International Relations Central Europe
by
Zlatko Šabič, Marko Lovec, Kateřina Kočí
  • LAST MODIFIED: 31 July 2019
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199743292-0264

Introduction

This article focuses on works that take “central Europe” as a subject of research. There are two conclusions one can draw from the overview that follows. The first one is that there is no common definition of “central Europe” The second one is that in spite of the lack of consensus, the literature on central Europe is abundant. The reason for that seems obvious. Central Europe has never existed merely as a geographic term; it has always been about an idea, about politics, about identity, or the combination of those. The recent memory—the period after the end of the Cold War—proves this point. Furthermore, the “returning” of central Europe to “Europe” after 1989 met an unprecedented response in the academic community; the region has become an attractive study field for scholars. The following overview, which remains and will remain work in progress, is an attempt to capture some of that academic contribution.

About the Name

An investigation of the central European region and especially its definition became a challenge for many authors from different time periods. This section is thus divided into the general part which introduces various concepts attempting to capture the notion of central Europe mostly throughout the 20th century. The second part then explores more recent volumes which try to reconceptualize the role and place of this region taking into consideration the changes that central Europe has faced since around 2000.

General

To define central Europe is all but an easy task. Authors of volumes such as Ash 1999 and Donskis 2012 deal with the historical context of central Europe and reflections on how to grasp and define this space. The great variation in definitions is nothing new. Sinnhuber 1954 examined sixteen definitions of central Europe. The only areas they all had in common were Austria, Bohemia, and Moravia. The rival definitions are based on arguments from geography, history, culture, religion, economics, and politics. Moreover, there are major differences between how countries see themselves and how others see them. Todorova 2009 even considers central Europe as a myth. There are larger and narrower concepts. Okey 1992 used the term the borderland—lands between Russia and Germany—and thus describes a significant role of both actors in the historical development of the whole region. Naumann 1916 stressed mainly the role of the German civilization in the lands in central Europe and envisioned a possible establishment of Mitteleuropa. Such a notion may sound negative especially when it brings to mind the mental map of German imperialism (lebensraum). The concept was brought to life again with the unification of Germany, but this time it was imagined as a peaceful process, as Rupnik 1990 explains. On the other hand, Halecki 1952 focused on the eastern part of central Europe, between Sweden, Germany, and Italy, and Turkey and Russia. Ágh 1998 also spoke about east-central Europe, or rather about its temporary disappearance and inclusion into eastern Europe, which was thought as homogeneously united by a shared “totalitarian” system but was an artificial product of the Cold War. Since the 1989 break-up of Soviet Union, this unnatural unit of central and eastern European states has been divided into three markedly different parts (central Europe, eastern Europe, Balkans). Schöpflin and Wood 1989 as well as Hyde-Price 1996 described the rediscovery of central Europe as one of the major intellectual and political developments of the 1980s and 1990s.

  • Ágh, Attila. The Politics of Central Europe. London: SAGE, 1998.

    DOI: 10.4135/9781446279250Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    The book provides a complex introduction to east central Europe, especially after its renewed emergence since the fall of communism. The author shows how the term “Eastern Europe” was a political misnomer of the Cold War. The book then analyzes the political and social changes of this region in the 1990s, distinguishing between processes of democratization and redemocratization, transition, and transformation.

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  • Ash, Timothy Garton. “The Puzzle of Central Europe.” In The New York Review of Books, 18 March 1999.

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    The author, with an impressive opus decidated to the central and east European region, discusses political connotations of the idea of central Europe.

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  • Donskis, Leonidas. Yet Another Europe After 1984: Rethinking Milan Kundera and the Idea of Central Europe. Amsterdam: Brill|Rodopi, 2012.

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    Inspired by Kundera’s 1984 essay, “The Tragedy of Central Europe,” the editor compiled a collection of essays reflecting on Kundera’s thoughts and the phenomenon of “Central Europe.”

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  • Halecki, Oskar. Borderlands of Western Civilization: A History of East Central Europe. New York City: Ronald Press, 1952.

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    The book is a comprehensive volume focused on historical development of east central Europe perceived as borderlands, the bulwark of Western civilization. It consists of seven main parts: at the base, the medieval tradition; Renaissance development (15th-16th century); the eastern wing of the system of the balance of power (17th-18th century); nationalism versus imperialism (19th century), twenty years of freedom, World War II and its results (the Stalinist system).

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  • Hyde-Price, Adrian. International Politics of East Central Europe. Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 1996.

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    An important academic contribution to understand the impact of political change on the international political landscape of the region.

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  • Naumann, Friedrich. Mitteleuropa. Berlin: G. Reimer, 1916.

    DOI: 10.1515/9783111495712Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    The book provides a historical perspective on the development of central European region before and during World War I. It is based on the vision of a postwar German cultural and economic imperium in central Europe.

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  • Okey, Robin. “Central Europe/Eastern Europe: Behind the Definitions.” Past & Present 137 (1992): 102–133.

    DOI: 10.1093/past/137.1.102Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Another comprehensive overview that provides several different definitions of central and eastern Europe. At the end of the article, it also tries to answer the question: How does central/eastern Europe need to be rethought after four decades of communism?

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  • Rupnik, Jacques. “Central Europe or Mitteleuropa?” Daedalus 119 (1990): 249–278.

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    The article puts an emphasis on the rediscovery of central Europe in the 1990s. It focuses on a renewal of German influence in the central Europe region after the unification and discusses a possibility of a new version of Mitteleuropa.

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  • Schöpflin, George, and Nancy Wood, eds. In Search of Central Europe. Oxford: Polity Press, 1989.

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    This timely volume charts the discussions and debates that have led to the rediscovery of “central Europe” within the political cultures of eastern and western Europe alike. From various historical, economic, cultural, and political perspectives, the volume’s contributors offer an appraisal of the distinctive features of a central European identity and its relevance to contemporary European thought and politics.

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  • Sinnhuber, Karl A. “Central Europe: Mitteleuropa: Europe Centrale: An Analysis of a Geographical Term.” Transactions and Papers 20 (1954): 15–39.

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    The article shows how difficult it is to define central Europe from geographical perspective. It provides sixteen different definitions of the central Europe region and as such it is a very important source of information which helps us with orientation on the map of the central Europe region.

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  • Todorova, Maria. Imagining the Balkans. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009.

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    In chapter 6 of her book, Todorova offers an extensive review of what may be called the circumstances in which the birth of the myth about central Europe was created. The origin of the term could inter alia be related to the effort to emancipate central Europeans from the Soviet Union.

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Recent Developments

More recent and concise presentation of central Europe can be found in the edited volume Šabič and Drulák 2012 where various authors examine the region from different angles and perspectives, i.e., they talk about a lack of consensus among authors regarding a positive description of central Europeanness and on borders of the region, or even suggest that using the concept of a “neighborhood” might be a better way to define the central European “region.” Similar uncertainty about the position and role of the central European region can be viewed in the comprehensive volume Moskalewicz and Przybylski 2018. According to the authors the region constitutes a transitional and fuzzy zone between the eastern and western poles and is thus not “solid,” but rather a territory of shifting geopolitical affiliations.

  • Moskalewicz, Marcin, and Wojciech Przybylski, eds. Understanding Central Europe. BASEES/Routledge Series on Russian and East European Studies Series. New York: Routledge, 2018.

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    An impressive collection of sixty-eight essays by scholars from the region that aims to contribute to the understanding of the complex geographical region of central Europe. In their introductory essay, “Making Sense of Central Europe,” the authors argue that the notion of “Central Europe” is a vague and complex term that is far from being homogenous.

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  • Šabič, Zlatko, and Petr Drulák, eds. Regional and International Relations of Central Europe. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012.

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    The book aims at revisiting the role of central Europe in contemporary regional and international politics. Two chapters (authored by Constantin Iordachi and Thomas J. Volgy, et al.) contribute to the debate about the definition of central Europe. One (Iordachi) explains why there is no consensus among authors regarding a positive description of the central European region. The other (Volgy, et al.) suggests that the concept of a “neighborhood” might be more appropriate.

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Identity and Identities – Region, Nations

The difficulties linked to the definition of central Europe as a region are mirrored also in searching for central European identity. Identity of a nation is usually defined in terms of distinctiveness of one nation from another. The identity of the central European region is different from the identity of the Western European one (Neumann 1999). It was not formed in the national states, but in a community where several nationalities overlapped: Germans, the Slavs, the Jews, the Hungarians, and different Baltic and Balkan ethnic groups (Johnson 1996). Such a sense of identity founded on multi-ethnicity remained significant until World War II, although Smith 1993 pointed out that the ethnic concept of a nation (as opposed to the French model of a civic one) has been present for centuries and it manifested itself in national political programs already in the mid-19th century. The impact of identity-constructions and collective memories on the development of some central and eastern European states was also highlighted by Ejdus 2017. For Dvornik 1947, on the other hand, a tie that binds all those nations into some sort of a grouping is the Christian faith—Catholicism or Protestantism. Pehe 2002 later emphasized the German influence over the central Europe region. Finally, during the Cold War, the countries from eastern central Europe have shared common experience with the communist regime and the influence of the Soviet Union (Ágh 1993). After the fall of communism, the feeling of “returning to Europe” grew in central Europe. However, identity based upon the notion of “us versus the others” has become especially prominent in the case of central European countries. As Schöpflin 2002 stressed, nationalism was identified as a strong force in post-socialist transition. Johnson 1996 and later Schimmelfennig 2005 added that an enormous impact in terms of redefining personal, group, and territorial identities and transformation of the “New Europe” was achieved through membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and in the European Union (EU). Such a process was viewed for some time as the single biggest achievement of central Europe in centuries: a peaceful, non-antagonist, and even a cooperative way of living with each other and within a larger entity (see European Union: Europeanization, Institutions, Policies). More recently, Kořan 2015 warned that the central European countries may become once again a group of largely antagonized states—against anything that they individually and arbitrarily choose to define as “the other.” Ágh 2014 even concludes that democracy of the central European countries has been in decline, especially in the last years. He associates it with the post-accession crisis that has been connected with a populist remobilization and with Euroskeptic feelings.

  • Ágh, Attila. “The Premature Senility of the New Democracies: The Hungarian Experience.” PS: Political Science & Politics 26.2 (1993): 305–307.

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    The article analyzes the era after the collapse of communist regimes and the first challenges and shortcomings connected to the period of democratic transition in the central Europe region, especially focused on the example of Hungary.

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  • Ágh, Attila. “Decline of Democracy in East-Central Europe: The Last Decade as the Lost Decade in Democratization.” Journal of Comparative Politics (Ljubljana) 7.2 (2014): 4–33.

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    The article evaluates the performance of east central Europe in the EU after the accession of those nations to the EU. It specifically focuses on the young generation, which has (according to the author) become a lost generation to a great extent, but also on the new twin paradigm of EU as the performance democracy and the sustainable social progress.

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  • Dvornik, Francis. “Western and Eastern Traditions of Central Europe.” The Review of Politics 9.4 (1947): 463–481.

    DOI: 10.1017/S0034670500039504Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    The author argues that the effort in developing regional studies should be invested not only in studying diversity but also on identifying commonalities, such as religion.

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  • Ejdus, Filip, ed. Memories of Empire and Entry into International Society. Views from the European periphery. Abingdon, UK, and New York: Routledge, 2017.

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    The volume investigates the entry into international society of some of the eastern European states (i.e., Belarus, Bulgaria, Greece, Poland, Serbia, Slovakia, and Romania) and studies memories that they activated along the way. It also explores how memories and experiences of the past still complicate the entrants’ positions in international society and to what degree ensuing tensions remain today.

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  • Johnson, Lonnie. Central Europe: Enemies, Neighbours, Friends. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996.

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    Author explains the competing religious, cultural, economic, national, and ideological interests that have driven the history of central Europe in the past millennium. Each chapter is thematically organized around issues or events that are key to developing an appreciation for the historical and political dynamics of the region, particularly in the 19th and 20th centuries.

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  • Kořan, Michal. Central Europe in the European Union: A Story of Hypocrisy. Visegrad Insight “Border Anxiety” 2.8 (2015).

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    One of the issues that the article explores in more detail is the role of the Visegrad countries after they became members of the EU. It closely discusses their identity and position as EU members on one hand and as central European states on the other.

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  • Neumann, Iver B. Uses of the Other: “The East” in European Identity Formation. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1999.

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    The majority of the book is dedicated to an empirical investigation of “peripheral” European regions. Author provides a historical account of several regions that have served and continue to serve as Others to West European identity formation.

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  • Pehe, Jiří. Central European Identity in Politics. Paper presented at the Conference on Central European Identity, Central European Foundation, Bratislava, 6–7 November 2002.

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    The article emphasizes positive and negative aspects of the development of the central European region after the fall of communism. The author analyzes the external factors that may have influence over the changing identity of the central European region (especially Germany and the EU as whole). He also suggests that central Europe needs to overcome some of its less positive legacies, especially its weak political institutions, ineffective governance, and a degree of provincialism.

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  • Schimmelfennig, Frank. “Strategic Calculation and International Socialization: Membership Incentives, Party Constellations, and Sustained Compliance in Central and Eastern Europe.” International Organization 59.4 (2005): 827–860.

    DOI: 10.1017/S0020818305050290Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    The article explains the international socialization of central and eastern Europe to liberal human rights and democracy norms. It argues that the EU and NATO accession conditionality has been a necessary condition of sustained compliance in those countries of central and eastern Europe that violated liberal norms initially.

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  • Schöpflin, George. Nations, Identity, Power: The New Politics of Europe. London: C. Hurst, 2002.

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    The author explores why states in the West are able to live with the nation as the legitimate space for democratic institutions, whereas in the post-communist world, especially in eastern Europe, ethnicity is preeminent. He argues that the nation is simultaneously ethnic, civic, and structured by the state. He applies his understanding of nationalism to various east and central European case studies, including the countries of the former Yugoslavia and Hungary. He also compares the role of ethnicity in other states, including Britain.

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  • Smith, Anthony D. “The Ethnic Sources of Nationalism.” Survival 35.1 (1993): 48–62.

    DOI: 10.1080/00396339308442673Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Smith is a leading scholar in the study of nationalism. He has cemented the East-West division when it comes to different forms of nationalism. In this piece he explains ethnic nationalism (its genesis and manifestations in Central and Eastern Europe [CEE]).

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Human Rights, Diversity, and Minorities

The European approach toward managing diversity, in relation to both minorities (persons belonging to such groups) and migrants, has been overwhelmingly determined by security concerns. Norms and values in this issue-area as developed by international institutions, such as the CSCE/OSCE (political commitments), Council of Europe, as well as the European Union (legally binding norms), have been typically viewed as addressing potential security threats posed by ethno-national diversity, particularly in central (and eastern) Europe (Malloy 2005; Galbreath and McEvoy 2012; Vachudova 2005). This securitization of minority rights has been present also in the scholarly literature, whereby scholars have argued for minority protection and general human rights protection to secure stability—all this because as Roter 2001 argues, minorities have been perceived as a problem, by academics and practitioners alike. Although the Council of Europe’s Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities (in force since 1998, ratified by all central European states) cements the idea that minority rights are human rights that belong to persons belonging to national minorities, the human/minority rights discourse was largely omitted in the scholarly literature on diversity management. In fact, Roe 2004 has argued that desecuritization of minority rights is not possible. To reconcile these opposing approaches, Sasse 2005 has called for a re-conceptualization of the academic and policy debate in terms of a “security-rights nexus,” whereby the security dimension of minority and migrant issues continues to be recognized, but the rights-based dimension is no longer an alternative, but rather a coexisting dimension. Similarly, Galbreath and McEvoy 2012 has explored methods of desecuritization of minorities and minority issues. According to Roter 2001 a security perspective on and views of minorities as a security “problem” have been a major obstacle to managing diversity in a socially acceptable way, i.e., toward achieving integrated societies. Things have worsened recently with the migration crisis, where “illiberalism” has come to represent a major challenge not only to minority and human rights standards but to the concept of European solidarity as a whole; see Nič 2016 and Rupnik 2016.

  • Galbreath, David, and Joanne McEvoy. “European Organizations and Minority Rights in Europe: On Transforming the Securitization Dynamic.” Security Dialogue 43.3 (2012): 267–284.

    DOI: 10.1177/0967010612444149Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This article analyzes the post–Cold War European regime on minority protection and the role of European international organizations on the issue of minority rights, with a focus on the EU enlargement process and its impact on minority rights. It critically assesses minority rights conditionality as a key part of the EU enlargement process, and claims that such focus was a result of the securitization of minorities.

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  • Malloy, Tove H. National Minority Rights in Europe. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005.

    DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199274437.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This book analyzes the European international regime on minority rights. It studies international law and politics on minority rights of European intergovernmental institutions. The issues of moral recognition and ethical acceptance are at the center of Malloy’s interest. The book provides a new framework for managing minority issues in Europe that seeks to address the conceptual and practical problems enshrined in the European intergovernmental approach toward dealing with minority issues since the end of the Cold War.

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  • Nič, Milan. “The Visegrád Group in the EU: 2016 as a Turning-Point?” European View 15 (2016): 281–290.

    DOI: 10.1007/s12290-016-0422-6Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    The author discusses the absence of shared European values among the V-4 in the wake of the migration crisis. He looks inter alia into effects of these recent challenges on the EU’s solidarity in general and the V-4 cohesion in particular.

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  • Roe, Paul. “Securitization and Minority Rights: Conditions of Desecuritization.” Security Dialogue 35.3 (2004): 279–294.

    DOI: 10.1177/0967010604047527Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This article addresses the perception of minorities and minority issues as a security threat. It examines possibilities for applying the concept of desecuritization to the issue-area of minority rights. The article argues that this is not always possible as minorities are imbued with a certain societal security-ness, which is also an inherent part of their existence as communities that are different from others.

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  • Roter, Petra. “Locating the ‘Minority Problem’ in Europe: A Historical Perspective.” Journal of International Relations and Development 4.3 (2001): 221–249.

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    This article brings about an original finding about the processes of state-formation and nation-building and implications on national minorities in the context of East-West divisions. It demonstrates that minorities have been falsely perceived as a problem, particularly in central and eastern Europe, and how this perception has affected attitudes and policies toward them and toward states in that part of Europe. The article therefore explains the problematic nature and the consequences of referring to minorities as a problem.

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  • Rupnik, Jacques. “The Specter Haunting Europe: Surging Illiberalism in the East.” Journal of Democracy 27.4. (2016): 77–87.

    DOI: 10.1353/jod.2016.0064Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    The author joins the growing scholarly concern about the impact of growing populism and nationalism to human rights standards and diversity in (Western?) Europe.

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  • Sasse, Gwendolyn. “Securitization or Securing Rights? Exploring the Conceptual Foundations of Policies towards Minorities and Migrants in Europe.” Journal of Common Market Studies 43.4 (2005): 673–693.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1468-5965.2005.00591.xSave Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Two prevailing approaches to diversity management in European institutions and among academics are discussed: the process of addressing minorities and migrants through a security lense or through a set of human rights. The article proposes an alternative to this binary dilemma and calls for the re-conceptualization of the debate in terms of the security-rights nexus. Such a framework enables recognition of a security dimension of minority and migrant issues and a possibility for those issues to be addressed through rights-based policies.

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  • Vachudova, Milada Anna. Europe Undivided: Democracy, Leverage, and Integration since 1989. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005.

    DOI: 10.1093/0199241198.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This book seeks to explain the divergence in the domestic trajectories of central (and southeastern) European states with the quality of political competition in a period of transition. It also analyzes the role of international actors (the EU) in the process of democratization of these states.

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Transition, Democracy, Populism

The period of optimism as to the dynamics and successes of transition in central European states that either belonged to the Soviet bloc and/or lived under the communist regimes lasted until 2004. After the NATO and the EU enlargement in the period 1997–2004— the process that represented a proof of “belonging” for some, and, according to Šabič 2002, the cause of frustration for others who (yet) needed to prove their “Europeaness”—all central European countries became members of these two most important Euro-Atlantic institutions. After 2004, however, a different political atmosphere gradually developed in the countries of central Europe, which confirmed fears that, eventually, socialization into norms and values of the western part of Europe might not be as “effective” as perhaps hoped for; see Schimmelfennig 2005. A new conservative/populist discourse has emerged, which questions the European political model; Euroskepticism and populism the “Central European Way” (Učeň 2007) has become widespread. In this regard, Bugarič 2008 emphasizes that in countries of central Europe where political programs of the conservative and radical right have prevailed, the rule of law is under particular threat. Bajomi-Lázár 2014 shows that the same can be said of the media. History matters as well, such as with regard to the role of a country in World War II, to its communist past, to the “protection of the nation” (regardless of state frontiers); see Kopeček 2008, Pytlas 2016, and Pehe 2002. Nationalism is dangerous for European democracy, but when it exceeds boundaries, it is difficult to stop it. In such a context, central Europe, which used to be part of the solution in the process of European integration, has now become part of the problem; see Kazharski 2017 and Rupnik 2018.

  • Bajomi-Lázár, Peter. Party Colonisation of the Media in Central and Eastern Europe. Budapest: Central European University Press, 2014.

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    Control over media is one of the greatest obsessions of authoritarian regimes. As soon as they come to power, conservative and populist parties from almost every part of post-communist Europe have subordinated or tried to subordinate media, thus reducing the importance of European values such as freedom of press and freedom of expression.

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  • Bugarič, Bojan. “Populism, Liberal Democracy, and the Rule of Law in Central and Eastern Europe.” Communist and Post-Communist Studies 41 (2008): 191–203.

    DOI: 10.1016/j.postcomstud.2008.03.006Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    The author offers valuable research on the influence of populism in central Europe as regards the rule of law. Populism has already proven to be an inevitable companion to the process of transition of central and eastern Europe. Regardless of the fact that former socialist countries have largely internalized democracy, the evidence shows that populism must be taken very seriously and its potentially damaging effects prevented accordingly.

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  • Kazharski, Aliaksei. “The End of ‘Central Europe’? The Rise of the Radical Right and the Contestation of Identities in Slovakia and the Visegrad Four.” Geopolitics 23.4 (2017): 754–780.

    DOI: 10.1080/14650045.2017.1389720Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Discusses the impact of the migrant crisis on central European states’ willingness to share western European norms and values.

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  • Kopeček, Michal, ed. Past in the Making: Historical Revisionism in Central Europe After 1989. Budapest: Central European University Press, 2008.

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    A collection of essays that share the ambition to offer an open, comprehensive scientific debate about events that bear particular weight in the history of central Europe. Such works are particularly relevant for studying politics and international relations of central Europe, because politicization of history is a common occurrence in this region.

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  • Pehe, Jiří. Central European Identity in Politics. Bratislava, Slovakia: Central European Foundation, 2002.

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    The author makes an important argument in an explanation of political (in)stability of central European states. In his opinion, historical circumstances need to be taken into account. In the case of Czechoslovakia, for example, its political elites were replaced no less than eight times between 1918 and 1992.

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  • Pytlas, Bartek. Radical Right Parties in Central and Eastern Europe: Mainstream Party Competition and Electoral Fortune. London: Routledge, 2016.

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    A more recent analysis of the significance of radical right parties in political developments of central (and eastern) European states.

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  • Rupnik, Jacques. “Explaining Eastern Europe: The Crisis of Liberalism.” Journal of Democracy 29.3 (2018): 24–38.

    DOI: 10.1353/jod.2018.0042Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    One of the foremost connoisseurs of central and eastern Europe, Rupnik provides the most recent analysis of the anti-democratic and anti-liberal turn in central Europe, as well as its impact on the region.

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  • Šabič, Zlatko. “Slovenia and the European Union: A Different Kind of Two-Level Game.” In Norms and Nannies: The Impact of International Organizations on the Central and East European States. Edited by Ronald H. Linden, 91–127. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2002.

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    The chapter in this book is about a kind of two-level game played at the intergovernmental level only, but which involves both the multilateral and bilateral levels of negotiations. Based on the case of Slovenia, an argument is put forward that the bilateral level of such intergovernmental negotiations has a potentially important role in what is normally perceived as multilateral negotiations.

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  • Schimmelfennig, Frank. “Strategic Calculation and International Socialization: Membership Incentives, Party Constellations, and Sustained Compliance in Central and Eastern Europe.” International Organization 59.4 (2005): 827–860.

    DOI: 10.1017/S0020818305050290Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    The article argues that socialization as a process of conditioning compliance with a reward (e.g., membership in an international organization) may not necessary result in an effective socialization from within.

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  • Učeň, Peter. “Parties, Populism, and Anti-Establishment Politics in East Central Europe.” SAIS Review of International Affairs 1 (2007): 49–62.

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    An example of an article at the end of the first decade of the 2000s, which paid attention to the resurgence of populism in central (and eastern) Europe. As other scholars from that period, the author claims that populism should be treated as a dynamic rather than a static phenomenon. Importantly, the article warns that central European populism’s “strong anti-establishment posture is based on blaming the post-communist mainstream for its political and moral misconduct, rather than on the challenges inherent in the democratic transition” (p. 49).

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Security

Richard Holbrooke (Holbrooke 1995), a central figure in negotiating peace in the aftermath of the breakup of the former Yugoslavia, maintained that stability of central Europe held the key to a durable peace in Europe. Central European politicians have been unanimous practically from the end of the Cold War: they wanted an enlargement of NATO as soon as possible. As the enlargement process was carried on, realists such as Zbigniew Brzezinski (Brzezinski 2009) have emphasized the importance of making the Russian factor a part of any calculation of risks along the eastern borders of the Alliance. In the end, the West has delivered by admitting many central and east European countries to NATO. But Russia has “delivered” too by taking Crimea from Ukraine in 2014. Liberalists such as Allison 2014 warned that the Russian intervention in the Ukraine was a blatant disregard of international law, with potentially dire consequences for the security, not only of central Europe, but of the entire European region. In the realist assessment, however, the reaction from Moscow was not at all unexpected, because the NATO enlargement to the East has hit the final frontier: the Russian “safety zone,” consisting of Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine; see Larrabee 2010 and Mearsheimer 2014. Of course, security concerns in central Europe are not confined solely to politico-military affairs. Recently, topics that attract most attention by scholars and policymakers are migration, energy security, and environment. The (mis)handling of the refugee crisis in 2015 has caused a sharp division between central and western European states, which according to Lehne 2018 makes Europe rather unprepared for the next migration crisis. As for energy security, mitigation of import dependency has been at the forefront of discussions since the beginning of Russia’s policy of energy cut-offs in 2004 (Belarus) and 2006 (Ukraine). Hence, according to Krickovic 2015, central European states have become wary of depending on Russian gas in general and of its delivery via Ukraine as the main transit route to Europe in particular (see Relations with the East: Russia, China). Environmental security is also of major concern for central Europe. The ability to cope with addressing the legacy of communist regimes, ignorant about protection of the environment (Bochniarz and Cohen 2007), and the ability to internalize European Union (EU) environmental standards (Andonova 2004), are determinants of success for central European states to address this important issue.

  • Allison, Roy. “Russian ‘Deniable’ Intervention in Ukraine: How and Why Russia Broke the Rules.” International Affairs 60.6 (2014): 1255–1297.

    DOI: 10.1111/1468-2346.12170Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This article argues that the conduct of Russia in the case of the its occupation of Crimea represents a dangerous precedent, which can jeopardize the stability of not only central Europe but of the Continent as a whole.

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  • Andonova, Liliana B. Transnational Politics of the Environment: The European Union and Environmental Policy in Central and Eastern Europe. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2004.

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    An excellent study of the impact that environmental regulations of the EU have had on environmental laws and policies of EU members from central and eastern Europe. The study deals with various aspects of the problematique, such as why certain actors have more incentives to adopt environmental norms and why others do not. The book demonstrates, convincingly, that environmental politics of the region cannot be studied without taking into account the interlinkage of domestic and international politics of environment.

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  • Bochniarz, Zbigniew, and Gary B. Cohen. The Environment and Sustainable Development in the New Central Europe. New York: Berghahn Books, 2007.

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    The book is a result of an interdisciplinary workshop in which authors from all walks of life (as listed by the editors: historians, geographers, economists, ecologists, business management experts, public policy specialists, and community organizers) evaluate interactions between central European states as importers of environmental norms and standards, and outside actors (the EU) as exporters of those norms and standards. The studies introduced in this book describe both successes and “dissapointments” resulting from these interactions.

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  • Brzezinski, Zbigniew. “An Agenda for NATO.” Foreign Affairs 88.5 (2009): 2–20.

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    The author inter alia explains the importance of NATO for central (and east) European countries. After half a century of Soviet domination it would have been hard to “sell” to these countries the need to dissolve the only international organization fully capable of ensuring their security.

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  • Holbrooke, Richard C. “America, a European Power.” Foreign Affairs 74.2 (1995): 38–52.

    DOI: 10.2307/20047041Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Argues that stability and security of central Europe is an imperative to secure American interest in the West after the fall of the Soviet Union.

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  • Krickovic, Andrej. “When Interdependence Produces Conflict: EU–Russia Energy Relations as a Security Dilemma.” Contemporary Security Policy 36.1 (2015): 3–26.

    DOI: 10.1080/13523260.2015.1012350Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    The article looks at the energy interdependence between Europe and Russia as a security dilemma. The analysis helps the reader to understand the “fear” felt by central European countries from the impact of too high an independence from Russian gas which could eventually cause rifts among EU members themselves as well.

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  • Larrabee, Stephen F. “Russia, Ukraine and Central Europe: The Return of Geopolitics.” Journal of International Affairs 63.2 (2010): 33–52.

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    The author warns that Russia has become aware of its growing power and wants to re-establish its influence on political developments in the post-Soviet space. He makes a point that interest of central European states would be best served by a slower pace of further enlargement, notably as regards Ukraine.

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  • Lehne, Stefan. The EU Remains Unprepared for the Next Migration Crisis. Carnegie Europe (3 April 2018).

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    A brief but rather well elaborated essay on the potential for an unresolved migration crisis to cause the integration process to break apart.

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  • Mearsheimer, John J. “Why the Ukraine Crisis Is the West’s Fault: The Liberal Delusions That Provoked Putin.” Foreign Affairs 93.5 (2014): 77–89.

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    Reflecting on what he calls “liberal delusions,” the author states that non-inclusion of Ukraine into NATO would best serve the stability of Europe. He argues that the West has proven its reluctance to help Ukraine militarily, which consequently begs the question of why NATO ought to bring into membership a country that it is unwilling to defend.

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  • Schimmelfennig, Frank. “NATO Enlargement: A Constructivist Explanation.” Security Studies 8.2–3 (1998): 198–234.

    DOI: 10.1080/09636419808429378Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    The author argues that NATO has a socializing effect because it motivates candidate countries to conform to democratic norms and values in order to accomplish membership.

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Political Economy – Models, Institutions

The countries from the central European region have had not only similar historical and cultural paths, but such development has had an impact on the establishment of similar institutional backgrounds which, however, differ from their Western counterparts. The socialist era did not change this basic constellation fundamentally. As Baten 2016 assessed, it is the return to the market economy that caught much attention from academics and researchers. There were good reasons for the assumption that the post-socialist countries would economically follow roughly a similar course and later similar transition processes. Instead as Ramet 2010 argued there were considerable differences in the strategy of post-socialist transitions. The chosen or imposed form depended, according to Pickles and Smith 1998, on the internal power relations of states, the character of the state and politics of international monetary institutions, and the economic internationalization. The transition to a market economy was related to several challenges: first, the economic reforms caused general insecurity, unemployment, and poverty which negatively impacted the process of political reforms; second, with the transition processes, speculative economies, semi-formal and semi-illegal political capitalism, kiosk and mafia economies have emerged (see Ramet 2010, Offe 2004). All post-socialist states were sooner or later included in the processes of internationalization and transnationalization. However, Bruff 2010 warned that since the beginning it was visible that these processes have had a different impact on the central European countries, especially due to transnational corporations (TNCs). Since the countries of the central European region lack capital, they were and still are highly dependent on flows of foreign direct investment (FDI). This means, as Inglot 2008 explains, that investors decide on the form of industrial reconstruction and, as a consequence, foreign companies more or less dominate the economies of the central European countries. Beblavý 2007 and later Jacoby 2010 also highlighted that these analyses were (and would be) even intensified with the debates on economic integration in the European Union (EU) and for some countries possibly in the Eurozone. Today, in highly open and financially integrated market economies, all the central European countries have become fully integrated into the global and European economy, with trade ties which go beyond the central European region. However, Kunčič and Šušteršič 2012 concludes that in terms of trade, there are no special trade linkages between the central European countries, which would robustly support the notion of the central European region, and thus prove that the suggested central European countries form a homogenous and separate group on their own.

  • Baten, Joerg. “Southern, Eastern, and Central Europe.” In A History of the Global Economy: 1500 to the Present. Edited by Joerg Baten, 42–82. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2016.

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    The book summarizes the key economic findings, debates, and ideas, and provides the interested public with an up-to-date and engaging introduction to the origins and evolution of today’s global economy. The second chapter focuses on the countries of eastern, southern and central Europe and their economic history. It mainly studies different paths to modernity and analyzes how some countries were able to achieve significant development accelerations during some periods and why living standards in these countries regressed during other periods.

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  • Beblavý, Miroslav. Monetary Policy in Central Europe. London and New York: Routledge, 2007.

    DOI: 10.4324/9780203964231Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    The book offers a detailed study of monetary policy and monetary institutions in the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia during the 1990s and the early 2000s and a more general look at monetary policy in less developed, but highly open and financially integrated market economies.

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  • Bruff, Ian. “European Varieties of Capitalism and the International.” European Journal of International Relations 16.4 (2010): 615–638.

    DOI: 10.1177/1354066109344379Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This article develops a framework for analyzing the distinctive national trajectories of European varieties of capitalism under the conditioning of “the international.” An important part examines the central European region and the differences and similarities that exist among the countries in this region.

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  • Inglot, Tomasz. “The Welfare State in East Central Europe: A Conceptual and Theoretical Reconsideration.” In Welfare States in East Central Europe, 1919–2004. By Tomasz Inglot, 21–53. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2008.

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    A comparative-historical study of welfare states in the former communist region of east central Europe. It analyzes almost one hundred years of expansion of social insurance programs across different political regimes. Based on this research, the author argues that despite apparent similarities the welfare states of east central Europe—Czechoslovakia (Czech Republic and Slovakia since 1993), Poland, and Hungary—have pursued distinct historical paths of development and change.

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  • Jacoby, Wade. “Managing Globalization by Managing Central and Eastern Europe: The EU’s Backyard as Threat and Opportunity.” Journal of European Public Policy 17.3 (2010): 416–432.

    DOI: 10.1080/13501761003661935Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    The article shows that the new member states of central Europe emerged as an important challenge for the former EU-15. Poor areas next door often appeared as both threat and opportunity. Corporations, but also many European liberals, saw in central Europe a chance for new markets, new workers, and new investment opportunities. Others—mostly EU-15 states—however, worried about competition from central Europe and tried to minimize these potential threats.

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  • Kunčič, Aljaž, and Šušteršič Janez. “Political Economy of Central Europe.” In Regional and International Relations of Central Europe. Edited by Zlatko Šabič and Petr Drulák, 239–260. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012.

    DOI: 10.1057/9781137283450_13Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This chapter examines the political economy of central European countries from two angles. First, it looks into the political economic institutions evaluating their convergence across the region. Second, the chapter investigates trade and foreign direct investment flows of the central European countries.

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  • Offe, Claus. “Capitalism by Democratic Design? Democratic Theory Facing the Triple Transition in East Central Europe.” Social Research 71.3 (2004): 501–528.

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    The article studies the nature of the east central European process of transformation—and the challenges to democratic theory emerging from it. It emphasizes that the whole process was difficult because at least some of the countries underwent the triple transformation (separately—one by one, not as a combination): economic and institutional, in the shadow of which the forces of a civil society had an exceedingly hard time to assert themselves.

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  • Pickles, John, and Adrian Smith, eds. Theorizing Transition: The Political Economy of Post-communist Transformation. London and New York: Routledge, 1998.

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    The book provides a comprehensive examination of the development of the economic, political, social, and cultural transformations in post-communist Europe and offers an important critique of transition theory and policy. It creates the basis of a theoretical understanding of transition in terms of a political economy of capitalist development. The diversity of forms and complexities of transition are examined through a wide range of examples from post-Soviet countries.

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  • Ramet, Sabrina R. Central and Southeast European Politics since 1989. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2010.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511803185Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    The book provides a complete introduction to post-1989 central and southeast European politics and the massive transformation that the region has witnessed. The text examines these aspects country by country and identifies common themes and issues, including political economy of the central European region. Chapter 5, written by Karl Kaser (pp. 91–111), explores recent economic reforms and talks about the illusion of transition of the countries in the region.

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European Union: Europeanization, Institutions, Policies

The Europeanization, i.e., downloading of norms, institutions, and policies in the process of accession, being the most powerful of the European Union’s (EU) foreign policy tool, facilitated through conditionality and learning, which demonstrated transformative powers of the EU, is one of the key topics of research on central Europe. The vacuum created with the collapse of the communist regimes after the end of the Cold War was filled by the EU. Schimmelfennig and Sedelmeier 2004 and Schimmelfennig and Sedelmeier 2005 consider Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Slovenia as being a part of a larger group of central and east European countries, a coherent region where Europeanization process played a consistent role. A vast number of case and comparative studies, however, lack a specific regional focus on central Europe. The foreign policy aspect that has been characterized by greater level of divergence, which is partly due to the intergovernmental nature of the Common Foreign and Security Policy—as shown by Baun and Marek 2012, Pomorska 2015, and Bátora 2012—highlights some of the internal differences in terms of scope, quality, and durability of institutional adaptation and learning. Apart from the “downloading,” the second major research topic has been the “uploading” or the bottom-up impact of central Europe on the EU and its (foreign) policymaking. Apart from Poland, which was able to exert some influence by gaining middle-power status (see Baun and Marek 2012), the others, following Copsey and Pomorska 2010 and Copeland 2014, have been more or less struggling to overcome the “newcomer” and “junior partner” status. Inter alia this shows that the visibility of the Visegrád group should not be mistaken for its actual influence. The “uploading” has been intertwined with the return of geopolitics and identity politics by the local elites in central Europe to regain legitimacy as well as backslides in terms of de-democratization and de-Europeanization (see Sedelmeier 2014 and Ágh 2016). The new “troublemaker” identity, as constructed from the West European stance (for the inside-out perspective on identity see Identity and Identities – Region, Nations), which became the most pronounced during the migrant and refugee crisis, has put under question the success and irreversibility of the integration—see Börzel and Schimmelfennig 2017.

  • Ágh, Attila. “The Decline of Democracy in East-Central Europe.” Problems of Post-Communism 63.5–6 (2016): 277–287.

    DOI: 10.1080/10758216.2015.1113383Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This is one in a series of works in which the author, specializing in central European countries, deals with de-democratization and de-Europeanization of the central European countries in the context of the external shocks in terms of global and EU crises on the one hand and their domestic weaknesses due to half-completed economic and political transition on the other.

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  • Bátora, Jozef. “Europeanization of Foreign Policy: Whither Central Europe?” In Regional and International Relations of Central Europe. Edited by Zlatko Šabič and Petr Drulák, 219–238. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012.

    DOI: 10.1057/9781137283450_12Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    One of the few studies which focus specifically on central Europe, observing differences in Europeanization via learning in the region.

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  • Baun, Michael, and Dan Marek, eds. The New Member States and the European Union: Foreign Policy and Europeanization. London: Routledge, 2012.

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    The edited volume involves country case studies from central and eastern Europe following same analytical framework (policymaking, institutions, and procedures; interests and preferences; and strategies and actions). It provides a good general overview and a basis for comparison between different countries.

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  • Börzel, Tanja, and Frank Schimmelfennig. “Coming Together or Drifting Apart? The EU’s Political Integration Capacity in Eastern Europe.” Journal of European Public Policy 24.2 (2017): 278–296.

    DOI: 10.1080/13501763.2016.1265574Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    The article, assessing external political integration capacity of the EU, finds that (a) subregional parts are lagging behind; (b) following the accession the integration capacity weakens; and (c) on a more long-term perspective, impact of the EU for government effectiveness is much stronger as opposed to democratic development in the acceding country. These findings which have a broader regional focus are empirically relevant for central Europe.

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  • Copeland, Paul. “Central and Eastern Europe: Negotiating Influence in an Enlarged European Union.” Europe-Asia Studies 66.3 (2014): 467–487.

    DOI: 10.1080/09668136.2013.866756Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    In this study, the author shows that the ability of central and eastern European new member states to influence the decision-making outcomes has been limited. This is one in a number of studies which have come to similar conclusions.

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  • Copsey, Nathaniel, and Karolina Pomorska. “Poland’s Power and Influence in the European Union: The Case of Its Eastern Policy.” Comparative European Politics 8.3 (2010): 304–326.

    DOI: 10.1057/cep.2009.3Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This is a case study of the largest central European member state and its (weak) role in the EU’s eastern policy, which is of specific interest.

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  • Pomorska, Karolina. “Foreign Ministries and Limits to Organisational Learning in Central Eastern Europe.” East European Politics 31.1 (2015): 56–70.

    DOI: 10.1080/21599165.2014.983087Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    In a country case study the author explores transformative effects on the foreign ministries in central and eastern Europe, combining learning process with particular inhibitors to institutionalization of the lessons learned individually.

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  • Schimmelfennig, Frank, and Ulrich Sedelmeier. “Governance by Conditionality: EU Rule Transfer to the Candidate Countries of Central and Eastern Europe.” Journal of European Public Policy 11.4 (2004): 661–679.

    DOI: 10.1080/1350176042000248089Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    The article explains the conditionality mechanism through which Europeanization works from a mainstream liberal institutional perspective.

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  • Schimmelfennig, Frank, and Ulrich Sedelmeier, eds. Europeanization of Central and Eastern Europe. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2005.

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    This volume introduces key concepts and analyzes drivers such as credibility of the EU and domestic costs of rule adoption which could serve as a basis for delimitation of central Europe from the rest of the accession and neighborhood countries.

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  • Sedelmeier, Ulrich. “Anchoring Democracy from Above? The European Union and Democratic Backsliding in Hungary and Romania after Accession.” Journal of Common Market Studies 52.1 (2014): 105–121.

    DOI: 10.1111/jcms.12082Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    The article highlights the limits of the conditionality mechanisms in the post-accession period.

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Regional cooperation

The 1990s witnessed “centrifugal” disintegration of different forms of regional cooperation (Council for Mutual Economic Assistance, or COMECON, and the Warsaw Pact) and of federal statehoods in central and eastern Europe (i.e., Czechoslovakia). At the same time, as Kořan 2012 suggests it marked parallel attempts of now-independent successor states for (European) integration. The reality of “catching-up” with the western structures (the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization) in (geo)economic terms fostered progressive engagement of central European countries in the respective stages of economic integration. Rudka 1996 stressed that the overall transformation of the region was due to a significant extent to regional cooperation initiatives originating from within this region—with the only exception of the Central European Initiative (CEI). According to Dangerfield 2009 the establishment of regional groupings (Visegrad Group—VG or V4—and CEFTA) changed the nature of regional relations at the core of former eastern Europe, and thereby managed to contribute significantly to changing western perceptions of the region and to open the region to western integration. Following the 2004 EU accession and despite some serious doubts about whether it would have a viable future beyond 2004, some researchers (see Dangerfield 2014; Törő, et al. 2014; Fawn 2013) confirm that the Visegrad Group (VG) has been marked by more structured interaction and perceived by other regional groupings as an inspirational role model of cooperation. According to Törő, et al. 2014, the actual EU membership has given the VG an ever-expanding agenda for cooperation in many aspects of EU affairs, internal and external. It is now firmly embedded in the European political landscape. Kořan 2015 and Dostál and Végh 2017, however, warn that Visegrad cooperation remains fragile and is based on the attitudes of the member states and their governments. In recent times, it has been formed almost exclusively by its stance on migration policy implying that the V4 is primarily a coalition within the EU which is against something. The V4 countries also promote their own regional or bilateral interests. The VG cooperation on an ad-hoc or regular basis with other regional bodies and single countries in the region or beyond is described, for instance, in Dangerfield 2009 (links to Eastern Partnership) and Čiderová and Kovačević 2015 (relations with the western Balkans). As for individual countries, Ulatowski 2016 focuses on the involvement of Austria and Germany in central Europe via strong political, economic, and environmental links which are according to the author crucial for the whole region.

  • Čiderová, Denisa, and Kovačević, Dubravka. “Visegrad Meets Visegrad: The Visegrad Four and the Western Balkan Six.” European Scientific Journal (/SPECIAL ed 1 2015): 176–202.

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    The focus of this article is on the western Balkans and the shaping concept of the so-called Western Balkans Six with the aim of hinting at the prospects of cooperation inspired by the Visegrad Group/the Visegrad Four (V4).

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  • Dangerfield, Martin. “The Contribution of the Visegrad Group to the EU’s Eastern Policy: Rhetoric or Reality.” Europe-Asia Studies 61.10 (2009): 1735–1755.

    DOI: 10.1080/09668130903278934Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    The article analyses the role of the Visegrad Group’s (VG) multilateral cooperation on EU eastern policy. Throughout its relatively short history the VG subregional alliance has been used as a multilateral foreign policy tool of its four country members. Prior to 2004 it was used mainly to support the EU and NATO accession endeavors. Since then, the eastern neighbors have been a prime focus of the VG agenda for foreign policy cooperation.

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  • Dangerfield, Martin. “V4: A New Brand for Europe? Ten Years of Post-accession Regional Cooperation in Central Europe.” Economics and Business Review 14.4 (2014): 71–90.

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    This article investigates whether the Visegrad Group (VG) is proving capable of a successful transition from pre-accession to post-accession cooperation in the expanded EU. The post-accession agenda seems to have opened up many new avenues for cooperation on both intra-VG and external affairs, including toward the EU, and seems to have given rise to the kind of substantial practical cooperation agenda that eluded the VG during the pre-accession period.

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  • Dostál, Vít, and Végh, Zsuzsanna. Trends of Visegrad Foreign policy. Prague: Association for International Affairs, 2017.

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    The report sought to answer the question whether there is a common view of the Visegrad Group on key EU policies and the future of the Union. They have identified the main areas in which the V4 countries are diverging, or on which topics they can speak in one voice (their attention is very much turned to migration issue).

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  • Fawn, Rick. “Visegrad: Fit for Purpose?” Communist and Post-Communist Studies 46.3 (2013): 339–349.

    DOI: 10.1016/j.postcomstud.2013.06.004Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This article contends that the fundamental changes and challenges that Visegrad has faced enhanced the group’s clear and successful strategy. It identifies and elaborates that strategy, drawing also selectively and thematically on the group’s historical experience since 1991. These strategies include targeted rather than broad selection of aims, and retaining an exclusive membership while also inventing variable and flexible mechanisms for adding non-member countries to help them pursue specific initiatives.

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  • Kořan, Michal. “The Visegrad Group on the Threshold of Its Third Decade. A Central European Hub?” In Regional and International Relations of Central Europe. Edited by Zlatko Šabič and Petr Drulák, 201–219. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012.

    DOI: 10.1057/9781137283450_11Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    The chapter studies the development of the cooperation between the countries of the Visegrad Group. It not only assesses the first steps, but mostly it suggests that even though it has developed into a self-confident and by far the most important subregional group in central Europe, there are still limits and weaknesses to be overcome.

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  • Kořan, Michal. Central Europe in the European Union: A Story of Hypocrisy. Visegrad Insight “Border Anxiety” 2.8 (2015).

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    The study examines the European future for central European states. It discusses the reaction of some central European countries to the immigration crisis which is often interpreted by the western countries as a lack of solidarity and understanding on the side of these “new members” of the EU. It mainly focuses on the internal reasons for such a behavior—the role of the political leaders, difficult transformation and democratic transition, structural weaknesses in societies and politics in central Europe, etc.

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  • Rudka, Andrzej. Central Europe: Regional Cooperation and Beyond. In The Emerging New Regional Order in Central and Eastern Europe. Edited by Tadayuki Hayashi. Sapporo, Japan: Slavic Research Center, Hokkaido University, 1996.

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    The study describes the state of regional cooperation of central European states at the beginning of the 1990s. It argues that the process of quick disintegration of political and economic ties among at least some central and east European countries was rather short-lived, and soon reversed.

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  • Törő, Csaba, Eamonn Butler, and Károly Grúber. “Visegrád: The Evolving Pattern of Coordination and Partnership After EU Enlargement.” Europe-Asia Studies 66.3 (2014): 364–393.

    DOI: 10.1080/09668136.2013.855392Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    The article provides a reflection on the evolution of the Visegrád Group of states since 2004. It examines four key policy areas (institutional candidacy, energy policy, eastern neighborhood, and defense policy) where the group has either learned some difficult lessons or is seeking to apply those lessons.

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  • Ulatowski, Rafal. “German-Polish Relations: Political and Economic Aspects.” Revista UNISCI 40 (2016): 43–56.

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    This article analyzes the Polish-German relations in the last twenty-years years. It concentrates on the expectations declared in the early 1990s as well as on the results that were achieved. It argues that Polish-German relations are an example of successful implementation of geo-economics strategy by the German government.

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Relations with the West: Germany, United states

The end of the Cold War and unification of Germany was expected to bring back the Mitteleuropa concept Friedrich Naumann introduced in 1915, and the legacy of Ostpolitik. In practice although Cordell and Wolff 2005 and Hofhanse 2005 argue that Germany was mainly a factor of democratic development and stability, specifically by supporting the membership of those countries in the European Union (EU) and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Baun 2005 further argues that Germany’s power was mainly demonstrated in market terms but was not used directly. After EU membership Handl 2012 finds that some differences (e.g., in terms of Atlanticism of central Europe versus German culture of restraint) continued to exist. Chappell 2012 argues that individual countries such as Poland became special partners to Germany, especially in economy and security, while in political terms, issues such as migration and illiberal trends created new divisions. In the Eurozone crisis, Handl and Paterson 2013 observe that central European countries saw Germany as a “reluctant hegemon.” This was famously pointed out by former Polish foreign minister Radoslaw Sikorski in his 2011 Berlin speech in which he said that he fears German power less than he is beginning to fear German inactivity. For the United States, the new European democracies bringing fresh blood into NATO were important but not enough to make any “special commitment,” as argued by Asmus and Vondra 2005 and Resler 2012. Transition of Poland into the EU’s premier political league and differentiation of its position vis-à-vis Germany in the context of the new geopolitical rivalry with Russia, created opportunities to strengthen transatlantic ties. However, following Mikulova 2013, centralizing tendencies in the EU on the one hand and the growing role of Russia and China as well as illiberal trends in individual central European countries on the other also challenged the role of the United States in the region. For the Visegrád four, the United States has been the second most important partner, after Germany, though with important differences between individual countries, with Poland and Hungary serving as two extremes.

  • Asmus, Ronald, and Alexandr Vondra. “The Origins of Atlanticism in Central and Eastern Europe.” Cambridge Review of International Affairs 18.2 (2005): 203–216.

    DOI: 10.1080/09557570500164439Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    In this review, the authors argue that the Atlanticism in central European countries originated in their experience with Nazi and communist regimes, recognition of the leading role of the United States in toppling them, and strategic calculation that their national interest in Europe could be better preserved via active US engagement.

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  • Baun, Michael. “Germany and Central Europe: Hegemony Re-examined.” German Politics 14.3 (2005): 371–389.

    DOI: 10.1080/09644000500268878Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    The author has argued that only in the economic realm did Germany play a dominant role; in the political realm this was prevented by history and supranational structures of the EU while German cultural influence was undermined by a lack of self-confidence and consensus and the existence of alternative models. Based on this, Baun concluded that if anything, Germany was a soft hegemon in the region.

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  • Chappell, Laura. Germany, Poland and the Common Security and Defence Policy: Converging Security and Defence Perspectives in an Enlarged EU. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012.

    DOI: 10.1057/9781137007858Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This is a case study showing special post-accession cooperation between Germany and the largest central European country.

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  • Cordell, Karl, and Stefan Wolff. Germany’s Foreign Policy Towards Poland and the Czech Republic. London: Routledge, 2005.

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    This is one of the early works explaining Germany’s geostrategic interest in central Europe and the way these played out in the post–Cold War period. Authors argue that although being influential, the German role was constrained by emerging nationalism (e.g., in Poland), Atlanticism, and the active role of central European countries in NATO, as well as Euroskepticism (e.g., in the Czech Republic).

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  • Handl, Vladimír. “Germany and Central Europe: A Differentiated Dynamic Instead of Mitteleuropa.” In Regional and International Relations of Central Europe. Edited by Zlatko Šabič and Petr Drulák, 104–124. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012.

    DOI: 10.1057/9781137283450_6Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    The focus of this work is specifically on the relations between this region and Germany as the most influential regional player and its key partner. The work provides a historical and conceptual overview. It builds on a premise that in the post–Cold war period, multilateralism and the EU in particular tamped down the asymmetries between Germany and the central European countries. The article argues that EU membership has not changed much apart from bringing EU issues to the bilateral agenda.

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  • Handl, Vladimír, and William E. Paterson. “The Continuing Relevance of Germany’s Engine for CEE and the EU.” Communist and Postcommunist Studies 46.3 (2013): 327–337.

    DOI: 10.1016/j.postcomstud.2013.06.007Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This article shows that crises of the EU revealing divisions between member states have not changed much in the relations between central Europe and Germany.

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  • Hofhanse, Claus. Multilateralism, German Foreign Policy and Central Europe. London: Routledge, 2005.

    DOI: 10.4324/9780203799291Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Another example of a contribution that more specifically develops a thesis on the role of multilateralism in German post–Cold War foreign policy, using central Europe as an example.

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  • Mikulova, Kristina. “Central Europe’s Velvet Power: Can It Reinvigorate EU Foreign Policy?” World Affairs 176.3 (2013): 64–72.

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    The author deals with the role central European countries could play in EU’s foreign policy in relation to their Atlanticism.

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  • Resler, Tamara J. “The United States and Central Europe: Principles and Pragmatism in the Evolving Partnership.” In Regional and International Relations of Central Europe. Edited by Zlatko Šabič and Petr Drulák, 145–161. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012.

    DOI: 10.1057/9781137283450_8Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    As a part of the volume specifically dealing with the concept of central Europe, this work explores the relations between the region and the United States, providing a good overview.

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Relations with the East: Russia, China

Since the end of the Cold War, Russia has not developed any specific foreign policy doctrine toward the central Europe. Freire 2012 argues that the expansion of North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) membership, its offensive role (e.g., in the Balkans) and economic marginalization have put pressure on Russia. Russia reacted by taking advantage of dependence of individual central European countries on its energy, e.g., by cutting supplies to the Czech Republic a day after signature of an agreement on installation of a missile defense system. Russia also started to pursue a more proactive approach, i.e., by making strategic investments in energy sectors and finance, and by interfering with media and politics. In practice, however, Baev 2016 and Ostrowski and Butler 2018 show that dependence on gas, corrupted elites, and Russian-sponsored media did not turn out to be particularly successful strategies, especially vis-à-vis its hard power as demonstrated in the Ukraine crisis (see Forbrig 2015). Following Fürst and Tesař 2013 the relations with China were characterized by a break-up with quasi-ideological ties of post-communist transformation and entrance into a new post-ideological era. In the context of geopolitical competition with the Western countries, China was coming to the front door offering its capital. In the One Belt One Road (OBOR) infrastructure plan to connect China with Europe, central European countries were located at the very end of the new “Silk Road” and were targeted by the 16+1 mechanism focusing on post-communist southeast European countries. The role of Chinese investments was, however, overestimated. Apart from rhetoric (see Karásková, et al. 2018), central European countries were small dots on a Chinese map with, as shown by Fürst and Pleschová 2010, a history of more or less successful attempts to attract Chinese capital. Moreover, there were a number of outstanding (EU) issues such as market reciprocity and interference with the economy.

  • Baev, Pavel. Russia in East Central Europe: Means of Pressure and Channels of Influence. Paris: IFRI, 2016.

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    This report argues that the attempts of Russia to exploit particular means of influence such as dependence on gas, and meddling in political affairs and the media, were not particularly successful, especially if compared to its hard power.

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  • Forbrig, Joerg, ed. A Region Disunited? Central European Responses to the Russia-Ukraine Crisis. Washington, DC: The German Marshall Fund of the United States, 2015.

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    The report shows diverse attitudes of central European countries toward Russia (in the Ukraine crisis), with Poland and Hungary serving as two extremes. Moreover, it shows that the Visegrad four shared interests on hard security but were divided on energy policy, foreign policy ambitions, and domestic politics.

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  • Freire, Maria Raquel. “Russia at the Borders of Central Europe: Changing Dynamics in Foreign Policy Relations.” In Regional and International Relations of Central Europe. Edited by Zlatko Šabič and Petr Drulák, 125–144. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012.

    DOI: 10.1057/9781137283450_7Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    The contribution to the volume on central Europe deals with the role of Russia developing from collapsed superpower into a new external threat and the borders of the central European countries.

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  • Fürst, Rudolf, and Gabriela Pleschová. “Czech and Slovak Relations with China: Contenders for China’s Favour.” Europe-Asia Studies 62.8 (2010): 1363–1381.

    DOI: 10.1080/09668136.2010.504387Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    A comparative analysis dealing with countries which were competing to become the main centers of Chinese investments in central Europe.

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  • Fürst, Rudolf, and Filip Tesař. China’s Comeback in Former Eastern Europe: No Longer Comrades, Not Yet Strategic Partners. Prague: Institute of International Relations, 2013.

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    A useful overview of development of Chinese relations with central and eastern Europe.

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  • Karásková, Ivana, Tamás Matura, Richard Q. Turcsányi and Matej Šimalčík. Central Europe for Sale: The Politics of China’s Influence. Prague: National Endowment for Democracy, 2018.

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    According to the report, a media dataset in the Czech Republic and Slovakia showed heavy pro-business politicization undermining human rights or geopolitical considerations relevant to EU policymaking.

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  • Ostrowski, Wojciech, and Eamonn Butler, eds. Understanding Energy Security in Central and Eastern Europe: Russia, Transition and National Interest. London: Routledge, 2018.

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    This volume argues that the consideration of the energy security as a strategic issue has been overstated and should be considered in the context of economic transition of central Europe and Russia.

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In Lieu of Conclusion: International Relations in Central Europe

In the communist era, for obvious reasons there was very little connection between the “eastern” and the “western” discussion of international affairs. Very few scholars from central Europe had been widely recognized in the international relations community (Kubálková, et al. 1998). After the fall of the Berlin Wall, the scholarship from the former communist countries had its own period of transition. It took about a decade for privileged scholars with ties to communist regimes and sufficient resources to travel abroad to give way to younger academics, willing and able to take the study of international relations in central (and eastern) Europe to a higher level. The networking among scholars in the region and those with interest in the region became easier after 1998, when the Central and East European International Studies Association (CEEISA) was created. The CEEISA counts among the liveliest regional international studies associations in the world today. The association’s official journal, the Journal of International Relations and Development (JIRD), has been published since 1998. Since 2013, the CEEISA has developed its own book series, called Central and Eastern European Perspectives on International Relations. The mission of the association, the journal, and the series is to offer as much space as possible for central and east European scholars to publish their work. Several articles of particular relevance to the development of scholarship in central Europe have been published in the JIRD. Guzzini 2001, an article on teaching and researching international relations, is aimed at central and east European younger scholars. A discussion about international relations in central Europe, Drulák 2009, and international relations scholarships in individual central European countries, Czaputowicz and Wojciuk 2016, could be added to the list. Other journals, published in central Europe, or about issues in central Europe, are also worth mentioning, such as Perspectives: Review of International Affairs, Central European Journal of International and Security Studies, Communist and Post-Communist Studies, and others.

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