integration - although they still suffer from significant
© Friedrich Ebert Stiftung | technical support | net edition fes-library | März 1998