Citizenship in an enlarging Europe : from dream to awakening by Barbara Einhorn; Palgrave Connect (Online service)

By Barbara Einhorn; Palgrave Connect (Online service)

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In the context of the transformation process in Central and Eastern Europe, an apt comment was made by Ferenc Miszlivetz, a Hungarian academic and former dissident activist: ‘We dreamed of civil society. What we got was NGOs’ (Miszlivetz, 1997). It could be argued that in order to overcome the donor dependency and potential loss of political edge faced by NGOs in the region, and thus to avoid the civil society ‘trap’, the imbalance between the market and the state needs to be overcome. While regional resistance to statist solutions is perfectly understandable given the recent history of all-controlling state socialist regimes, Western and Southern critics of the Washington Consensus see the neo-liberal paradigm as having seriously under-estimated the necessary and constructive place of government regulation in economic development, not to mention its role in the quest for social justice.

This danger was borne out in some aspects of the German unification process. Another example is the case of abortion in Poland. During the accession process Polish feminism was seen ‘as a hostage to EU negotiations’, in a process whereby Polish women were required ‘to remain silent on the question of reproductive choice so that Poland may join the EU unhampered by the Catholic Church’ (Graff, 2002: 16, 26). Conclusion It is clear that the implementation of gender mainstreaming policies and the effectiveness of national women’s machineries depends in large part on the existence of ‘strong democratic movements holding these bodies accountable’ (Rai 2003: 19), in other words ‘the dynamic involvement of political, social and civil actors with high visibility’ (Stratigaki, 2005: 172; see also Einhorn, 2000a; Hoskyns, 1996; Jezerska, 2003).

The discursive accompaniment to transformation has highlighted gains in civil and political rights, while the process itself has been, in material terms, almost entirely focused on economic restructuring: marketization, interpreted as privatization. Thus, while EU accession Strategies for Gender Equity 23 embodied hopes because of the European Union’s formal commitment to gender equality through gender mainstreaming, it has in practice meant a process of economic alignment and integration. In this process, concerns not only for gender equality, but also for citizenship and social justice are marginalized.

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