THERE’S MORE LIKE THIS ON OUR NEW SITE – POLANDIAN.COM
Somewhat related to Pawel’s post below, is it not time for Poland to be considered for its own merits and not just lumped into the increasingly meaningless geographic lump of Central & Eastern Europe?
I was just listening to Newshour on the BBC World Service where they were busy doom-mongering about Central & Eastern Europe. Civil unrest, swelling ethnic tensions, falling governments, economic disaster, trashed currencies…it was all there. It was, however, the usual splattergun approach to news in our part of the world; throw out a bunch of problems and a list of countries and leave everyone with the assumption that all listed countries have all the named problems. Poland was mentioned in the programme but I’ve already forgotten why, can’t have been serious, whereas Latvia, well, you may as well close the country! The questions were best described as ‘very leading’ and with an agenda of “We all want to believe that CEE is screwed so why don’t you, Mr Expert, just confirm it”. Mr Expert didn’t actually confirm anything beyond the fact that a few countries have over-borrowed and might have problems. Poland wasn’t one of them and yet those who simply listen to and react to ill informed, sensationalist headlines and reports might be excused for assuming Poland is now on the brink of total collapse.
I’m convinced that a lot of the current bad press is nothing more than green-eyed jealousy. This country enjoyed, and may still be enjoying, a period of strong growth. It is, possibly, being less affected by the munch-crunch-recession-depression-slump-crisis than other countries. Our citizens took advantage of the UK while the times were good and may well be moving back now the tide has turned. This country is not, yet, suffering quite as much as others, nor does it have 2 trillion GBP mountain of debt, the worse since the 50’s. So, is there just a touch of jealousy here? If others are having a bad time then it would only be right for us to suffer as well? Tired of talking about their own desperate problems they have to find a new donkey to kick?
I’m all for people reporting on Poland and even highlighting its problems, whatever they may be, but let’s please keep it specific to Poland. What I don’t like is people suggesting that Poland, Latvia, Ukraine, Hungary, Romania et al. are essentially one big country where everyone has the same problems! How would the UK like it if we just started referring to them as Western Europe and drawing no distinctions between them and Holland, France, Germany, Belgium, Norway and Spain? How would the USA like to be lumped in with Cuba, Mexico, Canada and Venezuela under a heading of The Americas?
So, let’s please start a campaign against geographical discrimination and stop using this ridiculous heading of Central & Eastern Europe. Even Wikipedia, fast becoming the font of all wisdom, fails to provide a clear definition;
Central Europe is the region lying between the variously and vaguely defined areas of Eastern and Western Europe. In addition, Northern, Southern and Southeastern Europe may variously delimit or overlap into Central Europe.
Their map of the region includes the usual suspects – Poland, Hungary, Czech, Slovakia, Slovenia & Austria but adds Liechtenstein, Germany and Switzerland whilst sitting on the fence about Croatia and Romania.
Here are just a few more reasons why we should hang, draw and quarter the phrase ‘Central & Eastern Europe’:
- Austria. Austria is as related to Central Europe as it is to China. It does not share the communist history. The attitude of its citizens is not even close to any I’ve met in CE. The only link it has to CE is that it pretended to be the “Gateway to Central Europe” for a year or two shortly after the iron curtain fell. Austria should bog off and be Austrian!
- Definition. Ask 100 people to tell you which countries are in Central or Eastern Europe and you’ll get at least 95 different answers.
- Eastern Europe. To my mind these are the countries that retain stronger ties to Russia. These might be trading, language, alphabet, mental attitude or all of the above. This might include Ukraine, Belarus and a bunch of places ending in ‘stan’, then again, it might not. Who knows? This is a meaningless geographic grouping within the even less meaningful grouping of CEE.
- Croatia. I’ve been there, it feels more like ‘Venice by the sea’ than Warsaw or Prague. Surely this, along with Bulgaria (also often lumped into a CE definition) would be better defined as part of ‘The Balkans’ rather than CE?
- Romania. Strange place. Cornered the market for dead dogs. Stole Transylvania from Hungary (as I am always reminded by the Hungarians) but can it possibly be a part of CE? From my work point of view I’m tempted to allow Romania in, but it’s a close call.
- Germany, Liechtenstein & Switzerland. Someone’s having a laugh, right?!
- Do you notice Latvia/Estonia/Lithuania on that Wikipedia map? No, because those are best known as the Baltic States. So why was the BBC banging on about Latvia in a programme about the problems that Central Europe has?
- Need I go on?
I’m not sure which, if any other nation Poles would be happy to be associated with but to me, the use of an all encompassing “Central & Eastern Europe” is about as insulting as defining everyone with slanted eyes as a chink, Barak Obama as a brown man or everyone from Britain as a Paki.