PARIS – In 1989, the wall separating the two halves of Europe suddenly collapsed. Within the space of a few months, a hitherto seemingly immutable order gave way to commotion and impatience. At first, the old countries of Europe were paralyzed with fear of the unknown and anxiety about immigration – and then they seized with both hands the opportunity that history had offered to them.
Europe implemented financial assistance and technical assistance programs, opened trade talks, and promised an eastward enlargement of the European Union, which eventually led to the free movement of workers across the former Iron curtain. Two decades later, these efforts have proven to be a spectacular success. The economic and political transition of ex-communist Eastern Europe has been swift and deep. Moreover, with the dramatic exception of Yugoslavia, it was carried out peacefully, which contributed to strong economic performance.