By Merje Kuus (auth.)
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Additional info for Geopolitics Reframed: Security and Identity in Europe’s Eastern Enlargement
87 In Central Europe, Kundera’s essentialist account has received considerable criticism. 88 Because of its perfect fit with the cultural definitions of Europe, however, the concept of Central Europe has become a successful intellectual product for export in the accession states’ relations with the West. It provides a platform from which they can issue pleas for Western acceptance and assistance. It is especially prominent in texts addressed to Western audiences. 90 The function of Central Europe in the framework is to recycle the East and to pass it further to the east.
The geographical content of Central Europe is highly malleable and politically consequential. 80 This enlargement of Central Europe happened in significant measure through the efforts of the accession countries to rebrand themselves as fundamentally Western and to thereby shift the negative connotations of “Eastern Europe” further eastward. The erstwhile Eastern Europe—the swath of land east of the former Iron Curtain—was thereby split into Eastern and Central Europe. In the early 2000s, few would characterize the member states of the EU and NATO as Eastern European; that term is now reserved for Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus.
It is rather to problematize the hierarchy of places that is implicit in the narrative. This hierarchy views difference in terms of essential core features of places rather than in terms of specific historical circumstances. 51 This narrative frames East-Central Europe first and foremost not in terms of its idealized European future but in terms of its equally reified “geopolitical” past. I call it the “return of the East” narrative here because it frames politics in terms of the presence or absence of Eastness as an identity or a trait.