In November 1989 the Berlin Wall came down. The disappearance of the most visible symbol of the Cold War was a turning point in post-war history and marked the beginning of a new era in Europe. Countries separated for decades by the Iron Curtain began to prepare for the transition to democracy and accession to the European Union. Democratic change in Central and Eastern Europe, however, started well before 1989. Developments were closely observed and debated not only by national governments but also by the European Parliament. Clearly voicing its concerns about what was happening in Poland, Hungary and Czechoslovakia even before its first direct elections in 1979, the EP took a clear stance from the very beginning in condemning human rights violations while supporting movements towards democratisation in Central and Eastern Europe.
The nature of the debate
Discussions were often heated and controversial. The question of German unification and of national self-determination in both the GDR and the Baltic States clearly divided MEPs. Also initial debates on accession were characterised by stark differences of opinion concerning the timeframe and the depth of future cooperation with Central and Eastern Europe.
The EP between action and reaction
In all its debates the EP tried to find a delicate balance between action and reaction, showing particular concern to promote a vision of itself as a beacon of democracy and human rights. In frequently setting itself against both the Council and the European Commission, the European Parliament clearly tried to influence the terms of discussion. In this sense the Parliament not only closely followed and discussed in depth democratic change in Central and Eastern Europe, it also contributed more or less actively to its progress.
In this context, the Historical Archives Unit has prepared a study entitled: ‘Democratic Change in Central and Eastern Europe 1989-90; the European Parliament and the end of the Cold War‘ (French and German versions will follow), in the European Parliament History Series, based on the documents preserved in the EP’s Historical Archives. The study analyses the events that led to democratic change in Central and Eastern Europe from the perspective of the European Parliament as detailed in its historical documents. It traces the discussions and opinions of Parliament over the years regarding a) the events leading to democratic change in Central and Eastern Europe, paying particular attention to the events of 1989 and b) Post-communism and Eastern enlargement.
A conference is organised on 3 February 2015 at 18.00 pm in the EPRS Library Reading Room, Altiero Spinelli Building (ASP 05D), in the presence of Mr Valdis DOMBROVSKIS, Vice-President of the European Commission (Prime Minister of Latvia 2009 – 2014), Mr Enrique BARÓN CRESPO, former President of the European Parliament, Mr Hans-Gert PÖTTERING, former President of the European Parliament, Ms Marju LAURISTIN, MEP, and Mr Jacek SARYUSZ-WOLSKI, MEP.
For further information on the study, on the presentation and on the documents kept by the Historical Archives, please contact Arch-Info@europarl.europa.eu.