Monday 2 March 2009

Eastern Europe? What Eastern Europe?

Eastern Europe is a contested term: apart from the geographical questions of "where is central Europe" and "where is eastern Europe?" (which is related in turn to the even more contested question of where Europe's final frontier lies). Some eastern Europeans and bloggers are annoyed with the label of "eastern European", partly due to negative connotations of low levels of economic development. So it should be great news that the argument that each country should be seen more as an individual has won the day in Brussels. Though ironically, this argument was prepared by a pre-summit summit of eastern European countries.*

These new member states will be treated on a case by case basis. So I wonder, will this whole situation strengthen or weaken the cohesiveness, such as it is, of "eastern Europe" as a bloc within the EU? Their summit helped them get some of what they wanted, but what they wanted involved them being treated differently. Will the operation of any plans in practise cause rifts between these states? And will this effect the political alignments of other member states?

In the end I just hope that this won't be used as a way to limit aid to the new member states.

* I think that the EU is so big now in terms of member states that it's inevitable that there will be generalised regional images. This isn't limited to eastern Europe: "Mediterranean countries" and "Nordic countries" are also labels. The international presence of the big 3 prevents a very strong, single western European label; "eastern Europe" or "CEE" countries do have a shared recent history and has joined the EU at (pretty much) the same time. Western Europe has a shared recent history too, and western Europe exists as a label, but the bickering of the big 3 tends to paper over it. I would definitely agree that there needs to be a higher quality of reporting from the eastern EU member states, though.

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