A Polish dissident once told me, “If it took 40 years to create this mentality, why shouldn’t it take 40 years to undo it?” Indeed, though we’ve now surpassed 20 years since the Berlin Wall was torn down, Central and Eastern Europe remain a work in progress. Everything that happens within these young democracies must be seen through the prism of what happened here during four decades of Communism, and how far the region has evolved since. Here, then, is a look at twenty years... and counting.
After years of debate, the EU unveils its first high-level policy document on the Roma. Now it’s up to national governments to fill in the outline.
BUDAPEST, Hungary -- Angela Kocze has been a firsthand witness to all the calamities that have befallen her fellow Roma over the two decades since Central and Eastern Europe rid itself of communist rule.
Nevertheless, Kocze is the rare voice to somehow muster “cautious optimism” about the first unified European Union policy to target the plight of the Roma, Europe’s largest, most-despised and most-marginalized minority.
DEVECSER, Hungary – It was just past noon, last Oct. 4, when Karoly Horvath returned home from fishing a local lake, here in provincial western Hungary. His wife and 12-year-old daughter were home to greet him, too – just as the waves of red sludge crashed through the door and windows.
Within seconds, the toxic mud was above their waist, burning the skin. Unable to move, Karoly could only watch mother and child screaming in agony.
BRATISLAVA –From the slumber of their winter hibernation, I've pulled our bicycles from the depths of our cartoonishly overstuffed hall closet.
Dad’s self-appointed task: wipe down the dust and cobwebs, pump some life into those tires. Sure, I’ve suffered minor injuries, like a bruised shin, but I get no sympathy from this crowd.
There's another cost, too. When you go so many months between riding a bicycle, as we did from fall to spring, certain muscles grow dormant. Guess what? They begin to atrophy. At least at my age, they do.
BRATISLAVA – At least, that’s the thank-you letter Finland should send Slovakia.
I’ve never been to a Helsinki block party. But earlier this month, for a solid fortnight of the World Hockey Championship, Bratislava sure felt like one. By the end of their two-week drinking binge, I wanted the pickled Finns to grab their gold medals and get the hell out.
Why the post-Communist transitions of Eastern European governments hold some surprising lessons for the fledgling democracies in Egypt and Tunisia.