Whichever model of political transition any country may choose to adopt, it must be given enough time and space to be improved and consolidated, otherwise any change taking place will become irrelevant, Dr Vesna Pusić, First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign and European Affairs of the Republic of Croatia, told Lingnan staff and students at her seminar on 8 November.
In retrospect of the collapse of one-party regimes in Eastern Europe since 1989, Dr Pusić opined that political transitions in the region over the past two decades can be categorised into two models: the Northern Model and the Southern Model. The Northern Model saw a gradual, bloodless transition of power from the dictatorships to alternative political elites through negotiation. Poland, Czech Republic and Hungary all adopted this model, although with variations corresponding to their unique conditions.
The Southern Model, however, was characterised by violence, war and riots, such as the dissolution of the former Yugoslavia, which, according to Dr Pusić, was not caused by nationalism as it is widely believed. “No one expected any violence until the last moment,” said Dr Pusić. “Nationalism was not the cause of the breakup, but power struggles. The institutions had failed to hold the country together; and there was no alternative political elite ready to take over.” Hence Yugoslavia fell apart and was divided into several new states, including Croatia, which declared independence in 1991.
Dr Pusić stressed that the model of political transition of any given country is not a matter of choice, but subject to its circumstances. Consolidation is also crucial to the success of any transition. “The second part of transition is consolidation, otherwise it makes no sense. If there is no time and space to improve the newly established institutions, it is almost irrelevant to discuss what change the country is going through,” she said.