What is ‘New Europe’?

The term ‘New Europe’ is one that has been used in various contexts to refer to different regions in Europe or political phenomena. 

Loosely speaking it’s the part of Europe that lies to the east of Germany and west of Russia and Russian controlled territory. 

Here is a brief video overview of why this region is distinct from ‘Western Europe’ and ‘Eastern Europe’ nowadays:

The above video also includes an explanation as to why New Europe is a great option for relocation for 3 to 12 months per year, in particular for single guys who can manage their revenues remotely.

Moreover, here is a brief outline of some of the criteria that distinguish ‘New Europe’ from ‘Western Europe’ and ‘Eastern Europe’ starting in the early 1990s and becoming clearer with the geopolitical turmoil caused by Russia’s extended invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

1. Origin of the Term

In January 2003, the then US secretary of defense, Donald Rumsfeld, misspoke at a press conference and referred to a set of countries backing the US invasion of Iraq as ‘New Europe’ (in contrast to ‘Old Europe’ where in particular France was not willing to endorse US military invention in Iraq).

In fact, Rumsfeld had meant to say ‘Old NATO’ and ‘New NATO’ but his mistake stuck in the zeitgeist of the time and the term became a common way to describe the region even if many of its characteristics had been forming since the late 1980s and continued to evolve up until the present day.

2. Post-Communist Europe

‘New Europe’ is used to refer to part of the countries of Cold War era ‘Eastern Europe’ that transitioned from communism to democracy and market economies after the fall of the Soviet Union in the late 80s/early 90s. This includes countries such as Poland, Hungary, Czechia, Slovakia, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Moldova and others in the region.

3. Cultural and Economic Shifts

More broadly, ‘New Europe’ refers to the changes, both cultural and economic, that have occurred in Central and Eastern Europe since the end of the Cold War. This encompasses shifts in political alliances, economic development, and cultural integration with Western Europe.

4. European Union Membership

2004 saw the ‘Big Bang’ enlargement of the European Union (EU) when many former Eastern Bloc countries joined, e.g. 3 Baltic States, Poland, Slovenia etc. In 2007, both Bulgaria and Romania joined with Croatia acceding in 2013. Joining the European Union anchored these countries in a political bloc with ‘Western Europe’. 

Moreover, the EU currently has many similar neighbors who are officially ‘candidate countries’ for future accession. This means that there is a list of similar countries that are on the path to joining (although this can be a journey that takes more than a decade, e.g. Montenegro) and that process can be stalled by political changes in fulfilling the EU’s accession criteria and its body of law (referred to as the acquis communitaire), e.g., North Macedonia and Serbia. 

Becoming a ‘candidate country’ for EU membership effectively excludes being part of Russia’s sphere of influence (e.g. Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia) and renders Russia and its rival bloc the real ‘Eastern Europe’ in the 2020s if we assume that Russia and those countries in its sphere of influence are geopolitically ‘European’.

5. NATO Protection

In the run up to the ‘Big Bang’ enlargement of the European Union in 2004, several former Eastern Bloc countries also sought the security umbrella of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Of particular interest to these countries was the Article 5 mutual defense clause of the NATO treaty that would oblige the US to come to other countries aid in the event that they were invaded.

Even though NATO had been founded to defend ‘Western Europe’, many former Warsaw Pact states were concerned about potential Russian revanchism in the future. With Russia’s invasion of parts of Georgia in 2008 and the Russo-Ukrainian War beginning in 2014 and intensifying in 2022, these fears of Russian neo-imperialism in the region have turned out to be well founded.

Aspiring to join NATO is another common characteristic of ‘New Europe’ although not a necessary one.

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