When the Berlin Wall fell and the Cold War came to an end, it seemed as though the division of Europe had finally been overcome – a sentiment that was reinforced by the 1999 and 2004 waves of enlargement of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the 2004 and 2007 waves of enlargement of the European Union (EU), which saw the inclusion of many of the former ‘enemies’ from the Soviet bloc.
However, the fact that many of the countries from Central and Eastern Europe have succeeded in the proverbial return to Europe notwithstanding, there are still many lingering questions, for example with regard to the position of the EU’s new neighbouring countries in Eastern Europe – such as Ukraine – and to the development of relations with the increasingly powerful Russian Federation (RF). To what extent can these countries be considered as European, to what extent do they cast themselves in that light and to what extent is the EU convinced of their European credentials?
In addition, one can question the identity of those former communist states that have advanced successfully along the winding and often difficult road towards Brussels: to what extent do they see themselves as belonging to Western Europe, Eastern Europe or – perhaps more in keeping with their historical tradition – Central Europe?
The panel 'The boundaries of Europe: changing realities before and after 1989?’ proposes to find answers to the questions raised above by focusing on the discourses about European identity that can be discerned within Central Europe, Eastern Europe and the RF. What is more, the panel seeks to shed light on the perspective of the EU and on the way in which the EU has translated its vision of Europe into practical policies vis-ŕ-vis (potential) candidate member states and new neighbouring countries.
In so doing, the extent to which 1989 represents a turning point in terms of how the boundaries of Europe are perceived (and acted upon) is touched upon.
1. The boundaries of Europe and the borders of the European Union: Overlapping or competing concepts?
Nienke de Deugd
The fall of the Berlin Wall and the revolutions that took place in many of the countries from Central and Eastern Europe, together with the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the (re)appearance of its fifteen constituent republics as independent actors on the international stage, clearly signalled the end of the period of the Cold War. At the same time, the epochal events that took place on the European continent in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s marked the dawn of an era in which several new challenges, for example with regard to cooperation with and integration into the European Union (EU), presented themselves.
On the one hand, the repeated calls for the proverbial return to Europe from the part of the former communist states forced the European Union to reconsider the role that it was to play in post-Cold War Europe and to rethink the relations that it was to entertain with the countries from Central and Eastern Europe. More specifically, the underlying principle that any European state can – in theory at least – apply for membership compelled the EU to develop a vision of where the boundaries of Europe lay and of the extent to which its own borders should be enlarged.
On the other hand, the EU needed to come up with practical solutions to the questions that were posed by enlargement: which countries would be allowed to join, which conditions would be set, what would be the time-frame, what instruments would be used to assist the former communist states in implementing the necessary political and economic reforms, how would the relations with those countries from Central and Eastern Europe that had no perspective on membership be managed, etcetera etcetera.
In the paper ‘The boundaries of Europe and the borders of the European Union - Overlapping or competing concepts?’ attention is paid to both the vision – if any – that the European Union has developed over the course of the past two decades concerning the boundaries of Europe, and the translation of this vision into practical policies vis-ŕ-vis (potential) candidate member states and new neighbouring countries. In so doing, the paper seeks the analyse the extent to which the fall of the Berlin Wall represents a rupture in terms of the EU’s discourse about ‘the wider Europe’. What is more, the paper touches upon many of the issues that are of importance in the current debate about the EU, such as enlargement fatigue and the finalité of the European project.
Also, the paper is linked to the other three papers that are part of the panel ‘The boundaries of Europe: changing realities before and after 1989’ in that it discusses the European perspective, whereas ‘Has the heart of Europa finally returned? Location, meaning and relevance of Central Europe’, ‘One Europe or many? The relativity of the idea of Europe in Ukrainian political discourse’ and ‘Russia and Europe: development of a difficult relationship’ discuss the perspectives of Central Europe, Eastern Europe and the Russian Federation on the EU.
2. Has the heart of Europa finally returned? Location, meaning and relevance of Central Europe
Stefan van der Poel
It was Czech writer Milan Kundera who in 1984 pleaded for the reintroduction of the term ‘Central Europe’, long before the fall of the Wall. We had grown accustomed to the division between Eastern and Western Europe during the Cold War, but the first cracks in the Wall uncovered the differences between the nations we commonly located in Eastern Europa. Kundera made a distinction between the countries who were once part of the Habsburg Empire and those who were controlled by the Ottoman Empire or Russia. The ‘tragedy’ of Central Europe, according to Kundera, was that those countries belonging to Central Europe were politically dominated by the Soviet Union, as a consequence of the Cold War, but culturally and historically belonged to Western Europe.
Nowadays, Soviet domination has vanished and the Habsburg Empire is clearly regarded more positively than in the past and to some it even presents a model for further European unification. For was this Empire not a multicultural society in which many ethnicities, religions and languages coexisted peacefully?
What has become of Central Europe since communism has vanished and the EU has extended its borders further to the East? Do the old (Habsburg) borders still bear any meaning? Can one describe the Visegrád initiative as a far away echo of this former Empire? Or do we have to consider the whole idea of a Central Europe as a purely historical and cultural concept without any political meaning?
3. One Europe or many? The relativity of the idea of Europe in Ukrainian political discourses
An image of Ukraine as politically divided in two parts – pro-European and pro-Russian – has become something like an internationally accepted truth. Since the so called ‘Orange Revolution’ this characteristic has been increasingly shared inside Ukraine as well. What is much less acknowledged, however, is that most political actors in Ukraine agree that the country belongs to Europe and declare their endorsement of European values. Is there a clear contradiction between the two claims or is it still possible to argue that both of them in fact are consistent?
The proposed paper will analyse the idea of Europe as articulated in Ukraine’s dominant political discourses. It will be suggested that different interpretations of this idea make the contradictory geopolitical orientations and the declared European identity of major Ukrainian political actors possible. Two dominant transformation discourses, endorsed by the ‘pro-European’ and ‘pro-Russian’ political camps, will be examined. The discourses propose alternative trajectories for the country’s post-communist transformation, while none of them rejects Ukraine’s ‘European objective’.
The focus of such discourse analysis will be twofold. The first focus is the deviations of the idea of boundaries of Europe. In Ukrainian context this primarily regards the question of inclusion of Russia in the ‘true’ European space. The second focus is analysing the meaning of ‘Europeanness’ in the two discourses. In this case a particular attention will be drawn to the goals of political and economic transformation. Both these focuses are intended at seeking an answer to another important question of this paper: is there one general idea of Europe or more?
4. Russia and Europe - Development of a difficult relationship
This paper will focus on the idea of Europe and its boundaries from a Russian perspective. Since the 19th century the question of the relationship between Russia and Europe is closely linked to the discourse on Russian political identity: Does Russia defines itself as an integral part of Europe, as argued by the Westernizers, or is it according to the Slavophiles to be understood as an essentially different political civilisation?
With the end of the Cold War in 1989 and the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 the question of Russia’s place in or next to Europe has been raised again. As newly emerged state the Russian Federation was confronted with the task to re-define its role in the international community and to re-establish its relations with neighbouring countries.
Russia’s political relations both with single European countries on a bilateral level and with the European Union as a whole have formed a priority in the development of Russian foreign policy since 1991, while Europe on its turn has attached much importance to creating good relations with its big neighbour to the East. During the last past two decades the relations between Russia and Europe have gone through different phases, characterized by mutual interaction and interdependence.
The paper aims to analyze the Russia’s perception of Europe and the European Union. It will thereby turn to the question, what different political actors in Russia have expected from Europe and how they have defined the relationship between Russia and the European Union as well as with single European countries since the end of the Cold War. The analysis will thereby focus on Russia’s vision of Europe in the three different consecutive foreign policy conceptions that have been elaborated since 1991: the foreign policy concepts of 1993 (Yeltsin presidency), 2000 (Putin presidency) and 2008 (Medvedev presidency). The paper will link the development of Russian foreign policy concerning Europe to the domestic discourse on Russia’s political identity, thereby combining policy analysis with a perspective on cultural identity. Special attention will be paid to Russia’s perception of the enlargement of the European Union and its creation of political ties with new neighbouring countries as e.g. Ukraine, which Russia considers to be part of its influence sphere.
Nienke de Deugd, Department of International Relations/International Organization, Faculty of Arts, University of Groningen
Stefan van der Poel, Department of History, Faculty of Arts, University of Groningen
Ulla Pape holds an MA and is close to finishing a PhD at the Department of International Relations/International Organization, Faculty of Arts, University of Groningen.
Petro Kuzyk holds an Ma and is close to finishing a PhD at the Department of International Relations/International Organization, Faculty of Arts, University of Groningen.