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  • Europe Moves Eastward
  • Marc F. Plattner and Larry Jay Diamond

The year 2004 marks a decade and a half since the revolutions of 1989 transformed the face of Europe, bringing down communist regimes in Eastern Europe and setting in motion events that two years later led to the demise of the Soviet Union. The Journal of Democracy, which was launched in January 1990 in the wake of the upheavals in Eastern Europe, ever since has devoted a substantial portion of its pages to analyzing developments in what came to be called the postcommunist countries.

In January 1999, we published a set of articles under the heading "Eastern Europe a Decade Later" that examined the status and the political trajectory of this region. The set of articles that follows in the current issue focuses on the impact of the expansion of the European Union and NATO to embrace much of Eastern Europe, but in many ways this constitutes a report on "Eastern Europe 15 years later." For today the entry of these postcommunist countries into the major multilateral bodies of the West is the biggest story in the region.

In May 2004, eight former communist lands will enter the European Union (EU). This will change the politics not only of the new entrants but also of the EU itself. Although there has been little overt opposition to enlargement within Western Europe, there are many fears about its consequences for the functioning of the Union. In the opening essay of this cluster, Jan Zielonka examines these "worries about enlargement" and analyzes the problems that the inclusion of the new members may cause. This is followed by an essay by Jiri Pehe that provides an upbeat account of the benefits that EU membership is likely to bring in helping to consolidate the new democracies of the East.

Only a portion, however, of the eastern half of the Continent is poised to enter the "Western clubs," and for those who will remain outside, the prospects may seem grim. Alina Mungiu-Pippidi analyzes the plight of those countries that lie "Beyond the New Borders." Although it is EU enlargement that is currently the main focus of attention, the next essay, by Zoltan Barany, emphasizes that NATO expansion also has important consequences—both for the democratic prospects of its new members and for the Alliance itself. In a brief concluding essay, Jacques Rupnik offers some historical reflections on the manner in which Europe seems to be "reunifying," as well as an analysis of two possible scenarios for the future of both old and new Europe. It is our hope that this set of essays will help to clarify the shifts that are expanding the West at the same time as they are (in Alina Mungiu-Pippidi's words) "about to carve a merciless divide between the two halves of postcommunist Europe."



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