Creating a New Europe
Professor Hedlund explores a shift in focus in Europe away from the 'Brussels vs. Moscow' attitude by proposing strategic interaction in what he calls the 'corridor countries.' He discusses why there is a variety of outcomes in terms of economic success in these countries, in particular the strain of rapid deregulation in 1991 in the Soviet Union. Professor Hedlund also examines the challenges for these countries in Europe now.
In 'Creating a New Europe,' Professor Hedlund begins by discussing the choice the European Union had when they met in the Netherlands in 1991. He argues policymakers could have widened the concept of European integration through free trade and economic cooperation which would have led to unlimited expansion options towards the East. However, Prof. Hedlund argues they decided instead to deepen this notion of 'the United States of Europe' through a currency, flag, and constitution leading to an exclusionary approach. Now, in 2008, there is new opportunity with new members in the EU. Problems such as Russia's interaction with its neighbors which were formerly seen as external issues are now internal issues affecting Brussels. Rather than being 'grateful children' as Jacques Chirac infamously put it, these 'corridor states' are decentralising the game between Brussels and Moscow. Prof. Hedlund argues we must look for more substantial success in internal dynamics in these 'corridor states,' states which were formerly part of the U.S.S.R. and are now part of the EU or are hoping to be in the near future. To Prof. Hedlund, these states are in a good position to act as credible brokers for strategic interaction between the EU and Russia, as well as between each other, such as Lithuania's intervention during the Orange Revolution.
Prof. Hedlund explains how these ‘corridor countries’ were seen as homogenous in 1991 but now have a great diversity in economic outcomes. Much of this can be attributed to the over eager embracement of a market economy by Russia in 1991 and the hardship it caused. In addition, Prof. Hedlund identifies the corrupted markets which exploited the natural resources available following the collapse of the Soviet Union. Moreover, Prof. Hedlund cites that the ‘rent seeking’ attitude of the Russian government was not reciprocated in all former Soviet states. Some were arguably lured by the prospect of EU membership while others might have drawn in by the examples of the successful and democratic Western countries.
To Prof. Hedlund, the challenge now is to develop forward movement in the areas of the ‘corridor countries’ that have become stalled. In addition, some of the markets in those areas must be developed away from their, as he puts it, ‘3rd world’ manners of operating. Accountability is crucial to a functioning economy to Prof. Hedlund. Finally, these ‘corridor countries’ can help in democracy building.
In taking questions, Prof. Hedlund further reiterates his belief in the necessity of accountability. In addition, he touches on his sense that European education is waning, and that this is setting back innovation. Moreover, Prof. Hedlund addresses the merits of a variety of diplomatic approaches.
About the speaker
Stefan Hedlund is an Anna Lindh Research Fellow at the Stanford Forum on Contemporary Europe. He is professor of Soviet and East European Studies at Uppsala University, Sweden. Before 1991, his research was centered on the Soviet economic system. Since then, he has been focusing on Russia's adaptation to post-Soviet realities. This has included research on the multiple challenges of economic transition as well as the importance of Russia's historical legacy for the reforms. With a background in economics, he has a long-standing interest in problems related to the Soviet economic system, and the attempted transition that followed in the wake of the Soviet collapse. More recently, his research has revolved around neo-institutional theory, and problems of path dependence. Among sixteen authored and coauthored titles in English and Swedish, he is the author of Russian Path Dependence (2005), and the forthcoming co-edited volume Russia Since 1980: Wrestling with Westernization (Cambridge, 2009.) Professor Hedlund has received numerous awards including fellowships at the Davis Center for Russian Studies, Harvard University; the Slavic Research Center, Hokkaido University; and at the Kennan Institute, Washington DC.