EU Eastern Policy and the new East-West Divide

EU Eastern Policy and the new East-West Divide

The 1989 Revolution in Eastern Europe and the New World Order

by Prof Dr Peter Bachmaier*

The New World Order introduced after the revolution in Central and Eastern Europe entailed the enforcement of the neoliberal model, the dictatorship of money, with the following characteristics: total liberalisation of the economy, reduction of the state, liquidation of state property and privatisation, deregulation, subordination of all the countries under the control of foreign capital and finally political integration into the Western system, in EU and NATO.

The Eastern bloc, which had been under Soviet Union dominion, was dissolved because Mikhail Gorbachev had “relinquished” Eastern Europe at the Malta conference with George Bush on 2 December 1989. However, he had been promised that the NATO would not expand eastward.
The heyday of the détente was reached at the CSCE Conference in Paris in November 1990. The principles for a “common European home” were shaped in the Charter for a New Europe. Europe was “unified”, and the East-West schism that had lasted since 1945 seemed overcome.
However, the goal of American foreign policy was the subjugation of Russia, as evidenced by the “Project for the New American Century” in 1997 and other documents. In his famous work of 1997 “The Grand Chessboard”, Zbigniew Brzezinski called for the decomposition of Russia into three parts: in a European Russia, Siberia and a Far East Republic. Brzezinski declared: The New World Order will be built upon the ruins of Russia. Today, Washington wants to come to an end with Putin and has obviously decided that he is a major obstacle to their plans, because along with China Russia is the only global axis of resistance.
NATO expanded eastward, and paved the way for the European Union. The aim of NATO has no longer anything to do with defence. NATO wants to expand as much as possible to the east so as to force Russia back. At its meeting in Wales in September 2014, NATO decided to launch an offensive to the east. Troops are stationed in every eastern Member State of NATO, especially in Poland and the Baltic countries, “in order to prevent a Russian attack,” as it is said. Expenditure was quadrupled for the eastern allies of NATO.

The expansion of the European Union: the East becomes peripheral

In 1989, the European Community decided on the PHARE agreement (Poland and Hungary Assistance for Restructuring the Economy)1 for the restructuring of the Central European countries. In 1993, this was followed by the EU Copenhagen Summit’s decision on the association of Central and Eastern European countries and the stipulation that these might join the EU if they met the conditions of the Copenhagen criteria and would adopt the Acquis communautaire. With their association in the nineties, the Central and Eastern European countries had to accept the principles of the neo-liberal economy. In 2004, the European Union accepted the countries of Central and Eastern Europe and Baltic states as members, in 2007 Bulgaria and Romania and in 2012 Croatia. As a result, the economy of Central and Eastern Europe was taken over by Western corporations, and the East became the “peripheral capitalism” (Dieter Senghaas). Governments were advised by American experts such as Geoffrey Sachs. The new elite in the candidate countries sold the national wealth of their countries to foreign states.
Today the countries of Central and Eastern Europe are on the periphery, as Hannes Hofbauer has shown in his study “EU-Osterweiterung” (Eastward Expansion of the EU) of 2008. By and large they have lost control of their own development. The eastward expansion of the European Union served mainly to open up new market spaces for the largest companies of the West. The practical consequences of the radical change measures in most countries have been mass unemployment, corruption, declining life expectancy, and a constant brain drain. A large proportion of industry has been smashed, production has fallen, and millions of jobs have been lost. The people have been divided into winners and losers.

Extended workbench of Western corporations

Those enterprises in the Central and Eastern European countries that were left were transformed into an extended workbench of the western corporations.
In Poland, which has been considered a model of success since joining the EU in 2004, more than 90% of the coal mines, employing more than 300,000 people, have been closed. The big Gdansk Shipyard, which in the 1960s and 1970s built the most ships throughout the world, is now virtually out of business. Poland’s foreign debt increased from 99 billion US dollars in 2004 to 360 billion US dollars in 2015. In the Czech Republic the famous Škoda Works were taken over by Volkswagen AG, which built a new assembly plant, in which various decentralised subsystems worked. The car production of the Tatra plant was closed. In Hungary Ikarus, once the largest bus manufacturer in the world, has virtually ceased its production because the IMF banned the export of buses into the former CMEA (Council for Mutual Economic Assistance, 1949–1991)2 as part of its conditions for government loans to Hungary. In Bulgaria and Romania the national industry has completely disappeared, and strategic sectors were sold to foreign companies.
As part of the “Eastern Partnership” the Post-Soviet States Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova, Ukraine and Belarus are also to be offered a policy of economic convergence, of democratic progress and of financial and technical assistance. The program has the strategic goal of establishing a “ring of stable, friendly states” around the EU. Corresponding agreements have been concluded with the six former Soviet republics.
The de-industrialisation was followed by a reorientation of trade and economy. All but ten years of reforming zeal sufficed to fundamentally alter the external commercial relations. In 1999, the Czech Republic already exported 69% of its goods to the EU, Hungary 76%, Poland 70%, Romania 65% and Bulgaria 52%. In the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia and Slovenia, the assembly of cars played an important role. The gap between East and West has increased since 1989, and there can be no question of making up any ground.
The share of foreign banks in the total market had already been between 60% and 89% before the EU expansion. The expansion primarily served to open up new markets for the strongest corporations of the West – the so called “global players”. Even before the accession to the EU, in the decade after the 1989 turnaround, a supersession of owners of the economic structure of these countries had been enforced. Under the heading of “international division of labour” outsourcing of industrial production from the economic central spaces into peripheral areas was practiced. Thousands industrial sites were outsourced to Eastern Europe, where labour costs amounted to only one tenth. Especially Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic have become extended workbenches for the Western European automotive industry.
Agriculture too was not spared by the EU. While in the Euro-zone a hectare costs an average of 10,000 euros the comparable price in the Central and Eastern European countries is only 1,000 euros or less. In Ukraine, the Western agribusinesses have already managed to acquire 40% of the soil. Other countries, such as Hungary, are still resisting.

The promotion of cultural harmonization

The New World Order also brought the implementation of a new liberal value system in civil society which had the aim of undermining national culture and the traditional family and of atomizing society. Benedict XVI. called this a “dictatorship of relativism”. The West is now cosmopolitan and it is in favour of the “marriage for all” and a culture of diversity. The EU approved the Charter of Fundamental Rights in 2000, and this has no connection whatsoever to Natural Law.
The EU aims at “promoting cultural harmonisation” (Johannes Hahn), with the objective of re-educating people, especially young people. The media in Central and Eastern Europe are in fact controlled by western media groups: from Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation to Bertelsmann Inc., the Springer Group, the WAZ Group and the Swiss media group Ringier. A large part of the Polish media is now managed by FRG-controlled publishers (Bauer Media Group, Verlagsgruppe Passau and Axel Springer (who publishes the newspaper “Fact” – the Polish “Bild” – and Newsweek Polska)).
The American foundations such as the Open Society Foundation, which also operates universities like the Central European University in Budapest or the South East European University in Bulgaria, are playing an important role. All eastern EU members have joined the Pisa and Bologna system, which is controlled by the OECD and is aimed at subjugating the entire educational system to economic categories. The education system has deteriorated in parallel with the continued marginalisation of the eastern region.
In all former socialist countries the numbers of students in primary schools have decreased, in some cases drastically. The task of the university is now the production of “human capital” for the market. Neoliberalism wants to produce just only more consumers.

The population decline in the East

Neoliberalism has led to a dramatic demographic change in the East. Declining birth rates, which began immediately after the 1989 turnaround, attest to the people’s anxiety about the future. As early as 1993, on average 18% fewer children were born than in 1989, the declines ranging from minus 3.3% in Hungary and minus 31.7% in Romania.
One result of the transformation process was a huge flow of migration from east to west, which has been continuing until today. Since the fall of the Iron Curtain about 14 million people have left the region of Central, Eastern and Southeast Europe for the West, as the Vienna Institute of Demography estimates in 2016. Today around 23 million fewer people live in the region than formerly. In 1989, they totalled 214 million. According to this institution 778,000 people who were born in Central, Eastern and Southeastern Europe are living in Austria alone in 2016. Even today a large part of the youth, especially well-trained skilled workers, technicians, engineers, chemists, biologists, doctors, and so on, want to leave their country to find a better job in the West. Surveys show that in the Balkans this applies to about half of the young people.
The countries affected by this wave of emigration are “very concerned” about it. Governments develop national programs for population security. In Hungary, the program “Come home, young people” was developed for emigrants, which is to provide financial incentives for their return, because the young people are missing in their own country. In Lithuania, since the turnaround the population has declined from 3.7 to 3 million, in Bulgaria from 9 to 7.1 million in the year 2015.

The decline of EU prestige

This enormous upheaval has – after the initial euphoria – caused a great disappointment in the mass of the population. Since their joining the EU, trust in that same EU has been decreasing in the Central and Eastern European countries, as the political scientist Dieter Segert has verified. In the two most developed countries of the region, the Czech Republic and Slovenia, confidence in the EU is the lowest and mistrust is highest.
According to the Eurobarometer Index in 2015, 63% (!) of people in the Czech Republic, 61% in Slovenia, in Hungary 51%, in Poland 39% and in Slovakia 51% no longer have confidence in the EU. The Friedrich Ebert Foundation confirms this negative perception of the EU in a study: “The current economic crisis in many EU countries has led to a loss of prestige of the EU. In five of eight countries, citizens associate the EU more with failure than with success, whereby the members of the lower classes are particularly sceptical.” (FES 2016)
This loss of confidence is also due to the Euro Crisis (since 2008) and the recent refugee crisis (since 2015). The situation has been worsened by the traditionally low level of political participation in the European elections. Abstinence is particularly high in the Central and Eastern European countries, but the percentage of voters in national elections is two or three times as high as in elections to the European Parliament.
The events since the summer of 2015 in connection with the migration crisis caused a clear loss of confidence in the EU in all eastern member states. The high expectations raised in 1989 – in connection with the system change to Western capitalism – turned to profound disappointment about two decades later. The people of this region increasingly see an alternative in a return to the nation state.
Resistance of the

Eastern EU Countries

Since the middle of the year 2015, the former socialist countries have been offering open resistance to Brussels policies concerning the migration issue. The deeper cause of this resistance lies in the national culture which has – ironically – survived to some degree in the East precisely because of the iron curtain, because the communist regimes fended off Western liberalism, especially after the ‘68 revolution. Up to today the state in the eastern countries supports the national museums, the national theatres, the national philharmonics and so on as identity-establishing cultural institutions. Modern Western art and culture, the sexual revolution, drug consumption, rainbow parades and so on were not accepted in the Soviet bloc and are not accepted by the population today. Cosmopolitanism was fought as an imperialist ideology in the East and is still regarded as a threat to cultural identity. Values still play a role in the East, there is a national and religious revival, the family is still valued as such, because the East has the experience of different times.
Today the Western media are criticising the Eastern European countries, because they regard their social values and cultural perspectives as obsolete. The leaders of the Eastern region today show restraint towards the EU and also do not accept the canon of political correctness. They are increasingly offering resistance, especially against the progressing centralisation.
In Poland, the new government demands the media “to maintain national traditions and patriotic and humanistic values”. The theatre is not to violate generally accepted social values and norms. “There is no reason”, said the new Polish Culture Minister Piotr Glinski, “that groups that contribute to the degradation of Polish culture, tradition and identity, should go on being favoured as they have been”. State theatres should also fulfil a public mission, said Glinski. “They should be a link to our identity, to our history, to our canon of cultural and national values.”
In Hungary, a new media law came into force on 1 January 2011, which subjects the public media to a supervisory authority that is to check the media for balanced coverage and for their focus on the “strengthening of national identity”. Cultural subsidies for the so-called free art scene were cut. The national theatre became a house of national culture again.

Defense of social values

However, not only cultural, but also social values are being defended in Eastern Europe. In Poland the new government raised taxes on foreign banks and international supermarket chains with the aim of improving the competitive situation for the small and medium-sized businesses. The rights and opportunities for small Polish traders are to be safeguarded against the multinational players in the market. At the same time expected tax revenues will be used to socio-politically support families and children. It is for instance planned to pay Polish families 112 euros a month as family support from the second child on.
Since 1994, Hungary has forbidden foreigners to purchase Hungarian soil, so as to protect the country from foreign speculators. Therefore many Austrian farmers only entered into usufruct contracts from 1994 to 2001 by which the Hungarian landowner leased the soil to the foreign beneficiary for life or for 99 years. In 2014, even these contracts were terminated by the Orbán government.
In Slovakia, there was resistance against bailout and fiscal union in the Euro Crisis, and parliament chaired by Richard Sulík rejected the bailout in October 2011. The Czech Republic did not sign the fiscal union.
The resistance to neoliberal restructuring is reflected in the Transformation Index of the Bertelsmann Foundation, which pretends to regularly measure the democratic and economic development of 128 countries. This imputes “backsliding” for the time since 2012 to most countries of Eastern and Southeastern Europe, meaning reduction in quality of their democratic and market economical order. During the investigation period from 2009 to 2011, the “quality of democracy” was reduced in 13 of 17 countries according to the opinion of the Foundation, with Hungary standing out particularly. Most of these countries have slowed down their economic transformation simultaneously with their political reforms.

The division of the EU into East and West

The EU is now split into Unionists, who want an ever-closer, centralist Union, and sovereigntists, who desire a Europe of free, sovereign nations. The EU’s eastern members prefer the sovereign state, so they cooperate in the Visegrad Group (Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic and Slovakia) as well as in the Central European Initiative (CEI), which was established at the initiative of Austria and is chaired today by the Austrian Secretary General Margot Klestil-Löffler. Visegrad Group has decided on a common migration policy that was described by Luxembourg Foreign Minister Asselborn as a “turning away from Europe”. The four Central-Eastern European countries decided to cooperate in February 1991, and that includes an international fund to promote cultural networks. In 2014, the Czech Republic proposed that Austria and Slovenia should also participate.
The country most strongly opposed to the EU today is the Czech Republic, where the percentage of advocates of a withdrawal has officially reached 57%. According to a survey of the weekly newspaper Reflex even 80% of respondents are in favour of leaving the EU. The current President Miloš Zeman is amongst the most prominent European critics, as well as his predecessor Václav Klaus. Europe’s dividing line runs right through individual countries. In Germany, the new states, i.e. the former GDR, who oppose the increasing westernisation.
However, the governments of these countries remain dependent on NATO regarding their foreign and security policy. NATO has built large bases, conducts major maneuvers in Poland and the Baltic countries, and supports the project Intermarium that was drafted by the Polish Marshal Jozef Pilsudski after the First World War. This aims at the inclusion of the countries between the Baltic and the Black Sea in the sphere of influence of Poland and thus of the US.
While the ruling elite in the eastern EU countries are independent in their internal politics, they have to follow the directives from Brussels and Washington in their foreign and security policy.
The gap between the political class and the population is now even greater in the East than in the West. But governments are forced to resist by the people. There is also opposition concerning the security policy: The NATO members Bulgaria and Romania refused to send their navies out to support the US war fleet in the Black Sea.

Austria’s turn to the East and Southeast

The Austrian population is also ever more critical of the EU and is increasingly orientating itself eastward. At the Balkan Conference in Vienna on 24 February 2016, a common approach with nine Balkan countries to the issue of migration was decided under the chairmanship of Austria, and this was also coordinated with the Visegrad countries. Austria also advocates a normalisation of relations with Russia and Belarus. An in its criticism of the TTIP agreement with the US, Austria is supported by most eastern European countries as well.
The approval of the EU by the Austrian people has by now dropped to about 30%. At the same time 60% of Austrians surveyed in a Gallup poll in 2015 disapprove of US politics. This percentage takes third place after Russia (89%) and Belarus (67%). In no other EU country the rejection was so great. The anti-capitalist anti-Americanism unites the left and the right – criticism of America acting as a common denominator.

Crisis of the EU

Today the EU has no common strategy any longer: neither concerning the monetary policy nor the security or migration policy. The gap between the ruling political class supported by the financial elite and the media, and the people is becoming ever wider. Newspapers are losing their readers because they have been forced into line, and readers get their information from the internet and social media. The letters to the editor in the newspapers show what people really think. Referendums in different countries show that a majority of citizens is tired of the EU enlargement and of the unresolved problems.
The alternative is therefore a decentralised, social Europe, a Europe of Nations, but without ethnic nationalism, as well as cooperation with Russia and other Eastern European countries, which also offer resistance. The Visegrad countries are calling for a profound transformation of the EU and for a Europe of sovereign nations. They are deepening their cooperation with the Baltic States and the Balkan countries. Today we need no military build-up, no reinforced confrontation, but cooperation between the East and the West.     •

*    Prof Dr Peter Bachmaier is an Eastern Europe expert and chairman of the Austrian-Belarusian Society. The text follows a presentation held on 6 May 2016 at the conference “Austria, Belarus and the EU” at the Belarusian State University of Minsk.

Hofbauer, Hannes. EU-Osterweiterung: Vom Drang nach Osten zur peripheren EU-Integration, (From the “Thrust towards the East” to Peripheral EU integration), Vienna 2008
Musienko, Sergey (ed.). Belarus: Independence as National Idea, Global Scholarly Publications, New York 2016
Segert, Dieter. Transformationen in Osteurope, Wien 2013

1     PHARE was the main instrument to support transit and accession process of the EU candidate countries. It was aimed at the administrative organisation, the economic structures and the preparation for the adoption of the Acquis communautaire (the whole current EU law in the EU). Over 2.5 billion euros have been used in connection with PHARE between 1990 and 2000.
2     The Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (CMEA) was an international organisation of socialist countries led by the Soviet Union.

(Translation Current Concerns)

German politicians warn of danger of war and call for change

km. In recent weeks, German politicians of all political tendencies have warned of the danger of war and called for alternatives to the existing policy. We have compiled a number of these votes.

Frank-Walter Steinmeier: Tank parades do not create more safety

“What we shouldn’t do now, is to inflame the situation further by loud sabre-rattling and warmongering. Anyone who believes to create more security with symbolic parades of tanks at the eastern border of the Alliance is wrong. We are well advised to deliver no handle for a new, old confrontation free to the door.”

Source: Frank-Walter Steinmeier, German Foreign Minister (SPD); in “Bild am Sonntag” from 19.6.2016

Wolfgang Ischinger:NATO to stay moderate

“Wolfgang Ischinger, German top diplomat and Chairman of the Munich Security Conference, recommends restraint to the NATO in dealing with Russia. The Western military alliance should ‘not fuel the conflicts, but dial them down’, Ischinger said in the North German Radio’s (NDR) magazine ‘Panorama’. The danger that ‘escalations lead to military fighting’ is from Ischinger’s point of view even greater than in the late phase of the cold war or ‘than in the past 25 years’.Well, even ‘greater than ever.’”

Source: from 23.6.2016

Sarah Wagenknecht: The danger of a military escalation is very, very big

“I think we should not address this possibility [of war against Russia], but we should be concerned with everything we can do, that this will never happen. And I still think that the NATO is doing now war games – actually enforced in recent times and already for years. And this is a highly dangerous policy. What’s the point of that? Manoeuvres in the immediate vicinity of the Russian border, even under the martial name of a constrictor. Further to mention are permanent force deployments and missile bases. Germany is involved everywhere, and that given the German history. Really, I find this incredibly irresponsible, because this way of course, the danger of a military escalation is very, very big. It can arise from a misunderstanding. And to be always aware: nuclear powers are facing each other here. So it isn’t about finding Russian politics great. Many things are not at all great. But we must simply realize that safety in Europe is only possible with Russia and not against Russia. […]
If one considers for example the expenditure on armaments, then the NATO spends currently 13-fold the money compared to Russia. And yet one wants a sharp increase in defence spending now again, aiming for 2 % of the economic output spent in military in all countries. This is totally crazy. We have already the 13-fold spending compared to the Russians. And with regard to shifting of borders: of course we as a left party are always critics of international illegal approaches. We already criticised the situation in Kosovo this way. But one has to admit of course, looking at the development since the 1990s, that the NATO has pushed more and more its border forward, more and more towards Russia. Firstly, the Eastern Europeans, then the Southeast Europeans. Now, Montenegro has been taken on board. […]

Germany radio ‘Deutschlandfunk’: The People in Poland, in the Baltic States, who worry about Russian aggression, about the Russian armament programs. Can you just ignore it?

Sarah Wagenknecht: I really do not think it is realistic, if anyone thinks that Russia will soon attack the Baltic States. This is absurd. There was a special situation in the Ukraine. The Russian Black Sea fleet was already there. It was always stationed in Crimea. It didn’t occupy the area, but it was there before, and the Russians would not pull it off and didn’t want to be in the situation, that suddenly their Black Sea fleet and their strategically important base are on NATO territory. […]”

Source: Sarah Wagenknecht (the left); in an interview with <link http:> from 10.7.2016

Christian Ströbele: What would be going on, if Putin would send troops to Cuba?

“The NATO in Poland and Baltic States. They have a screw loose” What would be going on, if Putin sent robust troops to Cuba in a manoeuver. Unthinkable consequences.”

Source: Twitter message from Christian Ströbele (Alliance 90 / the Greens) from 8.7.2016

Horst Teltschik: To use instruments of detente

“We have built instruments in the last 20 years to develop peaceful measures of detente, and we must ask ourselves in the West, whether we have even used them, – think of the NATO-Russia Council, which we have established in 2002, think of the founding act of 1997 between the NATO and Russia. There many measures were agreed, which we have not effectively used in the crises of recent years.

Germany radio: But what should the NATO specifically do if Member States like the Baltics and Poland are asking for help because they feel threatened?

Horst Teltschik: The Baltic States such as Poland, like all other Member States of NATO, are joined together in a defensive alliance. They are members of the European Union, there they have security guarantees, that is to say, they are integrated into two organizations which mutually guarantee the safety. If they are not convinced of this, they don’t need to be members of these organisations. Russia and President Putin are not suicidal, to attack a country, that is a member of the NATO, knowing that they go then practically in a state of war with 27 other States. You should not exaggerate. […]
We have taken the most far-reaching disarmament and arms control agreements after the end of the cold war that has ever existed. This process shouldn’t have been interrupted, but continued. We have negotiated an agreement on the reduction of conventional armed forces in Europe at that time. This treaty has been ratified by Moscow, but not by the West. Why was this process not resumed and continued? We had a whole system of confidence-building measures, that is to say, mutual announcement of manoeuvers, mutual observation of manoeuvers and, and, and. All that has not been continued, even given up partly.
It means, the instruments are known, the facts are on the table, it is contractually agreed in part. The NATO-Russian-Council has not been convened in the ultimate crisis – in the war in Georgia and the Ukraine conflict –. Thanks God, now the NATO General Secretary has at least announced that two weeks after the NATO Summit one will convene the NATO-Russia Council. I hope that the Western measures will be explained in detail and one will return to the negotiating table and discuss what can be done to prevent conflicts. […]
I think that one can certainly speak with Putin, as it has also happened in the past.”

Source: Horst Teltschick, former adviser of German Chancellor Helmut Kohl (CDU) in an interview with from 8.7.2016

(Translation Current Concerns)

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