An article in The Economist magazine argues that the term "Eastern Europe" has become meaningless, both as a generic geographic or economic label and seems to imply that the term should be discarded.
The Economist cites the incongruity of countries like Greece being thought of as part of western Europe (in terms of its economic development) when it is dogged by toxic debts, or a country such as the Czech Republic being commonly described as part of Eastern Europe merely because it was a communist-bloc country, ignoring the fact that it is in the middle of Europe.
The Economist also says that the term "Eastern Europe" fails to differentiate between countries like Ukraine and Moldova, which were a formal part of the former Soviet Union, and, for example, Bulgaria, an autonomous state post-WW2, albeit part of the communist bloc.
The writers point out that there is no such thing as an Eastern European model of economic development per se and that Eastern European economies are now far too disparate to be spoken of as part of a common entity. Despite the lack of a homogeneous model, however, The Economist notes that an economic mess in one Eastern European country tends to trigger a crisis of confidence in another country nearby even if there is little cause for alarm. The magazine says that this stems from external preconceptions. For example, fears of a "contagion" stemming from the banking crisis in Latvia raised risk premiums in countries with relatively solid economies, such as Poland and the Czech Republic. This The Economist describes as "a nonsense based on outsiders' perceptions of other outsiders' fears".
The article points out that "the biggest forecast budget deficits in the European Union next year will not be in some basket-cases from the ex-communist 'east' but in Britain and in Greece. The new government in Athens is grappling with a budget deficit of at least 12.7 per cent of GDP and possibly as much as 14.5 per cent."
The publication points out that none of the 10 so-called Eastern European countries that joined the European Union (EU) recently is in such dire straits economically as either Greece or indeed the UK, countries with the biggest budget deficits in the EU. "They include hotshots and slowcoaches, places that feel thoroughly modern and those where the air still bears a rancid tang from past misrule. Slovenia and the Czech Republic, for example, have overhauled living standards in Portugal, the poorest country in the "western" camp. Neither was badly hit by the economic downturn. Some of the ex-communist countries now have better credit ratings than old EU members and can borrow more cheaply."
In terms of corruption, a word frequently used as a barometer of the ability of a country to "modernise" itself (again implying that Eastern European economies are the most backward in this regard) the article points out that Estonia, for example, nominally in Eastern Europe, is generally perceived not to be a particularly corrupt country and compares favourably to founder EU member Italy.
The Economist, however, regardless of labels, concludes its article by noting that Bulgaria and Romania are the "bad boys" of the new intake of EU members, having "become bywords in Brussels for corruption and organised crime respectively".