Photo: “Visegrad Group and Eastern Partnership meeting in Budapest 14“, by Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Poland, licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0. Hue modified from the original
Cabada, Ladislav. “Central Europe between the West and East: Independent Region, the Bridge, Buffer Zone or ‘eternal’Semi-Periphery?.” Politics in Central Europe 16, no. 2 (2020): 419-432.
The development of new East-Central European (ECE) democracies after 1989 might be separated into two different parts regarding the external, but in many ways also the internal evaluation. While the first fifteen years, crowned the ‘big bang’ EU-enlargement in 2004, might be evaluated generally as a successful story of socialisation into the Western structures, i.e. democratisation and Europeanisation, the next fifteen years are often evaluated as the period of getting sober. Paradoxically, instead of a continuation of the Europeanisation of values, memory and identity in many ECE nations we can observe the strengthening of anti-EU and anti-European attitudes. As Ágh stressed in his latest works, as early as the 2008 financial crisis outbreak we have had to deal with the polycrisis situation accompanied with de-Europeanisation, failure in the catching up process, the strengthening of the Core-Periphery divide in the EU/ Europe and the decline of democracy in East-Central Europe. Even the migration crisis in 2015 and beyond strengthened the mental gaps between so-called ‘old’ and ‘new’ Europe. In the article I focus on reasons for the semi-peripheral position of ECE, long durée processes in the creation of European macro-regions, and specific features of ECE nations’ identity. I reject the black-and-white division of Europe into two regions, stressing the positive examples from ECE as well as many problems of democratic governance the EU – including the ‘West’ – faces.