Central Europe Activ

The former East bloc won freedom after the Cold War but payed a very high price. Social and economic transition had a war-like impact on people’s social life. Confidence in each other and in social institutions is very low and so is the general moral. I think that should be a consideration in European policy-making.

Social trust in US, Western Europe and Eastern EuropeAccording to the Pew Research Center, social trust has significantly changed over Europe since 1991 while remained almost unchanged in the U.S. The European Union should be hailed: since the Single Europe Act and later the Maastricht Treaty brought us closer, social trust went up in all Western European democracies. The European Union is a huge success: it is wealthy, stable, it is the most peaceful region in the world, and people have an increasing social trust.

Perceptions of corruption and trust in the worldHowever, in transition countries people had lost all their known public institutions from school to pension, and had to cope with new ones, new jobs, and a new way of life. This has disrupted their lives, and many have not found a way to cope with these changes in the new legal economy. These countries have a much lower public trust than in 1991, and this also true for Spain, which had started its social and economic transition more than a decade earlier.

The European Union can be quite insensitive to the special needs and special fears of its new members states, should it be visa-free travel to the United States or energy security. This is a bad policy because it alienates the most committed European citizens from the Union: Central Europeans did great sacrifices to achieve EU and NATO membership, and generally have a higher trust in European Union institutions than their Western peers, and sometimes even higher than in their national ones.

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  1. Dear Mr. Antal,
    thank you a lot for your comment. I am a Czech and the issue on trust you generalize to the whole Central and Eastern European space are of course valid in the Czech Republic without any exeption. If we want it or not, there is 2-speed Europe: in the field of social trust, attitude to public space, democracy and life perspectives as well.

  2. Dear Jana, although I know that many of your fellow citizens believe that the Czech Republic is a Western and not a Central European country I count you here :) However, I believe that the borderline is not between East and West. Spain and Portugal a few decades ago were not democratic or very rich either and their problems resemble Central European very much. Not to mention Southern Italy.

  3. What’s even worse is the Central and Eastern Europe is falling through the cracks with other organizations, too. I am referring mostly to the United Nations. It is considered developed enough to stand on its own two feet, so support for institutional and capacity building is withdrawn and concentrated in regions worse off, without ensuring proper transfer to mature local authorities. And without even attempting to highlight the issues you are so cleverly noticing.

  4. As a Czech I can tell you that Czechs definitely don’t think they are part of Western Europe.

    They would like to have the standard of life Western Europe enjoys but they know damn well they won’t have it for quite a while yet.

    Czechs know for sure one thing – there’re not part of Eastern Europe. Czechs believe they’re doing way better than Romania, Bulgaria or Ukraine.

  5. Tony – at least Czech politicians pretended that they had been doing better than their V4 counterpart and in the search for new national identities that taken all the region Czech archeologist were busy looking for Celtic relics. But I agree with you, I think your country has more in common with Austria and Hungary than Germany or Romania.

  6. Yes it is true that one of the negative effects of transition was (and still is) a decrease in the level of social trust. However, I would only like to comment on the fact that the article underlines the fact that EU does not take into consideration the needs of Central and Eastern Europe (as a whole), while the comments focus on the differences between us.

  7. hello there!
    happy to find interesting CEE related blogs around here!

    in my eyes, the czech republic is central europe at its best – think only of prague! (even if far from perfect). romania is southeastern europe, with a completely different mindset…

    concering teh decrease of social trust in CEE: with the Eu accession the transition period is officially over. social trust should, in theory, have similar tendencies as in western europe.

    in romania i sense high, but somehow irrational degree of belief in the EU institutions from side of EU supporters, compensated by extrem, as well irrational suspicion by EU sceptics (colonisation, buy-out, loss of national(ist) “values” etc.)

    best wishes from transilvania/romania!
    hans hedrich

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