EU Membership and the Future of Planning in Eastern Europe
One factor favoring economic and political stabilization has been the incorporation of all of the East European and Baltic nations mentioned in the first paragraph of this section into the European Union (EU) beginning in 2004. This has integrated them into a group of nations with much more prosperous economies and older and more established political and economic institutions. As noted earlier in this section, planning in these newly admitted EU members faced a legitimacy crisis that was rooted in the bad experience these nations had suffered at the hands of the Soviet Union. In the EU there is much concern with egalitarianism and much willingness to restrict the market in the service of the public interest, but unlike the case in the former Soviet Union, there is also a high degree of political and personal freedom as well as a vastly higher standard of living.
An important indicator for the re-establishment of urban planning in Eastern Europe has been the increased attention to urban and regional sustainability issues. The new Central and East European members of the European Union have by now largely harmonized their national environmental legislation with European Union standards. Poland, for example, adopted its pioneering Concept on National Spatial Development in 1999. This document heavily emphasizes the principles of concentrated poly- centricity and restraining development overspill into the metropolitan hinterlands—principles that are closely allied with the prescriptions of the European Spatial Development Perspective. However, depending on the perceived and real costs of adopting strict environmental standards and public support, implementation varies widely across the region.