CSE and CIS
Ukraine's Maidan revolution, the seizure of Crimea by Russia, war against Russian-backed separatists in the east of the country and a deep economic recession have sent a torrent of Ukrainians either seeking shelter elsewhere in Ukraine or escaping east to Russia or west to the EU in search of a better and safer life. The figures are devastating: over 850,000 internally displaced persons and many more who have fled abroad.
The “spectre” of mass Romanian migration to western Europe has haunted British tabloids in particular in recent years, often in direct contradiction to the facts – recent reports say there has been no surge of migrants. One aspect to which some of the articles have drawn attention is how Romania might be used as a gateway to the EU for migrants from Moldova, one of Europe’s poorest countries. Others have raised concerns that Romania’s citizenship laws are not only an open door to the EU, but barely mask irredentist ambitions to retake territory lost during World War II.
Reform is on the agenda in Kiev. After over twenty years deformed by corruption and incomplete reforms, the demand for “European standards” – an umbrella term for values such as greater transparency and rule-of-law – is stronger than ever. But with Ukraine facing a dramatic recession and a drawn-out conflict in the country’s east, many fear the government will again fail to seize the opportunity to take the painful steps needed to modernise.
Belarus’s economy remains one of the least reformed in the region – largely because it has been able to rely on help from Russia to avoid a politically risky restructuring which could endanger the authoritarian rule of President Alexander Lukashenko.
While the rest of the CEE was either rapidly moving towards a democratic capitalist model, or languishing in post-communist malaise, but a least with new political and economic freedom, much of the Western Balkans plunged into war in which 140,000 people died and economies were devastated.
The path taken by Romania and Bulgaria over the past 25 years differs from that of both Central Europe, which embraced free-market capitalism more enthusiastically, and the Western Balkans, much of which was set back by internecine war. Today, both are EU member states, but both struggle to shake off the legacy of communism and a troubled transition.
Ukrainian authorities are considering how to rebuild Donbass, destroyed by Russian mercenaries. Unless the West takes part in the procedure, decisions are likely to depend on under which variant the most money can be transferred to the pockets of oligarchs associated with the governing team rather than on economic effectiveness.