A Helping Hand

Countries with stable democracies should act as foster parents for the former Eastern Bloc

We hear a lot these days about Herta Müller, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, and read, more than anything else, over the infamous Security Services made unrelieved trouble for her that not only until the death of Ceausescu but whose dirty hands reach abroad as well, including after the end of Communism, even until today.

In Bulgaria, one hears the same thing, most recently in connection with the filling of the top position at UNESCO with a Bulgarian politician of the Children’s Generation – i.e., the father was a loyal leading politician in the communist era. Many were not in agreement with the choice, most of all Bulgarian intellectuals, because through this choice, a lot of ex-communists who never really dealt with their pasts or denied the resulting privileges, would be thereby reinforced in word and deed. And in any critical situations a son or grandson would be appointed to a high position in politics or business.

The Fight with the Past

Let’s take our neighbor country, the Czech Republic. A thick-headed president is using the stalemate between conservatives and socialists – these last of whom are nearly all ex-communists – and have been holding the country hostage. Slovakia, without risking complaint, can be still termed as a pseudo-democracy, most recently measured by the ban on entry for the Hungarian president. But Hungary too is fighting with its past, although here the more “brown side” is showing through.

It was also a blessing for East Germany that the Reunification came so fast, even when the economic and social after effects were not always reasons to celebrate. When East Germany had remained a separate country, the same (or now revived) old Stasi types would be back on many of the pinnacles of political power.

Among the possible additional EU member states – Kosovo, Albania, Moldavia and most of all Serbia – we shouldn’t expect the political and business leaders should be the least bit better. If the developments were noticeably better, even if slow, we could exercise patience. However it looks as though the leading communists who have been apparently pushed out would instead resurface in a stronger position, and to some extent with shamelessly supported by western companies, and given the best jobs.

God parents for five years

What should we do? Should we wait another 20 years until they die off? That won’t work. Because (see above) because the children and grandchildren have already established themselves. Suggestion: Countries that have a very stabile democratic culture –like the Scandinavian countries, Great Britain, also Germany, (too bad Switzerland and Norway are not yet in the EU), should take on a foster parent role for the former Eastern Block countries, for example, for the period of five years. The cooperation would be mandatory for the foster children, in connection with the necessary (financial) supports.

Former parliamentarians, ministers or even minister presidents or chancellors, would be able to promote the development of democracies years into the future, also by filtering out the “black sheep” and then “removed.” The western companies that invest in these countries would have to report incident s of corruption at the risk of penalties from the EU. And thus slowly but surely clear the terrain of these disgraceful acts.

Preventing the Democracy Gap

The press in these countries should also learn from Western quality media, because truly comparable newspapers and magazines – that thank goodness still exist in all western nations – even after 20 years are still rare in the East. It would be worth attempting, because if things continue to develop as they are at present, then the democracy gap will only become greater from year to year. And that would be far worse for the EU than Turkey’s eventual accession.

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