The Human Geography of East Central Europe examines the geography of the transition economies that were not formerly part of the Soviet Union: Albania, Bosnia & Hercegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, The Czech Republic, Hungary, Macedonia, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Yugoslavia and East Germany. There is a thematic treatment beginning with the landscape and historical background, which moves on to the social and economic geography (industry, agriculture and infrastructure) and to issues concerning regional development and environmental protection. The book is all about the transitions that have followed the collapse of the communist system. In political terms this means the development of civil society, based on pluralism, and the changed territorial basis with the collapse of the federations of Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia. The social geography covers demography and ethnic relations against a background of stress arising from high unemployment and low incomes. Industrial restructuring depends heavily on foreign direct investment, while agricultural modernization is constrained by the social importance attached to small family farms. The overhaul of the infrastructur is replacing links with the Former Soviet Union by Europe-wide transport and energy systems; reflecting the changing trade relationships and strong desire for EU membership among the candidate countries. Regional variations reflect the discrimination of investors and here the poverty problems of the Southeast European countries is potentially destabilising, despite the generally modest environmental problems and the climatic advantages which boost the potentials for agriculture and tourism. The book highlights the problems of transition which have been most evident through the ethnic tensions of the Balkans. However, the change in government in Yugoslavia points to a consensus in favour of a single Europe and is a step away from the 'third way' syndrome: an existence separate from both Soviet-style communism and a capitalism rooted in the EU. Ethnic tolerance is widely seen as the only way forward and a spate of measures to help the states of southeastern Europe gives some ground for optimism that the gap can be reduced. The stark question of democracy versus neofascism has to an extent been resolved, but politics will remain volatile as long as there are large numbers of poor people with no optimism over their future prospects.
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