EU Accession Is No End of History

Fewer than twenty years ago, the Central and East European countries that have now joined the European Union were the “other Europe.” They were bankrupt and famished. Their citizens had to deal with empty store shelves, the lack of any right to a passport, and a formidable communist secret service spying on their private lives. Since the Soviet collapse, however, these nations have reshaped their economies and societies and have gained membership in the EU and NATO. Foreign investment is pouring in, and what is left of the secret-service files has been opened to the public. In the textbooks on democratic transition, Central and Eastern Europe provides the model of success. Yet in Brussels — the new benevolent metropolis of these countries on the European periphery — concern over the politics of the new members has been mounting. Thus we need to seek an explanation as to why there is growing concern for these countries when in many ways they seem to be performing so well.