The success of political transition in Estonia, Czech Republic and Romania


Term Paper, 2005

26 Pages, Grade: 1,0


Excerpt

Structure

1. Introduction

2. Development of political transition issues
2.1. First steps and distinct issues during the initial phase
2.2. Crucial issues and strategies of political transition
2.3. Country ratings by comparison
2.3.1. The citizens’ attitudes comparison
2.3.2. Freedom House country classification
2.3.3. Democratic contestability assessment

3. Developments towards international organisations
3.1. NATO membership
3.2. EU enlargement

4. Conclusion

5. References

1. Introduction

After having discussed major theoretical approaches regarding political transition as far as post-communist countries are concerned in the first stage, it is due to fill this theoretical framework with examples and figures. Being aware of some common steps every country, which finds itself in a transitional process, has to undertake in order to establish a functioning democracy, the theory also shows that the course as well as the success towards the before said goal might be completely different.

Against this background, the main aim of the current research is a comparison of three former communist states, namely Estonia, Czech Republic and Romania, regarding their progress of the transitional process up to the present moment, thereby mainly focusing on political aspects. In doing so, one has to realise that the evaluation of political transition is much more complicated than assessing economical transition for example, because neither success nor failure of can be just displayed in figures as it might be possible for economical issues. However, theory has been proofing that one can not assess developments of countries in transition while only focusing on economical outcomes. Even the neo liberal hardliner and American scientist and philosopher Francis Fukuyama has been admitting in his recent publication “States-Building”, that creating states under the rule of law is even more important than free markets[1]. In respect to that, this work tries to use the few measures existing in order provide an objective comparative analysis. In addition to that it should be evaluated in what way the opportunity to join international organisations (NATO and especially the European Union) has been boosting political transition in the above mentioned countries. Moreover it should be found out whether there is a connection between successful transition and deeper European integration.

For that matter, the first part compares general developments of political transition. The second part is analysing developments of the three countries regarding their way towards NATO and EU accession, which has in fact both become reality for Estonia and ČR. The last part tries to provide a conclusion about the outcomes of the (political) transition process as well as to point out remaining problems which are still due to resolve.

2. Development of political transition issues

2.1. First steps and distinct issues during the initial phase

As already mentioned in the introduction, it’s save to assume that there is a common and generally valid framework for every country in transition. Referring to Dankwart A. Rustows dynamic transition model[2], transition follows three major phases, namely preparatory, decision and consolidation phase. However, one can recognize different initial occurrences which variously characterize the preparatory phase of each country on the one hand and which are heavily influencing the first steps of each state on the other, thereby following Evald Mikkels argumentation about the relative importance of distinct issues for different post communist societies during the initial phase of transition[3]. While taking a closer look on the states which will be compared in this work, some major differences will become obvious straight away, which are already indicating dissimilar developments within the later transition process.

Starting with Estonia, the first movements of protest in 1987 were basically not dedicated against the Estonian communist party as such (and as it was the case in most of the south eastern and middle European states), but against Moscow’s colonial rule over the Estonian economy[4]. Moreover, Soviet leaders tried to establish huge phosphate mines in northern Estonia by that time, which caused serious environmental concerns within the Estonian society and consequently a wave of protest leading into a massive national movement. Encouraged by the success, the first public post-war demonstrations against Soviet occupation took place on 23rd of August 1987 aiming at the re-independence of the country[5]. The so called Singing Revolution was guided by intellectuals declaring themselves as the Popular Front movement which was rapidly developing ideas of economic autonomy. By transferring the above mentioned facts to Mikkels theoretical framework, one can summarize that the Estonian policy was focusing on nation/state building as well as on marketisation during the first stage of transition, which was obviously influencing the first steps of responsible decision makers.

While going over to Czech Republic (ČR), a completely different picture arises. Firstly, a crucial difference between Estonia and ČR occurs out of the fact, that the country, which was called Czechoslovakia until its division according to the treaty of peaceful and orderly division of the state into ČR and Slovakia[6] in 1993, was already a national state by its own, even though having been under the hegemony of Soviet Communism. That’s why nationalist approaches aiming at nation/state building were apparently illogical as a starting point of transition. Moreover former Czechoslovakia has been coined by a strong reform communist movement, which was trying to implement a concept of “socialist market economy” in the late 1960s already culminating in the so called Prague Spring, when the before mentioned activism was oppressed by communist neighbour states under the leadership of the Soviet Union. That should actually highlight the fact that there has been a rather influential reform elite existing since though being inhibited during communist times. Referring to this, the before mentioned elite were elected into office quite suddenly, precisely at the 5th of June 1990[7], after the breakdown of the Czechoslovakian communist party leadership caused by pressuring mass demonstrations in autumn 1989. To sum it up, as both nation/state building and decommunisation[8] have not been crucial issues in the beginning decision makers were focusing on the establishment of a stable democracy as well as a competitive market economy.

Considering Romania one has to become aware of its very unique background which has been affecting the way and success of transition in the sense that the process is hardly comparable with the before discussed countries. Though Romania has been a national state as ČR before the collapse of communism, the state has been suffering from dictatorship under Nicolae und Elena Ceausescu from 1965 to 1989 comparable with the pure Stalinist totalitarian system in the USSR until 1953. By mentioning that, two major particularities are arising. Firstly, the protests against the regime, which have been initiated by the Hungarian minority within the country in December 1989[9], have been leading into a violent revolution causing more than one thousand casualties. Secondly, even though both Nicolae and Elena Ceausescu have been executed in the end of December already and a new constitution formally declaring the end the dictatorship has been established in 1991, one can assume that Romania remained being leaded politically and economically by former communist elites. Against this background, decommunisation has been the chief issue of priority during the initial phase of transition but it turned out to be much more difficult as a political culture has been extremely underdeveloped and which is due to develop since.

In order to summarize the aforesaid the beginning of the transitional process has been completely different in all three countries. While Estonia had to fight for its own independence from the former USSR and to change itself into a functioning national state, Czech Republic has been immediately focusing on economic reforms. In comparison to Romania these changes have been non-violent and democratic structures have been introduced very quickly. Romania, however, had to overcome a communist totalitarian system and is still beyond the track in the sense of an “uncompleted revolution between dictatorship and democracy”[10], at least until 1996.

2.2. Crucial issues and strategies of political transition

While particularly talking about political transition, according to theory some core changes have to be undertaken by a country in order to establish a democratic system. For the purpose of comparing Estonia, ČR and Romania, crucial issues and strategies of (political) transition[11] provided by Norgaards research about the Baltic States after independence should be discussed in the following paragraph, thereby focusing on the most important features such as constitutional order and constitutional jurisprudence, stability of the party system and electoral legitimation.

Following Wolfgang Merkels argumentation, the inception of a constitution marks the finalization of institutional transition and leads into the consolidation phase of democratic order[12]. Referring to this, one can generally assume that written constitutions are representing the basis of the state as a political actor in all eastern and middle European countries, including the three which are compared in the current work.

Staring with Estonia, elaborations on the constitution started with its declaration of independence from Russia in 1991. It has been accepted through a national referendum by the Estonian society in 1992 and came into force at the same time[13]. Due to the interdependence of government and parliament (Riigikogu), Estonia’s constitutional order represents a system of parliamentary democracy. The constitution of Czech Republic has been passed by its parliament in December 1992 and became valid at the 1st of January 1993 representing the principles of democracy and rule of law[14] . In comparison to Estonia’s, it includes a charter of basic rights which has been established already in 1991 including irreversible human and civil rights. As the constitution of Romania declares in its first article, “ the form of government of the Romanian State is a Republic”[15] following democratic principles like rule of law, citizens’ rights, justice and political pluralism as well as the ones above. It has been discharged by the Romanian government at the 21st of November 1991 and ceased to be in force at the 8th of December in the same year[16], according to a national referendum like it was the case in Estonia.

In comparison to Estonia both the Czech and the Romanian constitution contains an irreversible core which increases the value of constitutional order against normal laws even more, as it already does anyway. All three constitutions are containing elements of direct democracy in order to legitimize constitutional changes, whereas only in Romania a public referendum is generally obligatory[17]. As far as constitutional jurisdiction is concerned, Estonia represents an exception within all new EU member states, because of not introducing special constitutional courts according to the Austrian Model of 1920 as Romania and ČR did. In general, however, constitutional jurisdiction has been strongly extended, even more than in western European states, what is widely interpreted as an important development towards consolidation of democracy and rule of law. Moreover it seems that the identification with the constitution among eastern and middle European citizens is much higher than in western European states. Following Ismayrs research, the constitution represents the basis of the society and ensures their civil rights for more than 80 % of the Estonians, Czechs and Romanians[18], which might be an effect of transition in the sense that expectations regarding democracy are still high. Moreover democracy is appreciated as a definite improvement in comparison with a communist (or even totalitarian) system alike.

[...]


[1] Comp.: Saltzwedel, Johannes: Europa in der Seifenblase, in: Der Spiegel of 04.10.2004, p. 210.

[2] Comp.: Gross, Peter (editor): Between Reality and Dream: Eastern European Media Transition, Transformation, Consolidation, and Integration, in: http://eep.sagepub.com/cgi/reprint/18/1/110.pdf (23.09.04), p. 111.

[3] Kasekamp, Andreas, Mikkel, Evald (editors): Emerging party realignment? Party based euroscepticism in Estonia, Turin 2002, http://www.essex.ac.uk/ecpr/events/jointsessions/paperarchive/turin/ws25/MikkelKasekamp.pdf (23.09.04), p. 5.

[4] Lauristin, Marju, Vihalemm, Peeter: The transformation of Estonian society and media: 1987 – 2001, in: Vilhalemm, Peeter (editor): Baltic media in transition, Tartu 2002, pp. 17 – 63, here p. 20.

[5] ib.

[6] Comp.: Prange, Heiko: Die Ostintegrationspolitik der Europäischen Union, Marburg 1997, p. 55.

[7] Comp.: ib.

[8] Kasekamp, Andreas, Mikkel, Evald (editors): Emerging party realignment? Party based euroscepticism in Estonia, Turin 2002, http://www.essex.ac.uk/ecpr/events/jointsessions/paperarchive/turin/ws25/MikkelKasekamp.pdf (23.09.04), p. 5.

[9] Comp.: Gehler, Michael: Die Umsturtzbewegung 1989 in Mittel- und Osteuropa. Ursachen – Verlauf – Folgen, in : Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung (editor): Aus Politik und Zeitgeschichte, Bonn 41 – 42 2004, pp. 36 – 46, here p. 43.

[10] Comp.: Gehler, Michael: Die Umsturtzbewegung 1989 in Mittel- und Osteuropa. Ursachen – Verlauf – Folgen, in : Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung (editor): Aus Politik und Zeitgeschichte, Bonn 41 – 42 2004, pp. 36 – 46, here p. 44.

[11] Comp.: 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.14.

[12] Comp.: Ismayr, Wolfgang: Die politischen Systeme der EU-Beitrittsländer im Vergleich, in: Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung (editor): Aus Politik und Zeitgeschichte, Bonn 5 – 6 2004, pp. 5 – 14, here p. 5.

[13] Dr. Brodocz, André, Prof. Dr. Vorländer, Hans: Estland. Verfassung, in Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung (editor): Dossier: Europa. Mitgliedsstaaten, http://www.bpb.de/themen/7GWU95,0,0,Verfassung.html (08.11.04).

[14] Dr. Brodocz, André, Prof. Dr. Vorländer, Hans: Tschechische Republik. Verfassung, in Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung (editor): Dossier: Europa. Mitgliedsstaaten, http://www.bpb.de/themen/D7NACF,0,0,Verfassung.html, (08.11.04).

[15] Government of Romania (editor): Constitution of Romania, in: http://domino.kappa.ro/guvern/constitutia-e.html, (08.11.04).

[16] Comp.: Daniel, Tobias (editor): Staat und Regierung in Rumänien, in: http://www.europa-digital.de/text/laender/rum/staat/ (08.11.04).

[17] Comp.: Ismayr, Wolfgang: Die politischen Systeme der EU-Beitrittsländer im Vergleich, in: Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung (editor): Aus Politik und Zeitgeschichte, Bonn 5 – 6 2004, pp. 5 – 14, here p. 6.

[18] Comp.: Ismayr, Wolfgang: Die politischen Systeme der EU-Beitrittsländer im Vergleich, in: Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung (editor): Aus Politik und Zeitgeschichte, Bonn 5 – 6 2004, pp. 5 – 14, here p. 6.

Excerpt out of 26 pages

Details

Title
The success of political transition in Estonia, Czech Republic and Romania
College
University of Tartu  (Center of Baltic Studies)
Course
Post-communist transition and Estonian experience
Grade
1,0
Author
Year
2005
Pages
26
Catalog Number
V75140
ISBN (eBook)
9783638755573
ISBN (Book)
9783638770248
File size
504 KB
Language
English
Tags
Estonia, Czech, Republic, Romania, Post-communist, Estonian
Quote paper
Magister Christian Vogel (Author), 2005, The success of political transition in Estonia, Czech Republic and Romania, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/75140

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