What The Future Holds

A panel of TIME experts foresees East European instability -- and inevitable German unity in a reshaped Continent

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Moisi countered by arguing that for the West, a measure of democracy in the Soviet Union was "a guarantee against the return of Soviet imperialism." He told Migranyan, "You are calling on the West to help you, but there will be linkage between the amount of help you will receive and the image you transmit of yourselves." Moisi's message: Democracy pays, even if it poses problems for Eastern Europe's reformers. Conceded Migranyan: "This is the key problem for Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union."

Compared with his Soviet colleague, Geza Jeszenszky, spokesman for Hungary's Democratic Forum and dean of the School of Social and Political Science at the Karl Marx University of Economics in Budapest, was optimistic. Said he: "In Central Europe we have a better chance for controlled change."

Admitting that it was relatively easy to change the constitution and restore democracy in a small country like Hungary, Jeszenszky said the economic challenge faced by East European nations was formidable but not impossible. "Miracles cannot be expected," he warned, with specific reference to Poland. Nonetheless, he urged the creation of "small islands of prosperity" in the reforming economies of Eastern Europe that would be attractive examples and inspire imitation. "A few years ago, people in Hungary were pessimistic," he said. "They thought reforms brought only inflation and trouble. But now, and in East Germany and Czechoslovakia as well, the fear is gone and the people welcome change."

Eastern Europe, Jeszenszky suggested, had already found a political form that made dramatic economic restructuring possible: the "grand national coalition," modeled on the government in Warsaw. "Poland's Solidarity movement set the pattern," he said, comparing loose non-Communist political groupings in Hungary, East Germany and Czechoslovakia to national coalitions formed in Western Europe after World War II. "We are emerging from 40 years of war against the people. Changes have to be made -- economic, political and moral ones. These new governments soon will have to make unpopular decisions, so it's best to have governments credible to all parties."

On the volatile issue of German reunification, West Germany's Heinrich Vogel, director of the Cologne-based Federal Institute for East European and International Studies, suggested that West German politicians and the press were exploiting the subject partly because it was bound to be a major issue in West Germany's parliamentary elections next year. Who knew what East Germans really thought about reunification, Vogel asked. "There has been no vote. There are no reliable polls. Let us try to be less hysterical about this subject, less dramatic." Vogel complained of an atmosphere of "suspicion, growing, creeping, seeping in and destroying the climate of well-established trust we had" between West Germany and its allies.

Vogel was skeptical that a majority of East and West Germans would insist on reunification when the realities sank in: East Germans might reject the bitter side of capitalism, competition and unemployment. West Germans, already fearful of an immigrant invasion from the East, might well shrink from the cost and inconvenience of accommodating their poorer brethren.

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