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The East–West Divide Revisited 30 Years On


Thirty years after the end of the Cold War and the division of the continent, are we witnessing a renewed east–west divide in Europe? Fifteen years following the enlargement of the European Union to countries of central and eastern Europe, are we witnessing mere political differences or is there an emerging divergence between the ‘old’ and ‘new’ EU member states on issues as fundamental as democracy and the rule of law? The triggering of Article 7 of the Lisbon Treaty against Poland and Hungary suggests the latter. This is the interpretation favoured in the media or in declarations of political figures on both sides of a newly restored dividing line. In the west, it tends to be perceived as a challenge to the European project and sometimes even as a justification for reservations regarding the very idea of the EU’s eastward expansion. In the Visegrád Group, there are claims of being treated as second-class members of the EU and resentment of alleged double standards and interference from Brussels, sometimes compared to pre-1989 control from Moscow. How can this triple divide on democracy, migration, and societal issues—three aspects of European liberalism—be accounted for after a quarter-century of unprecedented economic, political, and institutional convergence? One place to start is the misunderstandings concerning the process and meaning given to the post-1989 EU integration process (‘enlargement to the east’ or ‘European unification’). Different security concerns and threat perceptions (east versus south) also remain an obstacle in shaping a Common Foreign and Security Policy. There are deeper historical and cultural differences, the understanding of which is important to avoid recent divisions becoming fault lines. Finally these trends should be understood not as irreconcilable differences, but as a specific and acute version of a transeuropean crisis of democracy.
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hal-03439311 , version 1 (22-11-2021)



Jacques Rupnik. The East–West Divide Revisited 30 Years On. Helen Wallace, Nikos Koutsiaras, and George Pagoulatos. Europe's Transformations: Essays in Honour of Loukas Tsoukalis, Oxford University Press, pp.85-100, 2021, 9780192895820. ⟨10.1093/oso/9780192895820.003.0006⟩. ⟨hal-03439311⟩
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