Letter: African lessons for Eastern Europeans

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The Independent Online
Sir: Dr John Howell is a distinguished expert on Eastern Europe, but his letter (17 August) analysing the problems of the region is flawed. He condemns the recognition of nationalistic-based states, compares the future with post-colonial Africa and calls again for a Marshall Plan for Eastern Europe.

Vaclav Havel, when asked about his views of German unification, stated that the size of his neighbours was not the issue, only that they be free, democratic and peaceful. It is the Havel Doctrine that should be applied to the recognition of new states.

The only lesson Eastern Europe needs to learn from post-colonial Africa is that the intolerant enforcement of artificial national boundaries has been the prime cause of wars, poverty and tyranny in that unhappy continent.

The post-war Marshall Plan in Western Europe was to correct the total absence of private-sector investment capital. The lack of investment in Eastern Europe to date is not due to shortage of funds but uncertainties, including property rights and a workable legal framework. This can only be corrected by the recipient countries.

The most useful initiative needed is the immediate removal of barriers to trade in Eastern goods and services. The EC ban on Polish-made garden spades, on the grounds of steel dumping, is one of many farcical examples. The difficulties of small private- sector contractors bidding for work in the West, where their skills and cost advantage is highly prized, is another.

Most reformist Central Europeans will say that, after Communism, the last thing they need is grandiose plans and more state interference.

Yours faithfully,

NEIL SNOWDEN

Chislehurst, Kent

18 August

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