Nature of Borders In Eastern Europe


Borders are used to separate territories, yet whilst the European Union (EU) aims to establish a fully integrated system it is clear that borders exist within it. Accordingly, there appears to be no such thing as a “borderless” world which is largely due to the fact that borders have a number of different meanings and functions. Borders are generally used to define geographic boundaries, yet whilst some borders are open, others are closed and create edges for those within the border against those who are outside of it.

Borders can therefore be changed instantaneously in order to reflect social, political and economic changes, yet whether the “long-established divisions and practices associated with fixed and closed borders” (Herrschel, 2011: 148) can be changed is arguable. In accordance with this, a critical examination of the effects which Europeanisation has had on the actual and/or perceived nature of borders and borderness in Eastern Europe will be discussed. This will enable a determination to be made as to whether the EU is truly integrated or whether greater co-operation is needed between nation states.

Hence, it will be shown that Europeanisation does significantly affect the borderness nature of the Eastern Europe because of the similar structures that are being created throughout the EU. Accordingly, the barriers that once constituted the borders of the EU therefore appear to have been removed, yet it is likely to be some time before the relationship between Poland and Germany will be fully restored since there remains a lack of trust and co-operation between the two communities.

Main Body

Europeanisation is a process of change whereby a non-European subject adopts various European features. This has been defined as “a process involving; construction, diffusion and institutionalisation of formal and informal rules, procedures, policy paradigms and shared beliefs” (Cini, 2007: 407). The European features are initially defined and consolidated within the policy process of the EU and subsequently incorporated into domestic structures.

This effectively creates a borderless world which was identified by Ohmae (1990: 172) when he stated that; “national borders have effectively disappeared and, along with them, the economic logic that made them useful lines of demarcation in the first place.” Despite this, borders are still greatly important in helping to develop regions that are divided by state boundaries and also for analysing modern geography relating to politics and economics (Nelles and Walther, 2011: 6).

They also form part of an ideology and help to demonstrate the limits associated with territorial ownership and control (Herrschel, 2011: 173). Borders are therefore vital in helping to distinguish different identifies, yet since the 1989 Revolutions; borders within the EU have undergone some important transformations. Both the re-bordering and de-bordering of the EU has taken place and whilst this may seem contradictory, greater flexibility now exists which is vital for Europeanisation.

Europeanisation has had both a positive and negative effect upon the Polish-German borderland, however, since Poland and Germany have not developed into a fully integrated region (Kratke, 2007: 1). This has a detrimental impact upon the German side of the border since they have undergone de-industrialisation, whilst the Polish side have improved economically (Nelles and Walther, 2011: 6).

This illustrates the importance of full integration and whilst this was the objectives of Europeanisation, it has become apparent that barriers still exist. Thus, it has been stressed that “delimitation of the borderland area on the basis of the range of influence and economic relations distinguished by specific characteristics could be of basic significance” (Strubelt, 2009: 158). Nevertheless, this is likely to remain a controversial point since it is unclear whether the Polish-German borderland exists as a real entity or a political entity.

Hence, Europeanisation continuous to reduce the separating effect of borders so that a fully integrated free market can be established, yet defensive barriers continue to be increased (Herrschel, 2011: 174). This leads to much confliction and has been described as an “unnatural and dysfunctional unit” (Ohmae, 1995: 42). Whether the borders of Eastern Europe will ever open up is unclear but given that international borders are one type of boundary that are used as barriers as opposed to bridges (Mingus, 2006: 577), it seems likely that some changes will be made if the EU is to become fully integrated.

Nevertheless, because of the fears surrounding the threats to national sovereignty, it is likely that nation states will try to remain borderness for as long as possible. This is because, the current regime that is being employed in Eastern Europe has been deemed workable and because the nation-state model remains intact its networks structures are likely to remain the same.

The success of this, however, may be dependent on the ability of these networks to “solve problems that cross national borders while avoiding the appearance of impinging upon national sovereignty” (Mingus, 2006: 577). Nonetheless, because of the importance of a single market within the EU, it is imperative that all borders are opened up. This is because, substantial advantages are created including the “strengthening of cultural diversity and regionalism and the development of a forward-looking and comprehensive European immigration and asylum policy” (Department of Political Studies, 2010: 1).

Cross-border co-operation may be the solution without actually have to de-border the boundaries of Eastern Europe, however, since it has been recognised that state borders do have many important functions. Thus, borders are now being used in order to resolve many underlying issues that arise within the EU such as immigration, crime and environmental problems and their importance is widely recognised.

Therefore, whilst the creation of a single market is vital, it is also necessary for effective controls to be in place within the EU so that the above problems can be avoided. This requires cross-border co-operation which will potentially allow for “the discovery and furtherance of common interests and the acknowledgement of differences” (O’Dowd, 2010: 32). Whether this is ascertained in a peaceful or aggressive manner will pretty much be dependent upon the “scope, quality and learning capacity of the cross-border co-operation” (O’Dowd, 2010: 32). Arguably, it seems as though the borderness nature of Easter Europe may still be an avenue for change, yet what these changes will be cannot be predetermined since there are problems associated with re-bordering and de-bordering. Yet in order for Europeanisation to be fully integration into a single market, co-operation between the borders is pertinent. Few believe that a fully integrated EU is in fact underway and that post-communist Eastern European countries are in the final stages of acquiring full EU membership (Yoder, 2008: 90). Nevertheless, because of the barriers that still exist with cross-borderness, it is debatable whether this will ever be achieved. Divides within Europe still exist and it is very difficult to determine how these divides can be overcome given the different cultures, languages and belief systems that subsist.

Essentially, co-operation appears to be the only way these problems can be overcome which is why it should be widely encouraged. Hence, “cross-border co-operation helps lessen the disadvantages of the border, overcome the periphery status of the border regions and improve the living standards of people in the area” (Euroregion Neisse, 1996: 26). Provided that Germany and Poland co-operate with each other and embrace the changes created by Europeanisation, the disadvantages that currently persist will be eradicated and an improved nation state will be established. It is unlikely that co-operation between Germany and Poland will be easy, however, since it will be extremely difficult for each country to overcome the legacy in which the war has left. The building of these bridges will thus prove very problematic and the fears and sensitivities between the two countries will need to be dealt with appropriately so that European integration can take place (Yoder, 2008: 99). It has been pointed out, nonetheless, that the promotion of a mutual understanding and common goals will help to erode any fears and sensitivities that have been created (Yoder, 2008: 99). And, since this is one of the main problems which stands in the way of integration, it is likely that the borders between Germany and Poland will be removed once these difficulties have been dealt with. Although the 1991 Partnership Treaty attempted to eradicate internal bordering and build normal relationships within the EU, the “re-building of trust and co-operation between the two communities” (Herrschel, 2011: 150) will take time. Consequently, it is evident from these findings that cross-border boundaries are the main stumbling blocks which stand in the way of a fully integrated EU and unless changes are made to the borders of Eastern Europe, the creation of a single market will continue to be stifled. This is quite absurd given the advantages of integration, yet it is believed by some that boundaries are “fading away in the post-modern, globalizing world” (Passi, 2010 678). Despite this, territoriality still occurs within modernised states and it remains to be seen whether this will ever be any different. This is because, boundaries exist as symbols of sovereignty which is something that nation states do not want taken away from them and if the removal of boundaries results in this, a lack of co-operation will be likely to ensue. Members of the EU are still reliant upon EU rules and principles, regardless as to whether their borders are open or closed. As such, similar structures are still being established within the EU and because of this, it could be said that the borders are in fact futile. Hence, Europeanisation affects all countries within the EU, including those within Eastern Europe. As a result of the influence the EU has on national legal systems, the features of the European Union are being incorporated into domestic structures. This ultimately creates an integrated union and given the advancement of globalisation, it seems as though borders within the EU are becoming something of the past.

Evidently, the closed borders therefore seem applicable only to eradicate the problems of immigration, crime and environmental problems and as pointed out by Johnson (2009: 177); “Europe provides an excellent laboratory for exploring how border regions offer new spaces for governance, cultural interaction and economic development.” Thus, whilst there has been much critique surrounding the national boundaries of Eastern European countries, it seems as though the flexibilities that are existent within the EU help to advance the economy and highlight the importance of different identifies. Arguably, it seems as though the boundaries that currently exist ought to be left alone since it would be difficult to establish how successful the removal of these would in fact be. In light of this it has been said that “even if the assumption that such spaces really are functioning, integrated economic entities is largely illusory and rooted in nothing more than policy-maker aspiration” (Deas and Lord, 2006: 1865). This suggests that the complete integration of nation states may not actually work well and that the main reason as to why integration is being promoted is because of the aspirations of policy makers. Whether this is a sufficient enough reason to open the borders of Poland and Germany is debatable but given that similar structures are already being implemented it may be considered rather pointless.


Overall, Europeanisation does have a significant impact upon the borderness nature of Eastern Europe. This is because, European features are being integrated into both Poland and Germany making the perceived borderness somewhat ineffective. This is because; similar structures are being created which had removed the barriers that once constituted the borders of Eastern Europe. Nevertheless, not all agree that the borders have been removed and instead argue that Poland and Germany have not developed into a fully integrated region. As a result, many suggestions for the removal of these borders have been made so that a fully integrated system can be developed. Whilst complete integration does have many advantages, however, it has been questioned whether the Polish-German borderland exists as a real entity or a political entity. This is because; it appears as though an integrated economy is merely a policy-maker aspiration since the current process appears to be workable. Therefore, whilst the creation of a single market is an important part of EU policy, it seems as though the same rules and principles are already being adopted by Poland and Germany which illustrates that the borders are fading anyway. However, because of the complicated nature of the Polish-German borderland it seems as though the borderness nature of Easter Europe may still be an avenue for change. However, it is extremely difficult to determine what these changes shall be since there are problems associated with both re-bordering and de-bordering.


Cini, M. (2007) European Union Politics, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2nd Edition.

Deas, I. and Lord, A. (2006) From a New Regionalism to an Unusual RegionalismThe Emergence of Non-Standard Regional Spaces and Lessons for the Territorial Reorganisation of the State, Urban Studies, Volume 43.

Department of Political Studies. (2010) About the Conference, Borderless Europe, [Online] Available: [13 December 2012].

Herrschel, T. (2011) Borders in Post-Socialist Europe: Territory Scale Society, Ashgate Publishing Ltd.

Johnson, C. M. (2009) Cross-Border Regions and Territorial Restructuring in Central Europe, Room for More Transboundary Space, European Urban and Regional Studies, Volume 16.

Kratke, S. (2007) Metropolisation of the European Economic Territory as a Consequence of Incerasing Specialisation of Urban Agglomerations in the Knowledge Economy, European Planning Studies, Volume 15, Issue 1.

Mingus, M. S. (2006) Transnationalism and Subnational Paradiplomacy: Are Governance Networks Perforating SovereigntyInternational Journal of Public Administration, Volume 29, Issue 8.

Nelles, J. and Walther, O. (2011) Changing European Borders: From Separation to InterfaceAn Introduction, Journal of Urban Research, [Online] Available: [13 December 2012].

O’Dowd, L. (2010) The Changing Significance of European Borders, Regional and Federal Studies, Volume 12, Issue 4.

Ohmae, K. (1990) The Borderless World: Power and Strategies in the Interlinked Economy. London: Harper Collins.

Ohmae, K. (1995) The End of the Region State: The Rise of Regional Economies. London: Harper Collins.

Paasi, A. (2010) Boundaries as Social Practice and Discourse: The Finnish-Russian Border, Regional Studies, Volume 33, Issue 7.

Strubelt, W. (2009) German Annual of Spatial Research and Policy 2008, Springer.

Yoder, J. A. (2008) Bridging the European Union and Eastern Europe: Cross-Border Cooperation and the Euroregions, Regional & Federal Studies, Volume 13, Issue 3.

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