“Emerging Europe Mega Mission 2014” – Urgh!
The above link shows an initiative by the UK government. However well-intentioned the aims might be, and however good it may do, and I hope it will, nevertheless whoever decided what to call it needs to be given a special edition framed gold-leaf P45 form (that’s a “pink slip”, by the way, for the benefit of my American readers, which my stats say are in the majority, and who are always welcome).
“Emerging Europe” and “Visehrad Four” was the term applied to these four countries way back in the end of the last century while these countries were the focus of attention, we didn’t know much about them other than that they were neighbours and that they emerged from behind the Iron Curtain at about the same time. In the mind of most Westerners Poland and its southern neighbours were expected to be quite similar and the major differences in culture between them which stretch back into the very different histories of these two areas over hundreds of years before the period of Soviet hegemony. Everyone had in their family people who knew life before, people were mentally prepared to spring back, and that is exactly what they did, with year after year of growth outstripping Western Europe and most of the rest of the world over a 20 year period, with legislative reforms and international consultation enabling unprecedented transfer of administrative know-how. These countries also had the advantage of computerising to a much more advanced level immediately than we had – their offices were not littered with massive green or amber screen monitors, most business people went straight onto Windows with its Word and Excel and cannot even remember the MS-DOS antecedents we struggled with and the hardware and software we clung too even when it was superseded in order not to waste the earlier IT investments.
The countries we are talking about avoided many of the errors made by a number of Western countries, problems now very apparent in the banking systems, education and health systems of western countries, problems with housing, transport, etc which are not so problematic in the more easterly countries.
On top of that these are countries which, apart from a very short period of forty years which is now 25 years over, were in the central current of European culture and thought, and had been for hundreds of years. When Luther nailed his 99 theses to the wall and they were being discussed days later in Oxford University, he did it in what was to become the German Democratic Republic, a country which, but for the existence of a larger brother constitutionally committed to reuniting with it, would also today be in the group you are calling ‘Emerging Europe”. If I mention the list of literary, musical, philosophical, artistic and other gems of this region the list (or should that be “liszt”?) would be very long indeed. These are not cultures which are only now emerging as Europe. You might call them rediscovered Europe, but emerging? Scarcely.
Furthermore, if we are going to continue to use the “Emerging Europe” label for successful, thriving European Union member states all fo which are in Schengen (unlike the UK) and one of which uses the Euro already (unlike the UK) and whose remaining currencies except for the HUF of late have proven to be just about as buoyant as the GBP for the last dozen or so years or better ( – take the Polish zloty for instance. 10 years ago precisely a pound would buy you 7.24 PLN. Today it will but you only 5.06 PLN. It has lost about 30% over those ten years against the zloty. Incomparison to the zloty, I’m afraid our currency looks like a soft currency against the zloty. Fact. Sorry, but fact) then what term are we going to use for countries which remain outside the EU, which continually have GDPs per head lower than 10,000 USD, which continually seem unable to introduce the reforms required in the Acquis Communautaire?
Let’s maybe have a poll as what what we can call those countries, if the likes of Poland or the Czech Republic is called “Emerging Europe”:
In summary, please for goodness sake stop referring to Central European EU members as “Emerging Europe”! The term is dated, was patronising even when it was current, and just makes the British look out of touch when it is used by us, and in my experience more often than not only serves to offend the people from the Region, although, being highly cultured and European, they are usually able not to show it.
So I thought I’d show it for them.