Academic journal article Romanian Journal of Political Science

Some Histories Stay Secret, but Not Entirely Silent: Dealing with the Communist Past in Central and Eastern Europe

Academic journal article Romanian Journal of Political Science

Some Histories Stay Secret, but Not Entirely Silent: Dealing with the Communist Past in Central and Eastern Europe

Article excerpt

"If particular representations of the past have permeated the public domain, it is because they embody an intentionality--social, political, institutional and so on--that promotes or authorizes their entry" (Wood 1999, 2)

Since the demise of communism in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) in 1989, transitional justice has been invoked as the most appropriate means to deal with the past injustices while strengthening the newly--adopted democratic procedures. Predominantly chosen over criminal procedures or truth commissions, lustration was initially understood as a temporary process of screening public officials for links with the Communist Secret Services, meant essentially to reconcile the need for trust-based institutions and to protect the development of liberal democracy. Nevertheless, with democratic procedures formally in place, under pursuit, a series of legislative proposals known as "the second wave of lustration" in mid-2000s advance an expansion of the scope and of the targeted groups of lustration. This calls into question the extent to which previous lustration policies were effective in reaching their goals, as well as the role that lustration can play in post-communist countries once transition has come to an end. The present paper explores these aspects a multiple case study design, by analyzing Poland and Romania after 2006 in a comparative perspective.

Starting in 2004, the interest for the implementation of lustration policies reemerged. In the year in which the Central European and the Baltic countries became full members of the European Union, a series of initiatives meant to extend the application and the scope of early lustration programs dominated the internal debates. Slovakia, Slovenia and Latvia were among the first countries to face the second wave of lustration or what has been identified as "late lustration" (Horne 2009). In 2006, the Polish and Romanian Parliament analyzed the draft proposals for extensive administrative purges, while the Czech Republic and East Germany reentered this deliberation in 2007. This cross-national phenomenon questions one of the foundational purposes of lustration, that of ensuring that the new democratic regime is not undermined. Moreover, it points to the integration of reckoning with the past in the political rhetoric beyond the first transition years.

Studies on the status of lustration in Eastern Europe are limited to attempts at dealing with the past and in-depth analyses of legal deficiencies. Despite an increased interest in the issue of transitional justice, little comparative empirical research has been conducted. Previous studies on early lustration tended to approach the topic in any of the following three ways. A first group of studies focused unilaterally on finding the causal factor for the initiation of lustration procedures (Welsh 1996, Williams et al 2005). A second group provides explanations for the timing of screening procedures, the legal and the practical implications of different lustration attempts (Offe 1992, Schwartz 1994, Nedelsky 2004), while a third group of analyses concentrates on the moral implications and the extent to which transitional justice hinders liberal democracy strengthening (Moran 1994, Rosenberg 1995).

Apart from these, the second wave of lustration has remained unexplored to the present day. The interaction between institutional change, accountability, communication advancements and civic empowerment in the post-communist context has been given little attention so far. Cynthia Horne was one of the authors to address systematically the relationship between late lustration and the strengthening of democracy in post-communist countries by breaking the cycles of distrust and restricting corruption. The present study represents an exploratory research intended to combine empirical research with conceptual analysis, while arguing against the efficiency of legislative proposals on administrative vetting twenty years after the dismantling of communism. …

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