Teildokument zu: Can the young democracies of East-Central Europe cope with the double impact of transformation and integration?

5. Reducing the Risks to Stability In View of Transformation and Integration

Assistance from outside can certainly only make a limited contribution to reducing the destabilisation risks. In view of the misgivings, particularly of the critical population sectors (reform losers), vis-a-vis the role of foreign countries, Western support for democratic groups and democratisation must proceed in a circumspect, discreet and partner-like fashion. Co-operation between the large multinational institutions (World Bank, IMF, etc.) and the East-Central European governments thus implies a - unfortunately unavoidable - risk of societal disturbance.

Instead, co-operation must be diversified on both the donor and the recipient side. It should not concentrate on particular countries and target groups, but rather, foster the willingness of all to articulate their interests in the framework of a peaceful, democratic system of rules and to pursue them in mutual balance. Since conflicts are unavoidable, it is all the more important to create a culture for working towards their resolution.

The EU should orient its pre-accession strategy, its interim regulations and its assistance programs more strongly toward the primary political goal of Eastern enlargement: the creation of stable societal and political structures in East-Central Europe.

Trade and competition policy of the applicant countries must for a while longer be able to secure the process of catch-up modernisation by gaining approval or toleration from of the EU for certain exemptions from its harmonisation and liberalisation rules.

EU assistance should, as a priority, benefit the reform losers, that is the recipients of transfer incomes, women, workers, and farmers. Agricultural policy must above all oblige the quantitatively and politically influential farmers in Poland and Hungary. Here, market opening should be pursued rather than purchase guarantees at specific prices. EU policies that de facto limit the possibilities of the applicant countries to shape their own economies and societies should be kept to a minimum (e.g. co-financing requirements).

The applicant countries should stop ignoring the costs and risks of membership while overtly favouring a strategy of rapid accession. Without dramatising the dangers of societal fragmentation and political radicalisation, the East-Central Europeans in their negotiations with the EU should demand concessions that reflect the fragility of their democracies and the interest of the EU in their stabilisation. During the Southern Enlargement, the EC, as it was then called, recognised and acknowledged the socio-economic weaknesses of the applicant countries and the resulting problems of adjustment and responded to them with comprehensive if not always optimally-shaped special programs. This was particularly the case of the poorest candidate, Portugal, which received assistance for a number of years before becoming a member; after accession Portugal also had the benefit of special programs for the modernisation of its industry and agriculture.

Differing interests among the member states and the general need to cut spending will make such EU concessions difficult to achieve. But the EU and the applicant countries can find a consensus on an appropriate economic and social framework if they concentrate on their fundamental common interest: democratic stability in East-Central Europe.

© Friedrich Ebert Stiftung | technical support | net edition fes-library | März 1998

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