The integration and fragmentation of Europe and its implications

Throughout history, the shape of Europe has been changing. For as long as there have been borders that separate the different countries, there have been people who have been trying to change these borders for one reason or another.

Since the end of World War II however, Europe has experienced two contradictory processes, that of integration and fragmentation. Integration is the act of combining or to form as a whole whereas fragmentation is the opposite, to break into fragments.After the defeat of Germany in World War II it was decided that the USSR should control the East of Germany whilst the Western allies (UK, USA, France etc), should control the West of Germany. It was also decided that, as the capital of Germany, Berlin, was in the East of the country and so fell in the USSR’s territory, then it too would be split into East and West and be controlled by the two sides independently.

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This was the first fragmentation of a country after World War II and it would prove to be the most influential fragmentation of a country in the 20th century.Although the two sides had agreed to control their respective sides of Germany and the capital Berlin, tension and unrest between the two sides was rampant. This led to the USSR refusing to allow supplies to be carried through their territory to West Berlin by the Western allies. The only way to get supplies to West Berlin was to airlift the supplies in, and so this is what the Western allies did, in huge quantities.

When the USSR realised that there was no way they could stop the West from airlifting supplies into West Berlin they agreed to open up a ‘corridor’ to Berlin from West Germany through East Germany, which would allow the Western allies to bring supplies in by road. The culmination of these events led to the building of the Berlin wall in 1961 by the USSR. This wall separated West Berlin from the East and began the cold war between the USSR and the Western Allies and in particular the USA. Berlin remained divided until the fall of the Berlin wall in 1989.

The integration of East Germany began almost immediately as trade between the two sides was opened up again and people were allowed to move freely between the two sides. Not everything was well though, as during the time when the two sides had been separated the West had grown considerably richer than the East, who had been controlled by a communist regime. It was feared that when the two sides were integrated, the East would pull the West into a depression as Western money was invested in the East to provide the same living standards as were enjoyed in the West.For a short period of time the depression did occur, and there were many problems that needed to be addressed in order for the newly integrated Germany to become as prosperous as the old West Germany had been.

All of the infrastructure in East Germany would need to be replaced or improved mainly at the expense of the old West Germany. The financing for this came in the form of a special ‘reunification tax’ which was levied on those living in the West. What happened, and is still happening in Germany, echoes what is happening all over Eastern Europe at the moment.With the fall of the Berlin wall and the collapse of the USSR, many East European countries are moving away from communism and towards the Western values of democracy and free trade.

Many of the former Soviet states that are now seen as independent countries, are very eager to join the EU in order to strengthen their own economies and to encourage Western investment. As the integration of Germany began at the beginning of the nineties, so too did the fragmentation of Yugoslavia.The former country of Yugoslavia was a federation consisting of six republics-Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina (often referred to as just Bosnia), Serbia, Montenegro, and Macedonia. Josip Broz Tito headed the country’s Communist government from 1945 until his death in 1980.

After Tito died, a rotating presidency took effect, with a representative from each of the major ethnic groups taking turns as head of government. However, the leaders of several republics-especially Slovenia and Croatia-began pushing for greater decentralization and autonomy.Conversely, the republic of Serbia, under the leadership of Slobodan Miloi??evic, campaigned for greater centralization and direct control by the Serb-dominated federal government. In 1990 all six of the Yugoslav republics held elections and all but Serbia and Montenegro voted for newly formed nationalist parties who were for independence from the Yugoslav republic.

The wars in Yugoslavia began in the summer of 1991 after Slovenia and Croatia declared their independence.In July 1991, the Yugoslav Peoples Army, which was made up of mainly Serbian men, moved into Slovenia with the intention of removing the government and disarming the Slovenian army. The Slovenian troops however, repelled the Yugoslav forces and in October Slovenia gained international recognition as an independent state. Where Slovenia had to resort to combat to secede from Yugoslavia, Macedonia was able to avoid an armed conflict and is now known as the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

Croatia and Bosnia soon followed suit and declared independence from Yugoslavia although both had to fight bloody wars in order to achieve this.This left only Montenegro and Serbia who form what is now known as the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia but even this appears to be short lived as it is expected that Montenegro will soon declare it’s independence from what was formerly Yugoslavia. The wars in Slovenia, Bosnia and Croatia had a devastating affect on their ability to establish themselves as independent countries. Large parts of the infrastructure in each of the countries were damaged and there was still ethnic hatred within the countries.

In fact Bosnia was largely a single state made up of two areas occupied by a Muslim-Croat and Serbian population. The new countries relied on international aid to survive in the short run and also many NATO troops were sent in to try and keep the peace and allow the rebuilding of the countries to begin. If as expected the newly formed countries will wish to join the EU then it is going to take a massive international investment to bring them up to the economical requirements and this may well take quite a long time.Both fragmentation and integration of countries requires a huge amount of investment from foreign countries in order to help make the newly formed countries successful.

The integration of 12 European countries to form the EU was a successful step towards increasing the economies of all the member states and showed that although countries were sharing the wealth, it was mutually beneficial to do so. Most integration that occurs between countries happens because it is beneficial for both parties to do so.These integrations usually increase trade, and strengthen ties between the parties involved and so are seen as a positive move towards a united Europe. A further step towards a single European state was realised earlier this year with the introduction of the Euro, the single European currency adopted by some countries in the EU.

This is seen to of great benefit for trade relations as it does away with the need for currency conversions and so the fluctuations that constantly affected trade beforehand would not affect the countries, which adopted the Euro as their currency.

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The integration and fragmentation of Europe and its implications. (2017, Nov 09). Retrieved from