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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Nonetheless, the Frenchman chided the government of Chancellor Helmut Kohl for failing to make a clear statement on the inviolability of the postwar borders of West Germany. Kohl appears to have waffled on the question for political reasons, that is, in deference to nationalistic elements within his governing coalition and on the far right who still talk about "lost territories" in the East that were part of Hitler's Third Reich in 1937.

What will Europe look like by the year 2000? The panelists agreed that the Continent would be defined less in geographical terms than by "geography of values," principally the common practice of democracy. By that definition, the reformist East European nations -- Poland, Hungary, East Germany and Czechoslovakia -- are already being considered potential members or associates of the European Community. Not so the Soviet Union, which, Moisi maintained, was ineligible for membership so long as some of the people within its empire were deprived of self-determination. For his part, Migranyan recognized that the Soviet Union was too big an entity for inclusion in the E.C. -- "We would break down the walls ((of the common European house))" -- but insisted that for the Soviets the concept of Europe was a symbol of progress and modernity with which Gorbachevian reformers wanted to be associated.

National borders were not going to come down between East and West, the panelists agreed, except in the case of the Germanys. But ideological, cultural and commercial barriers, they felt, would eventually be erased. Said Jeszenszky: "Borders need not change, but the character of borders must change. The barbed wire must come down, the strip searches must be stopped, the examination of the bags -- all that must end."

In the view of the panel, NATO and the Warsaw Pact are no longer in control of the Continent's political agenda. That is now in the hands of the people in the streets, as in East Germany and Czechoslovakia. Nonetheless, the sheer unpredictability of the upheaval in Eastern Europe will make continued membership in both alliances reassuring for some time to come. NATO, still useful as long as the Soviet Union remains the Continent's dominant military power, was expected to survive cutbacks in force levels and thrive in a more political and consultative role.

Grunwald spoke for the group when he noted that "instability in Eastern Europe is a given for the next few years." The new reformist governments may be striving for other versions of West European social democracy, but as Grunwald pointed out, "Social democracy or capitalism with a human face is an achievement of prosperity. Before the luxury of humanizing the system, there will be cruel changes."

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