Volunteering - What's different in the new Member States?
The formerly communist countries of central and eastern Europe provide a good example of how strongly volunteering is influenced by political and social traditions. These countries’ communist legacy did not favour a culture of volunteering and influenced the emergence of such a culture after the collapse of the regimes. First, the very notion of volunteering as an activity arising from grassroots level challenged the power of the communist state, which claimed to have the capacity to provide for all citizens. Secondly, ‘voluntary’ work in these countries was – in reality – compulsory unpaid work in schemes initiated by central authorities, resulting in negative connotations for the term ‘volunteering’. Nowadays, however, participation in voluntary and charitable activities in some of the new Member States (NMS) is above the EU average.