Project Description

PanEur1970s is a five-year project (2015-2020) – based at the European University Institute (EUI) – to investigate the European Socialist regimes’ expectations and predicaments vis-à-vis the opening of a space of pan-European cooperation in the long 1970s. Against the background of East-West détente and incipient globalization, the Socialist élites had to work out complex ideological, economic, and political issues originating from their attempts at integrating in the world economy, deepening their rapprochement with Western Europe and dealing with the commercial giant next door, the European Community. PanEur1970s has received funding from the European Research Council (ERC) through an Advanced Research Grant, under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (Grant Agreement n. 669194).

The project provides a historical appraisal of the late Socialist élites’ views of their countries’ place and prospects in an emerging space of trans-European connections that presented them with new patterns of exchange and potential regional integration while challenging existing configurations of stability, political control and ideological self-legitimization. PanEur1970s is particularly interested in exploring how the elites of the European socialist regimes conceived and rationalised their increasing economic exchanges with, and deepening financial dependence from, Western Europe. How did they envisage their place and role in a potentially pan-European co-operative framework? How did they plan to reconcile transformation with stability, and control the consequences of a less protected and self-enclosed environment? Were they simply driven by short-term economic goals and constraints or did they also imagine a long-term mutual opening and convergence? What views of Western Europe, and specifically of the European Economic Community (EEC), did they elaborate as co-operation intensified? Above all, how did they envision the interaction between adjacent and overlapping spaces shaped by contrasting logics: the socialist bloc and West European integration, ideological rivalry and a new rhetoric of collaboration, important bilateral relations and emerging multilateral frameworks?

The project considers East Germany, Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Romania, Bulgaria (members of the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance – CMEA or Comecon) and Yugoslavia. Soviet views and policies also feature in the analysis as key factors affecting national debates.

The project intertwines international and economic history approaches to provide a dynamic portrait of the Socialist élites’ paradigms, goals, and constraints in envisioning interdependence with Western Europe and cooperation with the EC. In order to map the debate within each European socialist country, our focus is not only on the ruling party, but also on state apparatus, central and investment banks, foreign trade organisations, and academia. Our research thus relies on a variety of primary sources originated by these actors.

PanEur1970s aims at linking the usually separate scholarships on Eastern and Western Europe and broadening the scope of integration historiography beyond the EC experience, bringing the outsiders’ perspective in. It sheds new light on the social, cultural and economic fabric of détente, as well as on the long-term paths of European integration and the antecedents to EU enlargement to Eastern Europe.