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From the transition to market economy to the transition to sustainability in Central Europe – a civic scientist’s perspective

Domenii publicaţii > Economie + Tipuri publicaţii > Articol în volumul unei conferinţe

Autori: Ioan M. Ciumasu

Editorial: Transformation, Innovation and Adaptation for Sustainability - Integrating Natural and Social Sciences. The 8th International Conference of the European Society for Ecological Economics, 29.06 - 02.07, 2009.


I present an analysis upon the potential of Central Europe, as a region, to be an engine in the future transition to sustainability. The analysis is based on the observation that two transitions overlap in the region: towards market economy (not yet finished, because it still needs consolidation and a long way to go before it can reach the richness level of western Europe) and towards sustainability. This overlap can be a fertile ground and a trigger of wide scale sustainability.

Currently, the general development need of the countries in Central Europe (the former socialist countries now members of the European Union) is twofold. On the one hand, the success of the transition to market economy (and socio-economic development) is conditioned by democratic societal consolidation and ability to attract investments from developed democracies. On the other hand, the success of the transition to sustainable development is conditioned by a switch of the bulk of economic investments from unsustainable to sustainable technologies and practices. While public debates on sustainability in the developed Western Europe are dominated by nature protection issues, in the developing Central Europe, any debate on sustainability start from economic development per se. Here, approaches based exclusively on nature protection rationales are likely to remain marginal (Barbier et al, 2005). Because achieving sustainability is only possible through public choice (Daneke, 2001), the true potential for sustainable development comes from the fact that ‘sustainability’ is able to create widespread prosperity (Feiler et al, 2004).

Analysis and Discussion
I defend the idea that this twofold transition puts Central Europe in the position of potential engine of the European and Global transition to sustainability.
A new industrial revolution is needed to achieve global sustainability, but this is more likely to happen in developing world than in the developed west (Fischer-Kowalski & Weisz, 2008). In principle, this is so because it is much easier to build new systems and mechanisms from scratch than to replace existing ones. However, developing countries tend to face serious medium- and long-term difficulties, like the vicious circle of poverty and consumption of critical natural capital, as well as inexperience. But unlike the rest of the developing world, Central Europe benefits from the unique advantages of European Union membership – direct financial, societal and logistic support. Central Europe is also an important region of the World in terms of population, surface and strategic location between the developped west and the developing markets. In addition, despite each country’s peculiarities, the common European background and the common recent history and common current difficulties in the Central Europe’s countries allow region-wide applicability of social and tehnological innovations and support policies. All these may insure the critical mass and trigger an initial snowball dynamics which may evolve into a European and Global industrial revolution for sustainability. The condition however is that science achieves a status of civic science, that is usable in the public-science dialogue. I use national and regional data to reflect on current development dynamics and tendencies.

Concluding remarks
Many observers point out that people in Central Europe are very diligent in doing exactly what people in the developed west already did (sustainability being still an obscure goal for most of them), with the precise purpose of achieving the same living standards. This paper argues that those living standards may also be achieved by using the development opportunity offered by the common European and Global aim of sustainability. A series of policy options are being discussed. Most importantly, countries in the region must (1) develop motivations for potential investors in sustainable development, and (2) develop and apply good formal and non-formal programs of education for sustainability at all ages and all professional categories.

Barbier, E.B., 2005. Natural resources and economic development. Cambridge University Press. Cambridge,
Daneke, G.A., 2001. Sustainable development as systemic choices. Policy Studies Journal 29(3): 514.
Feiler, K. (Ed), 2004. Sustainability creates new prosperity. Peter Lang GmbH, Vienna, Austria.
Fischer-Kowalski, M., Weisz, H., 2008. Transition to a global Sustainable Metabolism: Possible and Impossible Futures. ISEE 2008: Applying Ecological Economics for Social and Environmental Sustainability, 7-11 August 2008, Nairobi,

Cuvinte cheie: Sustainability, Central Europe