The Human Geography of East Central Europe

The Human Geography of East Central Europe

The Human Geography of East Central Europe

The Human Geography of East Central Europe

Synopsis

This study presents the geographical characteristics of the transition economies in East-Central Europe. The main themes of the transition from communism to market capitalism are outlined, and the book examines questions about the future of the region.

Excerpt

East Central Europe (ECE) (Figure 0.1) is not substantially better known now than it was in 1939 when a confused British public was told its country was at war with Germany in support of the territorial integrity of Poland. However, the region remains very important to us, especially in view of recent events and those scheduled for the near future. As the former communist states have re-established their traditionally close links with Western Europe, the EU and its member states have supported the restructuring process and have also resolved, along with non-European NATO members, to intervene against unacceptable uses of state power in several areas of former Yugoslavia, especially Bosnia & Hercegovina and Kosovo where UN protectorates have now been set up. More generally, the process of EU enlargement eastwards is gathering momentum rapidly while the acute instability in the Balkans makes it all too evident that there must be an end to the marginalisation of this part of the continent. History demonstrates all too clearly that within ECE as a whole there is no basis for a coherent grouping of southeast European countries (SEECs) separate from a European Union (EU) rooted in the West. Again, the painful transitions which are taking place from centrally planned to market economies-and from totalitarian one-party states to pluralist systems-introduce a new element to development studies as the transition economies navigate uncharted waters. There are many states that can demonstrate the workings of a market economy but none that can chart a crash course in comprehensive system change.

Following the author's broad contextual study prepared during the early transition years (Turnock 1997), this book profiles the essentials of what has proved to be a highly dynamic human geography, very much in keeping with the spirit of 'transformation'. However, anyone approaching the task must cope with several basic questions. The first is how large an area the book should cover, given that the old definition of Eastern Europe as comprising eight communist states on the western border of the Soviet Union is no longer appropriate. Not only has this area been transformed by the reunification of Germany and the breakup of the Czechoslovak and Yugoslav federations but the collapse of the Soviet Union has produced a new tier of independent states in the east of Europe lying adjacent to Russia. And if the Caucasian and Central Asian states are considered, along with Russia, a total of 28 transition economies can be enumerated. This book happens to deal only with those territories that were

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