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It would be prudent to state that the Soviet Union collapse was highly unexpected. Perhaps, more unexpected were the severe impediments in the transition to justice and the length of impunity culture after the change of regime. Nearly three decades later, post-Soviet nations are still grappling with the issues of morality, truth seeking, and archival access among others. On the other hand, massive conflicts have resulted in a crisis in Eastern Europe, a fact that puts the future of both Eastern and Western Europe at the risk of facing the most severe danger to peaceful existence if not effectively addressed (Nalepa 57).
This paper looks into the justice and peace issues in Eastern Europe, seeking to prove the hypothesis The social situations in Eastern Europe are fueled by the larger European community.
Significance of the Issues
Since the collapse of communism and eventual Yugoslavia breakup in the late 20th century, countries in the eastern part of Europe faced numerous obstacles in establishing fully functional justice systems. Judicial systems are charged with the responsibility of supporting the rule of law as well as a country’s democratic governance system (Vachudova 522-25). Corruption and organized crime constitute the most noteworthy obstacles threatening the fledging fragile democracies throughout the central and eastern parts of Europe. At the onset of the 1990s, the various partner states in Central and Eastern Europe began receiving assistance from OPDAT (Office of Overseas Prosecutorial Development Assistance and Training) (Justice.gov). The assistance aims to help modernize institutions of criminal justice while strengthening the rule of law. The organization utilizes funds sourced from the United States Department of State (Nalepa 76).
Combating corruption is the common denominator for all the programs of judicial assistance. However, every bilateral program is individually tailored to the particular needs of the host country. In this case, each program tends to focus on the rule of law and criminal justice problems while employing diverse means aimed at addressing these issues (Pop-Eleches 400). For instance, OPDAT assisted Serbia, Albania, Macedonia and Kosovo in the development and implementation of Criminal Procedure Codes (CPCs). Basically, CPCs constitute the basic legislative instrument that defines the manner of investigating, prosecuting and adjudicating crimes. Throughout the region, Criminal Procedure Codes have had the challenge of burden and antiquation, a factor that has given rise to inefficiencies in the judicial system. With new/ revised codes constituting more efficient modern procedures being adopted, there is the promise of added transparency, clarity of judicial roles as well as far-reaching streamlining of the processes of justice (Justice.gov).
The past three decades have seen the post-Soviet space gradually turn into a region of intense contradictions, internal as well as external. Throughout the postwar era, Central and Western Europe grew by building stronger connections between neighboring nations and bridging any existing differences between them. Eastern Europe, on the other hand, has gradually evolved into a region with high conflict potential. Integration mechanisms developed by pre-Soviet nations throughout the late 20th and early 21st century proved ineffective in addressing security and trade concerns of the region. Prior to the Crimea annexation and Donbas war, Eastern Europe was already extremely flammable, a fact that was evidenced by recurring trade and gas wars beween Ukraine and Russia (Pop-Eleches 403-6). Other conflicts included trade wars between Russia and Belarus as well as the Russia-Georgia 2008 military conflict (Subotić 414).
Eastern European nations experienced poor communication with the neighbors, alongside the continued presence of states that were unrecognized in the region. In the 1990s and 2000s, trade and cultural connections existing in the Soviet era faded, and new connections were not formed thereafter. The more recent Georgian, Russian and Ukrainian generations were brought up with visions of hostility for one another, whereby personal experience and direct knowledge of the neighbors declined with time. The greater Russian, Ukrainian and Belorussian populace seldom left the confines of their home countries in a move that would make them experience personal contact with neighbors (Vachudova 526-27). The elite class and marginal groups, including labor migrants, were the only people with the experience of having traveled to the neighboring states (Central and South Eastern Europe 2004 593).
Internal factors too contributed to the Eastern Europe conflict situation. For starters, the countries created institutionalized oligarchies, which erased boundaries existing between public and private spheres. In the same breath, the oligarchies destroyed walls existing between the executive, the judiciary and legislative bodies. In addition, the countries experienced dictatorial rule, with political power being overly centralized in the capital cities (Pop-Eleches 394).
The political system of Ukraine happens to be one of the most fragile of the former Soviet nations. Unlike the rest, Ukraine experienced two cycles of revolution between the periods 1991-2004 and 2005-2014. Both of these began with the promise of liberation, later developing into regimes of oligarchy where private groups took over public institutions in a bid to accumulate and shield their privately owned assets. The cycles also gave rise to an attempted coup aimed at establishing a dictatorial regime, both causing mass protest movements that reintroduced freedoms on Ukraine’s political agenda (Vachudova, 526-28).
Ukraine would always be on the brink of a split whenever such mass movements caused political disruptions. The 2004-2005 uprising saw the president-elect and his prime minister seek for an agreement with the Eastern region’s elites to nip emerging separatist movements early. In 2014, the then president, Victor Yanukovich, had to flee the country although there were not any responsible players that came up on either side of the divide (Subotić 416-17).
Social Situation Supporting the Status Quo
The Kremlin, referring to the government of the Russian Federation, took advantage of the fragile interim government that was in power in Feb-March 2014. In this regard, they aided the Crimea separatist movements as well as the eight administrative units of Eastern and Southern Ukraine. Russia made use of its clandestine and armed forces in the Crimea invasion, later providing the Donbas separatist movements with military hardware and human resources (Vachudova 524).
Eastern Europe has proved to provide fertile ground for the neo-imperialist project of Russia. In addition to this, the competition and cooperation between the United States, the Russian Federation, and the European Union greatly contributed to the Eastern Europe conflicts. The Kremlin is also known to have been nursing ties with anti-EU forces amongst the radical groups in member states. “Conservative Europe”, an initiative by Putin, which was brought to public light in 2013, was aimed at developiing a network of populist parties hailed from the UK, Hungary, France and Italy in a bid to limit possible European response to Eastern Europe conflicts (Pop-Eleches 395-99). Another network includes groups drawn from Spain, Austria, Greece and Germany. Like the former, their objectives are primarily aimed at posing obstacles for the EU involvement in Eastern Europe’s affairs. Others include the creation of influence groups in the majority of the EU member states and the division of Western political elites as a response mechanism to Russia’s aggressive Eastern Europe politics (Subotić 412-415).
Resources for Change
In the long run, change is inevitable since the world is changing, and the international community has set up benchmarks according to which individual countries must treat their citizens as a measure of human rights. In regards to combating crime and corruption, one of the most efficient tools identified has been the forfeiture of illegitimately acquired assets. Actively, OPDAT has assisted in reinforcing regimes of forfeiting assets throughout the entire region.
Another tool of bringing change to justice systems involves the extensive engagement in capacity building activities for personnel in the judicial sectors. These activities primarily involve the development and delivery of training to the individuals on a wide variety of subjects relating to their field of expertise and practice. The bilateral programs could regularly develop on-going partnerships with offices of the attorney generals, whereby prosecutors and/ or diverse law enforcement experts travel to the countries for capacity building and mentorship. For instance, officials of the Kosovo judicial sector regularly visit North Carolina under partnership programs while those from North Carolina also visit Kosovo. This partnership has come in handy for Kosovo that has adopted plea bargaining as a regular practice. It has helped in clearing overloaded dockets while providing prosecutors with a tool that incentivizes collaboration, especially from those with the knowledge on illicit criminal activity (Demekas 123- 156).
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In regards to peace, it is advisable to continue with policies aimed at limiting Kremlin’s ability to fuel the Donbas war. Exerting pressure aimed at ceasing hostilities and addressing humanitarian crises in the war zones could be treated as a means of ending the situation. In addition, it is crucial that the Donbas fighting is brought to an end for the future of Eastern Europe (Lavinia 213). The EU should be able to provide support both financial and diplomatic practicably. It will aid in the promotion of socio-cultural inclusivity and democracy in the region. For governments in Ukraine, the United States, The EU and eastern EU member states, citizens of Eastern unrecognized states must be provided with opportunities for access beyond their boundaries. Isolation and exclusion of citizens tend to provide Eastern Europe dictatorial regimes with support and legitimacy. The governments must dedicate efforts to conflict resolution and prevention as an approach to ending the fighting and preventing fresh outbreaks (Vachudova 527-29).
From the information provided, the influence of the European community and Russia in particular, cannot be overestimated regarding the issues that are currently facing Eastern Europe. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia failed to let go of the individual countries and continues to exert pressure on the neighboring states as explained. For this reason, it has been proven that peace and justice issues are fueled by the larger European community.