|Constructing a ‘European’ Transition: From the Central and Eastern European Exile Memory to the Eastward Enlargement of the EU|
|The legitimating discourse that lies behind EU’s Eastward enlargement project is precisely the “Return to Europe” narrative, which was developed by the Central and Eastern European intellectuals who were exiled in London or Paris and were members of the “European Movement”. They constituted a political and cultural elite and represented their respective countries as part of the “Central and Eastern European Section” of the “European Movement”. Since the early 1950s, they were developing, within the “European Movement”, very concrete plans to eventually leave the Soviet sphere and be linked to Western Europe. Such plans sound really near to the events of our present and there is a very precise explanation for that. Most politicians of the Central and Eastern European Countries (CEECs), who were making an effort, at the beginning of the 1990s, to transform the “Return to Europe” slogan into a reality, have recovered the exiles’ ideas to elaborate their domestic political programmes, which turned to constitute one of the main means of legitimisation by the CEECs’ new political elites.
The fundamental sources come from the Historical Archives of the European Communities (Florence), complemented with interviews and documents from the DG Enlargement of the European Commission (Brussels), which make explicit the connections between the international networks of old and new elites in the CEECs and at the EU institutions. In sum, this paper aims to emphasise the ‘European’ expectations of the transition and the role of the regained and newly manipulated memory as a catalyser of historical change.