Gilles Lepesant

The Central European model of development has until recently rested on a low interest rates, significant increases in consumption, heavy dependence on capital inflows, open markets especially towards Western Europe, and for some specialization in cyclical industries (automobiles). The crisis has highlighted on the one hand the growing divergence between the countries of Central Europe and on the other their high level of interdependence which has necessitated cooperation in their relations with the EU. While Western Europe is unlikely to experience a repeat of the 1930s, it is possible that recovery will prove illusory as it did between the two world wars. Witness the case of the automobile sector which became a major contributor to GDP and source of in Central Europe but whose future prospects are uncertain. Regional policies of which new member states are the beneficiaries should, in theory, encourage innovation, pro-employment policies, and sustainable development as means to ensuring recovery

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A rather marginal theme in Eastern European studies before the end of communism, ethnic politics and minority policies in Central and South-East Europe have given birth to a very rich body of literature in the 1990s. Some analyses have been influenced by the so-called “transitology” paradigm; others have borrowed from ethnic conflict studies. In both cases, though, ethnocultural diversity has mostly been treated in a normative way and portrayed as an obstacle to democratization. As for ethnic parties, they have alternatively been presented as conducive to better political participation and integration for the minorities (in a multiculturalist perspective) or as a threat to state stability and to democracy. Regardless of these cleavages, most research on ethnic identifications and on their mobilization in politics has been grounded upon substantial definitions of ethnic “groups” and has reified differences between “generalist” and “ethnic” parties. The present comparison between the trajectory of the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MFR, which represents the interests of the Turks and other Muslims in Bulgaria) and that of the Democratic Alliance of Hungarians in Romania (DAHR, representing the Hungarian population) departs from these approaches in two ways. First, it emphasizes the centrality of the sociology of collective action to understanding the politicization of ethnicity, while insisting on the need to trace the particular historical processes through which ethnicity has been constructed and politicized in every single case. Second, attention is brought to the role the social imaginary plays in shaping the strategies of social and political actors. To put it otherwise, we argue that identities are not exogenous to politicization processes; they are redefined, renegotiated and reappropriated as social actors invest the political field. “Ethnic parties” are in urgent need of deexoticization: Like most parties, they cannot elude the traditional dilemmas of political representation, in particular the need to be perceived as both responsive and accountable.