The European integration process was initiated and developed in Western Europe. It was extended to Central and Eastern Europe only after the key features of the European Union (EU) as they are today had been created and become established. Until the collapse of communism in Central and Eastern Europe in 1989–90, countries such as Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Hungary, and Poland were either part of the Soviet Union or were located within the Soviet bloc. As such, they were quite outside the processes that, until the early 1990s, were focused exclusively on drawing Western European states increasingly close to one another in an array of cooperative and integrative relationships. An understanding and analysis of the European integration process must therefore begin by focusing on Western Europe. Throughout its history Europe has been characterised much more by divisions, tensions, and conflicts than it has by any common purpose or harmony of spirit. This applies to Western Europe as much as it does to the European continent as a whole.
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