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Author: Vaknin, Sam, 1961-
Title: The Belgian Curtain Europe after Communism
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Title: The Belgian Curtain

Author: Sam Vaknin

Release Date: June, 2005  [EBook #8217]
[This file was first posted on July 3, 2003]

Edition: 10

Language: English

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*** START OF THE PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK, THE BELGIAN CURTAIN ***




(c) 2002 Copyright Lidija Rangelovska.



The Belgian Curtain

Europe after Communism

1st EDITION

Sam Vaknin, Ph.D.

Editing and Design:

Lidija Rangelovska

Lidija Rangelovska

A Narcissus Publications Imprint, Skopje 2003

First published by United Press International - UPI

Not for Sale! Non-commercial edition.

(c) 2002 Copyright Lidija Rangelovska.

All rights reserved. This book, or any part thereof, may not be used or
reproduced in any manner without written permission from:

Lidija Rangelovska  - write to:

palma@unet.com.mk or to

vaknin@link.com.mk

Visit the Author Archive of Dr. Sam Vaknin in "Central Europe Review":

http://www.ce-review.org/authorarchives/vaknin_archive/vaknin_main.html

Visit Sam Vaknin's United Press International (UPI) Article Archive

http://samvak.tripod.com/guide.html

http://samvak.tripod.com/briefs.html

http://ceeandbalkan.tripod.com

http://samvak.tripod.com/after.html

Created by:        LIDIJA RANGELOVSKA

REPUBLIC OF MACEDONIA

C O N T E N T S

I. European Union and NATO - The Competing Alliances

II. The War in Iraq

III. How the West Lost the East

IV. Left and Right in a Divided Europe

V. Forward to the Past - Capitalism in Post-Communist Europe

VI. Transition in Context

VII. Eastern Advantages

VIII. Europe's Four Speeds

IX. Switching Empires

X. Europe's Agricultural Revolution

XI. Winning the European CAP

XII. History of Previous Currency Unions

XIII. The Concert of Europe, Interrupted

XIV. The Eastern Question Revisited

XV. Europe's New Jews

XVI. The Author

XVII. About "After the Rain"

EU and NATO - The Competing Alliances

By: Dr. Sam Vaknin

Also published by United Press International (UPI)

Saturday's vote in Ireland was the second time in 18 months that its
increasingly disillusioned citizenry had to decide the fate of the
European Union by endorsing or rejecting the crucial Treaty of Nice.
The treaty seeks to revamp the union's administration and the hitherto
sacred balance between small and big states prior to the accession of
10 central and east European countries. Enlargement has been the
centerpiece of European thinking ever since the meltdown of the eastern
bloc.

Shifting geopolitical and geo-strategic realities in the wake of the
September 11 atrocities have rendered this project all the more urgent.
NATO - an erstwhile anti-Soviet military alliance is search of purpose
- is gradually acquiring more political hues. Its remit has swelled to
take in peacekeeping, regime change, and nation-building.

Led by the USA, it has expanded aggressively into central and northern
Europe. It has institutionalized its relationships with the countries
of the Balkan through the "Partnership for Peace" and with Russia
through a recently established joint council. The Czech Republic,
Poland, and Hungary - the eternal EU candidates - have full scale
members of NATO for 3 years now.

The EU responded by feebly attempting to counter this worrisome
imbalance of influence with a Common Foreign and Security Policy and a
rapid deployment force. Still, NATO's chances of replacing the EU as
the main continental political alliance are much higher than the EU's
chances of substituting for NATO as the pre-eminent European military
pact. the EU is hobbled by minuscule and decreasing defense spending by
its mostly pacifistic members and by the backwardness of their armed
forces.

That NATO, under America's thumb, and the vaguely anti-American EU are
at cross-purposes emerged during the recent spat over the International
Criminal Court. Countries, such as Romania, were asked to choose
between NATO's position - immunity for American soldiers on
international peacekeeping missions - and the EU's (no such thing).
Finally - and typically - the EU backed down. But it was a close call
and it cast in sharp relief the tensions inside the Atlantic
partnership.

As far as the sole superpower is concerned, the strategic importance of
western Europe has waned together with the threat posed by a
dilapidated Russia. Both south Europe and its northern regions are
emerging as pivotal. Airbases in Bulgaria are more useful in the fight
against Iraq than airbases in Germany.

The affairs of Bosnia - with its al-Qaida's presence - are more
pressing than those of France. Turkey and its borders with central Asia
and the middle east is of far more concern to the USA than
disintegrating Belgium. Russia, a potentially newfound ally, is more
mission-critical than grumpy Germany.

Thus, enlargement would serve to enhance the dwindling strategic
relevance of the EU and heal some of the multiple rifts with the USA -
on trade, international affairs (e.g., Israel), defense policy, and
international law. But this is not the only benefit the EU would derive
from its embrace of the former lands of communism.

Faced with an inexorably ageing populace and an unsustainable system of
social welfare and retirement benefits, the EU is in dire need of young
immigrants. According to the United Nations Population Division, the EU
would need to import 1.6 million migrant workers annually to maintain
its current level of working age population. But it would need to
absorb almost 14 million new, working age, immigrants per year just to
preserve a stable ratio of workers to pensioners.

Eastern Europe - and especially central Europe - is the EU's natural
reservoir of migrant labor. It is ironic that xenophobic and
anti-immigration parties hold the balance of power in a continent so
dependent on immigration for the survival of its way of life and
institutions.

The internal, common, market of the EU has matured. Its growth rate has
leveled off and it has developed a mild case of deflation. In previous
centuries, Europe exported its excess labor and surplus capacity to its
colonies - an economic system known as "mercantilism".

The markets of central, southern, and eastern Europe - West Europe's
hinterland - are replete with abundant raw materials and dirt-cheap,
though well-educated, labor. As indigenous purchasing power increases,
the demand for consumer goods and services will expand.

Thus, the enlargement candidates can act both as a sink for Europe's
production and the root of its competitive advantage.

Moreover, the sheer weight of their agricultural sectors and the
backwardness of their infrastructure can force a reluctant EU to reform
its inanely bloated farm and regional aid subsidies, notably the Common
Agricultural Policy. That the EU cannot afford to treat the candidates
to dollops of subventioary largesse as it does the likes of France,
Spain, Portugal, and Greece is indisputable. But even a much-debated
phase-in period of 10 years would burden the EU's budget - and the
patience of its member states and denizens - to an acrimonious breaking
point.

The countries of central and eastern Europe are new consumption and
investment markets. With a total of 300 million people (Russia
counted), they equal the EU's population - though not its much larger
purchasing clout. They are likely to while the next few decades on a
steep growth curve, catching up with the West. Their proximity to the
EU makes them ideal customers for its goods and services. They could
provide the impetus for a renewed golden age of European economic
expansion.

Central and eastern Europe also provide a natural land nexus between
west Europe and Asia and the Middle East. As China and India grow in
economic and geopolitical importance, an enlarged Europe will find
itself in the profitable role of an intermediary between east and west.

The wide-ranging benefits to the EU of enlargement are clear,
therefore. What do the candidate states stand to gain from their
accession? The answer is: surprisingly little.

All of them already enjoy, to varying degrees, unfettered, largely
duty-free, access to the EU. To belong, a few - like Estonia - would
have to dismantle a much admired edifice of economic liberalism.

Most of them would have to erect barriers to trade and the free
movement of labor and capital where none existed. All of them would be
forced to encumber their fragile economies with tens of thousands of
pages of prohibitively costly labor, intellectual property rights,
financial, and environmental regulation. None stands to enjoy the same
benefits as do the more veteran members - notably in agricultural and
regional development funds.

Joining the EU would deliver rude economic and political shocks to the
candidate countries. A brutal and rather sudden introduction of
competition in hitherto much-sheltered sectors of the economy, giving
up recently hard-won sovereignty, shouldering the debilitating cost of
the implementation of  reams of guideline, statutes, laws, decrees, and
directives, and being largely powerless to influence policy outcomes.
Faced with such a predicament, some countries may even reconsider.

THE WAR IN IRAQ

The Euro-Atlantic Divide

By: Dr. Sam Vaknin

Also published by United Press International (UPI)

The countries of central and east Europe - especially those slated to
join the European Union (EU) in May next year - are between the
American rock and the European hard place. The Czech republic, Hungary
and Poland, already NATO members, have joined Spain, Britain and other
EU veterans in signing the "letter of eight" in support of US policy in
the Gulf. NATO and EU aspirants - including most of the nations of the
Balkans - followed suit in a joint statement of the Vilnius Group.

The denizens of the region wonder what is meant by "democracy" when
their own governments so blithely ignore public opinion, resolutely set
against the looming conflict. The heads of these newly independent
polities counter by saying that leaders are meant to mold common
perceptions, not merely follow them expediently. The mob opposed the
war against Hitler, they remind us, somewhat non-germanely.

But the political elite of Europe is, indeed, divided.

France is trying to reassert its waning authority over an increasingly
unruly and unmanageably expanding European Union. Yet, the new members
do not share its distaste for American hegemony.

On the contrary, they regard it as a guarantee of their own security.
They still fear the Russians, France's and Germany's new found allies
in the "Axis of Peace" (also known as the Axis of Weasels).

The Czechs, for instance, recall how France (and Britain) sacrificed
them to Nazi Germany in 1938 in the name of realpolitik and the
preservation of peace. They think that America is a far more reliable
sponsor of their long-term safety and prosperity than the fractured
European "Union".

Their dislike of what they regard as America's lightweight leadership
and overt - and suspect - belligerence notwithstanding, the central and
east Europeans are grateful to the United States for its unflinching -
and spectacularly successful - confrontation with communism.

France and Germany - entangled in entente and Ostpolitik, respectively
- cozied up to the Kremlin, partly driven by their Euro-communist
parties. So did Italy. While the Europeans were busy kowtowing to a
repressive USSR and castigating the USA for its warmongering, America
has liberated the Soviet satellites and bankrolled their painful and
protracted transition.

Historical debts aside, America is a suzerain and, as such, it is
irresistible. Succumbing to the will of a Big Power is the rule in east
and central Europe. The nations of the region have mentally substituted
the United States for the Soviet Union as far as geopolitics are
concerned. Brussels took the place of Moscow with regards to economic
issues. The Czechs, Poles, Hungarians, assorted Balkanians, even the
Balts - have merely switched empires.

There are other reasons for these countries' pro-Americanism. The
nations of central, east and southeast (Balkans) Europe have sizable
and economically crucial diasporas in the united States. They admire
and consume American technology and pop culture. Trade with the USA and
foreign direct investment are still small but both are growing fast.

Though the EU is the new and aspiring members' biggest trading partner
and foreign investor - it has, to borrow from Henry Kissinger, no
"single phone number". While France is enmeshed in its Byzantine
machinations, Spain and Britain are trying to obstruct the ominous
re-emergence of French-German dominance.

By catering to popular aversion of America's policies, Germany's
beleaguered Chancellor, Gerhard Schroeder, is attempting to score
points domestically even as the German economy is imploding.

The euro-Atlantic structures never looked worse. The European Union is
both disunited and losing its European character. NATO has long been a
dysfunctional alliance in search of a purpose. For a while, Balkan
skirmishes provided it with a new lease on life. But now the
Euro-Atlantic alliance has become the Euro-Atlantic divide.

The only clear, consistent and cohesive voice is America's. The new
members of NATO are trying to demonstrate their allegiance - nay,
obsequiousness - to the sole identifiable leader of the free world.

France's bid at European helmsmanship failed because both it and Russia
are biased in favor of the current regime in Iraq. French and Russian
firms have signed more than 1700 commercial contracts with Saddam's
murderous clique while their British and American competitors were
excluded by the policies of their governments.

When sanctions against Iraq are lifted - and providing Saddam or his
hand-picked successor are still in place - Russian energy behemoths are
poised to explore and extract billions of barrels of oil worth dozens
of billions of dollars. Iraq owes Russia $9 billion which Russia wants
repaid.

But the United States would be mistaken to indulge in Schadenfreude or
to gleefully assume that it has finally succeeded in isolating the
insolent French and the somnolent Germans. Public opinion - even where
it carries little weight, like in Britain, or in the Balkans - cannot
be ignored forever.

Furthermore, all the countries of Europe share real concerns about the
stability of the Middle East. A divided Iraq stands to unsettle
neighbours near and far. Turkey has a large Kurdish minority as does
Iran. Conservative regimes in the Gulf fear Iraq's newfound and
American-administered democracy. In the wake of an American attack on
Iraq, Islamic fundamentalism and militancy will surely surge and lead
to a wave of terror. Europe has vested historical, economic and
geopolitical interests in the region, unlike America.

Persistent, unmitigated support for the USA in spite of French-German
exhortations will jeopardize the new and aspiring members' position in
an enlarged EU. Accession is irreversible but they can find themselves
isolated and marginalized in decision making processes and dynamics
long after the Iraqi dust has settled. EU officials already gave public
warnings to this effect.

It is  grave error to assume that France and Germany have lost their
pivotal role in the EU. Britain and Spain are second rank members -
Britain by Europhobic choice and Spain because it is too small to
really matter. Russia - a smooth operator - chose to side with France
and Germany, at least temporarily. The new and aspiring members would
have done well to follow suit.

Instead, they have misconstrued the signs of the gathering storm: the
emerging European rapid deployment force and common foreign policy; the
rapprochement between France and Germany at the expense of the
pro-American but far less influential Britain, Italy and Spain; the
constitutional crisis setting European federalists against traditional
nationalists; the growing rupture between "Old Europe" and the American
"hyperpower".

The new and aspiring members of NATO and the EU now face a moment of
truth and are being forced to reveal their hand. Are they pro-American,
or pro-German (read: pro federalist Europe)? Where and with whom do
they see a common, prosperous future? What is the extent of their
commitment to the European Union, its values and its agenda?

The proclamations of the European eight (including the three central
European candidates) and the Vilnius Ten must have greatly disappointed
Germany - the unwavering sponsor of EU enlargement. Any further
flagrant siding with the United States against the inner core of the EU
would merely compound those errors of judgment. The EU can punish the
revenant nations of the communist bloc with the same dedication and
effectiveness with which it has hitherto rewarded them.

THE WAR IN IRAQ

Bulgaria - The Quiet American

By: Dr. Sam Vaknin

Also published by United Press International (UPI)

Last week, Bulgaria, currently sitting on the Security Council, was one
of ten east and southeast European countries - known as the Vilnius
Group - to issue a strongly worded statement in support of the United
States' attempt to disarm Iraq by military means. This followed a
similar, though much milder, earlier statement by eight other European
nations, including Hungary, the Czech Republic and Poland, the EU's
prospective members in central Europe.

The Vilnius Ten - including Albania, Bulgaria, Croatia, Estonia,
Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia - called
the evidence presented to the Security Council by Colin Powell, the US
Secretary of State - "compelling". Iraq posed a "clear and present
danger" - they concluded.

Bulgaria and Romania pledged free access to their air spaces and
territorial waters. The first US military plane has landed today in the
Safarovo airport in the Black Sea city of Burgas in Bulgaria. Other
members are poised to provide medical staff, anti-mine units and
chemical protection gear.

Such overt obsequiousness did not go unrewarded.

Days after the common statement, the IMF - considered by some to be a
long arm of America's foreign policy - clinched a standby arrangement
with Macedonia, the first in two turbulent years. On the same day,
Bulgaria received glowing - and counterfactual - reviews from yet
another IMF mission, clearing the way for the release of a  tranche of
$36 million out of a loan of $330 million.

Partly in response, six members of parliament from the ruling Simeon II
national Movement joined with four independents to form the National
Ideal for Unity. According to Novinite.com, a Bulgarian news Web site,
they asserted that "the new political morale was seriously harmed" and
"accused the government of inefficient economic program of the
government that led to the bad economic situation in the country."

Following the joint Vilnius Group declaration, Albania, Croatia,
Bulgaria and Macedonia received private and public assurances that
their NATO applications now stand a better chance. Bulgaria started the
second round of negotiations with the military alliance yesterday and
expects to become full member next year. The head of the US Committee
on NATO Enlargement Bruce Jackson stated: "I'm sure that Bulgaria has
helped itself very much this week."

Yet, the recent rift in NATO (over Turkish use of the Alliance's
defense assets) pitted Germany, France and Belgium against the rest of
the organization and opposite other EU member states. It casts in doubt
the wisdom of the Vilnius Group's American gambit. The countries of
central and east Europe may admire the United States and its superpower
clout - but, far more vitally, they depend on Europe, economically as
well as politically.

Even put together, these polities are barely inconsequential. They are
presumptuous to assume the role of intermediaries between a
disenchanted Franco-German Entente Cordiale and a glowering America.
Nor can they serve as "US Ambassadors" in the European corridors of
power.

The European Union absorbs two thirds of their exports and three
quarters of their immigrants. Europe accounts for nine tenths of
foreign direct investment in the region and four fifths of aid. For the
likes of the Czech Republic and Croatia to support the United states
against Germany is nothing short of economic suicide.

Moreover, the United States is a demanding master. It tends to
micromanage and meddle in everything, from election outcomes to
inter-ethnic relations. James Purdew, America's ambassador to Sofia and
a veteran Balkan power broker, spent the last few weeks exerting
pressure on the Bulgarian government, in tandem with the aforementioned
Bruce Jackson, to oust the country's Prosecutor General and reinstate
the (socialist) head of the National Investigation Services.

Bulgaria is already by far the most heavily enmeshed in US military
operations in Asia. It served as a launch pad for US planes during the
Afghanistan campaign in 2001-2. It stands to be affected directly by
the looming war.

Bulgaria is on the route of illicit immigration from Iraq, Palestine
and Iran, via Turkey, to Greece and therefrom to the EU. Last Friday
alone, it detained 43 Iraqi refugees caught cruising Sofia in two
Turkish trucks on the way to the Greek border.

The Ministry of Interior admitted that it expects a "massive flow of
(crossing) refugees" if an armed conflict were to erupt.

The Minister of Finance, Milen Velchev, intends to present to the
Council of Ministers detailed damage scenarios based on a hike in the
price of oil to $40 per barrel and a 3-4 months long confrontation. He
admitted to the Bulgarian National Radio that inflation is likely to
increase by at least 1-1.5 percentage points.

The daily cost of a single 150-member biological and chemical defense
unit stationed in the Gulf would amount to $15,000, or c. $500,000 per
month, said the Bulgarian news agency, BTA. The Minister of Defense,
Nikolai Svinarov, told the Cabinet that he expects "maximum (American)
funding and logistical support" for the Bulgarian troops. The United
States intends to base c. 400 soldiers-technicians and 18 planes on the
country's soil and will pay for making use of the infrastructure, as
they have done during operation "Enduring Freedom" (the war in
Afghanistan).

Bulgaria stands to benefit in other ways. The country's Deputy Foreign
Minister, Lyubomir Ivanov, confirmed in another radio interview that
the Americans pledged that Iraqi debts to Bulgaria will be fully paid.
This can amount to dozens of millions of US dollars in fresh money.

Is this Bulgaria's price? Unlikely. Bulgaria, like the other countries
of the region, regards America as the first among equals in NATO. The
EU is perceived in east Europe as a toothless, though rich, club,
corrupted by its own economic interests and inexorably driven by its
bloated bureaucracy.

The EU and its goodwill and stake in the region are taken for granted -
while America has to be constantly appeased and mollified.

Still, the members of the Vilnius Groups have misconstrued the signs of
the gathering storm: the emerging European rapid deployment force and
common foreign policy; the rapprochement between France and Germany at
the expense of the pro-American but far less influential Britain, Italy
and Spain; the constitutional crisis setting European federalists
against traditional nationalists; the growing rupture between "Old
Europe" and the American "hyperpower".

The new and aspiring members of NATO and the EU now face a moment of
truth and are being forced to reveal their hand. Are they pro-American,
or pro-German (read: pro federalist Europe)? Where and with whom do
they see a common, prosperous future? What is the extent of their
commitment to the European Union, its values and its agenda?

The proclamations of the European eight (including the three central
European candidates) and the Vilnius Ten must have greatly disappointed
Germany - the unwavering sponsor of EU enlargement. Any further
flagrant siding with the United States against the inner core of the EU
would merely compound those errors of judgment. The EU can punish the
revenant nations of the communist bloc with the same dedication and
effectiveness with which it has hitherto rewarded them. Ask Israel, it
should know.

THE WAR IN IRAQ

Russia Straddles the Euro-Atlantic Divide

By: Dr. Sam Vaknin

Also published by United Press International (UPI)

Also Read

The Janus Look

Russia's Second Empire

Russian Roulette - The Security Apparatus

Russia as a Creditor

Let My People Go - The Jackson-Vanik Controversy

The Chechen Theatre Ticket

Russia's Israeli Oil Bond

Russia's Idled Spies

Russia in 2003

Russian President Vladimir Putin warned on Tuesday, in an interview he
granted to TF1, a French television channel, that unilateral
American-British military action against Iraq would be a "grave
mistake" and an "unreasonable use of force".

Russia might veto it in the Security Council, he averred. In a joint
declaration with France and Germany, issued the same day, he called to
enhance the number of arms inspectors in Iraq as an alternative to war.

Only weeks ago Russia was written off, not least by myself, as a
satellite of the United States. This newfound assertiveness has
confounded analysts and experts everywhere. Yet, appearances aside, it
does not signal a fundamental shift in Russian policy or worldview.

Russia could not resist the temptation of playing once more the
Leninist game of "inter-imperialist contradictions". It has long
masterfully exploited chinks in NATO's armor to further its own
economic, if not geopolitical, goals. Its convenient geographic sprawl
- part Europe, part Asia - allows it to pose as both a continental
power and a global one with interests akin to those of the United
States. Hence the verve with which it delved into the war against
terrorism, recasting internal oppression and meddling abroad as its
elements.

As Vladimir Lukin, deputy speaker of the Duma observed recently,
Britain having swerved too far towards America - Russia may yet become
an intermediary between a bitterly disenchanted USA and an irked Europe
and between the rich, industrialized West and developing countries in
Asia. Publicly, the USA has only mildly disagreed with Russia's
reluctance to countenance a military endgame in Iraq - while showering
France and Germany with vitriol for saying, essentially, the same
things.

The United States knows that Russia will not jeopardize the relevance
of the Security Council - one of the few remaining hallmarks of past
Soviet grandeur - by vetoing an American-sponsored resolution. But
Russia cannot be seen to be abandoning a traditional ally and a major
customer (Iraq) and newfound friends (France and Germany) too
expediently.

Nor can Putin risk further antagonizing Moscow hardliners who already
regard his perceived "Gorbachev-like" obsequiousness and far reaching
concessions to the USA as treasonous. The scrapping of the Anti
Ballistic Missile treaty, the expansion of NATO to Russia's borders,
America's presence in central Asia and the Caucasus, Russia's "near
abroad" - are traumatic reversals of fortune.

An agreed consultative procedure with the crumbling NATO hardly
qualifies as ample compensation. There are troubling rumblings of
discontent in the army. A few weeks ago, a Russian general in Chechnya
refused Putin's orders publicly - and with impunity. Additionally,
according to numerous opinion polls, the vast majority of Russians
oppose an Iraqi campaign.

By aligning itself with the fickle France and the brooding and
somnolent Germany, Russia is warning the USA that it should not be
taken for granted and that there is a price to pay for its allegiance
and good services. But Putin is not Boris Yeltsin, his inebriated
predecessor who over-played his hand in opposing NATO's operation in
Kosovo in 1999 - only to be sidelined, ignored and humiliated in the
postwar arrangements.

Russia wants a free hand in Chechnya and to be heard on international
issues. It aspires to secure its oil contracts in Iraq - worth tens of
billions of dollars - and the repayment of $9 billion in old debts by
the postbellum government. It seeks pledges that the oil market will
not be flooded by a penurious Iraq. It desires a free hand in Ukraine,
Armenia and Uzbekistan, among others. Russia wants to continue to sell
$4 billion a year in arms to China, India, Iran, Syria and other
pariahs unhindered.

Only the United States, the sole superpower, can guarantee that these
demands are met. Moreover, with a major oil producer such as Iraq as a
US protectorate, Russia becomes a hostage to American goodwill. Yet,
hitherto, all Russia received were expression of sympathy, claimed
Valeri Fyodorov, director of Political Friends, an independent Russian
think-tank, in an interview in the Canadian daily, National Post.

These are not trivial concerns. Russia's is a primitive economy, based
on commodities - especially energy products - and an over-developed
weapons industry. Its fortunes fluctuate with the price of oil, of
agricultural produce and with the need for arms, driven by regional
conflicts.

Should the price of oil collapse, Russia may again be forced to resort
to multilateral financing, a virtual monopoly of the long arms of US
foreign policy, such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The USA
also has a decisive voice in the World Trade Organization (WTO),
membership thereof being a Russian strategic goal.

It was the United States which sponsored Russia's seat at table of the
G8 - the Group of Eight industrialized states - a much coveted
reassertion of the Russian Federation's global weight. According to
Rossiiskaya Gazeta, a Russian paper, the USA already announced a week
ago that it is considering cutting Russia off American financial aid -
probably to remind the former empire who is holding the purse strings.

But siding with America risks alienating the all-important core of
Europe: Germany and France. Europe - especially Germany - is Russia's
largest export destination and foreign investor. Russia is not
oblivious to that. It would like to be compensated generously by the
United States for assuming such a hazard.

Still, Europe is a captive of geography and history. It has few
feasible alternatives to Russian gas, for instance. As the recent $7
billion investment by British Petroleum proves, Russia - and, by
extension, central and east Europe - is Europe's growth zone and
natural economic hinterland.

Yet, it is America that captures the imagination of Russian oligarchs
and lesser businesses.

Russia aims to become the world's largest oil producer within the
decade. With this in mind, it is retooling its infrastructure and
investing in new pipelines and ports.

The United States is aggressively courted by Russian officials and
"oiligarchs" - the energy tycoons. With the Gulf states cast in the
role of anti-American Islamic militants, Russia emerges as a sane and
safe - i.e., rationally driven by self-interest - alternative supplier
and a useful counterweight to an increasingly assertive and federated
Europe.

Russia's affinity with the United States runs deeper that the
confluence of commercial interests.

Russian capitalism is far more "Anglo-Saxon" than Old Europe's. The
Federation has an educated but cheap and abundant labor force, a patchy
welfare state, exportable natural endowments, a low tax burden and a
pressing need for unhindered inflows of foreign investment.

Russia's only hope of steady economic growth is the expansion of its
energy behemoths abroad. Last year it has become a net foreign direct
investor. It has a vested interest in globalization and world order
which coincide with America's. China, for instance, is as much Russia's
potential adversary as it is the United State's.

Russia welcomed the demise of the Taliban and is content with regime
changes in Iraq and North Korea - all American exploits. It can - and
does - contribute to America's global priorities. Collaboration between
the two countries' intelligence services has never been closer. Hence
also the thaw in Russia's relations with its erstwhile foe, Israel.

Russia's population is hungry and abrasively materialistic. Its robber
barons are more American in spirit than any British or French
entrepreneur. Russia's business ethos is reminiscent of 19th century
frontier America, not of 20th century staid Germany.

Russia is driven by kaleidoscopically shifting coalitions within a
narrow elite, not by its masses - and the elite wants money, a lot of
it and now. In Russia's unbreakable cycle,  money yields power which
leads to more money. The country is a functioning democracy but
elections there do not revolve around the economy. Most taxes are
evaded by most taxpayers and half the gross national product is anyhow
underground. Ordinary people crave law and order - or, at least a
semblance thereof.

Hence Putin's rock idol popularity. He caters to the needs of the elite
by cozying up to the West and, in particular, to America - even as he
provides the lower classes with a sense of direction and security they
lacked since 1985. But Putin is a serendipitous president. He enjoys
the aftereffects of a sharply devalued, export-enhancing,
imports-depressing ruble and the vertiginous tripling of oil prices,
Russia's main foreign exchange generator.

The last years of Yeltsin have been so traumatic that the bickering
cogs and wheels of Russia's establishment united behind the only
vote-getter they could lay their hands on: Putin, an obscure politician
and former KGB officer. To a large extent, he proved to be an agreeable
puppet, concerned mostly with self-preservation and the imaginary
projection of illusory power.

Putin's great asset is his pragmatism and realistic assessment of the
shambles that Russia has become and of his own limitations. He has
turned himself into a kind of benevolent and enlightened arbiter among
feuding interests - and as the merciless and diligent executioner of
the decisions of the inner cabals of power.

Hitherto he kept everyone satisfied. But Iraq is his first real test.
Everyone demands commitments backed by actions. Both the Europeans and
the Americans want him to put his vote at the Security Council where
his mouth is. The armed services want him to oppose war in Iraq. The
intelligence services are divided. The Moslem population inside Russia
- and surrounding it on all sides - is restive and virulently
anti-American.

The oil industry is terrified of America' domination of the world's
second largest proven reserves - but also craves to do business in the
United States. Intellectuals and Russian diplomats worry about
America's apparent disregard for the world order spawned by the horrors
of World War II. The average Russian regards the Iraqi stalemate as an
internal American affair. "It is not our war", is a common refrain,
growing commoner.

Putin has played it admirably nimbly. Whether he ultimately succeeds in
this impossible act of balancing remains to be seen. The smart money
says he would. But if the last three years have taught us anything it
is that the smart money is often disastrously wrong.

THE WAR IN IRAQ

Germany's Rebellious Colonies

By: Dr. Sam Vaknin

Also published by United Press International (UPI)

Also Read

The EU and NATO - The Competing Alliances

The Skoda Model

The Czechs' Indian Gambit

Europe's Four Speeds

Switching Empires

Eastern Advantages

Invited by a grateful United States, the Czech Republic on Saturday
sent a representative to meet with Iraqi opposition in Kurdish north
Iraq. The country was one of the eight signatories on a letter,
co-signed by Britain, Italy, Spain and the two other European Union
central European candidate-members, Poland and Hungary, in support of
US policy in the Gulf.

According to The Observer and the New York Times, American troops in
Germany - and the billions of dollars in goods and services they
consume locally - will be moved further east to the Czech Republic,
Poland and the Baltic states. This shift may have come regardless of
the German "betrayal". The Pentagon has long been contemplating the
futility of stationing tens of thousands of soldiers in the world's
most peaceful and pacifistic country.

The letter is a slap in the face of Germany, a member of the "Axis of
Peace", together with France and Belgium and the champion of EU
enlargement to the east. Its own economic difficulties aside, Germany
is the region's largest foreign investor and trading partner. Why the
curious rebuff by its ostensible prot‚g‚s?

The Czech Republic encapsulates many of the economic and political
trends in the erstwhile communist swathe of Europe.

The country's economic performance still appears impressive. Figures
released yesterday reveal a surge of 6.6 percent in industrial
production, to yield an annual increase of 4.8 percent. Retail sales,
though way below expectations, were still up 2.7 percent last year. The
Czech National Bank (CNB) upgraded its gross domestic product growth
forecast on Jan 30 to 2.2-3.5 percent.

But the country is in the throes of a deflationary cycle. The producer
price index was down 0.8 percent last year. Year on year, it decreased
by 0.4 percent in January. Export prices are down 6.7 percent, though
import prices fell by even more thus improving the country's terms of
trade.

The Czech koruna is unhealthily overvalued against the euro thus
jeopardizing any export-led recovery. The CNB was forced to intervene
in the foreign exchange market and buy in excess of 2 billion euros
last year - four times the amount it did in 2001. It also cut its
interest rates last month to their nadir since independence. This did
little to dent the country's burgeoning current account deficit, now at
over 5 percent of GDP.

Unemployment in January broke through the psychologically crucial
barrier of 10 percent of the workforce. More than 540,000 bread earners
(in a country of 10 million inhabitants) are out of a job. In some
regions every fifth laborer is laid off. There are more than 13 - and
in the worst hit parts, more than 100 - applicants per every position
open .

Additionally, the country is bracing itself for another bout of floods,
more devastating than last year's and the ones in 1997. Each of the
previous inundations caused in excess of $2 billion in damages. The
government's budget is already strained to a breaking point with a
projected deficit of 6.3 percent this year, stabilizing at between 4
and 6.6 percent in 2006. The situation hasn't been this dire since the
toppling of communism in the Velvet Revolution of 1989.

Ironically, these bad tidings are mostly the inevitable outcomes of
much delayed reforms, notably privatization. Four fifths of the
country's economy is alleged to be in private hands - a rate similar to
the free markets of Estonia, Slovakia and Hungary. In reality, though,
the state still maintains intrusive involvement in many industrial
assets. It is the reluctant unwinding of these holdings that leads to
mass layoffs.

Yet, the long term outlook is indisputably bright.

The ministry of finance forecasts a rise in the country's GDP from 59
percent to 70 percent of the European Union's output in 2005 -
comparable to Slovenia and far above Poland with a mere 40 percent. The
Czech Republic is preparing itself to join the eurozone shortly after
it becomes a member of the EU in May 2004.

Foreign investors are gung ho. The country is now the prime investment
destination among the countries in transition. In a typical daily
occurrence, bucking a global trend, Matsushita intends to expand its
television factory in Plzen. Its investment of $8 million will enhance
the plant's payroll by one tenth to 1900 workers. Siemens - a German
multinational - is ploughing $50 million into its Czech unit. Siemens
Elektromotory's 3000 employees export $130 million worth of electrical
engines annually.

None of this would have been possible without Germany's vote of
confidence and overwhelming economic presence in the Czech Republic.
The deteriorating fortunes of the Czech economy are, indeed, intimately
linked to the economic stagnation of its northern neighbor, as many an
economist bemoan. But this only serves to prove that the former's
recovery is dependent on the latter's resurrection.

Either way, to have so overtly and blatantly abandoned Germany in its
time of need would surely prove to be a costly miscalculation. The
Czechs - like other central and east European countries - mistook a
transatlantic tiff for a geopolitical divorce and tried to implausibly
capitalize on the yawning rift that opened between the erstwhile allies.

Yet, Germany is one of the largest trading partners of the United
States. American firms sell $24 billion worth of goods annually there -
compared to $600 million in Poland. Germany's economy is five to six
times the aggregated output of the EU's central European new members
plus Slovakia.

According to the New York Times, there are 1800 American firms on
German soil, with combined sales of $583 billion and a workforce of
800,000 people. Due to its collapsing competitiveness and rigid labor
laws, Germany's multinationals relocate many of their operations to
central and east Europe, Asia and north and Latin America. Even with
its current malaise, Germany invested in 2001 $43 billion abroad and
attracted $32 billion in fresh foreign capital.

Indeed, supporting the United States was seen by the smaller countries
of the EU as a neat way to counterbalance Germany's worrisome economic
might and France's often self-delusional aspirations at helmsmanship. A
string of unilateral dictates by the French-German duo to the rest of
the EU - regarding farm subsidies and Europe's constitution, for
instance - made EU veterans and newcomers alike edgy. Hence the
deliberate public snub.

Still, grandstanding apart, the nations of central Europe know how
ill-informed are recent claims in various American media that their
region is bound to become the new European locomotive in lieu of an
aging and self preoccupied Germany. The harsh truth is that there is no
central European economy without Germany. And, at this stage, there is
no east European economy, period.

Consider central Europe's most advanced post-communist economy.

One third of Hungary's GDP, one half of its industrial production,
three quarters of industrial sales and nine tenths of its exports are
generated by multinationals. Three quarters of the industrial sector is
foreign-owned. One third of all foreign direct investment is German.
France is the third largest investor. The situation is not much
different in the Czech Republic where the overseas sales of the
German-owned Skoda alone account for one tenth the country's exports.

The relationship between Germany and central Europe is mercantilistic.
Germany leverages the region's cheap labor and abundant raw materials
to manufacture and export its finished products. Central Europe
conforms, therefore, to the definition of a colony and an economic
hinterland. From a low base, growth there - driven by frenzied
consumerism - is bound to outstrip the northern giant's for a long time
to come. But Germans stands to benefit from such prosperity no less
than the indigenous population.

Aware of this encroaching "economic imperialism", privatization deals
with German firms are being voted down throughout the region. In
November, the sale of a majority stake in Cesky Telecom to a consortium
led by Deutsche Bank collapsed. In Poland, a plan to sell Stoen,
Warsaw's power utility, to Germany's RWE was scrapped.

But these are temporary - and often reversible - setbacks. Germany and
its colonies share other interests. As The Economist noted correctly
recently:

"The Poles may differ with the French over security but they will be
with them in the battle to preserve farm subsidies. The Czechs and
Hungarians are less wary of military force than the Germans but
sympathize with their approach to the EU's constitutional reform. In
truth, there are no more fixed and reliable alliances in the EU.
Countries will team up with each other, depending on issue and
circumstances."

Thus, the partners, Germany and central Europe, scarred and embittered,
will survive the one's haughty conduct and the other's backstabbing.
That the countries of Europe currently react with accommodation to
what, only six decades ago, would have triggered war among them, may be
the greatest achievement of the Euro-Atlantic enterprise.



How the West Lost the East

By: Dr. Sam Vaknin

Also published by United Press International (UPI)

 Also Read

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The Expat Experts

To Give with Grace

The Pettifogger Procurators

Why is America Hated

The Pew Research Center published last week a report expansively titled
"What the World Thinks in 2002". "The World", reduced to 44 countries
and 38,000 interviewees, included 3500 respondent from central and east
Europe: Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Poland, Russia, Slovakia and
Ukraine. Uzbekistan stood in for the formerly Soviet central Asia. The
Times-Mirror 1991 survey, "The Pulse of Europe" was used as a benchmark.

With the implosion of communism in 1989 and the disintegration of the
Soviet Union in 1991, large swathes of central and eastern Europe found
themselves devoid of an internal market, an economic sponsor, or a
military umbrella.

The countries of central Europe - from Slovenia to Hungary - and the
Baltic dismissed the communist phase of their past as a "historical
accident" and vigorously proceeded to seek integration with Western
Europe, notably Germany, much as they have done until the rise of
Fascism in the 1930s.

The polities of eastern Europe bitterly divided into the "nostalgics"
or "reactionary" versus the "European", or "progressive". The first lot
- including Russia, Ukraine and Belarus - sought to resurrect an
economic incarnation of the former USSR. The latter - notably Poland -
reclassified themselves as "central Europeans" and emulated the likes
of the Czech republic and Hungary in a desperate bid to curry favor
with the European Union and the United States.

The Pew report reveals that the concerns of the denizens of central and
east Europe are varied but closely aligned with the global agenda. In
this sense, the iron curtain has, indeed, lifted and total integration
has been achieved despite massive economic disparities. The publics of
the former Soviet Bloc place surprisingly great emphasis on the
environment, for instance - hitherto thought to be a preoccupation of
their more affluent neighbours to the west.

Consider the war on terrorism.

People in Russia are vehemently opposed to the use of force to dislodge
Saddam Hussein. They regard the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a
greater threat to peace in the Middle East.

They are convinced that the USA is bent on war in the Gulf to secure
its oil sources. Europe is likely to pay the price, say the Russians,
by becoming a target for international terrorism.

Yet, in a sweeping reversal of sentiment, Russians now regard the world
as safer with a single superpower. In Uzbekistan, whose crumbling
economy has enjoyed a fillip from the presence of 1500 US troops,
support for America's military campaigns is understandably high.

Yet, the most startling and unambiguous revelation was the extent of
anti-American groundswell everywhere: among America's NATO allies, in
developing countries, Muslim nations and even in eastern Europe where
Americans, only a decade ago were perceived as much-adulated
liberators. "People around the world embrace things American and, at
the same time, decry U.S. influence on their societies. Similarly,
pluralities in most of the nations surveyed complain about American
unilateralism."- expounds the report.

The image of the Unites States as a benign world power slipped
dramatically in the space of two years in Slovakia (down 14 percent),
in Poland (-7), in the Czech Republic (-6) and even in fervently
pro-Western Bulgaria (-4 percent). But it rose exponentially in Ukraine
(up 10 percent) and, most astoundingly, in Russia (+24 percent, albeit
from a very low base).

Still, rising anti-Americanism may have more to do with a nonspecific
wave of gloom and dysphoria than with concrete American policies.
"People who are less well off economically are more likely than those
who are more financially secure to dislike the U.S." - says the report.

Only two fifths of Czechs are satisfied with their own life or with the
state of their nation. Three quarters are unhappy with the world at
large. The figures are even way lower in Slovakia, Poland and Ukraine.
Only Uzbeks are content, probably for want of knowing better.

In Russia, less than one fifth are at ease with their life, their
country, or the world. Bulgaria takes the prize: a mere 8 percent of
Bulgarians find their life gratifying. One in twenty five Bulgarians is
optimistic regarding his or her nation. One in eight approves of the
world.

East Germans are far more pessimistic than the Wessies, their brethren
in the western Lander. East European are exceedingly displeased with
their income, though they find their family lives agreeable and, in the
lands of vertiginous unemployment levels, their jobs appealing.

Nine in ten Ukrainians, Bulgarians, Poles and Slovaks maintain a
negative view of their national economies. In Russia the figure is 83
percent and even in the Czech Republic it is 60. Three quarters of east
Europeans surveyed - including east Germans - do not believe that
economic conditions will improve.

"Will my kids go hungry? Will they be stuck with my debts? ... It looks
bad and it can only get worse. I mean, you can hope it will get better
but it does not look good" - muses a forlorn 69-years old Polish farmer.

Incredibly, these dismal figures reflect a rise in satisfaction
throughout the region since the demise of communism in 1989-91.
Significantly, the young are double as hopeful than those older than
35. Between one third (Bulgaria, Czech Republic) and one half (Ukraine,
Slovakia and Russia) of respondents of all age groups believe in a
better future - far outweighing the pessimists. Only in Poland are the
majority of people are anxious for the future of their children.

Still, "while Eastern Europeans feel their lives are better off since
the collapse of communism, many say they have lost ground over the past
five years. A majority of Bulgarians (55%) believe their lives are
worse today, as do pluralities in Ukraine, the Slovak Republic and
Poland. Again, Czechs are the exception - 41% think they have made
progress while 27% believe they have lost ground. Russians are divided
on this point (37% say they have lost ground, 36% feel they have made
progress)."

Poverty is a potent depressant. The greater part of Russians and
Ukrainians reported that "there have been times in the past year when
they had too little money to afford food", medical care, or clothing.
So did half the Bulgarians, one third of the Poles and one sixth of
Slovaks. Ninety-two percent of the Bulgarians interviewed identified
economic problems as having the most effect on their lives.

Similar figures obtained in Russia (85), Ukraine (79) and Poland (73).
These data are as bad as it gets. Senegal, Mali and Bangladesh are in
the same league. The situation is better in Slovakia (63 percent). At
46 percent, the Czech Republic proved equal to the much richer United
Kingdom and United States.

People everywhere do not blame their economic predicament on inapt
administrations, or on specific leaders. Vladimir Putin is much more
popular in Russia than his cabinet but the government get good marks.
The leadership in Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, suffered
precipitous drops in popularity since 1991. East Europeans - except the
Russians - also rate the European Union higher than they do their own
authorities. In Slovakia the ratio is a whopping three to one.

With the notable exceptions of Ukraine and the Czech Republic, east
Europeans approve of their religious leaders. Ukrainians distrust their
military - but all other nationalities are fond of the armed forces.
The media and journalists are universally highly rated as positive
social influences.

Russians and Uzbeks are concerned about lack of housing. Health is a
universal headache: two fifths of Russians, one third of Poles and
Czechs and one quarter of Slovaks listed it as such. Central and east
European education still yields superior results so only one fifth of
Russians find it worrying. Respondents from other countries in the
region did not.

Between two thirds and four fifths of the denizens of the
crime-infested societies of the countries in transition registered
delinquency as a major scourge, followed by corrupt political leaders,
AIDS and disease, moral decline, poor drinking water, emigration, poor
schooling, terrorism, immigration and ethnic conflict.

East Europeans are as xenophobic as their counterparts in the West.
Between half and three quarters of all respondents - fully 80 percent
in the Czech Republic - thought that immigrants are a "bad influence on
the country". Only Bulgaria welcomes immigration by a wide margin. But
nine of ten Bulgarians decry emigration - Bulgarians fleeing abroad.
Three quarters do so in Slovakia, Ukraine, Poland and the former East
Germany.

Ironically, the more xenophobic the society, the more concerned its
members are with ethnic hatred. Almost three fifths of all Czechs
identify it as the major problem facing the world today. Other east
Europeans are equally worried by nuclear weapons, the gap between rich
and poor, the environment and infectious diseases.

The survey reveals both the failure of transition and a decisive break
between central and eastern Europe. The shared brief episode of
communism failed to homogenize these parts of the continent. Central
Europe - including Slovenia - with its history of industrial
capitalism, modern bureaucratic governance and the rule of law - is
reverting to its historical default. It is being reintegrated into the
European mainstream.

The countries of east Europe - Poland included - are unable to catch
up. Their transition is tortuous and unpopular among their subjects.
Their lot is, indeed, improving but glacially and imperceptibly. They
are being left behind by a largely indifferent West. Their erstwhile
central European co-inmates in the gulag of communism are now keen to
distance themselves. They are considered a drag and an embarrassment.
Their unquenched hopes for a better future are smothered by
insurmountable economic and social problems.

European enlargement is likely to stall after the first intake of 10
new members in 2004. Those left out in the cold are excluded for a long
stretch. Rather than relying on the double panacea of NATO and the EU,
they would do well to start reforming themselves by bootstrapping.
Surveys like these are timely reminders of this unpleasant reality.

Left and Right in a Divided Europe

By: Dr. Sam Vaknin

Also published by United Press International (UPI)

Even as West European countries seemed to have edged to the right of
the political map - all three polities of central Europe lurched to the
left. Socialists were elected to replace economically successful right
wing governments in Poland, Hungary and, recently, in the Czech
Republic.

This apparent schism is, indeed, merely an apparition. The differences
between reformed left and new right in both parts of the continent have
blurred to the point of indistinguishability. French socialists have
privatized more than their conservative predecessors. The Tories still
complain bitterly that Tony Blair, with his nondescript "Third Way",
has stolen their thunder.

Nor are the "left" and "right" ideologically monolithic and socially
homogeneous continental movements. The central European left is more
preoccupied with a social - dare I say socialist - agenda than any of
its Western coreligionists. Equally, the central European right is less
individualistic, libertarian, religious, and conservative than any of
its Western parallels - and much more nationalistic and xenophobic. It
sometimes echoes the far right in Western Europe - rather than the
center-right, mainstream, middle-class orientated parties in power.

Moreover, the right's victories in Western Europe - in Spain, Denmark,
the Netherlands, Italy - are not without a few important exceptions -
notably Britain and, perhaps, come September, Germany. Nor is the
left's clean sweep of the central European electoral slate either
complete or irreversible. With the exception of the outgoing Czech
government, not one party in this volatile region has ever remained in
power for more than one term. Murmurs of discontent are already audible
in Poland and Hungary.

Left and right are imported labels with little explanatory power or
relevance to central Europe. To fathom the political dynamics of this
region, one must realize that the core countries of central Europe (the
Czech Republic, Hungary and, to a lesser extent, Poland) experienced
industrial capitalism in the inter-war period. Thus, a political
taxonomy based on urbanization and industrialization may prove to be
more powerful than the classic left-right dichotomy.

THE RURAL versus THE URBAN

The enmity between the urban and the bucolic has deep historical roots.
When the teetering Roman Empire fell to the Barbarians (410-476 AD),
five centuries of existential insecurity and mayhem ensued. Vassals
pledged allegiance and subservience to local lords in return for
protection against nomads and marauders. Trading was confined to
fortified medieval cities.

Even as it petered out in the west, feudalism remained entrenched in
the prolix codices and patents of the Habsburg Austro-Hungarian empire
which encompassed central Europe and collapsed only in 1918.

Well into the twentieth century, the majority of the denizens of these
moribund swathes of the continent worked the land. This feudal legacy
of a brobdignagian agricultural sector in, for instance, Poland - now
hampers the EU accession talks.

Vassals were little freer than slaves. In comparison, burghers, the
inhabitants of the city, were liberated from the bondage of the feudal
labour contract. As a result, they were able to acquire private
possessions and the city acted as supreme guarantor of their property
rights. Urban centers relied on trading and economic might to obtain
and secure political autonomy.

John of Paris, arguably one of the first capitalist cities (at least
according to Braudel), wrote: "(The individual) had a right to property
which was not with impunity to be interfered with by superior authority
- because it was acquired by (his) own efforts" (in Georges Duby, "The
age of the Cathedrals: Art and Society, 980-1420, Chicago, Chicago
University Press, 1981). Max Weber, in his opus, "The City" (New York,
MacMillan, 1958) wrote optimistically about urbanization: "The medieval
citizen was on the way towards becoming an economic man ... the ancient
citizen was a political man".

But communism halted this process. It froze the early feudal frame of
mind of disdain and derision towards "non-productive", "city-based"
vocations. Agricultural and industrial occupations were romantically
extolled by communist parties everywhere. The cities were berated as
hubs of moral turpitude, decadence and greed. Ironically, avowed
anti-communist right wing populists, like Hungary's former prime
minister, Orban, sought to propagate these sentiments, to their
electoral detriment.

Communism was an urban phenomenon - but it abnegated its "bourgeoisie"
pedigree. Private property was replaced by communal ownership.
Servitude to the state replaced individualism. Personal mobility was
severely curtailed. In communism, feudalism was restored.

Very like the Church in the Middle Ages, communism sought to monopolize
and permeate all discourse, all thinking, and all intellectual
pursuits. Communism was characterized by tensions between party, state
and the economy - exactly as the medieval polity was plagued by
conflicts between church, king and merchants-bankers.

In communism, political activism was a precondition for advancement
and, too often, for personal survival. John of Salisbury might as well
have been writing for a communist agitprop department when he penned
this in "Policraticus" (1159 AD): "...if (rich people, people with
private property) have been stuffed through excessive greed and if they
hold in their contents too obstinately, (they) give rise to countless
and incurable illnesses and, through their vices, can bring about the
ruin of the body as a whole". The body in the text being the body
politic.

Workers, both industrial and agricultural, were lionized and idolized
in communist times. With the implosion of communism, these frustrated
and angry rejects of a failed ideology spawned many grassroots
political movements, lately in Poland, in the form of "Self Defence".
Their envied and despised enemies are the well-educated, the
intellectuals, the self-proclaimed new elite, the foreigner, the
minority, the rich, and the remote bureaucrat in Brussels.

Like in the West, the hinterland tends to support the right. Orban's
Fidesz lost in Budapest in the recent elections - but scored big in
villages and farms throughout Hungary. Agrarian and peasant parties
abound in all three central European countries and often hold the
balance of power in coalition governments.

THE YOUNG and THE NEW versus THE TIRED and THE TRIED

The cult of youth in central Europe was an inevitable outcome of the
utter failure of older generations. The allure of the new and the
untried often prevailed over the certainty of the tried and failed.
Many senior politicians, managers, entrepreneurs and journalists across
this region are in their 20's or 30's.

Yet, the inexperienced temerity of the young has often led to voter
disillusionment and disenchantment. Many among the young are too
identified with the pratfalls of "reform". Age and experience reassert
themselves through the ballot boxes - and with them the disingenuous
habits of the past. Many of the "old, safe hands" are former communists
disingenuously turned socialists turned democrats turned capitalists.
As even revolutionaries age, they become territorial and hidebound.
Turf wars are likely to intensify rather then recede.

THE TECHNOCRATS / EXPERTS versus THE LOBBYIST-MANAGERS

Communist managers - always the quintessential rent-seekers - were
trained to wheedle politicians, lobby the state and  cadge for
subsidies and bailouts, rather than respond to market signals. As
communism imploded, the involvement of the state in the economy - and
the resources it commanded - contracted. Multilateral funds are tightly
supervised. Communist-era "directors" - their skills made redundant by
these developments - were shockingly and abruptly confronted with
merciless market realities.

Predictably they flopped and were supplanted by expert managers and
technocrats, more attuned to markets and to profits, and committed to
competition and other capitalistic tenets. The decrepit, "privatized"
assets of the dying system expropriated by the nomenclature were soon
acquired by foreign investors, or shut down. The old guard has
decisively lost its capital - both pecuniary and political.

Political parties which relied on these cronies for contributions and
influence-peddling - are in decline. Those that had the foresight to
detach themselves from the venality and dissipation of "the system" are
on the ascendance. From Haiderism to Fortuynism and from Lepper to
Medgyessy - being an outsider is a distinct political advantage in both
west and east alike.

THE BUREAUCRATS versus THE POLITICIANS

The notion of an a-political civil service and its political - though
transient - masters is alien to post communist societies. Every
appointment in the public sector, down to the most insignificant
sinecure, is still politicized. Yet, the economic decline precipitated
by the transition to free markets, forced even the most backward
political classes to appoint a cadre of young, foreign educated,
well-traveled, dynamic, and open minded bureaucrats.

These are no longer a negligible minority. Nor are they bereft of
political assets. Their power and ubiquity increase with every jerky
change of government. Their public stature, expertise, and contacts
with their foreign counterparts threaten the lugubrious and
supernumerary class of professional politicians - many of whom are
ashen remnants of the communist conflagration. Hence the recent
politically-tainted attempts to curb the powers of central bankers in
Poland and the Czech Republic.

THE NATIONALISTS versus THE EUROPEANS

The malignant fringe of far-right nationalism and far left populism in
central Europe is more virulent and less sophisticated than its
counterparts in Austria, Denmark, Italy, France, or the Netherlands.
With the exception of Poland, though, it is on the wane.

Populists of all stripes combine calls for a thinly disguised "strong
man" dictatorship with exclusionary racist xenophobia, strong anti-EU
sentiments, conspiracy theory streaks of paranoia, the revival of an
imaginary rustic and family-centered utopia, fears of unemployment and
economic destitution, regionalism and local patriotism

Though far from the mainstream and often derided and ignored - they
succeeded to radicalize both the right and the left in central Europe,
as they have done in the west. Thus, mainstream parties were forced to
adopt a more assertive foreign policy tinged with ominous nationalism
(Hungary) and anti-Europeanism (Poland, Hungary). There has been a
measurable shift in public opinion as well - towards disenchantment
with EU enlargement and overtly exclusionary nationalism. This was
aided by Brussels' lukewarm welcome, discriminatory and protectionist
practices, and bureaucratic indecisiveness.

These worrisome tendencies are balanced by the inertia of the process.
Politicians of all colors are committed to the European project.
Carping aside, the countries of central Europe stand to reap
significant economic benefits from their EU membership. Still, the
outcome of this clash between parochial nationalism and Europeanism is
far from certain and, contrary to received wisdom, the process is
reversible.

THE CENTRALISTS versus THE REGIONALISTS

The recent bickering about the Benes decrees proves that the vision of
a "Europe of regions" is ephemeral. True, the  century old nation state
has weakened greatly and the centripetal energy of regions has
increased. But this applies only to homogeneous states.

Minorities tend to disrupt this continuity and majorities do their
damnedest to eradicate these discontinuities by various means - from
assimilation (central Europe) to extermination (the Balkan). Hungary's
policies - its status law and the economic benefits it bestowed upon
expatriate Hungarians - is the epitome of such tendencies.

These axes of tension delineate and form central Europe's political
landscape. The Procrustean categories of "left" and "right" do
injustice to these subtleties. As central Europe matures into fully
functioning capitalistic liberal democracies, proper leftwing parties
and their rightwing adversaries are bound to emerge. But this is still
in the future.

 Forward to the Past

Capitalism in Post-Communist Europe

By: Dr. Sam Vaknin

The core countries of Central Europe (the Czech Republic, Hungary and,
to a lesser extent, Poland) experienced industrial capitalism in the
inter-war period. But the countries comprising the vast expanses of the
New Independent States, Russia and the Balkan had no real acquaintance
with it. To them its zealous introduction is nothing but another
ideological experiment and not a very rewarding one at that.

It is often said that there is no precedent to the extant fortean
transition from totalitarian communism to liberal capitalism. This
might well be true. Yet, nascent capitalism is not without historical
example. The study of the birth of capitalism in feudal Europe may yet
lead to some surprising and potentially useful insights.

The Barbarian conquest of the teetering Roman Empire (410-476 AD)
heralded five centuries of existential insecurity and mayhem. Feudalism
was the countryside's reaction to this damnation. It was a Hobson's
choice and an explicit trade-off. Local lords defended their vassals
against nomad intrusions in return for perpetual service bordering on
slavery. A small percentage of the population lived on trade behind the
massive walls of Medieval cities.

In most parts of central, eastern and southeastern Europe, feudalism
endured well into the twentieth century. It was entrenched in the legal
systems of the Ottoman Empire and of Czarist Russia. Elements of
feudalism survived in the mellifluous and prolix prose of the Habsburg
codices and patents. Most of the denizens of these moribund swathes of
Europe were farmers - only the profligate and parasitic members of a
distinct minority inhabited the cities. The present brobdignagian
agricultural sectors in countries as diverse as Poland and Macedonia
attest to this continuity of feudal practices.

Both manual labour and trade were derided in the Ancient World. This
derision was partially eroded during the Dark Ages. It survived only in
relation to trade and other "non-productive" financial activities and
even that not past the thirteenth century. Max Weber, in his opus, "The
City" (New York, MacMillan, 1958) described this mental shift of
paradigm thus: "The medieval citizen was on the way towards becoming an
economic man ... the ancient citizen was a political man".

What communism did to the lands it permeated was to freeze this early
feudal frame of mind of disdain towards "non-productive", "city-based"
vocations. Agricultural and industrial occupations were romantically
extolled. The cities were berated as hubs of moral turpitude, decadence
and greed. Political awareness was made a precondition for personal
survival and advancement. The clock was turned back.

Weber's "Homo Economicus" yielded to communism's supercilious version
of the ancient Greeks' "Zoon Politikon". John of Salisbury might as
well have been writing for a communist agitprop department when he
penned this in "Policraticus" (1159 AD): "...if (rich people, people
with private property) have been stuffed through excessive greed and if
they hold in their contents too obstinately, (they) give rise to
countless and incurable illnesses and, through their vices, can bring
about the ruin of the body as a whole". The body in the text being the
body politic.

This inimical attitude should have come as no surprise to students of
either urban realities or of communism, their parricidal off-spring.
The city liberated its citizens from the bondage of the feudal labour
contract. And it acted as the supreme guarantor of the rights of
private property. It relied on its trading and economic prowess to
obtain and secure political autonomy. John of Paris, arguably one of
the first capitalist cities (at least according to Braudel), wrote:
"(The individual) had a right to property which was not with impunity
to be interfered with by superior authority - because it was acquired
by (his) own efforts" (in Georges Duby, "The age of the Cathedrals: Art
and Society, 980-1420, Chicago, Chicago University Press, 1981).
Despite the fact that communism was an urban phenomenon (albeit with
rustic roots) - it abnegated these "bourgeoisie" values. Communal
ownership replaced individual property and servitude to the state
replaced individualism. In communism, feudalism was restored. Even
geographical mobility was severely curtailed, as was the case in
feudalism. The doctrine of the Communist party monopolized all modes of
thought and perception - very much as the church-condoned religious
strain did 700 years before.

Communism was characterized by tensions between party, state and the
economy - exactly as the medieval polity was plagued by conflicts
between church, king and merchants-bankers. Paradoxically, communism
was a faithful re-enactment of pre-capitalist history.

Communism should be well distinguished from Marxism. Still, it is
ironic that even Marx's "scientific materialism" has an equivalent in
the twilight times of feudalism. The eleventh and twelfth centuries
witnessed a concerted effort by medieval scholars to apply "scientific"
principles and human knowledge to the solution of social problems. The
historian R. W. Southern called this period "scientific humanism" (in
"Flesh and Stone" by Richard Sennett, London, Faber and Faber, 1994).
We mentioned John of Salisbury's "Policraticus". It was an effort to
map political functions and interactions into their human physiological
equivalents. The king, for instance, was the brain of the body politic.
Merchants and bankers were the insatiable stomach. But this apparently
simplistic analogy masked a schismatic debate. Should a person's
position in life be determined by his political affiliation and
"natural" place in the order of things - or should it be the result of
his capacities and their exercise (merit)? Do the ever changing
contents of the economic "stomach",  its kaleidoscopic innovativeness,
its "permanent revolution" and its propensity to assume "irrational"
risks - adversely affect this natural order which, after all, is based
on tradition and routine? In short: is there an inherent
incompatibility between the order of the world (read: the church
doctrine) and meritocratic (democratic) capitalism? Could Thomas
Aquinas' "Summa Theologica" (the world as the body of Christ) be
reconciled with "Stadt Luft Macht Frei" ("city air liberates" - the
sign above the gates of the cities of the Hanseatic League)?

This is the eternal tension between the individual and the group.
Individualism and communism are not new to history and they have always
been in conflict. To compare the communist party to the church is a
well-worn clich‚. Both religions - the secular and the divine - were
threatened by the spirit of freedom and initiative embodied in urban
culture, commerce and finance. The order they sought to establish,
propagate and perpetuate conflicted with basic human drives and
desires. Communism was a throwback to the days before the ascent of the
urbane, capitalistic, sophisticated, incredulous, individualistic and
risqu‚ West. it sought to substitute one kind of "scientific"
determinism (the body politic of Christ) by another (the body politic
of "the Proletariat"). It failed and when it unravelled, it revealed a
landscape of toxic devastation, frozen in time, an ossified natural
order bereft of content and adherents. The post-communist countries
have to pick up where it left them, centuries ago. It is not so much a
problem of lacking infrastructure as it is an issue of pathologized
minds, not so much a matter of the body as a dysfunction of the psyche.

The historian Walter Ullman says that John of Salisbury thought (850
years ago) that "the individual's standing within society... (should
be) based upon his office or his official function ... (the greater
this function was) the more scope it had, the weightier it was, the
more rights the individual had." (Walter Ullman, "The Individual and
Society in the Middle Ages", Baltimore, Johns Hopkins University Press,
1966). I cannot conceive of a member of the communist nomenklatura who
would not have adopted this formula wholeheartedly. If modern
capitalism can be described as "back to the future", communism was
surely "forward to the past'.

Transition in Context

By: Dr. Sam Vaknin

Also published by United Press International (UPI)

Also Read

Lessons in Transition

Is Transition Possible?

The Rip van Winkle Institutions

The Author of this Article is a Racist

The Eureka Connection

Women in Transition:

From Post Feminism to Past Femininity

Axes to Grind - The Taxonomy of Political Conflict

The Solow Paradox

Forward to the Past - Capitalism in Post-Communist Europe

Leapfrogging Transition - Technology and Post Communism

Contracting for Transition

Women in Transition

The Kleptocracies of the East

The Washington Consensus - I. The IMF

The implosion of communism was often presented - not least by Francis
Fukuyama in his celebrated "The end of History" - as the
incontrovertible victory of economic liberalism over Marxism. In truth,
the battle raged for seven decades between two strands of socialism.

Social democracy was conceived in the 19th century as a benign
alternative to the revolutionary belligerence of Marx and Engels. It
sparred with communism - the virulent and authoritarian species of
socialism that Marxism has mutated into. European history between
1946-1989 was not a clash of diametrically opposed ideologies - but an
internecine war between two competing interpretations of the same
doctrine.

Both contestants boasted a single market - the European Union and
COMECON, respectively. In both the state was heavily involved in the
economy and owned a sizable chunk of the means of production, though in
the Soviet Union and its satellites, the state was the economy.

Both sported well-developed, entrenched and all-pervasive welfarism.
Both east and west were stiflingly bureaucratic, statist, profoundly
illiberal and comprehensively regulated. Crucially, the west was
economically successful and democratic while Russia evolved into a
paranoid nightmare of inefficiency and gloom. Hence its demise.

When communism crumbled, all of Europe - east and west - experienced a
protracted and agonizing transition. Privatization, deregulation,
competition and liberalization swept across both parts of the
continent. The irony is that central and east Europe's adaptation was
more farfetched and alacritous than the west's.

The tax burden - a measure of the state's immersion in the economy -
still equals more than two fifths of gross domestic product in all
members of the European Union. The countries in transition - from
Russia to Bulgaria and from Estonia to Hungary - are way more
economically liberal today than France, Germany and even Britain - let
alone the nations of Scandinavia.

An increasingly united Europe has opted for "capitalism with a human
face"  - the democratic isotope of socialism (sometimes  with a touch
of corporatism). But  it now faces the challenge of the Anglo-Saxon
variety of the free market. Nowhere is this ideological altercation
more evident than in the countries formerly behind the iron curtain.

Long before Enron and World.com, the tech bubble and Wall Street's
accounting frauds and pernicious conflicts of interest - transition has
exposed the raw and vulnerable nerves running through the foundations
of Anglo-Saxon capitalism. Eastern Europe is a monument to the folly of
unmitigated and unbridled freemarketry.

Transition has given economists a rare chance to study capitalism and
economic policies from scratch. What's more important - free markets,
institutions, education, democracy, or capital? Central and east Europe
became a giant lab in which to peruse policies pertaining to
criminality, private property ownership, entrepreneurship,
privatization, income distribution, employment, inflation and social
welfare.

Superficially, the debate revolved around the scientific rigor and
usefulness - or lack thereof - of the "Washington Consensus". Opposing
monetary and fiscal policies, free trade versus protectionism, capital
controls and convertibility - these occupied the minds and writings of
all manner of economic and development "experts" in the first decade
after the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Yet, deep underneath, transition - perhaps because it was so thoroughly
botched - taught us unforgettable lessons about markets and the way
they work, namely that "objective", "mechanical" capitalism is a mirage.

Perhaps the most important moral is that, like all other economic
processes - transition is, mostly, in the mind. Successful capitalism
requires education and experience. The blind in east Europe were led by
the one-eyed. Capitalism was presented - especially by Western
protagonists of "shock therapy" - as a deus ex machina, a panacea,
guaranteed to transport the region's derelict economies and destitute
people to the kitschy glamour of the tacky soap operas that flooded
their television screens.

Bedazzled by the alleged omnipotence and omniscience of the "invisible
hand", no one predicted the utter meltdown that ensued: the mass
unemployment, the ubiquitous poverty, the glaring abyss between new
rich and always poor, or the skyrocketing prices even as income
plummeted. Nor were the good parts of the new economic regime
understood or explained: private property, personal profit, incentives.

The dangers of transition were flippantly ignored and the peoples of
central and eastern Europe were treated as mere guinea pigs by eager
Western economists on fat retainers. Crime was allowed to hijack
important parts of the post-communist economic agenda, such as the
privatization of state assets. Kleptocracies subsumed the newborn
states. Social safety nets crumbled.

In their vainglorious attempt to pose as accurate and, thus,
"respectable", scientists, economists refused to admit that capitalism
is not merely a compendium of algorithms and formulas - but mainly a
state of mind. It is an all-encompassing, holistic, worldview, a set of
values, a code of conduct, a list of goals, aspirations, fantasies and
preferences and a catalog of moral do's and don'ts. This is where
transition, micromanaged by these "experts" failed.

The mere exposure to free markets was supposed to unleash innovation
and entrepreneurship in the long-oppressed populations of east Europe.
When this recipe bombed, the West tried to engender a stable,
share-holding, business-owning, middle class by financing small size
enterprises.

It then proceeded to strengthen and transform indigenous institutions.
None of it worked. Transition had no grassroots support and its
prescriptive - and painful - nature caused wide resentment and
obstruction.

The process of transition informed us that markets, left to their own
devices, unregulated and unharnessed, yield market failures, anomies,
crime and the misallocation of economic resources. The invisible hand
must be firmly clasped and guided by functioning and impartial
institutions, an ingrained culture of entrepreneurship and fair play,
classes of stakeholders, checks and balances and good governance on all
levels.

Wealth, behavioral standards, initiative, risk seeking - do not always
"trickle down". To get rid of central planning - more central planning
is required. The state must counteract numerous market failures ,
provide some public goods, establish and run institutions, tutor
everyone, baby-sit venture capitalists, enhance innovation, enforce
laws and standards, maintain safety, attract foreign investment, cope
with unemployment and, at times, establish and operate markets for
goods and services. This omnipresence runs against the grain of
Anglo-Saxon liberalism.

Moreover, such an expanded role of the state sits uncomfortably with
complete political liberty. That capitalism is inextricably linked to
democracy is a well-meaning fallacy - or a convenient pretext for
geopolitical power grabs. East Europe's transition stalled partly due
to political anarchy. China's transition, by comparison, is spectacular
- inflated figures notwithstanding - because it chose a gradual
approach to liberalization: first economic, then political.

Last but not least, pure, "American", capitalism and pure Marxism have
more in common than either would care to admit. Both are utopian. Both
are materialistic. Both are doctrinaire. Both believe that "it's a
jungle out there". Both seek social mobility through control of the
means of production. Both claim to be egalitarian forms of social
engineering and are civilizing, millennial, universal, missionary
pseudo-religions.

The denizens of the nether regions of central and eastern Europe have
been the victims of successive economic utopias. They fear and suspect
ideological purity. They have been conditioned by the authoritarian
breed of socialism they endured, really little more than an overblown
conspiracy theory, a persecutory delusion which invariably led to
Stalinesque paranoid backlashes. Indeed, Stalin was more representative
of communism than any other leader before or after him.

The Economist summed this semipternal mass hysteria neatly thus:

"The core idea that economic structure determines everything has been
especially pernicious ... The idea that ... rights have a deeper moral
underpinning is an illusion. Morality itself is an illusion., just
another weapon of the ruling class. As Gyorgy Lukasc put it, 'Communist
ethics makes it the highest duty to act wickedly ... This is the
greatest sacrifice revolution asks from us.' Human agency is null: we
are mere dupes of 'the system', until we repudiate it outright. What
goes for ethics also goes for history, literature, the rest of the
humanities and the social sciences. The 'late Marxist' sees them all
... not as subjects for disinterested intellectual inquiry but as forms
of social control."

Many in Europe feel that the above paragraph might as well have been
written about Anglo-Saxon capitalism. Reduced to bare-bones
materialism, it is amoral, if not immoral. It upholds natural selection
instead of ethics, prefers money to values, wealth formation to social
solidarity.

Predators everywhere - Russian oligarchs, central European cronies,
Balkan kleptocrats, east European managers - find this gratifying. All
others regard capitalism as yet another rigid and unforgiving creed,
this time imposed from Washington by the IMF and multinationals rather
as communism was enjoined from Moscow by the Kremlin.

With eight of the former communist countries about to become members of
the European Union - albeit second rate ones -  transition is entering
is most fascinating phase. Exposed hitherto to American teachings and
practices, the new members are forced to adhere to a whole different
rule book - all 82,000 pages of it.

European "capitalism" is really a hybrid of the socialist and liberal
teachings of the 19th century. It emphasizes consensus, community,
solidarity, equality, stability and continuity. It places these values
above profitability, entrepreneurship, competition, individualism,
mobility, size, litigation and the use of force. Europeans firmly
believe that the workings of the market should be tampered with and
that it is the responsibility of the state to see to it that no one
gets left behind or trampled upon.

European stakeholder capitalism is paternalistic and inclusive.
Employees, employers, the government, communities and suppliers are
partners in the decision making process or privies to it. Relics of
past models of the market economy still abound in this continent:
industrial policy, Keynesian government spending, development aid,
export and production subsidies, trade protectionism, the
state-sanctioned support of nascent and infant industries. Mild
corporatism is rife and manifest in central wage bargaining.

For some countries - notably Estonia - joining the EU would translate
into a de-liberalized and re-regulated future. Others would find the
EU's brand of the market a comfortable and dimly familiar middle ground
between America's harsh prescriptions and communism's delusional model.
The EU's faceless and Kafkaesque bureaucracy in Brussels - Moscow
revisited - should prove to be a relief compared to the IMF's ruffians.

The EU is evolving into a land empire, albeit glacially. The polities
of central and eastern Europe were always constituents of empires -
reluctantly or by choice. In some ways they are better suited to form
an "ever closer union" than the more veteran members.

Eastern Advantages

By: Dr. Sam Vaknin

Also published by United Press International (UPI)

Also Read

Transition in Context

Lessons in Transition

Is Transition Possible?

Leapfrogging Transition - Technology and Post Communism

Many of the nations of central and east Europe have spent most of their
history as components of one empire or another. People in this region
are used to be at the receiving end of directives and planning from the
center. Though ostensibly fervid nationalists, they are ill at ease
with their re-founded and re-found nation-states.

The identity of the denizens of these parts is more regional than
national and evolving towards the supra-national. People are from this
or that city, or district, or village. And they aspire to become
citizens of Europe and the great experiment of the European Union. They
are only hesitantly and tentatively Macedonians, or Moldovans, or
Belarusians, or Kazakhs, or Yugoslavs.

The likes of the Czechs, the Estonians and the Slovenes are well-suited
to become constituents of a larger whole. They make better Europeans
than the British, or the Norwegians. They have survived far mightier
and more bloated bureaucracies than Brussels'. They are unsurpassed
manipulators of officialdom. In the long run, the new members stand to
benefit the most from the EU's enlargement and to form its unwaveringly
loyal core.

Not yet the full-fledged individualists of the Anglo-Saxon model of
capitalism - these nations are consensus-seeking team-players. Tutored
by centuries of occupation and hardship, they are instinctual
multilateralists. They are avid Westerners by persuasion, if not yet in
practice, or geography.

Moreover, their belated conversion to the ways of the market is an
undisguised blessing.

Though still a promise largely unfulfilled, the countries in transition
could now leapfrog whole stages of development by adopting novel
technologies and through them the expensive Western research they
embody. The East can learn from the West's mistakes and, by avoiding
them, achieve a competitive edge.

Technology is a social phenomenon with social implications. It fosters
entrepreneurship and social mobility. By allowing the countries in
transition to skip massive investments in outdated technologies - the
cellular phone, the Internet, cable TV, and the satellite become
shortcuts to prosperity.

Poverty is another invaluable advantage.

With the exception of Slovenia, Estonia, Croatia and the Czech Republic
- the population of the countries in transition is poor, sometimes
inordinately so. Looming and actual penury is a major driver of
entrepreneurship, initiative and innovation. Wealth formation and
profit seeking are motivated by indigence, both absolute and relative.
The poor seek to better their position in the world by becoming
middle-class. They invest in education, in small businesses, in
consumer products, in future generations.

The Germans - sated and affluent - are unlikely to experience a second
economic miracle. The Serbs, Albanians, Ukrainians, Poles, or Romanians
won't survive without one. The West is just discovering this truth and
is opening its gates - albeit xenophobically and intermittently - to
poorer foreigners. For what is immigration if not the importation of
ambitious indigents, certain to revitalize the EU's rich and somnolent
economies?

The countries of central and eastern Europe, thus, stand to benefit
twice.

Their own economic Renaissance is spurred on by a striving home-grown
proletariat. And they are uniquely positioned - geographically and
culturally - to export destitute go-getters to the wealthy West and to
reap the rewards of the inevitable spurt in entrepreneurship and
innovation that follows. Remittances, returning expatriates, thriving
and networked Diasporas would do more to uplift the countries of origin
than any amount of oft-misallocated multilateral aid.

This cornucopian vision is threatened from numerous sides.

Geopolitical instability, resurgent trade protectionism, dysfunctional
global capital markets and banks - can all reverse the course of a
successful transition to market economies. Still, the more pernicious
threats are from the inside: venal, delegitimized politicians, brain
drain, crumbling infrastructure, cheap foreign competition, or
inter-ethnic tensions.

Perhaps the most serious hindrance to progress would be a fanatic
emulation by the countries in transition of the European Union. An
overly generous social safety net, a sprawling bureaucracy, inane laws
and regulations about everything from the environment to the welfare of
pigs, paralyzed decision-making processes and deleterious subventions -
can all scupper progress and depress entrepreneurship and innovation.

The cautionary tale of east Germany - smothered by western red tape and
lethargy - should forewarn every new member and aspiring candidate.
They need to join the European Union in the hope of helping to reform
it from the inside. They should not succumb to the allure of German
largesse, nor acquire the French, Spanish, Greek and Portuguese
addiction to it. They cannot afford to.

Europe's Four Speeds

By: Dr. Sam Vaknin

Also published by United Press International (UPI)

Pomp and circumstance often disguise a sore lack of substance. The
three days summit of the Central European Initiative is no exception.
Held in Macedonia's drab capital, Skopje, the delegates including the
odd chief of state, discussed their economies in what was
presumptuously dubbed by them the "small Davos", after the larger and
far more important annual get together in Switzerland.

Yet the whole exercise rests on a series of politically correct
confabulations. To start with, Macedonia, the host, as well as Albania,
Bulgaria, Romania, Ukraine and other east European backwaters hardly
qualify for the title "central European". Mitteleuropa is not merely a
geographical designation which excludes all but two or three of the
participants. It is also a historical, cultural, and social entity
which comprises the territories of the erstwhile German and,
especially, Austro-Hungarian (Habsburg) empires.

Moreover, the disparity between the countries assembled in the august
conference precludes a common label. Slovenia's GDP per capita is 7
times Macedonia's. The economies of the Czech Republic, Poland, and
Hungary are light years removed from those of Yugoslavia or even
Bulgaria.

Nor do these countries attempt real integration. While regional talk
shops, such as ASEAN and the African Union, embarked on serious efforts
to establish customs and currency zones - the countries of central and
eastern Europe have drifted apart and intentionally so. Intra-regional
trade has declined every single year since 1989. Intra-regional foreign
direct investment is almost non-existent.

Macedonia's exports to Yugoslavia, its next door neighbor, amount to
merely half its exports to the unwelcoming European Union - and are
declining. Countries from Bulgaria to Russia have shifted 50-75 percent
of their trade from their traditional COMECON partners to the European
Union and, to a lesser degree, the Middle East, the Far East and the
United States.

Nor do the advanced members of the club fancy a common label. Slovenia
abhors its Balkan pedigree. Croatia megalomaniacally considers itself
German. The Czechs and the Slovaks regard their communist elopement a
sad aberration as do the Hungarians. The Macedonians are not sure
whether they are Serbs, Bulgarians, or Macedonians. The Moldovans wish
they were Romanians. The Romanians secretly wish they were Hungarians.
The Austrians are sometimes Germans and sometimes Balkanians. Many
Ukrainians and all Belarusians would like to resurrect the evil empire,
the USSR.

This identity crisis affects the European Union. Never has Europe been
more fractured. It is now a continent of four speeds. The rich core of
the European Union, notably Germany and France, constitutes its engine.

The mendicant members - from Greece to Portugal - enjoy inane dollops
of cash from Brussels but have next to no say in Union matters.

The shoo-in candidates - Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and,
maybe, Slovakia, if it keeps ignoring the outcomes of its elections -
are frantically distancing themselves from the queue of beggars,
migrants and criminals that awaits at the pearly gates of Brussels. The
Belgian Curtain -between central European candidates and east European
aspirants - is falling fast and may prove to be far more divisive and
effective than anything dreamt up by Stalin.

The fourth group comprises real candidates - such as Bulgaria - and
would be applicants, such as Romania, Macedonia, Albania, Yugoslavia,
Bosnia-Herzegovina and even Croatia. Some of them are tainted by war
crimes. Others are addicted to donor conferences. Yet others are
travesties of the modern nation state having been hijacked and
subverted by tribal crime gangs. Most of them combine all these
unpalatable features.

Many of these countries possess the dubious distinction of having once
been misruled by the sick man of Europe, the Ottoman Empire. In a
moment of faux-pas honesty, Valerie Giscard D'Estaing, the chairman of
the European Union's much-touted constitutional convention, admitted
last week that a European Union with Turkey will no longer be either
European or United. Imagine how they perceive the likes of Macedonia,
or Albania.

As the Union enlarges to the east and south, its character will be
transformed. It will become poorer and darker, more prone to crime and
corruption, to sudden or seasonal surges of immigration, to
fractiousness and conflict. It is a process of conversion to a truly
multi-ethnic and multi-cultural grouping with a weighty Slav and
Christian Orthodox presence. Not necessarily an appetizing prospect,
say many.

The former communist countries in transition are supposed to be
miraculously transformed by the accession process. Alas, the indelible
pathologies of communism mesh well with Brussels's unmanageable,
self-perpetuating and opaque bureaucracy. These mutually-enhancing
propensities are likely to yield a giant and venal welfare state with a
class of aged citizens in the core countries of the European Union
living off the toil of young, mostly Slav, laborers in its eastern
territories. This is the irony: the European Union is doomed without
enlargement. It needs these countries far more than they need it.

The strategic importance of western Europe has waned together with the
threat posed by a dilapidated Russia. Both south Europe and its
northern regions are emerging as pivotal. Enlargement would serve to
enhance the dwindling geopolitical relevance of the EU and heal some of
the multiple rifts with the USA.

But the main benefits are economic.

Faced with an inexorably ageing populace and an unsustainable system of
social welfare and retirement benefits, the EU is in dire need of young
immigrants. According to the United Nations Population Division, the EU
would need to import 1.6 million migrant workers annually to maintain
its current level of working age population. But it would need to
absorb almost 14 million new, working age, immigrants per year just to
preserve a stable ratio of workers to pensioners.

Eastern Europe - and especially central Europe - is the EU's natural
reservoir of migrant labor. It is ironic that xenophobic and
anti-immigration parties hold the balance of power in a continent so
dependent on immigration for the survival of its way of life and
institutions.

The internal, common, market of the EU has matured. Its growth rate has
leveled off and it has developed a mild case of deflation. In previous
centuries, Europe exported its excess labor and surplus capacity to its
colonies - an economic system known as "mercantilism".

The markets of central, southern, and eastern Europe - West Europe's
hinterland - are replete with abundant raw materials and dirt-cheap,
though well-educated, labor. As indigenous purchasing power increases,
the demand for consumer goods and services will expand. Thus, the
enlargement candidates can act both as a sink for Europe's production
and the root of its competitive advantage.

Moreover, the sheer weight of their agricultural sectors and the
backwardness of their infrastructure can force a reluctant EU to reform
its inanely bloated farm and regional aid subsidies, notably the Common
Agricultural Policy. That the EU cannot afford to treat the candidates
to dollops of subventioary largesse as it does the likes of France,
Spain, Portugal, and Greece is indisputable.

But even a much-debated phase-in period of 10 years would burden the
EU's budget - and the patience of its member states and denizens - to
an acrimonious breaking point.

The countries of central and eastern Europe are new consumption and
investment markets. With a total of 300 million people (Russia
counted), they equal the EU's population - though not its much larger
purchasing clout. They are likely to while the next few decades on a
steep growth curve, catching up with the West. Their proximity to the
EU makes them ideal customers for its goods and services. They could
provide the impetus for a renewed golden age of European economic
expansion.

Central and eastern Europe also provide a natural land nexus between
west Europe and Asia and the Middle East. As China and India grow in
economic and geopolitical importance, an enlarged Europe will find
itself in the profitable role of an intermediary between east and west.

The wide-ranging benefits to the EU of enlargement are clear,
therefore. What do the candidate states stand to gain from their
accession? The answer is: surprisingly little. All of them already
enjoy, to varying degrees, unfettered, largely duty-free, access to the
EU. To belong, a few - like Estonia - would have to dismantle a much
admired edifice of economic liberalism.

Most of them would have to erect barriers to trade and the free
movement of labor and capital where none existed.

All of them would be forced to encumber their fragile economies with
tens of thousands of pages of prohibitively costly labor, intellectual
property rights, financial, and environmental regulation. None stands
to enjoy the same benefits as do the more veteran members - notably in
agricultural and regional development funds.

Joining the EU would deliver rude economic and political shocks to the
candidate countries. A brutal and rather sudden introduction of
competition in hitherto much-sheltered sectors of the economy, giving
up recently hard-won sovereignty, shouldering the debilitating cost of
the implementation of  reams of guideline, statutes, laws, decrees, and
directives, and being largely powerless to influence policy outcomes.
Faced with such a predicament, some countries may even reconsider.

Switching Empires

By: Dr. Sam Vaknin

Also published by United Press International (UPI)

European Union (EU) leaders, meeting in Copenhagen, are poised to sign
an agreement to admit ten new members to their hitherto exclusive club.
Eight of the fortunate acceders are former communist countries: Czech
Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia and
Slovenia. Bulgaria and Romania are tentatively slated to join in 2007.
The exercise will cost in excess of $40 billion over the next three
years. The EU's population will grow by 75 million souls.

In the wake of the implosion of the USSR in 1989-91, the newly
independent countries of the Baltic and central Europe, traumatized by
decades of brutal Soviet imperialism, sought to fend off future Russian
encroachment. Entering NATO and the EU was perceived by them as the
equivalent of obtaining geopolitical insurance policies against a
repeat performance of their tortured histories.

This existential emphasis shifted gradually to economic aspects as an
enfeebled, pro-Western and contained Russia ceased to represent a
threat. But the ambivalence towards the West is still there. Mild
strands of paranoid xenophobia permeate public discourse in central
Europe and, even more so, in east Europe.

The Czechs bitterly remember how, in 1938, they were sacrificed to the
Nazis by a complacent and contemptuous West. The Poles and Slovenes
fear massive land purchases by well heeled foreigners (read: Germans).
Everyone decries the "new Moscow" - the faceless, central planning,
remote controlling bureaucracy in Brussels. It is tough to give up hard
gained sovereignty and to immerse oneself in what suspiciously
resembles a loose superstate.

But surely comparing the EU or NATO to the erstwhile "Evil Empire"
(i.e., the Soviet Union) is stretching it too far? The USSR, after all,
did not hesitate to exercise overwhelming military might against
ostensible allies such as Hungary (1956) and the Czechoslovaks (1968)?
Try telling this to the Serbs who were demonized by west European media
and then bombarded to smithereens by NATO aircraft in 1999.

Though keen on rejoining the mainstream of European history,
civilization and economy, the peoples of the acceding swathe are highly
suspicious of Western motives and wary of becoming second-class
citizens in an enlarged entity. They know next to nothing about how the
EU functions.

They are chary of another period of "shock therapy" and of creeping
cultural imperialism. Rendered cynical by decades of repression, they
resent what they regard as discriminatory accession deals imposed on
them in a "take it or leave it" fashion by the EU.

Anti-EU sentiment and Euroscepticism are vocal - though abating - even
in countries like Poland, an erstwhile bastion of Europhilia. Almost
two thirds of respondents in surveys conducted by the EU in Estonia,
Latvia, Slovenia and Lithuania are undecided about EU membership or
opposed to it altogether. The situation in the Czech Republic is not
much different. Even in countries with a devout following of EU
accession, such as Romania, backing for integration has declined this
year.

These lurking uncertainties are reciprocated in the west. The mostly
Slav candidates are stereotyped and disparaged by resurgent rightwing,
anti-immigration parties, by neo-nationalists, trade protectionists and
vested interests. Countries like Spain, France, Ireland, Greece and
Portugal stand to receive less regional aid and agricultural subsidies
from the common EU till as the money flows east.

Core constituencies in the west - such as farmers and low-skilled
industrial workers - resent the enlargement project. Anti-Slav
prejudices run rampant in Italy, Austria and Germany. The
incompatibilities are deepest. For instance, according to research
recently published by the Pew Center, the new members are staunchly
pro-American, though less so than ten years ago. In stark contrast, the
veteran core of the EU is anti-American.

Many of the denizens of the candidate countries regard the EU as merely
an extended Germany. It is the focus of numerous conspiracy theories,
especially in the Balkan. The losers of the second world war - Japan
and Germany - are out to conquer the world, this time substituting
money for bullets.

Germany, insist the Serbs and the Macedonians - instigated the
breakdown of the Yugoslav Federation to establish a subservient
Croatia. Wasn't Slobodan Milosevic, the Serb dictator, ousted in favor
of the German-educated Zoran Djindjic? - they exclaim triumphantly.

Germany is reasserting itself. United, it is the largest country in
Europe and one of the richest. Its forces are keeping the fragile peace
in Balkan hot spots, like Macedonia. It will contribute to the EU's
long-heralded rapid reaction force. It owns the bulk of the, frequently
overdue, sovereign debts of Russia, Ukraine and other east European
countries.

One tenth of Germany's trade is with the candidate countries, a
turnover comparable to its exchange with the United States. German
goods constitute two fifths of all EU trade with the new members.
Germans are the largest foreign direct investors throughout the region
- from Hungary to Croatia. German banks compete with German-owned
Austrian banks over control of the region's fledgling financial sector.
The study of German as a second or third language has surged.

Last year alone, German corporations plunged $3.6 billion into the
economies of the acceding countries. German multinationals like
Volkswagen and Siemens employ almost 400,000 people in central Europe -
for one tenth to one eighth their cost in the fatherland.

Quoted by the World Socialist, the German Chamber of Industry and
Commerce (IHK) estimates that the production costs in mechanical
engineering and plant construction are 20 percent lower in Poland than
in Germany, while quality is more or less the same.

Germany runs the EU rather single-handedly, though with concessions to
a megalomaniacally delusional France. In September, the German and
French leaders, meeting tˆte-…-tˆte in a hotel, dictated to other
members the fate, for the next 11 years, of half the EU's budget - the
portion wasted on the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).

Germany's hegemonic role is likely to be enhanced by enlargement. Many
of the new members - e.g., the Czech Republic - depend on it
economically. Others - like Hungary - share with it a common history.
German is spoken in the majority of the candidates. They trade with
Germany and German businessmen and multinational are heavily invested
in their economies. A "German Bloc" within the EU is conceivable -
unless Poland defects to the increasingly marginalized French or to the
British.

Germany's federalist instincts - its express plan to create a "United
States of Europe", central government and all - are, therefore,
understandable, though spurned by the candidate countries. Germany is
likely to press for even further enlargement to the east. The EU's
commissioner for enlargement is a German, Gunter Verheugen.

The dilapidated expanses of the former Soviet satellites are Germany's
natural economic hinterland - on the way to the way more lucrative
Asian markets. Hence Germany's reluctance to admit Turkey, a massive,
pro-American, potential competitor for Asian favors. Integrating Russia
would be next on Germany's re-emerging Ostpolitik.

This firmly places Germany on an economic and military collision course
with the United States. As Stratfor, the strategic forecasting
consultancy, put it recently: "In Washington's opinion, America's
obsessions should be NATO's obsessions." Germany, the regional
superpower, has other, more pressing priorities: "maintaining stability
in its region, making sure that Russian evolution is  benign and
avoiding costly conflicts in which it has only  marginal interest."

Moreover, there is an entirely different - and much less benign -
interpretation of EU enlargement. It is based on the incontrovertible
evidence that the German ends in Europe have remained the same - only
the means have changed. The German "September Plan" to impose an
economic union on the vanquished nations of Europe following a military
victory, called, in 1914, for "(the establishment of) an economic
organization ... through mutual customs agreements ... including
France, Belgium, Holland, Denmark, Austria, Poland, and perhaps Italy,
Sweden, and Norway".

Europe spent the first half of the 19th century (following the 1815
Congress of Vienna) containing a post-Napoleonic France. The Concert of
Europe was specifically designed to reflect the interests of the Big
Powers, establish the limits to their expansion in Europe, and create a
continental "balance of deterrence". For a few decades it proved to be
a success.

The rise of a unified, industrially mighty and narcissistic Germany led
to two ineffably ruinous world wars. In an effort to prevent a repeat
of Hitler, the Big Powers of the West, led by the USA, the United
Kingdom and France, attempted to contain Germany from both east and
west. The western plank consisted of an "ever closer" European Union
and a divided Germany.

The collapse of the eastern flank of anti-German containment - the USSR
- led to the re-emergence of a united Germany. As the traumatic
memories of the two world conflagrations receded, Germany resorted to
applying its political weight - now commensurate with its economic and
demographic might - to securing EU hegemony. Germany is also a natural
and historical leader of central Europe - the future lebensraum of both
the EU and NATO and the target of their expansionary predilections,
euphemistically termed "enlargement".

Thus, virtually overnight, Germany came to dominate the Western
component of anti-German containment - even as the Eastern component
has chaotically disintegrated.

The EU - notably France - is reacting by trying to assume the role
formerly played by the USSR. EU integration is an attempt to assimilate
former Soviet satellites and dilute Germany's power by re-jigging rules
of voting and representation. If successful, this strategy will prevent
Germany from bidding yet again for a position of dominance in Europe by
establishing a "German Union" separate from the EU.

If this gambit fails, however, Germany will emerge triumphant, at the
head of the world's second largest common market and most prominent
trading bloc. Its second-among-equal neighbors will be reduced to mere
markets for its products and recruitment stages for its factories.

In this exegesis, EU enlargement has already degenerated into the same
tiresome and antiquated mercantilist game among 19th century
continental Big Powers. Even Britain has hitherto maintained its
Victorian position of "splendid isolation". There is nothing wrong with
that. The Concert of Europe ushered in a century of globalization,
economic growth and peace. Yet, alas, this time around, it has thus far
been quite a cacophony.



Europe's Agricultural Revolution

By: Dr. Sam Vaknin

Also published by United Press International (UPI)

One of the undeniable benefits of the forthcoming enlargement of the
European Union (EU) accrues to its veteran members rather than to the
acceding countries. The EU is forced to revamp its costly agricultural
policies and attendant bloated bureaucracy. This, undoubtedly, will
lead, albeit glacially, to the demise of Europe's farming sector as we
know it.

Contrary to public misperceptions, Europe is far more open to trade
than the United States. According to the United Nations (UN), the
International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the Organization of Economic
Cooperation and Development (OECD), its exports amount to 14 percent of
gross domestic product (GDP) compared to America's 11.5 percent. It is
also the world's second largest importer. In constant dollar terms, it
is the world's largest trader.

A recent Trade Policy Review released by the World Trade Organization
(WTO) mentions two notable exceptions: farm products and textiles.
Europe's average tariff on agricultural produce is four times those
levied on non-agricultural goods. Yet, a number of trends conspire to
break the eerie stranglehold of 3 percent of Europe's population - its
farmers - on its budget and political process.

The introduction of the euro rendered prices transparent across borders
and revealed to the European consumer how expensive his food is. Scares
like the mishandled mad cow disease dented consumer confidence in both
politicians and bureaucrats. But, most crucially, the integration of
the countries of east and central Europe with their massive
agricultural sectors makes the EU's Common Agricultural Policy (CAP)
untenable.

The CAP guzzles close to half of the EU's $98 billion budget. Recent,
controversial reforms, introduced by the European Commission, call for
a gradual reduction and diversion of CAP outlays from directly
subsidizing production to WTO-compatible investments in agricultural
employment, regional development, environment and training and
research. Unnoticed, support to farmers by both the EU and member
governments has already declined from $120 billion in 1999 to $110
billion in 2000. This decrease has since continued unabated.

Still, the EU is unable to provide the candidate countries with the
same level of farm subsidies it doles out to the current 15 members.
Close to one quarter of Poland's population is directly or indirectly
involved in agriculture - ten times the European average. The agreement
struck between Germany and France in September and adopted in a summit
Brussels in October freezes CAP spending in its 2006 level until 2013.

This may further postpone the identical treatment much coveted by the
applicants. Theoretically, subsidies for the farm sectors of the new
members will increase and subsidies flowing to veteran members will
decrease until they are equalized at around 80 percent of present
levels throughout the EU by the end of the next budget period in 2013.

But, in reality, the entire CAP stands to be renegotiated in 2005-6. No
one can guarantee the outcome of this process, especially when coupled
with the Doha round of trade liberalization. The offers made now to the
candidate countries are not only mean but also meaningless.

A recent tweak by Denmark, the current president of the EU, to peg
support for farmers in the accession countries at two fifths the going
rate, won a cautious welcome by the applicants. Some of this novel
subventionary largesse will be deducted from a fund for rural
development in the new members. Additionally, national governments will
be allowed to top up inadequate EU dollops with governmental budget
funds.

Even this parsimonious offer - still disputed by the majority of
contemporary EU members - will cost the Union an extra $500 million a
year. It also fails to tackle equally weighty wrangles about production
quotas, EU protectionist "safeguard" measures, import tariffs imposed
by the applicant countries against heavily subsidized European farm
products, reduced value added taxes on agricultural produce and
referential periods and yields - the bases for calculating EU
transfers.

It also ignores the distinct - and thorny - possibility that the new
members will end up as net contributors to the budget. Quoted by Radio
Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Sandor Richter, a senior researcher with the
Vienna Institute for International Economic Studies, concluded that the
first intake of applicants will end up underwriting at least $410
million of the EU's budget in the first year of membership alone. With
the GDP per capita of most candidates at one fifth the EU's, this would
be a perverse, socially unsettling and politically explosive outcome.

Aware of this, the European Commission denies any intention to actually
accept cash from the candidates. Their net contributions would remain
theoretical, it pledges implausibly. Yet, as long as a country such as
Poland is incapable of absorbing - disseminating and utilizing - more
than 28 percent of the aid it is currently entitled to - veteran EU
members rightly question its administrative ability to tackle much
larger provisions - c. $20 billion in the first three years after
accession.

The prolonged and irascible debate has taken its toll. In some
candidate countries, pro-EU sentiment is on the wane. Leszek Miller,
Poland's prime minister, told the PAP news agency that Poland should
contribute to the EU less than it receives in agricultural subsidies.
And what if not? "Nobody would be overly concerned if Poland did not
enter the EU together with the first group of new members."

Hungary echoes this argument. Almost two thirds of respondents in
surveys conducted by the EU in Estonia, Latvia, Slovenia and Lithuania
are undecided about EU membership or opposed to it altogether.

The situation in the Czech Republic is not much improved. Only Hungary
stalwartly supports the EU's eastern tilt.

Opinion polls periodically conducted by GfK Hungaria, a market research
group owned by GfK Germany, paint a more mixed picture. On the one
hand, even in countries with a devout following of EU accession, such
as Romania, support for integration has declined this year. Support in
Hungary and Poland, on the other hand, picked up.

Yet, the EU can't seem to get its act together. According to the Danish
paper, Berlingske Tidende, Danish prime minister, Anders Fogh
Rasmussen, rules out a "take it or leave it" ultimatum to the
candidates. There will be "real negotiations", he insisted. Not so,
says Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the Danish president of the EU until Dec
31: "The room for maneuver in negotiations will be very limited ... We
have a certain framework, and we stick to it."

Yet, disenchantment should not be exaggerated. Naturally,
flood-affected farmers throughout the region - from the Czech Republic
to Poland - are vigorously protesting their unequal treatment and the
compromises their governments are arm-twisted into making. Still,
according to a survey released last December by the European
Commission, 60 percent of the denizens of the accession countries
support it.

As the endgame nears, the parties to the negotiations are posturing,
though. EU enlargement commissioner, Gunter Verheugen, argued a
fortnight ago against equalizing support for Poland's 6 million farmers
with the subsidies given to the EU's 8 million smallholders. In a
typical feat of incongruity he said it will prevent them from
modernizing and alienate other professions.

Franz Fischler, the Austrian EU's agriculture commissioner, hinted that
miserly production quotas for cereals, meat and dairy products, offered
by the EU to the seething applicants, can be augmented. The EU
presently provides the candidate countries with funding, within the
Special Accession Programme for Agriculture and Rural Development
(SAPARD) to support farm investments, to boost processing and marketing
of farm and fishery products and to bankroll infrastructure
improvements. Hungarian farmers, for instance, are entitled to up to
$38 million of SAPARD money annually.

In a thinly veiled threat, Fischler included this in a speech he made
in a recent official visit to Estonia:

"The EU enlargement countries should be pleased with the 25 per cent
agriculture subsidies, as the member states have not agreed even on
that yet, therefore this should be the first goal and only after that
can further subsidies be discussed ... It would not be very wise to
tell the EU member states that accession countries are not pleased,
that would not be positive for the whole process."

Small wonder he was whistled down by irate Polish parliamentarians in
an address to a joint session of the parliamentary committees for
agriculture and European integration in the Sejm. Poland's fractured
farm sector is notoriously inefficient. With one quarter of the labor
force it produces less than 4 percent of GDP. But the peasants are well
represented in the legislature and soaring unemployment - almost one
fifth of all adults - makes every workplace count.

In the meantime, the ten would-be new members of the EU have teamed up
to present their case in Brussels. Their ministers of finance, foreign
affairs and of agriculture, parliamentary deputies in their finance and
farm committees - all issued and issue common statements, position
papers, briefings and memoranda of understanding. But no one is
inclined to take such ad-hoc alliances among the candidate countries
seriously. The disparity between their farm sectors is such that it
rules out a single voice.

Moreover, the EU is strained to the limit of its habitual
consensus-driven decision making. The breakdown of the European
mechanism of deliberation was brought into sharp relief by the way in
which the future of the CAP was decided in a series of chats between
the leaders of France and Germany in a hotel in Brussels. Their deal
was later rubber stamped, unaltered, in a summit of all EU members last
month.

The Union is in constitutional and institutional flux. Small and even
medium sized members - such as the United Kingdom - are marginalized.
As the EU grows to 25 countries, a core of leadership will emerge. It
will involve Germany, France and, potentially the UK and Italy.

These will hand down blueprints to be fleshed out by the less
significant states and by an increasingly sidelined European Commission
and a make-believe European Parliament.

The countries of central and eastern Europe are and will, for a long
time, be second class citizens, tolerated merely because they provide
cheap, youthful, labor, raw materials and close-by markets for finished
goods. The candidates are strategically located between the old
continent and booming Asia.

EU enlargement is a thinly disguised exercise in mercantilism tinged
with the maudlin ideology of embracing revenant brothers long lost to
communism. But beneath the veneer of civility and kultur lurk the cold
calculations of realpolitik. The applicant countries - the EU's
hinterland - would do well to remember this.

Winning the European CAP

By: Dr. Sam Vaknin

Also published by United Press International (UPI)

According to Herve Gaymard, the French resistance is alive and kicking
- at least with regards to the European Commission's proposed reforms
of the European Union's Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). The French
Minister for Agriculture, Food, Fisheries and Rural Affairs, in a
speech to the misnamed "Real Solutions for the Future" Oxford Farming
Conference last week, drew the battle lines.

France - and six other EU countries - intend to stick religiously to a
deal struck, tˆte-…-tˆte, between the French president and the German
chancellor last year. The CAP - which now consumes close to half of the
EU's budget - will not be revamped until 2013 at the earliest, though
outlays will be frozen in real terms and, starting in 2006, gradually
diverted from subsidizing production to environmental and other good
causes ("decoupling" and "modulation" in EU jargon).

This upset the EU's ten new members, slated to join as early as May
2004. With spending capped, they are unlikely to enjoy the same
pecuniary support bestowed on the veterans, even after 2013. As it is,
their agricultural benefits are phased over ten years and face an
uncertain future when the CAP is, inevitably and finally, scrapped.

Moreover, France's recalcitrance imperils the crucial Doha round of
trade talks. Both the EU and the USA are supposed to reveal their hands
by March. The developing countries are already up in arms over promises
made by the richer polities in the protracted Uruguay round and then
promptly ignored by them.

Agriculture is arguably the poorer members' highest priority. They
demand the opening of the rich world's markets, whittling down export
and production subsidies and the abrogation of non-tariff trade
barriers and practices, such as the profuse application of anti-dumping
quotas and duties.

Gaymard proffered the usual woolly mantras of "farm products are more
than marketable goods", "France, and Europe in general, need security
of food supply", "food cannot be left to the mercy of market forces".
Farmers, unlike industrialists - insisted the Minister counterfactually
- cannot simply relocate and agrarian pursuits are a pillar of the
nation's culture and its attachment to the land.

Yet, it cannot be denied that Gaymard advanced in his speech a few
thought-provoking and oft-overlooked points.

He convincingly argued that farm products covered by EU subsidies are
rarely in direct competition with the crops of the poor in Africa and
Asia. The cotton, rice and groundnut oil subventions generously doled
out to growers in the United States - the EU's most vocal critic - harm
the third world smallholders and sharecroppers it purports to defend.

The IMF - perceived in Europe as the long and heartless arm of the
Americans - has dismantled the coffee regime and marketing structures
causing irreparable damage to its indigent growers, Gaymard said.

The CAP, insists Gaymard, does not encourage environmental ills. The
policy does not subsidize the husbandry of disease-prone poultry and
pigs, nor does it support genetically modified crops. The CAP is also
way cheaper than portrayed by its detractors. Food constitutes only 16
percent of the family budget - one third of its share when the CAP was
instituted, four decades ago. The CAP amounts to a mere 1 percent of
the combined public spending of all EU members. The comparable figure
in America is 1.5 percent.

This last argument is, of course, spurious. It ignores the distorting
effects of the CAP: exorbitant food prices in the EU, double payments
by EU denizens, once as taxpayers and then as consumers, mountains of
butter and rivers of milk produced solely for the sake of finagling
subsidies out of an inert and bloated bureaucracy and deteriorating
relationships with irate trade partners.

Gaymard is no less parsimonious with the full truth elsewhere in his
counterattack.

He claims that the EU provides tariff-free and quota-free access to
farm products from the world's 49 Highly Indebted Poor Countries
(HIPCs). This is partly untrue and partly misleading. Important
commodities - such as sugar, rice and bananas - are virtually excluded
by long phase-in periods.

Non-tariff and non-quota barriers abound. Macedonian lamb is regularly
barred on sanitary grounds, for instance. Health, sanitary,
standards-related and quality regulations render a lot of the supposed
access theoretical.

Still, it is true that the EU's larger economies are more open to
international trade than the United States. Gaymard flaunted a telling
statistic: the EU absorbs well over two fifths of Brazil's farm
exports. The USA - in geographical proximity to Brazil and a
self-described ardent champion of free trade - takes in less than 15
percent.

The problem with farming in the developing world is its concentration
on cash crops, whose prices are volatile. This subverts traditional
agriculture. Gaymard implied that the destitute would do well to
introduce a CAP all their own and thus underwrite a thriving indigenous
sector for internal consumption and more stable export revenues.

They can expect no help from the industrialized nations, he made
crystal clear:

"(The rich countries) are not ready to eliminate their support for
agriculture. They have not committed themselves to doing so in
international forums and do not believe that, as far as they Are
concerned, it would be to the developing countries' advantage.
Therefore," - he concluded soberly - "let us stop dreaming." This was
received with a standing ovation of the 500 conference delegates.

The conspiracy minded stipulate that France was actually merely seeking
to strengthen its bargaining chips. Finally, they go, it will accept
decoupling and modulation. But recent policy initiatives do not point
this way. France all but renationalized its beef markets, proposed to
continue dairy quotas till 2013, sought to index milk prices and
defended the much-reviled current sugar regime

These are bad news, indeed. Agriculture is a thorny issue within the EU
no less than outside it. A recessionary Germany has been bankrolling
sated and affluent French farmers for decades now. This has got to stop
and will - whether amicably, or acrimoniously.

The new members - most of them from heavily agrarian central and east
Europe - will demand equality sooner, or later. Poor nations will give
up on the entire trade architecture so laboriously erected in the last
20 years - if they become convinced, as they should, that it is all
prestidigitation and a rich boys' club. It is a precipice and France
has just taken us all one step forward.



Deja V-Euro

The History of Previous Currency Unions

By: Dr. Sam Vaknin

Also published by United Press International (UPI)

I. The History of Monetary Unions

"Before long, all Europe, save England, will have one money". This was
written by William Bagehot, the Editor of "The Economist", the renowned
British magazine, 120 years ago when Britain, even then, was heatedly
debating whether to adopt a single European Currency or not.

A century later, the euro is finally here (though without British
participation). Having braved numerous doomsayers and Cassandras, the
currency - though much depreciated against the dollar and reviled in
certain quarters (especially in Britain) - is now in use in both the
eurozone and in eastern and southeastern Europe (the Balkan). In most
countries in transition, it has already replaced its much sought-after
predecessor, the Deutschmark. The euro still feels like a novelty - but
it is not.  It was preceded by quite a few monetary unions in both
Europe and outside it.

What lessons does history teach us? What pitfalls should we avoid and
what features should we embrace?

People felt the need to create a uniform medium of exchange as early as
in Ancient Greece and Medieval Europe. Those proto-unions did not have
a central monetary authority or monetary policy, yet they functioned
surprisingly well in the uncomplicated economies of the time.

The first truly modern example would be the monetary union of Colonial
New England.

The four kinds of paper money printed by the New England colonies
(Connecticut, Massachusetts Bay, New Hampshire and Rhode Island) were
legal tender in all four until 1750. The governments of the colonies
even accepted them for tax payments. Massachusetts - by far the
dominant economy of the quartet - sustained this arrangement for almost
a century. The other colonies became so envious that they began to
print additional notes outside the union. Massachusetts - facing a
threat of devaluation and inflation - redeemed for silver its share of
the paper money in 1751. It then retired from the union, instituted its
own, silver-standard (mono-metallic), currency and never looked back.

A far more important attempt was the Latin Monetary Union (LMU). It was
dreamt up by the French, obsessed, as usual, by their declining
geopolitical fortunes and monetary prowess. Belgium already adopted the
French franc when it became independent in 1830. The LMU was a natural
extension of this franc zone and, as the two teamed up with Switzerland
in 1848, they encouraged others to join them. Italy followed suit in
1861. When Greece and Bulgaria acceded in 1867, the members established
a currency union based on a bimetallic (silver and gold) standard.

The LMU was considered sufficiently serious to be able to flirt with
Austria and Spain when its Foundation Treaty was officially signed  in
1865 in Paris. This despite the fact that its French-inspired rules
seemed often to sacrifice the economic to the politically expedient, or
to the grandiose.

The LMU was an official subset of an unofficial "franc area" (monetary
union based on the French franc). This is similar to the use of the US
dollar or the euro in many countries today. At its peak, eighteen
countries adopted the Gold franc as their legal tender (or peg). Four
of them (the founding members of the LMU: France, Belgium, Italy and
Switzerland) agreed on a gold to silver conversion rate and minted gold
and silver coins which were legal tender in all of them. They
voluntarily limited their money supply by adopting a rule which forbade
them to print more than 6 franc coins per capita .

Europe (especially Germany and the United Kingdom) was gradually
switching at the time to the gold standard. But the members of the
Latin Monetary Union paid no attention to its emergence. They printed
ever increasing quantities of gold and silver coins, which constituted
legal tender across the Union. Smaller denomination (token) silver
coins, minted in limited quantity, were legal tender only in the
issuing country (because they had a lower silver content than the Union
coins).

The LMU had no single currency (akin to the euro). The national
currencies of its member countries were at parity with each other. The
cost of conversion was limited to an exchange commission of 1.25%.

Government offices and municipalities were obliged to accept up to 100
Francs of non-convertible and low intrinsic value tokens per
transaction. People lined to convert low metal content silver coins
(100 Francs per transaction each time) to buy higher metal content ones.

With the exception of the above-mentioned per capita coinage
restriction, the LMU had no uniform money supply policies or
management. The amount of money in circulation was determined by the
markets. The central banks of the member countries pledged to freely
convert gold and silver to coins and, thus, were forced to maintain a
fixed exchange rate between the two metals (15 to 1) ignoring
fluctuating market prices.

Even at its apex, the LMU was unable to move the world prices of these
metals. When silver became overvalued, it was exported (at times
smuggled) within the Union, in violation of its rules. The Union had to
suspend silver convertibility and thus accept a humiliating de facto
gold standard. Silver coins and tokens remained legal tender, though.
The unprecedented financing needs of the Union members - a result of
the First World War - delivered the coup de grace. The LMU was
officially dismantled in 1926 - but expired long before that.

The LMU had a common currency but this did not guarantee its survival.
It lacked a common monetary policy monitored and enforced by a common
Central Bank - and these deficiencies proved fatal.

In 1867, twenty countries debated the introduction of a global currency
in the International Monetary Conference. They decided to adopt the
gold standard (already used by Britain and the USA) following a period
of transition. They came up with an ingenious scheme. They selected
three "hard" currencies, with equal gold content so as to render them
interchangeable, as their legal tender. Regrettably for students of the
dismal science, the plan came to naught.

Another failed experiment was the Scandinavian Monetary Union (SMU),
formed by Sweden (1873), Denmark (1873) and Norway (1875). It was a
by-now familiar scheme. All three recognized each others' gold coinage
as well as token coins as legal tender. The daring innovation was to
accept the members' banknotes (1900) as well.

As Scandinavian schemes go, this one worked too perfectly. No one
wanted to convert one currency to another. Between 1905 and 1924, no
exchange rates among the three currencies were available. When Norway
became independent, the irate Swedes dismantled the moribund Union in
an act of monetary tit-for-tat.

The SMU had an unofficial central bank with pooled reserves. It
extended credit lines to each of the three member countries. As long as
gold supply was limited, the Scandinavian Kronor held its ground. Then
governments started to finance their deficits by dumping gold during
World War I (and thus erode their debts by fostering inflation through
a string of inane devaluations). In an unparalleled act of arbitrage,
central banks then turned around and used the depreciated currencies to
scoop up gold at official (cheap) rates.

When Sweden refused to continue to sell its gold at the officially
fixed price - the other members declared effective economic war. They
forced Sweden to purchase enormous quantities of their token coins. The
proceeds were used to buy the much stronger Swedish currency at an ever
cheaper price (as the price of gold collapsed). Sweden found itself
subsidizing an arbitrage against its own economy. It inevitably reacted
by ending the import of other members' tokens. The Union thus ended.
The price of gold was no longer fixed and token coins were no more
convertible.

The East African Currency Area is a fairly recent debacle. An
equivalent experiment, involving the CFA franc, is still going on in
the Francophile part of Africa.

The parts of East Africa ruled by the British (Kenya, Uganda and
Tanganyika and, in 1936, Zanzibar) adopted in 1922 a single common
currency, the East African shilling.  The newly independent countries
of East Africa remained part of the Sterling Area (i.e., the local
currencies were fully and freely convertible into British Pounds).
Misplaced imperial pride coupled with outmoded strategic thinking led
the British to infuse these emerging economies with inordinate amounts
of money. Despite all this, the resulting monetary union was
surprisingly resilient. It easily absorbed the new currencies of Kenya,
Uganda and Tanzania in 1966, making them legal tender in all three and
convertible to Pounds.

Ironically, it was the Pound which gave way. Its relentless
depreciation in the late 60s and early 70s, led to the disintegration
of the Sterling Area in 1972.

The strict monetary discipline which characterized the union -
evaporated. The currencies diverged - a result of a divergence of
inflation targets and interest rates. The East African Currency Area
was formally ended in 1977.

Not all monetary unions ended so tragically. Arguably, the most famous
of the successful ones is the Zollverein (German Customs Union).

The nascent German Federation was composed, at the beginning of the
19th century, of 39 independent political units. They all busily minted
coins (gold, silver) and had their own - distinct - standard weights
and measures. The decisions of the much lauded Congress of Vienna
(1815) did wonders for labour mobility in Europe but not so for trade.
The baffling number of (mostly non-convertible) different currencies
did not help.

The German principalities formed a customs union as early as 1818. The
three regional groupings (the Northern, Central and Southern) were
united in 1833. In 1828, Prussia harmonized its customs tariffs with
the other members of the Federation, making it possible to pay duties
in gold or silver. Some members hesitantly experimented with new fixed
exchange rate convertible currencies. But, in practice, the union
already had a single currency: the Vereinsmunze.

The Zollverein (Customs Union) was established in 1834 to facilitate
trade by reducing its costs. This was done by compelling most of the
members to choose between two monetary standards (the Thaler and the
Gulden) in 1838.

Much as the Bundesbank was to Europe in the second half of the
twentieth century, the Prussian central bank became the effective
Central Bank of the Federation from 1847 on. Prussia was by far the
dominant member of the union, as it comprised 70% of the population and
land mass of the future Germany.

The North German Thaler was fixed at 1.75 to the South German Gulden
and, in 1856 (when Austria became informally associated with the
Union), at 1.5 Austrian Florins. This last collaboration was to be a
short lived affair, Prussia and Austria having declared war on each
other in 1866.

Bismarck (Prussia) united Germany (Bavarian objections notwithstanding)
in 1871. He founded the Reichsbank in 1875 and charged it with issuing
the crisp new Reichsmark. Bismarck forced the Germans to accept the new
currency as the only legal tender throughout the first German Reich.
Germany's new single currency was in effect a monetary union. It
survived two World Wars, a devastating bout of inflation in 1923, and a
monetary meltdown after the Second World War. The stolid and
trustworthy Bundesbank succeeded the Reichsmark and the Union was
finally vanquished only by the bureaucracy in Brussels and its euro.

This is the only case in history of a successful monetary union not
preceded by a political one. But it is hardly representative. Prussia
was the regional bully and never shied away from enforcing strict
compliance on the other members of the Federation.

It understood the paramount importance of a stable currency and sought
to preserve it by introducing various consistent metallic standards.
Politically motivated inflation and devaluation were ruled out, for the
first time. Modern monetary management was born.

Another, perhaps equally successful, and still on-going union  - is the
CFA franc Zone.

The CFA (stands for French African Community in French) franc has been
in use in the French colonies of West and Central Africa (and,
curiously, in one formerly Spanish colony) since 1945. It is pegged to
the French franc. The French Treasury explicitly guarantees its
conversion to the French franc (65% of the reserves of the member
states are kept in the safes of the French Central Bank). France often
openly imposes monetary discipline (that it sometimes lacks at home!)
directly and through its generous financial assistance. Foreign
reserves must always equal 20% of short term deposits in commercial
banks. All this made the CFA an attractive option in the colonies even
after they attained independence.

The CFA franc zone is remarkably diverse ethnically, lingually,
culturally, politically, and economically. The currency survived
devaluations (as large as 100% vis a vis the French Franc), changes of
regimes (from colonial to independent), the existence of two groups of
members, each with its own central bank (the West African Economic and
Monetary Union and the Central African Economic and Monetary
Community), controls of trade and capital flows - not to mention a host
of natural and man made catastrophes.

The euro has indirectly affected the CFA as well. "The Economist"
reported recently a shortage of small denomination CFA franc notes.
"Recently the printer (of CFA francs) has been too busy producing euros
for the market back home" - complained the West African central bank in
Dakar. But this is the minor problem. The CFA franc is at risk due to
internal imbalances among the economies of the zone. Their growth rates
differ markedly. There are mounting pressures by some members to
devalue the common currency. Others sternly resist it.

"The Economist" reports that the Economic Community of West African
States (ECOWAS) - eight CFA countries plus Nigeria, Ghana, Guinea, the
Gambia, Cape Verde, Sierra Leone, and Liberia - is considering its own
monetary union. Many of the prospective members of this union fancy the
CFA franc even less than the EU fancies their capricious and
graft-ridden economies. But an ECOWAS monetary union could constitute a
serious - and more economically coherent - alternative to the CFA franc
zone.

A neglected monetary union is the one between Belgium and Luxembourg.
Both maintain their idiosyncratic currencies - but these are at parity
and serve as legal tender in both countries since 1921. The monetary
policy of both countries is dictated by the Belgian Central Bank and
exchange regulations are overseen by a joint agency. The two were close
to dismantling the union at least twice (in 1982 and 1993) - but
relented.

II. The Lessons

Europe has had more than its share of botched and of successful
currency unions. The Snake, the EMS, the ERM, on the one hand - and the
British Pound, the Deutschmark, and the ECU, on the other.

The currency unions which made it have all survived because they relied
on a single monetary authority for managing the currency.

Counter-intuitively, single currencies are often associated with
complex political entities which occupy vast swathes of land and
incorporate previously distinct -and often politically, socially, and
economically disparate - units. The USA is a monetary union, as was the
late USSR.

All single currencies encountered opposition on both ideological and
pragmatic grounds when they were first introduced.

The American constitution, for instance, did not provide for a central
bank. Many of the Founding Fathers (e.g., Madison and Jefferson)
refused to countenance one. It took the nascent USA two decades to come
up with a semblance of a central monetary institution in 1791. It was
modeled after the successful Bank of England. When Madison became
President, he purposefully let its concession expire in 1811. In the
forthcoming half century, it revived (for instance, in 1816) and
expired a few times.

The United States became a monetary union only following its traumatic
Civil War. Similarly, Europe's monetary union is a belated outcome of
two European civil wars (the two World Wars). America instituted bank
regulation and supervision only in 1863 and, for the first time, banks
were classified as either national or state-level.

This classification was necessary because by the end of the Civil War,
notes - legal and illegal tender - were being issued by no less than
1562 private banks - up from only 25 in 1800. A similar process
occurred in the principalities which were later to constitute Germany.
In the decade between 1847 and 1857, twenty five private banks were
established there for the express purpose of printing banknotes to
circulate as legal tender. Seventy (!) different types of currency
(mostly foreign) were being used in the Rhineland alone in 1816.

The Federal Reserve System was founded only following a tidal wave of
banking crises in 1908. Not until 1960 did it gain a full monopoly of
nation-wide money printing. The monetary union in the USA - the US
dollar as a single legal tender printed exclusively by a central
monetary authority - is, therefore, a fairly recent thing, not much
older than the euro.

It is common to confuse the logistics of a monetary union with its
underpinnings. European bigwigs gloated over the smooth introduction of
the physical notes and coins of their new currency. But having a single
currency with free and guaranteed convertibility is only the
manifestation of a monetary union - not one of its economic pillars.

History teaches us that for a monetary union to succeed, the exchange
rate of the single currency must be realistic (for instance, reflect
the purchasing power parity) and, thus, not susceptible to speculative
attacks. Additionally, the members of the union must adhere to one
monetary policy.

Surprisingly, history demonstrates that a monetary union is not
necessarily predicated on the existence of a single currency. A
monetary union could incorporate "several currencies, fully and
permanently convertible into one another at irrevocably fixed exchange
rates". This would be like having a single currency with various
denominations, each printed by another member of the Union.

What really matters are the economic inter-relationships and power
plays among union members and between the union and other currency
zones and currencies (as expressed through the exchange rate).

Usually the single currency of the Union is convertible at given
(though floating) exchange rates subject to a uniform exchange rate
policy. This applies to all the territory of the single currency. It is
intended to prevent arbitrage (buying the single currency in one place
and selling it in another). Rampant arbitrage - ask anyone in Asia -
often leads to the need to impose exchange controls, thus eliminating
convertibility and inducing panic.

Monetary unions in the past failed because they allowed variable
exchange rates, (often depending on where - in which part of the
monetary union - the conversion took place).

A uniform exchange rate policy is only one of the concessions members
of a monetary union must make. Joining always means giving up
independent monetary policy and, with it, a sizeable slice of national
sovereignty. Members relegate the regulation of their money supply,
inflation, interest rates, and foreign exchange rates to a central
monetary authority (e.g., the European Central Bank in the eurozone).

The need for central monetary management arises because, in economic
theory, a currency is never just a currency. It is thought of as a
transmission mechanism of economic signals (information) and
expectations (often through monetary policy and its outcomes).

It is often argued that a single fiscal policy is not only unnecessary,
but potentially harmful. A monetary union means the surrender of
sovereign monetary policy instruments. It may be advisable to let the
members of the union apply fiscal policy instruments autonomously in
order to counter the business cycle, or cope with asymmetric shocks,
goes the argument. As long as there is no implicit or explicit
guarantee of the whole union for the indebtedness of its members -
profligate individual states are likely to be punished by the market,
discriminately.

But, in a monetary union with mutual guarantees among the members (even
if it is only implicit as is the case in the eurozone), fiscal
profligacy, even of one or two large players, may force the central
monetary authority to raise interest rates in order to pre-empt
inflationary pressures.

Interest rates have to be raised because the effects of one member's
fiscal decisions are communicated to other members through the common
currency. The currency is the medium of exchange of information
regarding the present and future health of the economies involved.
Hence the notorious "EU Stability Pact", recently so flagrantly
abandoned in the face of German budget deficits.

Monetary unions which did not follow the path of fiscal rectitude are
no longer with us.

In an article I published in 1997 ("The History of Previous European
Currency Unions"), I identified five paramount lessons from the short
and brutish life of previous - now invariably defunct - monetary unions:

(A) To prevail, a monetary union must be founded by one or two
economically dominant countries ("economic locomotives"). Such driving
forces must be geopolitically important, maintain political solidarity
with other members, be willing to exercise their clout, and be
economically involved in (or even dependent on) the economies of the
other members.

(B) Central institutions must be set up to monitor and enforce
monetary, fiscal, and other economic policies, to coordinate activities
of the member states, to implement political and technical decisions,
to control the money aggregates and seigniorage (i.e., rents accruing
due to money printing), to determine the legal tender and the rules
governing the issuance of money.

(C) It is better if a monetary union is preceded by a political one
(consider the examples of the USA, the USSR, the UK, and  Germany).

(D) Wage and price flexibility are sine qua non. Their absence is a
threat to the continued existence of any union. Unilateral transfers
from rich areas to poor are a partial and short-lived remedy. Transfers
also call for a clear and consistent fiscal policy regarding taxation
and expenditures. Problems like unemployment and collapses in demand
often plague rigid monetary  unions. The works of Mundell and McKinnon
(optimal currency areas) prove it decisively (and separately).

(E) Clear convergence criteria and monetary convergence targets.

The current European Monetary Union is far from heeding the lessons of
its ill fated predecessors. Europe's labour and capital markets, though
recently marginally liberalized, are still more rigid than 150 years
ago. The euro was not preceded by an "ever closer (political or
constitutional) union". It relies too heavily on fiscal redistribution
without the benefit of either a coherent monetary or a consistent
fiscal area-wide policy. The euro is not built to cope either with
asymmetrical economic shocks (affecting only some members, but not
others), or with the vicissitudes of the business cycle.

This does not bode well. This union might well become yet another
footnote in the annals of economic history.

The Concert of Europe, Interrupted

By: Dr. Sam Vaknin

"(Plan for establishing) an economic organization ... through mutual
customs agreements ... including France, Belgium, Holland, Denmark,
Austria, Poland, and perhaps Italy, Sweden, and Norway".

The German "September Plan" to impose an economic union on the
vanquished nations of Europe following a military victory, 1914

Europe spent the first half of the 19th century (following the 1815
Congress of Vienna) containing France. The trauma of the Napoleonic
wars was the last in a medley of conflicts with an increasingly
menacing France stretching back to the times of Louis XIV. The Concert
of Europe was specifically designed to reflect the interests of the Big
Powers, establish their borders of expansion in Europe, and create a
continental "balance of deterrence". For a few decades it proved to be
a success.

The rise of a unified, industrially mighty and narcissistic Germany
erased most of these achievements. By closely monitoring France, the
Big Powers were fighting the last war - instead of the three next ones.
Following two ineffably ruinous world wars, Europe now shifted its
geopolitical sights from France to Germany. In an effort to prevent a
repeat of Hitler, the Big Powers of the West, led by France,
established an "ever closer" European Union. Germany was
(inadvertently) split and sandwiched and, thus, restrained.

To its East, it faced a military-economic union (the Warsaw Pact) cum
eastern empire (the late USSR). To its West, it was surrounded by a
military union (NATO) cum emerging Western economic supranational
structure (the EU). The Cold War was fought all over the world - but in
Europe it was about Germany.

The collapse of the eastern flank (the Soviet - "evil" - Empire) of
this implicit anti-German containment geo-strategy led to the
re-emergence of a united Germany. Furthermore, Germany is in the
process of obtaining hegemony over the EU by applying the political
weight commensurate with its economic and demographic might. It is a
natural and historical leader of central Europe - the EU's and NATO's
future lebensraum and the target of their expansionary predilections
("integration"). Thus, virtually overnight, Germany came to dominate
the Western component of the anti-German containment master plan -
while the Eastern component has chaotically disintegrated.

The EU - notably France - is reacting by trying to assume the role
formerly played by the USSR. EU integration is an attempt to assimilate
former Soviet satellites and dilute Germany's power by re-jigging rules
of voting and representation. If successful, this strategy will prevent
Germany from bidding yet again for a position of hegemony in Europe by
establishing a "German Union" separate from the EU. It is all still the
same tiresome and antiquated game of continental Big Powers. Even
Britain maintains its Victorian position of "splendid isolation".

The exclusion of both Turkey and Russia from these re-alignments is
also a direct descendant of the politics of the last two centuries.
Both are likely to gradually drift away from European (and Western)
structures and seek their fortunes in the geopolitical twilight zones
of the world. The USA is unlikely to be of much help to Europe as it
reasserts the Monroe doctrine and attends to its growing Pacific
preoccupations. It will assist the EU to cope with Russian (and to a
lesser extent, Turkish) designs in the tremulously tectonic regions of
the Caucasus, oil-rich and China-bordering Central Asia, and the Middle
East. But it will not do so in Central Europe, in the Baltic, and in
the Balkan.

Of these three spots, the Balkan is by far the most ominous. Russia -
as it has proved in 1877-8 - has historical claims there which it is
willing to back militarily. Many of the nations of the Balkan are far
closer to Russia than to the West and tend to regard the latter with
suspicion and hostility. Turkey, if it so chooses, can easily assume
the role of the protector of Balkan Moslems - sure to provoke Greek
ire. A military conflict among two NATO members will constitute a body
blow to the credibility and prestige of this alliance in search of an
enemy. Moreover, Turkey is the prefect staging ground for operations in
the Middle East, Central Asia and China. It constitutes a vital
American interest and the pivot of NATO's southern flank. But it is
derided by the EU, its NATO membership notwithstanding.

It is here, in the Balkan, that the New World Order and the End of
History hypothesis are being tested. A new European balance of the Big
Powers will emerge here. But hitherto, alas, this particular concert of
Europe has been quite a cacophony.

 The Eastern Question Revisited

A lecture organized by the daily "Politiken"

in Copenhagen, Denmark

June 25, 2001

By: Dr. Sam Vaknin

When the USSR disintegrated virtually overnight, in 1989, its demise
was often compared to that of the Ottoman Empire's. This was a very
lacking comparison. Turkey's death throes lasted centuries and its
decomposition was taken to be so certain that its division and
partition (the "Eastern Question") animated European geopolitics for
the better part of two centuries. Yet, both left a power vacuum in the
Balkan in their sorry wake.

The Big Powers of the time - Russia, Great Britain, France,
Austria-Hungary, and the emerging Germany and Italy - possessed
conflicting interests and sentiments. But, at this stage or another,
most of them (with the exception of Austria-Hungary) supported the
nationalist solution. It was Russia's favourite discussion topic,
France espoused it under Napoleon III, everyone supported the Greeks
and, to a lesser extent, the Serbs against the weakening Ottomans.

The nationalist solution encouraged the denizens of the Balkan to adopt
national identities, to develop national myths, to invent a national
history, and to aspire to establish modern nation-states.

The examples of Germany and, especially, Greece and Italy were often
evoked. For a detailed treatment of this theme - see "Herzl's Butlers".

The competing solution was reform. The two Balkan empires - the
Ottomans and Austria-Hungary - endlessly, tediously, and
inefficaciously tinkered with their systems or overhauled them. But, to
no avail. The half-hearted reforms often failed to address core issues
and always failed to assuage the growing nationalist sentiment. It was
a doomed approach.

Nationalist solutions were inherently self-destructive. They were
mutually exclusive and strived to achieve ethnically homogeneous
lebensraums by all means, fair and foul. The nation's genuine and
natural ("historic") territory always overlapped with another nation's
no less historic claims. This led to recurrent conflicts and to a
growing sense of deprivation and loss as actual territories never
tallied with national myths disguised as national histories. It also
prevented the emergence of what du Bois calls "Double Consciousness" -
the mental capacity to contentedly belong to more than one social or
national grouping ("Afro-American", "Latino-American", "American Jew").

Thus, the Big Powers proffered a nationalist solution when a regional
one was called for. Following two devastating Balkan Wars (1912 and
1913) and a World War (1914-1918), regional groupings began to emerge
(example: Yugoslavia). The regional solution stabilized the Balkan for
almost 7 decades (excluding external shocks, such as the combined
invasions of Nazi Germany and fascist Italy).

Yet, the regional solution was dependent on both the existence of real
or perceived outside threats (the USSR, the USA, Great Britain) - and
on the leadership of charismatic figures such as Tito and Hoxha. When
the latter died and the USSR evaporated, the region imploded.

The last two decades of the 20th century witnessed a resurgence of
narrow geographical-political identities (a "Europe of Regions").
Countries - from the USSR to Italy to Belgium to Canada to Yugoslavia -
were gradually reduced to geopolitical atoms: provinces, districts,
regions, resurrected political units. Faced with the Yugoslav wars of
succession, the Big Powers again chose wrongly.

Instead of acknowledging the legitimate needs, concerns, and demands of
nations in the Balkan - they proclaimed two untenable principles:
borders must not change and populations must stay put. They dangled the
carrot of European Union membership as an inducement to peace. In other
words, even as virulent nationalism was erupting throughout the Balkan,
they promoted a REGIONAL set of principles and a REGIONAL inducement
(EU) instead of a nationalist orientated one. Yet, as opposed to the
past, the remaining Big Powers were unwilling to actively intervene to
enforce these principles. When they did intervene feebly, it was either
too late (Bosnia-Herzegovina, 1995), too one-sidedly (Kosovo, 1999), or
too hesitantly (Macedonia, 2001). They clearly lacked commitment and
conviction, or even the military ability to become the guardians of
this new order.

The Big Powers (really, the West) would have done well to leave the
Balkan to its own devices. Clearly its inhabitants were intent on
re-drawing borders and securing ethnic homogeneity. Serbs, Croats,
Bosniaks, Kosovars - were all busy altering maps and ethnically
cleansing minorities. The clumsy and uninformed intervention of the
West (led by the USA) served only to prolong these inevitable
conflicts. By choosing sides, labelling, providing military and
diplomatic succour, arming, intervening, cajoling, and imposing
ill-concocted "solutions", the West internationalized local crises and
prevented attrition and equilibrium - the prerequisites to peace. The
West's artificial arrangements, served on the bayonets of SFOR and KFOR
are unlikely to outlast SFOR and KFOR. Moreover, humanitarian military
interventions have proven to be the most pernicious kind of
humanitarian disasters. More people - Kosovars included - died in
Operation Allied Force than in all the years of Serb repression
combined. The Balkan is simply frozen in geopolitical time. It will
re-erupt and revert to old form when Western presence is reduced and
perhaps even before that.

The West should have ignored the Yugoslav wars of succession. But it
would have done well to offer the combatants - Serbs, Croats, Albanians
- a disinterested diplomatic venue (a benign, voluntary Berlin Congress
or Dayton) to iron out their differences, even as they are fighting.
The agenda of such a Congress should have included minorities and
borders. There is no doubt that sporadic fighting would have punctuated
the deliberations of such a congregation. It is certain that walk-outs,
crises, threats, and break-ups would have occurred regularly.

But the participants could have aired grievances, settle disputes,
discuss differences, judge reasonableness, form coalitions, help each
other to multilateral give and take, and establish confidence building
measures. With the West keeping all cards close to its chest, such a
venue was and is sorely lacking.

With the exception of Imperial Russia, "stability in the Balkan" has
always been the mantra. But stability is never achieved diplomatically.
If there are lessons to be learned from history they are that diplomacy
is futile, peacekeeping meaningless, imposed agreements ephemeral. War
is the ultimate and only arbiter of national interest. Parties resort
to peace only when they are convinced that all military or coercive
options have been exhausted. When nothing further is to be gained by
means of force and its application - peace prevails. But peace (as
opposed to a protracted ceasefire) is impossible even a second before
the combatants are struck by this realization. Equilibrium is never the
result of honed negotiating skills - and always the outcome of forces
matched in battle. Attrition, fatigue, a yearning for stability, a
willingness to compromise - are all provoked and enhanced to the
acutest level by bloodshed and atrocities. It is an inevitable phase.
The road to peace is bloodied.

The Balkan has never been as politically fragmented as it is today. It
has never been under the auspices of only one superpower. These are
destabilizing facts. But one thing has not changed. The Balkan has
always been the battlefield of numerous clashing and equally potent
interests coupled with military might.

In the last decade, the West has been busy establishing protectorates
(Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, and now, most probably, Macedonia) and
effectively altering borders without admitting to it. NATO, that cold
war anachronism, is still busy maintaining its southern flank, composed
of the eternal adversaries, Turkey and Greece. Turkey is the natural
road to Central Asia and its oil riches and, further on, to an
ominously emerging China. The Balkan is, once again, the playground of
the grand designers.

Europe's New Jews

By: Dr. Sam Vaknin

Also published by United Press International (UPI)

Also Read

Iran between Reform and Mayhem

Turkey's Troubled Water

Syria's Sunshine Policy

Saddam's Thousand Nights

The Iraqi and the Madman

God's Diplomacy and Human Conflicts

The Economies of the Middle East

Turkey's Jewish Friend

They inhabit self-imposed ghettoes, subject to derision and worse, the
perennial targets of far-right thugs and populist politicians of all
persuasions. They are mostly confined to menial jobs. They are accused
of spreading crime, terrorism and disease, of being backward and
violent, of refusing to fit in.

Their religion, atavistic and rigid, insists on ritual slaughter and
male circumcision. They rarely mingle socially or inter-marry. Most of
them - though born in European countries - are not allowed to vote.
Brown-skinned and with a marked foreign accent, they are subject to
police profiling and harassment and all manner of racial
discrimination.

They are the new Jews of Europe - its Muslim minorities.

Muslims - especially Arab youths from North Africa - are, indeed,
disproportionately represented in crime, including hate crime, mainly
against the Jews. Exclusively Muslim al-Qaida cells have been
discovered in many West European countries. But this can be safely
attributed to ubiquitous and trenchant long-term unemployment and to
stunted upward mobility, both social and economic due largely to latent
or expressed racism.

Moreover, the stereotype is wrong. The incidence of higher education
and skills is greater among Muslim immigrants than in the general
population - a phenomenon known as "brain drain". Europe attracts the
best and the brightest - students, scholars, scientists, engineers and
intellectuals - away from their destitute, politically dysfunctional
and backward homelands.

The Economist surveys the landscape of friction and withdrawal:

"Indifference to Islam has turned first to disdain, then to suspicion
and more recently to hostility ... (due to images of) petro-powered
sheikhs, Palestinian terrorists, Iranian ayatollahs, mass immigration
and then the attacks of September 11th, executed if not planned by
western-based Muslims and succored by an odious regime in Afghanistan
... Muslims tend to come from poor, rural areas; most are ill-educated,
many are brown. They often encounter xenophobia and discrimination,
sometimes made worse by racist politicians. They speak the language of
the wider society either poorly or not at all, so they find it hard to
get jobs. Their children struggle at school. They huddle in poor
districts, often in state-supplied housing ... They tend to withdraw
into their own world, (forming a) self-sufficient, self-contained
community."

This self-imposed segregation has multiple dimensions. Clannish
behavior persists for decades. Marriages are still arranged - reluctant
brides and grooms are imported from the motherland to wed immigrants
from the same region or village. The "parallel society", in the words
of a British government report following the Oldham riots two years
ago, extends to cultural habits, religious practices and social norms.

Assimilation and integration has many enemies.

Remittances from abroad are an important part of the gross national
product and budgetary revenues of countries such as Bangladesh and
Pakistan. Hence their frantic efforts to maintain the cohesive national
and cultural identity of the expats.

DITIB is an arm of the Turkish government's office for religious
affairs. It discourages the assimilation or social integration of Turks
in Germany. Turkish businesses - newspapers, satellite TV, foods,
clothing, travel agents, publishers - thrive on ghettoization.

There is a tacit confluence of interests between national governments,
exporters and Islamic organizations. All three want Turks in Germany to
remain as Turkish as possible. The more nostalgic and homebound the
expatriate - the larger and more frequent his remittances, the higher
his consumption of Turkish goods and services and the more prone he is
to resort to religion as a determinant of his besieged and fracturing
identity.

Muslim numbers are not negligible. Two European countries have Muslim
majorities - Bosnia-Herzegovina and Albania. Others - in both Old
Europe and its post-communist east - harbor sizable and growing Islamic
minorities. Waves of immigration and birth rates three times as high as
the indigenous population increase their share of the population in
virtually every European polity - from Russia to Macedonia and from
Bulgaria to Britain. One in seven Russians is Muslim - over 20 million
people.

According to the March-April issue of Foreign Policy, the non-Muslim
part of Europe will shrink by 3.5 percent by 2015 while the Muslim
populace will likely double. There are 3 million Turks in Germany and
another 12 million Muslims - Algerians, Moroccans, Pakistanis,
Bangladeshis, Egyptians, Senegalese, Malis, or Tunisians - in the rest
of the European Union.

This is two and one half times the number of Muslims in the United
States. Even assuming - wrongly - that all of them occupy the lowest
decile of income, their combined annual purchasing power would amount
to a whopping $150 billion. Furthermore, recent retroactive changes to
German law have naturalized over a million immigrants and automatically
granted its much-coveted citizenship to the 160,000 Muslims born in
Germany every year .

Between 2-3 million Muslims in France - half their number - are
eligible to vote. Another million - one out of two - cast ballots in
Britain. These numbers count at the polls and are not offset by the
concerted efforts of a potent Jewish lobby - there are barely a million
Jews in Western Europe.

Muslims are becoming a well-courted swing vote. They may have decided
the last election in Germany, for instance. Recognizing their growing
centrality, France established - though not without vote-rigging - a
French Council of the Islamic Faith, the equivalent of Napoleon's
Jewish Consistory. Two French cabinet members are Muslims. Britain has
a Muslim Council.

Both Vladimir Putin, Russia's president and Yuri Luzhkov, Moscow's
mayor, now take the trouble to greet the capital's one million Muslims
on the occasion of their Feast of Sacrifice. They also actively solicit
the votes of the nationalist and elitist Muslims of the industrialized
Volga - mainly the Tatars, Bashkirs and Chuvash. Even the impoverished,
much-detested and powerless Muslims of the northern Caucasus -
Chechens, Circassians and Dagestanis - have benefited from this
newfound awareness of their electoral power.

Though divided by their common creed - Shiites vs. Sunnites vs.
Wahabbites and so on - the Muslims of Europe are united in supporting
the Palestinian cause and in opposing the Iraq war. This - and
post-colonial guilt feelings, especially manifest in France and Britain
- go a long way toward explaining Germany's re-discovered pacifistic
spine and France's anti-Israeli (not to say anti-Semitic) tilt.

Moreover, the Muslims have been playing an important economic role in
the continent since the early 1960s. Europe's postwar miracle was
founded on these cheap, plentiful and oft-replenished Gastarbiter -
"guest workers". Objective studies have consistently shown that
immigrants contribute more to their host economies - as consumers,
investors and workers - than they ever claw back in social services and
public goods. This is especially true in Europe, where an ageing
population of early retirees has been relying on the uninterrupted flow
of pension contributions by younger laborers, many of them immigrants.

Business has been paying attention to this emerging market. British
financial intermediaries - such as the West Bromwich Building Society -
have recently introduced "Islamic" (interest-free) mortgages. According
to market research firm, Datamonitor, gross advances in the UK alone
could reach $7 billion in 2006 - up from $60 million today. The Bank of
England is in the throes of preparing regulations to accommodate the
pent-up demand.

Yet, their very integration, however hesitant and gradual, renders the
Muslims in Europe vulnerable to the kind of treatment the old continent
meted out to its Jews before the holocaust. Growing Muslim presence in
stagnating job markets within recessionary economies inevitably
generated a backlash, often cloaked in terms of Samuel Huntington's
1993 essay in Foreign Affairs, "Clash of Civilizations".

Even tolerant Italy was affected. Last year, the Bologna archbishop,
Cardinal Giacomo Biffi, cast Islam as incompatible with Italian
culture. The country's prime minister suggested, in a visit to Berlin
two years ago, that Islam is an inherently inferior civilization.

Oriana Fallaci, a prominent journalist, published last year an inane
and foul-mouthed diatribe titled "The Rage and the Pride" in which she
accused Muslims of "breeding like rats", "shitting and pissing" (sic!)
everywhere and supporting Osama bin-Laden indiscriminately.

Young Muslims reacted - by further radicalizing and by refusing to
assimilate - to both escalating anti-Islamic rhetoric in Europe and the
"triumphs" of Islam elsewhere, such as the revolution in Iran in 1979.
Tutored by preachers trained in the most militant Islamist climates in
Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Somalia, Pakistan and Iran, praying in mosques
financed by shady Islamic charities - these youngsters are amenable to
recruiters from every fanatical grouping.

The United Kingdom suffered some of the worst race riots in half a
century in the past two years. France is terrorized by an unprecedented
crime wave emanating from the banlieux - the decrepit, predominantly
Muslim, housing estates in suburbia. September 11 only accelerated the
inevitable conflict between an alienated minority and hostile
authorities throughout the continent. Recent changes in European -
notably British - legislation openly profile and target Muslims.

This is a remarkable turnaround. Europe supported the Muslim Bosnian
cause against the Serbs, Islamic Chechnya against Russia, the
Palestinians against the Israelis and Muslim Albanian insurgents
against both Serbs and Macedonians. Nor was this consistent pro-Islamic
orientation a novelty.

Britain's Commission for Racial Equality which caters mainly to the
needs of Muslims, was formed 37 years ago. Its Foreign Office has never
wavered from its pro-Arab bias. Germany established a Central Council
for Muslims. Both anti-Americanism and the more veteran anti-Israeli
streak helped sustain Europe's empathy with Muslim refugees and
"freedom fighters" throughout the 1960s, 70s and 80s.

September 11 put paid to this amity. The danger is that the brand of
"Euro-Islam" that has begun to emerge lately may be decimated by this
pervasive and sudden mistrust. Time Magazine described this blend as
"the traditional Koran-based religion with its prohibitions against
alcohol and interest-bearing loans now indelibly marked by the
'Western' values of tolerance, democracy and civil liberties."

Such "enlightened" Muslims can serve as an invaluable bridge between
Europe and Russia, the Middle East, Asia, including China and other
places with massive Muslim majorities or minorities. As most world
conflicts today involve Islamist militants, global peace and a
functioning "new order" critically depend on the goodwill and
communication skills of Muslims.

Such a benign amalgam is the only realistic hope for reconciliation.
Europe is ageing and stagnating and can be reinvigorated only by
embracing youthful, dynamic, driven immigrants, most of whom are bound
to be Muslim. Co-existence is possible and the clash of civilization
not an inevitability unless Huntington's dystopic vision becomes the
basic policy document of the West.

T H E   A U T H O R

SHMUEL (SAM) VAKNIN

Curriculum Vitae

Click on blue text to access relevant web sites - thank you.

Born in 1961 in Qiryat-Yam, Israel.

Served in the Israeli Defence Force (1979-1982) in training and
education units.

Education

Graduated a few semesters in the Technion - Israel Institute of
Technology, Haifa.

Ph.D. in Philosophy (major : Philosophy of Physics) - Pacific Western
University, California.

Graduate of numerous courses in Finance Theory and International
Trading.

Certified E-Commerce Concepts Analyst.

Certified in Psychological Counselling Techniques.

Full proficiency in Hebrew and in English.

Business Experience

1980 to 1983

Founder and co-owner of a chain of computerized information kiosks in
Tel-Aviv, Israel.

1982 to 1985

Senior positions with the Nessim D. Gaon Group of Companies in Geneva,
Paris and New-York (NOGA and APROFIM SA):

- Chief Analyst of Edible Commodities in the Group's Headquarters in
Switzerland.

- Manager of the Research and Analysis Division

- Manager of the Data Processing Division

- Project Manager of The Nigerian Computerized Census

- Vice President in charge of RND and Advanced Technologies

- Vice President in charge of Sovereign Debt Financing

1985 to 1986

Represented Canadian Venture Capital Funds in Israel.

1986 to 1987

General Manager of IPE Ltd. in London. The firm financed international
multi-lateral countertrade and leasing transactions.

1988 to 1990

Co-founder and Director of "Mikbats - Tesuah", a portfolio management
firm based in Tel-Aviv.

Activities included large-scale portfolio management, underwriting,
forex trading and general financial advisory services.

1990 to Present

Free-lance consultant to many of Israel's Blue-Chip firms, mainly on
issues related to the capital markets in Israel, Canada, the UK and the
USA.

Consultant to foreign RND ventures and to Governments on macro-economic
matters.

President of the Israel chapter of the Professors World Peace Academy
(PWPA) and (briefly) Israel representative of the "Washington Times".

1993 to 1994

Co-owner and Director of many business enterprises:

- The Omega and Energy Air-Conditioning Concern

- AVP Financial Consultants

- Handiman Legal Services

   Total annual turnover of the group: 10 million USD.

Co-owner, Director and Finance Manager of COSTI Ltd. -  Israel's
largest computerized information vendor and developer. Raised funds
through a series of private placements locally, in the USA, Canada and
London.

1993 to 1996

Publisher and Editor of a Capital Markets Newsletter distributed by
subscription only to dozens of subscribers countrywide.

In a legal precedent in 1995 - studied in business schools and law
faculties across Israel - was tried for his role in an attempted
takeover of Israel's Agriculture Bank.

Was interned in the State School of Prison Wardens.

Managed the Central School Library, wrote, published and lectured on
various occasions.

Managed the Internet and International News Department of an Israeli
mass media group, "Ha-Tikshoret and Namer".

Assistant in the Law Faculty in Tel-Aviv University (to Prof. S.G.
Shoham).

1996 to 1999

Financial consultant to leading businesses in Macedonia, Russia and the
Czech Republic.

Collaborated with the Agency of  Transformation of Business with Social
Capital.

Economic commentator in "Nova Makedonija", "Dnevnik", "Izvestia",
"Argumenti i Fakti", "The Middle East Times", "Makedonija Denes", "The
New Presence", "Central Europe Review" , and other periodicals and in
the economic programs on various channels of Macedonian Television.

Chief Lecturer in courses organized by the Agency of Transformation, by
the Macedonian Stock Exchange and by the Ministry of Trade.

1999 to 2002

Economic Advisor to the Government of the Republic of Macedonia and to
the Ministry of Finance.

2001 to present

Senior Business Correspondent for United Press International (UPI)

Web and Journalistic Activities

Author of extensive Websites in Psychology ("Malignant Self Love") - An
Open Directory Cool Site

Philosophy ("Philosophical Musings")

Economics and Geopolitics ("World in Conflict and Transition")

Owner of the Narcissistic Abuse Announcement and Study List and the
Narcissism Revisited mailing list (more than 3900 members)

Owner of the Economies in Conflict and Transition Study list.

Editor of mental health disorders and Central and Eastern Europe
categories in web directories (Open Directory, Suite 101, Search
Europe).

Columnist and commentator in "The New Presence", United Press
International (UPI), InternetContent, eBookWeb and "Central Europe
Review".

Publications and Awards

"Managing Investment Portfolios in states of Uncertainty", Limon
Publishers, Tel-Aviv, 1988

"The Gambling Industry", Limon Publishers., Tel-Aviv, 1990

"Requesting my Loved One - Short Stories", Yedioth Aharonot, Tel-Aviv,
1997

"The Macedonian Economy at a Crossroads - On the way to a Healthier
Economy" (with Nikola Gruevski), Skopje, 1998

"Malignant Self Love - Narcissism Revisited", Narcissus Publications,
Prague and Skopje, 1999, 2001, 2002

The Narcissism Series - e-books regarding relationships with abusive
narcissists (Skopje, 1999-2002)

"The Exporters' Pocketbook", Ministry of Trade, Republic of Macedonia,
Skopje, 1999

"The Suffering of Being Kafka" (electronic book of Hebrew Short
Fiction, Prague, 1998)

"After the Rain - How the West Lost the East", Narcissus Publications
in association with Central Europe Review/CEENMI, Prague and Skopje,
2000

Winner of numerous awards, among them the Israeli Education Ministry
Prize (Literature) 1997, The Rotary Club Award for Social Studies
(1976) and the Bilateral Relations Studies Award of the American
Embassy in Israel (1978).

Hundreds of professional articles in all fields of finances and the
economy and numerous articles dealing with geopolitical and political
economic issues published in both print and web periodicals in many
countries.

Many appearances in the electronic media on subjects in philosophy and
the Sciences and concerning economic matters.

Contact Details:

palma@unet.com.mk

vaknin@link.com.mk

My Web Sites:

Economy / Politics:

http://ceeandbalkan.tripod.com/

Psychology:

http://samvak.tripod.com/index.html

Philosophy:

http://philosophos.tripod.com/

Poetry:

http://samvak.tripod.com/contents.html

After the Rain

How the West

Lost the East

The Book

This is a series of articles written and published in 1996-2000 in
Macedonia, in Russia, in Egypt and in the Czech Republic.

How the West lost the East. The economics, the politics, the
geopolitics, the conspiracies, the corruption, the old and the new, the
plough and the internet - it is all here, in colourful and provocative
prose.

From "The Mind of Darkness":

"'The Balkans' - I say - 'is the unconscious of the world'. People stop
to digest this metaphor and then they nod enthusiastically. It is here
that the repressed memories of history, its traumas and fears and
images reside. It is here that the psychodynamics of humanity - the
tectonic clash between Rome and Byzantium, West and East,
Judeo-Christianity and Islam - is still easily discernible. We are
seated at a New Year's dining table, loaded with a roasted pig and
exotic salads. I, the Jew, only half foreign to this cradle of
Slavonics. Four Serbs, five Macedonians. It is in the Balkans that all
ethnic distinctions fail and it is here that they prevail
anachronistically and atavistically. Contradiction and change the only
two fixtures of this tormented region. The women of the Balkan - buried
under provocative mask-like make up, retro hairstyles and too narrow
dresses. The men, clad in sepia colours, old fashioned suits and turn
of the century moustaches. In the background there is the crying game
that is Balkanian music: liturgy and folk and elegy combined. The
smells are heavy with muskular perfumes. It is like time travel. It is
like revisiting one's childhood."

The Author

Sam Vaknin is the author of Malignant Self Love - Narcissism Revisited
and After the Rain - How the West Lost the East. He is a columnist for
Central Europe Review and eBookWeb , a United Press International (UPI)
Senior Business Correspondent, and the editor of mental health and
Central East Europe categories in The Open Directory and Suite101 .

Until recently, he served as the Economic Advisor to the Government of
Macedonia.

Visit Sam's Web site at http://samvak.tripod.com






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The Belgian Curtain, by Sam Vaknin


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