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In order to define a country as European, we should consider several factors which played or still play a huge role, like religion, government system, ideology or economy. Since the freedom of religion, being a Christian is not significant in order to define a state as European. In the era of Christian Europe it was significant for the state to relate to that kind of religion, but in the 21st century, there are countries in the Balcan. for instance which we still connect to Europe and where Islam is the most popular religion. Both republic and monarchic state forms exist throughout Europe. But what all the countries share is that they are democratic. Some of the countries are mentioned as a monarchy in their name, but in reality, the monarchs do not have any power and the state functions in a democratic way. Politically, liberalism is more of an indicator for „Europeanness”, therefore I would say Western European ideological values play an important role in defining this term. Economically, European countries deal with each other through liberal economic relations. In order to consider a country European, it is required to be democratic and liberal both in ideology and in trade. In this essay I will analyze and describe the processes which lead to a „Europeanization” of the countries in Eastern Europe, focusing especially on Hungary in the process of decommunization and I will take a look on all involved countries after 2000.
Gorbachev’s Statement (‘No one has the right to claim a special position in the socialist world. The independence of each party, its responsibility to its people, the right to resolve questions of a country’s development in a sovereign way’ – 1987, Prague Summy,Salla;1995:57), his refusal to accept the Brezhnev Doctrine and also the citizens’ disappointment of communism led to the revolutions in 1989, which took place in Eastern Europe, including Hungary, Poland, Eastern Germany, Czechoslovakia, Romania, Bulgaria, Albania, and Yugoslavia. In this year the Iron Curtain fell which was a significant symbol of the collapse of communism. On the 11th of September Hungary opened its border to the other European countries, which is defined as the Pan-European picnic. After 1989 all of the Eastern states began the process in order to become capitalist, which is referred to as decommunization. In Hungary, the ‘development’ began with the constitutional law. In order to change the political system, it is required to make modifications in the constitution, as was the case in Hungary. These amendments are known as the first important constitution-process, the purpose of which was to create a new structure based on democratic values and capitalism. The changes in the political structure were decided by different political parties through negotiations. There were four remarkable principles in creating a new constitution as a result of several trials: political pluralism, privatization, separation of powers and the guarantee of citizen/natural rights. The most prominent modification was the XXXI. in 1989 which caused both the end of the communist constitution and the birth of the new one with regards to content. In the process of becoming a state based on democracy, the first free and democratic elections, in which the MDF (Hungarian Democratic Forum) won, were of huge importance. After a couple of months on the 23rd of October the official form of the state was announced, the Republic of Hungary. Furthermore, the new, codified constitution included the modifications made during the negotiations and furthermore it placed the whole ‘transition’ process on a constitutional basis. Politically, these amendments were very difficult to make, because the Eastern European countries did not have a democratic past in their political culture. Economically, it was urgent to find new partners, because the economies of Eastern European countries had collapsed. The Hungarian corporations did not have market fields anymore, so they had open to Western Europe. Therefore, export and import increased and international trade increased, which shows that the country became more European in the field of economic relations. The most difficult challenge the country had to face was turning ‘state-planned economies into functioning market economy'(Gowland, Dunphy, Lythe; 2006: 242). The economic transition could happen in two different ways: ‘shock therapy’ or ‘gradualism’, but their purpose was the same: to reach an economy based on liberal trade, privatized properties and stability. However, all of the Eastern European states reached the new form of the economy via a mixture of the two approaches, as it happened in Hungary. The Hungarian government which was in power after 1989 preferred the gradual way, but from the year of 1994, after the new elections, the MSZP (Hungarian Socialist Party) gained success who adopted the ‘shock therapy’. In order to solve the crisis, the countries had to find a solution and the prime method to develop both politically and economically was to become a full member of the European Union as soon as possible.
Every state which is planning to join the Europen Union must suit strict requirements, called the Copenhagen criteria. Officially, the conditions were accepted in 1993 and ratified two years later in the city of Madrid. The principles cover three different criteria which an applying country has to fulfill: ‘the stability of institutions guaranteeing democracy, a functioning market economy and the ability to take on the obligations of membership’ (EUR-Lex, Accession criteria;1995). Before the application, most of the Eastern European countries had to go through a long process, known as democratization. On the 1st of May, 2004 eight states which have previously been members of the Eastern Bloc finally joined the European Union. The accessions, usually mentioned as the ‘A8 countries’ consisted of the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia, Slovenia, Poland, Latvia, Lithuania and, Estonia. Furthermore, the Union was strengthened both in stability and in security after the new states became parts of the community. In the same year as the memberships were given, a group, known as the Visegrad Four, connected to the international organization. The Visegrad Group was established in Hungary on 15th of February, 1991, which firstly based on a cooperation between Hungary, Czech Republic, Poland and Slovakia in the field of energy politics, military, economy ,and law. Nowadays, the V4 aid the European Union on a protective, environmental, scientific and educational basis. It is also significant to emphasize the Visegrad Fund, which is a branch of the Group and in addition, it ‘provides financing to activities of non-governmental organizations and individual citizens, for instance scholarships. Furthermore, due to the programme, the views in the region or in the neighboring countries can be exchanged’ (Visegrad Group, Aims and Structure). In addition, the Schengen Area, which is based on two agreements (Schengen acquis-1985, 1990) and consist of 26 European countries, plays an important role in the fields of international security and cooperation with other states. It was joined by seven previous members of the Eastern Bloc in 2003. The connection for Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia not only meant free movement for their citizens throughout the EU without border control, but more importantly to work together with Western-European countries, which made it possible to become allies with them and create a union between the Western and Eastern part of the geographical Europe.
Nowadays, according to the report of Freedom House (independent organisation based in Washington, which do both analysis and advocacy in the field of democracy, political rights, civil liberties and political freedom) the Eastern-European countries’ freedom status are considered to be ‘free’, which means that politically, they developed succesfully after the collapse of communism. Even though the decommunization process was successful in the states connected to the Eastern Bloc, the previous presence of the Iron Curtain is still observable in the field of politics and economy, between the East and West side of Europe. The lack of a democratic past in the political culture made the democratization a long and hard series of actions for the states, which included replacing the one-party system, constitutional modifications and the universalization of democratical values, known as political transition. In the Eastern-European countries, in general, we can say that the mixture of the ‘shock therapy’ and ‘gradualism’ lead to a special economic transition, whereby states became elements of the international economy in Europe. After the year of 2000, countries had become more interested in Europe as a global organization, so they joined the European Union in several phases, which provided them more security in the way of economy and politics. In order to consider if the mentioned states became more European I think the area should be divided into two geographical sides: in the Balcan and in Middle and Northern-Eastern Europe. In my opinion, every country connected to the East Bloc has become more modern and thereby European in both a political and economic sense. However, we need to distinguish between a less developed Balcan and a more developed Middle and Northern-Eastern Europe in the field of democracy and liberty both in ideology and in trade.