Browsing this web site you accept techinical and statistical cookies. close [ more info ]


by Giorgio Piccinato

Vaclav Havel recently said that Europe developed as a land closed on the west by the darkness imagined beyond Hercules' columns while pressed on the east by barbarian tribes, "the others". Indeed Europe defined itself through differences. The Roman Empire, the Christianity, the Renaissance, eventually the Enlightenment around the ideas of progress and science: all these moments worked toward an idea of Europe as a common realm for different people. In the Romantic era the ideas of nation and liberty will destroy the idea of Europe and everything ended with 20th century wars. After 1945 a new frontier will cross Europe's hart: central-eastern countries, for almost half a century will join that "other" against which they had been fighting throughout history. The dividing line was political, military and ideological. People did not live painlessly the separation, nor without strong opposition. This is particularly true for peoples in the socialist field, who suffered economic difficulties, could not stand new hierarchy and refused to erase a cultural identity and a historic heritage that were quite far from an Asiatic East recently accustomed to modernity. Throughout this time, which was of great changes in the economies and the societies of the two blocks, new urban and territorial forms developed and new relations between cities and social policies. On the East, a greater control on land use and urbanisation processes allowed a lasting distinction between cities and countryside, saved and restored historic centres, distributed on time primary services in the expansion areas. Western researchers regarded all this with admiration. The collapse of socialist regimes gave way, in the '90es, to so called transition. All what was positive in the socialist practice disappeared, what was worst in the West became the rule: illegal building, aggression to historic centres, explosion of private motorization and collapse of public transport, decline of public services and, finally, marginality of planning institutions. Private property, real estate market and foreign investment -none of them interested in social and environmental outputs- set the new rules. These countries are experiencing new inequalities: unemployment, poverty, criminality. But also economic development, more democracy and new rights. All the problems that the West met during half a century came there together, in the most violent form. The idea of reunite the two sides is certainly posing new challenges to the European Union as well as to the accession countries: an historic change for most (hopefully) unavoidable.