Following on from the British referendum, the stormy tides of the plebiscite in Catalonia are another sign of the fact that the integration processes in the European Union after the fall of the Iron Curtain in the late 1980s are over. Instead, disintegration efforts are rising.

Citizens of the UK decided to withdraw from the EU and it may not take long before the Scots will vote again in a referendum and decide whether to withdraw from the UK because they want to remain part of the EU. A similar scenario cannot be ruled out for Northern Ireland. In Belgium, which is divided into French-speaking Walloonia and Dutch-speaking Flanders, it is increasingly difficult to form the Belgian government after the elections, as each of the Belgian regions has its own government and parliament. The opposite processes occur of course as well. However, they are often in the media’s shadow and aren’t as visible. In the countries of former Yugoslavia, which underwent a complicated and violent division in the 1990s, cooperation is expanding and deepening in economic, cultural and other areas, which is the material basis for integration processes. Slovenia and Croatia are already members of the EU and, together with Montenegro, they are also members of NATO. Cooperation between Serbia and the member countries of the former Yugoslav federation is being renewed and the development looks promising. In terms of current political processes in the EU countries, the experience of Slovakia and the Czech Republic seems unique. The smooth and cooperative division of the former federal state and the positive socio-economic development of the two independent republics within the EU has become a generally recognized fact. Czech and Slovak societies, after 25 years of independent political and economic development and with their cordial mutual relations, are often seen as an example to follow. It is interesting to analyse the economic and social differences in these societies during the period of their independent development and to identify the causes of these differences. Slovakia has worse default macroeconomic indicators but is gradually reaching the level of the Czech Republic. Both economies are gradually approaching the EU's average standard of living. Both economies remain structurally similar: from the importance of automotive industry, relatively successful start-up economy with an emphasis on IT, to an increasingly dominant service sector, affecting GDP.

The crucial difference, according to the Anglo-American University in Prague, which is currently preparing an international conference for December 1st this year to evaluate the first 25 years since the division of Czech and Slovak Federative Republic, is Slovak membership in the euro area as opposed to the Czech Republic, which has maintained its own currency. This difference has economic and social implications that need to be analysed in detail. Instead of presenting satisfaction stemming from the successful division of the common state of the Czechs and Slovaks, we decided to examine the consequences of this political decision from the economic and sociological point of view. It is now essential to show how this may, or may not be, an inspiration for certain European countries where large groups of people are dissatisfied with their own constitutional arrangements. The strong representation of foreign experts in the team of participants at the Anglo-American University conference will allow us to explore answers to questions dealing with the future political order of Europe: whether it will be a union of independent states or a federation of states and regions with more limited autonomy. Elements and expressions of both can be seen both in the EU and in Europe at large.

The author is a member of the Board of Trustees at Anglo-American University.

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Original Czech text HERE.

Jiří Schwarz

Publication date: October 27, 2017