What a difference five years makes. When the Berlin Wall came crashing down, the prospect of millions of new customers drew German, French, and American interest. Now Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic are proving themselves capable of such high-level quality production that they are exporting goods back to Western Europe.
Therein lies the problem. The Iron Curtain has been replaced by an equally divisive wall of trade barriers between Western and Central Europe. There are 20 antidumping measures imposed by the European Union in place. Central Europeans are shut out of German, Italian, and French agriculture, steel, and textile markets.
With unemployment approaching nearly 11%, Western Europe is tempted to maintain these barriers. This would be a grave mistake. The European Union should embrace Central Europe quickly, using the integration as a tool to pressure member nations to restructure their own uncompetitive economies. Europe shouldn't snuff out the potential of the east, just to delay the pain of inevitable restructuring in the west.