This article offers an overview of some of the most important economic trends in Central and Eastern Europe from a comparative perspective. It also ventures tentative predictions concerning the economic future of the region.
This paper was originally published as a chapter in the author’s recent book Europe since 1980 (Cambridge University Press, 2010). The book tells the dramatic story of the economic, social, political, and cultural transformation of Europe during the transition from the Cold War to the European Union. The author charts the overwhelming impact of the collapse of communism on every aspect of European life. Europe became safer and more united, and Central and Eastern Europe started on the difficult road to economic modernization. However, the western half of Europe also changed. European integration gained momentum. The single market and the common currency were introduced, and the Union enlarged from nine to twenty-seven countries. This period also saw a revolution in information and communication technology, the increasing impact of globalization and the radical restructuring of the political system. The book explores the impact of all of these changes as well as the new challenges posed by the economic crisis of 2008–9 and asks which way now for Europe?
The paper addresses some debated questions and popular misconceptions concerning Hungary’s transformation process. These debated questions include the historical role of the Hungarian market reforms and how they helped the country in rapid transition later on; the first years of transition and the dilemma of gradual vs. shock therapy type reforms; the role of multinational companies in the Hungarian economy; the economic crisis in Hungary of the past years (2006–2008); and finally, how Hungary should proceed with reforms in the future.