Bumpy Road or Fast Lane? Central European Countries, ERA and the Lisbon-Barcelona Strategy
paper presented at the Six Countries Programme workshop, "Crossing Borders: Venturing into the European Research Area", Kismarton - Ödenburg, 30-31 October 2003
29 Pages Posted: 13 Oct 2015
Date Written: October 30, 2003
The reintegration into the political and economic systems of Europe – that is, accession to the European Union – has posed a complex, tremendous challenge for Central European countries (CECs) since the beginning of the 1990s. First, the demanding and socially rather costly process of political and economic transition had to be completed. Not only macroeconomic stabilisation was required, but fundamental organisational and institutional changes were also needed to transform these countries into stable, middle-income economies, capable of catching up with the more advanced ones in the longer run. These sweeping changes were reflected in the ownership, production, employment and trade structures in CECs in the 1990s, albeit at a different speed, and taking country-specific routes. These economies, in practice, had already been integrated into the EU markets in various ways – via foreign trade links, by joining international production networks, as well as by ownership links – to a large extent, even before becoming member states.
In the meantime, accession negotiations had been completed by the end of 2002, and all CECs – among the ten new member states – joined the EU on 1 May 2004. Harmonisation of the written rules has been a formidable task, indeed. Yet, adapting and adjusting the institutions, values and behavioural rules, remains a colossal task well after the formal entry into the EU. In other words, the real challenge is not just to achieve formal membership, but cohesion with the advanced, core member states of the EU. Having completed the first round of transition, CECs have again reached a cross-roads: the world economy, as well as the EU itself, have significantly changed during this historically short period of time. Moreover, the EU is going to be reshaped not just because of the global, structural changes, but as the result of the very process of enlargement as well.
CECs now have to consider what role to play in the globalising learning economy: do they passively accept the fate of a merely surviving economy, relying on extended and extensive EU assistance? Or, by implementing a sound and well-articulated strategy, do CECs intend to be prosperous countries in 20-25 years? In that future their citizens would enjoy high living standards, good health and a clean environment, and to sustain that, companies would become strong competitors, and thanks to that, CECs would become net contributors to the EU budget, supporting the cohesion of the even larger EU and its co-operation with neighbouring countries.
The paper, based on interviews with high-ranking policy-makers in 4 CECs, as well as on background documents and the relevant literature, reviews the current challenges and options for decision-makers in CECs.
Keywords: STI performance; STI policies; Policy co-ordination; Transition to market economy; Accession to the European Union, Central European countries
JEL Classification: O1, O11, O31, O38, O52, P27, B15
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation