The Quality of Democracy in Central and Eastern Europe

Contribution to “Democracy under Stress“, ed. by. P. Guasti and Z. Mansfeldová, Institute of Sociology, Czech Academy of Sciences, Prague 2018, 31-53.

 

The young democracies in East-Central and Southeast Europe have been particularly susceptible to the wave of populist, anti-establishment and extremist political forces that now challenge liberal democracy across the globe. These challengers claim to represent the opinion of the ordinary people against a political establishment that is portrayed as corrupt, elitist and controlled by foreign interests. Their polarizing and anti-pluralist ideological stances have contributed to a more confrontational political competition. Several countries have also seen “democratic backsliding”,  an erosion of the institutions and mechanisms that constrain and scrutinize the exercise of executive authority. Illiberal policies have targeted opposition parties, parliaments, independent public watchdog institutions, judiciaries, local and regional self-government, mass media, civil society organizations, private business and minority communities. Incumbent elites have justified these policies as measures to strengthen popular democracy and to fulfill the promises of the post-1989 democratic transitions. read more

Illiberal Drift and Proliferation

A comparative study on the state of democracy and market economy in East-Central and Southeast Europe

In recent years, the illiberal tendencies characteristic of several East-Central and Southeast European countries have taken their toll on nearly all segments of society, from opposition parties to parliaments and judiciaries, to oversight institutions, local and regional self-governing administrative organs, the media, NGOs, the private sector and minority groups as well. This process can best be described as “illiberal drift,” because key democratic institutions – free and competitive elections, political participation rights and individual liberties, separation of powers and rule of law – are not abolished or fundamentally questioned. Rather these institutions are, over time, re-interpreted and subject to changes that pull them increasingly further away from the understanding that led the democratization processes of the 1990s and the enlargement of the EU in the 2000s. In recent years, the dismantling and erosion processes in Hungary and Poland have raised particular international attention. However, illiberal thinking and acting have meanwhile proliferated to numerous states of East-Central and Southeast Europe. read more

Crisis Trajectories and Patterns of Resilience in East-Central and Southeast Europe

Presentation at the Conference “Disintegration and integration in East-Central Europe“, Faculty of European Studies, Babeș-Bolyai University Cluj-Napoca, 26-27 October 2017

Babeș-Bolyai University Cluj-Napoca

The subsequent economic and refugee crises have questioned the promise of prosperity and security associated with European integration. Governments in East-Central and Southeast Europe struggled to bridge between the diverging policy expectations of voters on the one hand, international economic and political actors on the other. The weakened credibility of mainstream political parties provided opportunities for populist and anti-establishment mobilization. While these crisis-induced influences have been similar in all countries of the region, the extent to which populist challengers have been able to win elections and implement their preferred policy preferences has varied significantly across countries. read more

Prospects of a Dialogue on Kosovo

Interview with Aleksandra Nenadović, Voice of America, 26 July 2017

On 24 July 2017 Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vučić called for an “internal dialogue” on Kosovo. His article triggered an intense public debate and a large media echo within and beyond Serbia because he urged his fellow-citizens to face reality and stop waiting to be given “what we have lost a long time ago”.  Serbia should cease to preserve “a conflict whose meaning we do not understand” and should rather resolve the “Kosovo (Gordian) knot” in a responsible and non-violent way. read more

Medium-Term Strategic Planning

A workshop by SIGMA and Montenegro’s Ministry of European Affairs, Podgorica 11-12 May 2017

To step up its EU accession preparations, the newly elected government of Montenegro has established a new Ministry of European Affairs (MEP) since November 2016. In May 2017, the Ministry organized a government-wide workshop on the coordination of strategic planning together with SIGMA, the joint program created by the OECD and the EU to strengthen public management.

The purpose of the workshop was to discuss the requirements and coordination of strategic plans, to link strategy documents and medium-term budget planning and to define goals and indicators for monitoring and reporting. Apart from MEP, senior civil servants from the Secretariat of the Government, the Ministry of Finance and key line ministries attended the workshop. SIGMA experts included practitioners from Estonia, Latvia and Hungary. read more

Trump’s Foreign Policy, Russia and the Balkans

An interview with Aleksandra Nenadović, Voice of America, 9 November 2016http://pescanik.net/corax-2-2/Drawn by Corax for the Serbian daily Danas

What does the electoral victory of Donald Trump mean for US foreign policy in the Balkans? Any prediction is fraught with high uncertainties because no one knows the extent to which Trump’s populist demagoguery from the electoral campaign will become official US policy.

However, many observers concur that American foreign policy will be more inward-looking and realist. The realist notion of a balance of power would resonate with the ideas of Russia as a great power and a new Jalta-order shared by Russia’s current political leadership. A balance-of-power orientation would imply conceding zones of influence to other great powers and deemphasizing concerns for universalist ideas such as democracy or political freedoms. read more

Serbia between EU/NATO and Russia

An interview with Aleksandra Nenadović, Voice of America, 27 October 2016

Nikolai’ Patrushev, Secretary of Russia’s National Security Council, met with Serbia’s President, Prime Minister and other ministers in Belgrade on 25/26 October 2016. The official aim of this visit was to discuss the security situation and options for a military-technical cooperation between Serbia and Russia. Patrushev also proposed a memorandum of understanding on a security cooperation between Serbia and Russia. read more

Politics and Religion in Eastern Europe

An interview with Magda Crișan, Romanian TV program Digi24, 11 May 2016

Political elites in East European countries have often referred to religious beliefs or sought to form alliances with church leaders. One aim of their efforts has been to convince citizens and the public that they share common values and are committed to act ethically responsibly.

Putin_KyrillMore frequent references and appeals to shared religious beliefs in recent years reflect the growth of right-wing populism, uncertainties caused by the crisis of European integration and fears regarding the inflow of predominantly Muslim refugees. The extent to which religious references are made in political discourses also varies according to the strength of religious allegiances and the respective influence of churches in societies. Contemporary resonance structures are rooted in state identities and the influences of historical state-building coalitions with churches. read more

Zum Einfluss des IWF in Bosnien und Herzegowina

Ein Interview mit Harun Cero, Al Jazeera Balkans, 8.5.2016

IMF
Picture source: EPA Archive

– Der Internationale Währungsfonds verhandelt mit Bosnien und Herzegowina über ein neues Stand-by Arrangement. Wuerden Sie der Analyse zustimmen, dass Bosnien wirtschaftlich unabhängig ist?

Die komplexen Verwaltungsstrukturen behindern ausländische Investititionen und vergrößern die Rechtsunsicherheit für alle Investoren. Bosnien ist aber in hohem Maße vom Ausland abhängig, da das Land nicht nur ausländische Investitionen benötigt, sondern auch über seinen Außenhandel, Kredite, Finanzhilfen und die Rücküberweisungen von bosnischen Arbeitsmigranten international verflochten ist. read more

The State of Democracy in Bulgaria

Interview with the Bulgarian business newspaper Dnevnik, 9 April 2014

Dnevnik journalist Aleksandrina Ginkova interviewed me on the latest Bulgaria country report written for the Transformation Index project.

Protests in Sofia, photo by Yulia Lazarova, dnevnik.bg
Protests in Sofia, photo by Yulia Lazarova, dnevnik.bg

The report mentions that a culture change within institutions is required to guarantee sustainability. Can you elaborate on the problems in the work culture and how are they related to corruption?

The notion of “culture change” used in the country report refers to entrenched practices and behavioral patterns within the Bulgarian judiciary and other state institutions. Foreign and domestic observers were surprised and shocked when the government of Prime Minister Plamen Oresharski attempted to appoint the controversial businessman Delyan Peevski as Chair of the State Agency for National Security. This decision was in striking contrast with its public commitment to combat corruption. read more