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Sunday, June 27, 1999 Published at 02:46 GMT 03:46 UK


World: Europe

Marking the death of communism

Hungary's Iron Curtain border with Austria was tightly controlled in 1989

Politicians and other leading figures from all over Europe are gathering in the Austrian capital, Vienna, for a conference marking the 10th anniversary of the collapse of communism.


The BBC's Jonathan Hill: The Berlin wall was the symbol of a divided world
Among those taking part are the former Russian prime minister, Sergei Kiriyenko, the prime minister of Hungary, Viktor Orban, the president of the Czech Republic, Vaclav Havel and the Polish president Aleksander Kwasniewski.

The participants are to discuss the new international order, the transformation of countries in the former Soviet bloc into market economies, and how the remaining ideological divisions in Europe can be removed.

Changed

On 27 June, 1989 the foreign ministers of Hungary and Austria cut a barbed wire barrier in a ceremony to mark the formal collapse of the borders between Eastern and Western Europe.

Much has changed in the countries of Central and Eastern Europe since then, but not in a uniform manner. National differences in developing ideological, political and economic landscapes are dramatic.

Central European countries such as Hungary, Slovenia, Poland and the Czech Republic are now liberal democracies with functioning market economies.

They are in the first group of accession countries expected to join the European Union as of the year 2003.

Further east in Belarus the picture is quite different - marked by a reluctance to embrace market reforms and a questionable democratic system.

Volatile

In South Eastern Europe in Macedonia and Yugoslavia, the situation remains volatile, especially now in the wake of the Kosovo conflict.

The events of 1989 have also had a more global significance. The concept of the Iron Curtain and the Cold War had long provided Western orientation in ideological and political conflicts. These concepts dissolved with the collapse of communism.

The BBC Correspondent in Vienna Katya Adler says a Marshall Plan of economic aid such as the one now proposed to fortify the Balkans would have greatly helped to speed up the development of Central and Eastern European economies, bringing closer the day when there were no more divisions between Europe East and West.



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