Post-Communist Transition - Theory in political transition

Term Paper, 2005

18 Pages, Grade: 1,0



1. Introduction

2. Political Transition
2.1. Transition in general
2.2. Methods of evaluating political transition
2.2.1. The Washington Consensus
2.2.2. The question of rating democracies
2.2.3. Political cleavages
2.3. Strategic options for counties in transition

3. EU integration
3.1. Association Agreements
3.2. Association Criteria

4. Conclusion

5. References

1. Introduction

„Die EU braucht eine Pause zur Besinnung, zur Selbstfindung, zur Konsolidierung.”[1] By proclaiming that the European Union (EU) needs a break for reflection and consolidation, Egon Bahr, who has been an intimate and consultant of the former German chancellor Willy Brandt as well as one of the most important German politicians as far as foreign policy is concerned, is pointing at a major problem of the before said institution. Since the EU enlargement of 10 new states has taken place at the 1st of May 2004, the problem which has been addressed before is even more up to date. Especially the recent argumentation about a common constitution, which is overdue to both providing a proper legal capacity as well as a capability to act, has been proofing that the EU is still far away from a strong, functioning political union.

But how is it possible to create such a proper union consisting of 25 members, and most probably 27 by the year 2007, consisting of basically national states being still heavily occupied with dealing with their own backgrounds especially if one has a closer look the former communist states? Is there any strategy of the lowest common denominator of policy advice[2] or do one have to identify the (communist) past in relation to present developments[3]?

Facing this problem, the main purpose of this analysis will be an evaluation of different political transition theories and rating strategies which have been particularly taken into account by the former states behind the iron curtain. Finally this work is aiming at a probably existing connection between a successful political transition and a deeper integration into the European Union.

For that reason the first part will give an overall view about the transition issue in general followed by the most relevant transition theories and methods of rating democratic stability thereby mainly focusing on political changes. Since the analysis is only concerning countries gathering the EU, the next part will deal with peculiarities regarding the main political criteria for entering the before mentioned union. The last part should provide a conclusion about the success resp. failure of the scrutinized theories as well as the ongoing European integration.

2. Political transition

2.1. Transition in general

While searching for a definition of the term transition, the major problem is the exact point of view from which one is approaching this issue. As this work is focusing on former communist countries one specification has been already done. Because of that, this analysis will initially take the particularities of these states into account.

After the breakdown of the pure totalitarian regime of the Soviet Union under Josef Stalin in 1953 and the so called secret speech of Nikita Chruschtschow at the XX. party congress of the CPSU in 1956, it is safe to assume that the socialist system has been changing constantly already, even though in its frame of Marxist-Leninist propaganda. By following the argumentation of Vladimir Cvijanović these changes had basically two aims either perfection or reforms[4]. Against the background perfection did not affect the constitutional system, but reforms, in the sense of changes within the particular elements of the socialist economic systems. The realization of this fact is as so far important as Cvijanović is figuring out two dimensions referring to the changes of socialist systems, depth and radicalism[5]. The more dynamic the reforms in the economic dimension might have been the deeper and radical has been the impact on the whole system, which has finally led to a break-up regarded as the initial point of the transition process[6]. This initial point, mostly associated with the term revolution, may originate from different incidents, e.g. ecological fear (as it was the case in Estonia), economic breakdown or political motivated revolts, basically aiming at the deposition of the communist party.

As, like already mentioned, this revolution is adequate with the breakdown of the entire system of society, the definition of transition emerges automatically. Considering that, transition is supposed to be the process of the simultaneous change of the entire society system concerning the political, economical, legal as well as social behaviour dimension[7]. Following this definition, transition has only been successful if all the above mentioned dimensions have been changing heavily likewise, namely economically from planed economy to democratic market economy, politically from dictatorship to democracy, behaviourally from dogmatism to relativism and legally from a party ideological to a private legal system[8]. Focusing particularly on the political dimension, one can fix the patterns of change on some core issues such as the rule of law principle protecting citizens from attacks on their privacy for example, individual rights and pluralism. The following chapters will elaborate on the before said more specifically.

Even thought the major transitional dimensions seem to be clear and widely accepted throughout the scientific world, there are different approaches a country can choose in order to succeed as far as transition is concerned. What kind of strategy a state is finally favouring depends on its particular background such as history, political system or economic situation – just to mention a few. Moreover these circumstances are producing a complex system affecting the choice. However proceeding from the before said it is safe to assume that there are some common features regarding the major phases a country in transition is passing through. Following Dankwart A. Rustows dynamic transition model[9], the first stage is the preparatory phase, which is characterized by the already discussed breakdown of the non-democratic system. This is followed by the decision phase, in which the democratic order is first established, and the consolidation phase containing the further development of democracy as well as the implementation into the society. For the sake of completeness it must be mentioned that the before said phases can overlap each other.

In addition to that while talking about political transition in general, there are two further facts which are due to mention. Firstly, developments towards democracy and economic reforms in the real world […] are, of cause, highly interconnected[10], which should highlight the fact, that the legitimacy of the political system as well as the minority issue is closely linked with the success of the economic reforms. Secondly, referring to Evald Mikkels research about the nearing of EU accession by the Baltic States from 1998, a differentiation of the relative importance of distinct issues for different post communist societies during the initial phase of transition[11] must be done. According to this, he is figuring out, that the dominant issues, like nation building, decommunisation, cultural dimension or marketisation[12], a country is initially focusing at, are heavily influencing its first steps as far as its “transition policy” is concerned.

2.2. Methods of evaluating political transition

2.2.1. The Washington Consensus

Even though the Washington Consensus is chiefly concerning economic issues, it has to be mentioned while dealing with political transition, because of its outstanding relevance in the field of international affairs and third world policy. In addition to that, there was no other transition theory which has been influencing and structuring the field of transition research comparatively[13].


[1] Bahr, Egon: Pause zu Selbstfindung, in: Der Spiegel of 06.09.2004, p. 56.

[2] Williamson, John: What should the World Bank think about the Washington Consensus?, in:, (23.09.04), p. 251.

[3] Norgaard, Ole: Issues of national minorities in post-communist transition, in: Norgaard, Ole (editor): The Baltic States after independence, Cheltenham (UK), Brookfield (US) 1996, p. 13.

[4] Comp.: Cvijanović, Vladimir: Was ist und wie war Transformation?, in: Forschungsstelle Osteuropa an der Universität Bremen (editor): Gewinner und Verlierer post-sozialistischer Transformationsprozesse, Bremen 2002,, (23.09.04), p. 7 – 10, here p. 7.

[5] Comp.: ib, p. 8.

[6] Comp.: ib, p. 8.

[7] Comp.: Cvijanović, Vladimir: Was ist und wie war Transformation?, in: Forschungsstelle Osteuropa an der Universität Bremen (editor): Gewinner und Verlierer post-sozialistischer Transformationsprozesse, Bremen 2002,, (23.09.04), p. 7 – 10, p. 8.

[8] Comp.: ib, p. 9.

[9] Comp.: Gross, Peter (editor): Between Reality and Dream: Eastern European Media Transition, Transformation, Consolidation, and Integration, in: (23.09.04), p. 111.

[10] Norgaard, Ole: Issues of national minorities in post-communist transition, in: Norgaard, Ole (editor): The Baltic States after independence, Cheltenham (UK), Brookfield (US) 1996, p. 13.

[11] Kasekamp, Andreas, Mikkel, Evald (editors): Emerging party realignment? Party based euroscepticism in Estonia, Turin 2002, (23.09.04), p. 5.

[12] Comp.: ib, p.5.

[13] Comp.: Müller, Klaus: Post-Washingtoner Consensus und comprehensive development framework. Neue Perspektiven für Transformationsforschung und Transformationstheorie, in: (23.09.04), p. 5 - 13, here p. 5.

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Post-Communist Transition - Theory in political transition
University of Tartu  (Center of Baltic Studies)
Post-communist transition and Estonian experience
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Post-Communist, Transition, Theory, Post-communist, Estonian
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Magister Christian Vogel (Author), 2005, Post-Communist Transition - Theory in political transition, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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