Jill Washington

13 December 2010

© Witold Krassowski/Panos Pictures

© Witold Krassowski/Panos Pictures

While deep transformations of economic and political institutions have occurred in many regions, they have usually occurred within the framework of pre-existing nation states. Institutions were recast, but borders were not. By contrast, the post-communist transitions of Europe and Central Asia have come with profound geographic and spatial changes. For most countries in this region, everything changed in the early 1990s—including states and state borders.

The subsequent two decades have underscored the continuing importance of the spatial and geographic dimensions of development, and of the region’s new borders. For countries that joined the European Union, EU accession redefined the spatial dimensions of development and statehood. Border posts (with other EU countries) that were constructed upon the acquisition of statehood in the early 1990s were dismantled with these countries’ accession to the EU’s Schengen zone. Large shares of post-accession EU funding take the form of regional development monies (cohesion funding) which reflect a spatial, rather than sectoral, approach to development. Ethnic communities divided by Europe’s new borders have used Euro-regions and other cross-border cooperation modalities to address the challenges created by these borders. Spatial issues likewise remain at the heart of many of the development challenges facing other European and Central Asian countries, be these border management, frozen conflicts, trade integration, or management of trans-boundary ecosystems.

This issue of Development and Transition is therefore devoted to questions of ‘borders’, and the geographic and spatial dimensions of the region’s development challenges. Philip Peirce opens the issue with an overview of the accomplishments, challenges, and lessons learned from the large portfolio of EU border management projects in the former Soviet Union that are implemented by UNDP. Neil Melvin follows with a critical assessment of the state of borders in Central Asia’s Fergana Valley. Talaibek Koichumanov provides an analysis of what the Eurasian Economic Community’s recently introduced customs union could mean for Kyrgyzstan. The challenges of remediating cross-border environmental hot spots in the Western Balkans, and lessons learned from UNDP programming, are described by Snezana Dragojevic. Jens Bastian follows with an analysis of EU-funded cross-border cooperation programmes in the Western Balkans, while Robert Leonardi concludes the issue by exploring the implications of the EU’s cohesion policies for its southern and eastern neighbours.

To watch a video on the EU’s Border Management Programme for Central Asia (BOMCA), please click here.