Europe became unified through both economic and cultural means in the final decade of the 20thCentury. One of the most important efforts for unification was the European Union (EU), “replacing the European Economic Community as the primary political and economic institution for cooperating European countries” (Shubert & Goldstein, 2012). The efforts to unify Europe were further advanced in the last decade of the century by the extensive use of communications and information technologies in a technological revolution that saw a transformation that also brought people around the world into closer and quicker contact than ever before” (Shubert & Goldstein, 2012).
What were the political implications of European unity?
Many of the countries in Eastern Europe began to adopt new democratic systems of government with elected leadership and new reforms to adjust to free market systems. Likewise, a multitude of new political parties formed, coinciding with an influx of private book publishers, which became greater opportunities to spread new ideas. The political parties that remained communist chose to do so while changing their platforms to include more democratic ideas and distance themselves from the atrocities of Soviet communism, while still advocating for more government control of economic matters. However, a few exceptions still remained, such as Belarus, “which in 2011 remained a command economy under the 17-year dictatorship of Alexander Lukashenko” (Shubert & Goldstein, 2012).
What were the social implications of European unity?
As a result of the new efforts to unify, Europe saw a massive influx of immigration which worked to create a much more diverse population than ever before. Additionally, those who were used to the economics of communist governments had to make “adjustments in their cultural lives that were almost as difficult as those in their economic and political lives” (Shubert & Goldstein, 2012). There were also issues regarding religion in the new Europe with many such as Pope John Paul II arguing that the EU needed to invoke an acknowledgment of Europe’s Christian roots in the proposed draft of an EU constitution. “The debate died out when the constitution failed to be approved in France and the Netherlands, although the idea that Europe is a ‘Christian’—or Judeo-Christian—place continues to be held by many and informs some of the anti-immigrant political movements that have gained prominence in the 21st century, discussed in further detail later in this chapter” (Shubert & Goldstein, 2012).
What were the economic implications of European unity?
“The collapse of Communism and the end of the protected trading bloc COMECON left the economies of the former Soviet Union and its former satellites exposed to entirely new conditions” (Shubert & Goldstein, 2012). One of the approaches to solving the issues that arose after introducing a subsidized socialist society into a free market capitalist system was the ‘shock’ or ‘big bang’ approach which “included such measures as ending price controls, abolishing subsidies for companies, and privatizing state-owned businesses” (Shubert & Goldstein, 2012). The unemployment numbers took a hit as well during the 1990’s in Eastern Europe in many places that had guaranteed lifelong positions for many before the collapse.
In what ways was Europe divided in the last decade of the 20th century?
Along with concerns over the inclusion of Judeo-Christian values, “immigration, and especially the presence of growing numbers of Muslims, provoked many expressions of concern that ‘European values’ were being threatened” (Shubert & Goldstein, 2012). These concerns only worked to create greater lines of division among the new European countries and the efforts of the European Union as well as concerns over the new possible threat of globalization. Globalization is “the increasing integration of the global economy, as measured by international trade, investment, and manufacturing, made possible by the political predominance of policies favorable to the free operation of market forces” (Shubert & Goldstein, 2012). In essence, globalization was the unforeseen aftershock that followed the collapse of communism and the unification of Europe, which in itself presented the world with a whole new line of contention and controversial ideologies.
How did the Cold War contribute to these divisions?
The Cold War progressed many of the same ideas of the loss of traditional values, playing into the idea that Soviet Communist ideals would tear down the fabric of capitalist nations such as the United States and the democratic societies it aided in contributing to the free world market. Likewise, many of the communist states were wary of swapping over to capitalist ideas and systems after being subjected to so many years of relentless anti-capitalist propaganda from the Soviets and their predecessors for over a hundred years.
What role did nationalism and genocide play in Europe during the last decade of the 20thcentury?
Genocide played a role in the last decade of the 20th century through wars, as nations sought to establish new regimes after the collapse of communism and the disestablishment of the Soviet Union. Many satellite nations were able to peacefully move out of communist-ruled regimes, however, there were much more violent conflicts such when the six federal republics of Yugoslavia broke apart. The “six distinct federal republics (Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia, Macedonia, and Montenegro) with five different ethnicities, four languages, three religions, and two alphabets” (Shubert & Goldstein, 2012), were engrained with rising feelings of nationalism and violent conflicts broke out between the differing ethnicities. Croatia declared its independence in 1991 and the primarily Muslim Bosnia did the same in 1993. “The war that followed involved fighting among all three ethnic groups, and it was repeatedly marked by what became known as ethnic cleansing as Serbs and Croats both expelled hundreds of thousands of their enemies from Bosnian regions after winning control of them. Similar ethnic cleansing had marked the Serbian-Croatian war as well, and it was accompanied in both regions by numerous instances of murder, rape, and torture”, and “all sides in the war were guilty of atrocities, and both Croats and Serbs established notorious concentration camps. But the Serbs were generally viewed as especially guilty in this regard” (Shubert & Goldstein, 2012). Furthermore, ethnic wars such as those seen during the collapse of Yugoslavia exemplified and book-ended the new scourge of the 20th century: terrorism. “When Princip assassinated the Archduke, he was acting on behalf of the goals and objectives of a group known as the Black Hand. The Black Hand was, really, a terrorist group driven by intense nationalist sentiments but not acting on behalf of or for a specific government. Therefore, the Western world was faced with the dilemma of what to do when you are the victim of terrorism. How do you declare war on a nation or government when the terrorist group was acting independently? If you do not declare war on the government, then how do you effectively fight shadows?” (Troxler, 2018). This understanding of the nature of terrorist acts of violence, as seen during the ethnic cleansings in the former Yugoslavia, make it difficult for nations to know when and how it is appropriate to intervene in such conflicts.w
Did the collapse of communism have a positive or negative impact on Europe in the last decade of the 20th century? Why?
For the most part, the collapse of communism created a positive and progressive path forward for Europe leading into the 21st century. “With the collapse of communism across central and eastern Europe, Europeans become closer neighbors. In 1993 the Single Market is completed with the ‘four freedoms’ of: movement of goods, services, people and money” (European Union, 2018). “The collapse of Communism ended the division of Europe and allowed unification to reach into new areas of the continent” (Shubert & Goldstein, 2012). Likewise, with the collapse of Communism, “everything changed… Mentalities had to change. Publishers had to become responsive to the market. Authors used to having their works printed and reprinted, found themselves unemployed. Foreign films and books flooded the cultural market. Intellectuals, including those who had been critical of communism, were aghast. They had moved from the dictatorship of the party to the true ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’: consumer capitalism” (Shubert & Goldstein, 2012), after the initial shock, however, these new forms of free expression played a heavy role in bringing many cultures together through the new freedoms of cultural expression and economics.
European Union. (2018). Europe without frontiers. Retrieved From https://europa.eu/european-union/about-eu/history/1990-1999_en (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.
Shubert, A. & Goldstein, R.J. (2012). Twentieth-century Europe [Electronic version]. Retrieved from https://content.ashford.edu/ (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.
Troxler, S., (2018). Week 5 lecture: the modern age. Retrieved from https://ashford.instructure.com/courses/35857/discussion_topics/1049114
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