February 24, 2003
Another Round in Old versus New Europe

My apologies for the lack of blogging recently, but travel had taken up some time, and then (with all the recent travel), there were some remedial activities to be undertaken on my apartment, which was quickly becoming chaotic even to the extent that it was beginning to make me feel uncomfortable. Speaking of chaos, there is quite a bit of it going on in Europe. The reshaping of the continent is proceeding apace, and the blogosphere has been pretty good about documenting the political coming of age of the New Europe, which refuses to be bullied by the Old. Another such example came from the Visegrád Group of nations, which consists of Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary. They've been formally cooperating on various matters that affect their four countries, including accession to the EU. As recently liberated countries, they also share a particular view of the world that is deeply different from the Old Europe.

I've only been able to find this German-language version of their latest exploits, but the gist of it is that they've said in no uncertain terms that they're not going to be bullied around by France. After a meeting in Prague with the Czech foreign minister Svoboda, Polish foreign minister Cimoszewicz made the important announcement that the Visegrád Group would continue its work and cooperation also after the countries had become members of the EU. And just to underscore the point, he he drew attention the fact that the four Visegrád Group countries are going to have 58 votes in the Council of Europe, the same number as Germany and France combined. That is another reason why the New European Insurrection is giving the French fits. The other part of it is that France still thinks it's a world power and deserves respect for that reason alone; she still thinks she's a pretty young girl, when in fact she's become an old whore with drooping breasts and way too much make-up who bitterly wonders why business is down so much.

Economically the new member countries are still fairly insignificant compared to the rest of Europe, as this graph shows. Even adding up the four countries' GDP, it still comes to only 4% of the current 15 members' total GDP. So their economic clout is going to be limited in an absolute sense. On the other hand, the New European economies have much better growth prospects than Old Europe (unless there's a complete collapse in western Europe). New Europe's influence will come from the population that it brings into the fold of the EU, and not so much from the direct economic impact. Indirectly EU accession is going to remake the economic map of Europe; having Poland on its eastern border might just be what Germany needs to wake up from its stupor.

Posted by qsi at February 24, 2003 11:12 PM | TrackBack (0)
Read More on Czech Republic , European Union , Hungary

The other thing the four countries have in common is that they were part of the former Austro-Hungarian Empire. There seems to have been some talk in prior years of greater Austrian-Czech cooperation, but there isn't as much of that lately, and Austria seems generally to have been beaten down by the EU. Certainly a revivified Austro-Hungarian bloc would more than counterbalance Germany and France.

Posted by: John on February 25, 2003 02:18 AM

France is a classic example of be careful what you wish for.

As the leader of Europe, their utter selfishness and arrogance ( much higer that what they accuse the US of) would quickly irritate their "allies".

But, unlike the US, France, with its 3rd rate military and 2nd rate economy, simply would not have the clout to keep other countries in line.

France has greatly overstepped and must in the end loose, even if it wins this diplomatic war.

Posted by: tallan on February 25, 2003 05:20 AM

Expanding on your point, their economic significance also stems from the fact that they are poised to win a disproportionate share of new investment. If you were setting up a new widget factory within the EU after expansion, would you be more inclined to do so in a country like France or Poland? To ask the question is to answer it.

Posted by: RJE on February 25, 2003 07:12 AM

The French delerium has advanced far enough to resemble the final stages of syphlis. Come to think of it, it used to be called the French pox.

Posted by: Jerry on February 25, 2003 05:22 PM

Ok, little disclosure. I'm Hungarian American. But, that being said, remember all this next time you plan your vacation. Go to these countries next time. They have the usual sites (from castles to fun night clubs) but they also have things the French and Germans are missing. Citizens that like Americans and good prices (the dollar goes a long way).

Posted by: Steven on March 6, 2003 07:57 AM

I think it's just hilarious how you Americans try to turn Eastern Europe against Western Europe. However it clearly shows that the US is afraid of a European Union challenging America's status as the sole remaining superpower, it's economical and political hegemony. Europe is becoming increasingly "relevant" as your President would call it. A unified Europe including even Russia would on the long term be more powerfull, economically and politically, as America. EU means not only economy but also political integration, so the Eastern Europeans are smart enough to realized sooner or later who their real friends are. European strength means also diversity; America does not have the same opportunities. You would not want to unify politically with Latin America since the combined Portuguese and Spanish speaking ( and catholic) population is far bigger than the one of Anglosaxon America.
Empires will fall,...always remember that. The War on Iraq could be already the prelude to America's increasing "irrelevance" if not your requiem.

Posted by: European on March 7, 2003 06:13 PM

To: European
Eastern Europe and western Europe have been bickering and warring for ages. If you ever think Europe will truly be a 'union' you might want to read up on centuries of your own history. Choices made as a whole by your countries are a very powerful tool, yet a consensus of opinion is as varied as your cuisine. If your dream of an alliance with Russia ever comes to fruition please do not forget the sacrifices my country has made for your continent, one, on a monetary scale, but more importantly blood spilled by my fellow countrymen. As for our lack of diversity here in America? We have this statue in NY harbor? And it says something at the base we all sometimes take for granted, but believe very strongly in (and I once thought France did too). We are a nation of many peoples and ethnic groups. And finally, your last statement just gets under my skin. So, please, don't come crying Uncle (Sam) next time.

Posted by: American on March 8, 2003 06:59 AM

France, Germany, Russia, China, Austria and Switzerland (the latter two so called neutral countries) should compare their lists of 'goods' they shipped to Iraq over the last years. This is the place where we have to look for weapons, poisons and parts or already assembled weapons of mass destuction and not in the desert sand.

Posted by: R.Reiser on March 8, 2003 07:48 AM
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