Human Rights in the New Europe: Problems and Progress

Human Rights in the New Europe: Problems and Progress

Human Rights in the New Europe: Problems and Progress

Human Rights in the New Europe: Problems and Progress


Human Rights in the New Europe is one of the first books to bring together leading thinkers from both East and west in order to examine the situation of human rights in Europe, especially east-central Europe, after the fall of communism.

The book focuses broadly on the promotion and protection of human rights practices in specific nations. David P. Forsythe's introductory pages set the stage for up-to-date information on the new situation in eastern Europe, and his conclusion stresses the interplay of national and international factors that affect governments in former communist countries as they attempt or are pressured to apply internationally recognized human rights.

Several themes are stressed in the contributed essays. One is the primacy of national factors over international factors in determining the future of human rights. Another is the question of legal engineering: can it control some of the historical factors that interfere with the application of human rights? Many states of eastern Europe have not been characterized over time as either stable democracies or other types of government that display tolerance and moderation. Further, the economy ineastern Europe has been poor in recent years. The prospects for developing governments that are protective of human rights are good in some areas but not in others. Human Rights in the New Europe presents a balanced and cautious overview of the future of human rights in Europe. The contributors, including Doug Bereuter, Vaclav Trojan, Pavel Hollander, Josef Blahoz, Mark Gibney, Richard Claude, Jack Donnelly, Bruce Garver, John Hibbing, Helen Lanham, and Ray Zariski, agree that there has been progress in some areas but that precise predictions cannot be made in the fluctuating climate of the early 1990s.


In 1991 the Layman Fund, a subsidiary of the Nebraska Foundation, itself independently related to the University of Nebraska system of higher education, made a grant to support a study of human rights in the new Europe, with a focus on developments in East Central Europe. On the basis of that grant, a number of experts, either in internationally recognized human rights or in European affairs, were asked to think about what was happening in Europe in the early I990s and what these events might portend for the future. This book is the result of their collective effort.

Since the collapse of European communism, first in the Soviet "bloc" in 1989 and then in the Soviet Union itself in 1991, events have unfolded at a dizzying pace. It is always difficult to work in an unsettled "laboratory," or, to use a different metaphor, to shoot at a moving target. This problem bedevils much of political science. It is especially difficult when the focus is on European areas formerly under communist rule.

Nevertheless, many important developments in that part of the world deserve analysis, even if that analysis must remain less than final. Moreover, if one waited for full stability in many former communist states, especially those in the Balkans or the southern part of the former Soviet Union, one would wait a very long time indeed before attempting to dissect important developments.

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