September 2, 2008

English summary

This issue of Diplomaatia is devoted to problems in Eastern Europe, discussing both the region as a whole and shedding light on the circumstances in selected countries and sub-regions.

This issue of Diplomaatia is devoted to problems in Eastern Europe, discussing both the region as a whole and shedding light on the circumstances in selected countries and sub-regions.

English summary

This issue of Diplomaatia is devoted to problems in Eastern Europe, discussing both the region as a whole and shedding light on the circumstances in selected countries and sub-regions.
Edward Lucas, The Economist’s Eastern Europe correspondent begins his article with an announcement: “Wanted: self-confident post-communist country with good leadership skills. The successful candidate will be able to represent the interests of former captive nations in the EU and NATO. An exemplary standard of public administration and civic culture is required, plus military muscle, a clear head and strong nerves.”
According to Lucas, Eastern Europe needs a leader – a country which is able to represent all the former captive nations on the issues that matter. Ideally, such a country would be “a trusted American ally, willing to commit its forces in peacemaking, democracy-building and hot wars around the world. It is a constructive member of the EU, making sensible suggestions for institutional reform, welcoming foreign investment and the extension of the internal market.”
But sadly, such a country is currently impossible to find. “The only country with the muscle to be taken seriously is Poland. And the efforts of the Polish government are occupied with settling the country’s internal political quarrels (not least between the parties of the ruling coalition) not in considering questions of strategy and regional leadership.”
Elsewhere things are not much better, concludes Lucas, but decides to place his hopes with Romania: a seemingly odd choice, he admits, but Romania is a big country and happens to have a President, who also thinks big – a quality that is mostly absent in the rest of the region.
Maria Mälksoo, a doctoral student at Cambridge University, discusses the East Europeans’ perceptions of the Western half of the continent and vice versa. She finds mixed feelings: “In the East Europeans’ strive to join NATO and the EU there is sincere hope for security mixed with resignation that feeds from the experiences of the past. (— ) Enthusiasm created from a move from being among the objects of foreign policy interests to the company of subjects is darkened by the old shadows of Munich and Yalta: the fear to remain an eternal borderland that at any critical moment can be given away for small change.”
As the roots of these fears are in the memory, Mälksoo asserts that a common European historical memory would be helpful in refuting the above mentioned fears, creating fertile grounds for an emerging common identity, on the bases of which, a common foreign policy could become possible. But as of now, this seems to be a long way off.
Vitali Portnikov, an analyst with Radio Liberty in Moscow, analyses Russian policy towards the East European states. He concludes that “for quite some time Russia has stopped behaving as an elephant in a china shop in Eastern Europe. Quite the opposite – it skilfully and knowingly divides its former companions from the Warsaw Pact and the Soviet Union into two groups: friends and those who are not noticed.” Russia’s friends are those who agree to play according to Russia’s rules.
As regards to the rest, the communication with them is nominal, conducted with the sole aim to make sure that no state dares to boycott Russia on the international arena.
György Schöpflin, a member of the European Parliament elected from Hungary reflects on the differences of political systems in the Western world and Eastern Europe while closely examining the current situation in Hungary. “Despite the similarity of language and at first sight, even of political institutions (constitution, parliament, government, political parties), there are qualitative differences between the post-communist world and the part of Europe that did not endure 45 years of communist party rule,” he writes. “Some of these differences stem from the habits of a mind absorbed by communism, some from the way in which the exit from communism was attained and some from the subsequent behaviour of the political actors.”
In the case of Hungary, “what will strike any knowledgeable observer is not the left-right divide as such, but the depth and intensity of that cleavage. It is no ordinary left or right that we are dealing with, but with two irreconcilable visions of the world, with two moral orders, with two visions of right and wrong that use the labels “left” and “right”.
Anita Orban shares the same views in her article on Hungarian foreign policy. Her conclusion is that the irreconcilable divide and deep distrust between the Hungarian left and right determine that Hungary achieves much less in foreign policy than it could and should; sometimes it even makes Hungary vulnerable and easy to manipulate by other states. Bulgarian journalist Ilin Stanev explains why Bulgaria is currently lagging behind Romania, not to mention the more advanced Eastern European countries, in making itself EU-admissible. He finds the roots of the current situation in the political and economic circumstances of the early 1990s and even the late Communist period. On the other hand, he states that ironically the problems that are the most critical such as crime, corruption and weakness of the justice system, cannot be fixed or even measured by adopting the EU’s acquis. “It appears that the format of the negotiations, the famous 31 chapters, touch only the tip of the iceberg – at least in the case of the states where there are problems already with the basic foundations of a normally functioning state,” decides Stanev.
Serbian journalist Milovan Jaukovic examines the current situation in Serbia and decides that Serbia is dangerously self-centred and staggers on its way to Europe like a boxer, who after receiving a heavy blow is unable to find the right direction and is more likely to collapse than to stand up straight.
This issue of Diplomaatia also reflects on the 15th anniversary of the restoration of Estonian independence. Political analyst Paul Goble states that “The 100 days between the time when Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania recovered their de facto independence in August 1991 and the moment when the Soviet Union dissolved in December of that year into 12 newly independent states played and continues to play a key role in defining how these countries view themselves and even more how other countries view them.” Had the Baltic States become independent in December, they would have found it much harder to claim back their former statehood (as opposed to being a new state) and would have been pressurized much more strongly to join the effective Russian sphere of influence and its organisations, such as the CIS.
On the other hand, Kaarel Tarand, the editor in chief of Sirp, argues that declaring independence on August 20 1991 did not require great heroism by the then Supreme Soviet – this body only fulfilled the mandate that it had received from the people; and such behaviour should be regarded as normal rather than exceptional.
Diplomat Sulev Kannike writes about Priit Kolbre, the late Estonian Ambassador to Finland and discusses the specifics of diplomatic work. “The diplomat profession is hard biologically,” he concludes. “In other words – this work does not belong among the natural activities of a human being” – because a diplomat has to cope with states of mind that other people would rather avoid.
The book review, written by Lauri Mälksoo, analyses Julia LaffTanque‘s book “Euroopa Liidu õigussüsteem ja Eesti õiguse koht selles.”

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