East-Central and Southeast Europe

God, Luck and Politics: A Brief History of Graft in Hungary

Corruption is deeply embedded in Hungary, with Prime Minister Viktor Orbán shielded by a cluster of wealthy bosses with close personal and political ties to the leader. “God, luck and Viktor Orbán certainly played a role in what I’ve achieved so far,” is how Lőrinc Mészáros, the Hungarian Prime Minister’s childhood friend explained his unprecedented […]

Serbian-Chinese Ties: A Potential Threat for the EU?

While many EU members have been heatedly debating whether the Chinese company Huawei should be banned from their national 5G networks, EU candidate Serbia is beefing up its ties with China. Does this pose a security risk to the European bloc? Since the early 2010s, China has been assertively seeking to increase its clout in […]

New Walls I: Militarizing Borders in Europe

What has become of the hope for freedom in a borderless world, thirty years after the fall of the Berlin Wall? Instead of disappearing, more and more hard border fortifications arise. — Episode 1 of our “New Walls” series. After the end of the Cold War, borders were seen as a legacy of the past. […]

European Parliament Elections: Land of the Non-Voters

Is there any hope that the forthcoming European elections will bring positive change for Slovakians? In fact, there is. This year marks the 15th anniversary of Slovakia’s EU accession. But in Svidník in northeastern Slovakia only a few people bother. Svidník is the main city of one of the poorest and least developed regions in […]

Poland’s Difficult Balancing Act

Paris Climate Agreement stakeholders are convening in Poland to set the speed of the world’s response to climate change. But can Poland balance its appetite for coal with the international push for decarbonization? From December 03 to 14, Poland will host the 24th Conference of the Parties (COP24), the key meeting of the stakeholders of […]

100 Years of Solitude: Latvia Celebrates its Independence

The Baltic States are still struggling to be seen on the international stage. One hundred years after declaring independence, fears of getting swallowed up by Russia remain strong in Latvia and spurs on the country in building up reliable ties. In a moment of self-awareness back in 1919, Kaarel Robert Pusta, head of the Estonian […]

Election Polls Versus Opinion Polls in Hungary

There is a very strong probability that Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s Fidesz party is going to defend its parliamentary majority in the national elections on Sunday. However, despite a disunited opposition, election laws that strongly favor Fidesz, and a political climate of intimidation and fear, there is nonetheless a minuscule chance for a political upset. […]

Bulgaria’s EU Presidency: Normalizing Nationalism?

Some of the Bulgarian politicians who will preside over European meetings in Brussels in the first half of 2018 are nationalists. Is the EU to be blamed for letting them play a role on the European stage? Will the Bulgarian liberal-conservative majority be able to tame its patriotic coalition partner? After many years of economic […]

Serbia’s PM Vučić: Yet Another Populist Strongman?

Public desire for strong leadership might allow Serbia’s prime minister, Aleksandar Vučić, soon to become president. But will he be able to steer the country through the current tide of regional and domestic tensions? Serbia’s populist prime minister, Aleksandar Vučić, will stand in elections on 2 April in a bid to become the country’s third […]

Picture: Cracked EU vs Russia flags. Ukrainian crisis conceptual image. Foto: Bröckelnde Flaggen der EU und Russland.

EU-Russia Sanctions: An Unsteady Deadlock

The European Union and Russia have been locked in an economic struggle over Ukraine for two years. With Donald Trump the next president of the United States, the West’s Russia policy might substantially change – and Europe’s Eastern policy is today more uncertain than ever. In July 2014, following Russia’s unilateral annexation of Crimea and […]

No Blank Checks for Europe’s Populists

The populist turn in the West since the global economic crisis and the refugee crisis is undermining Europe’s liberal democratic model. But are illiberal ideals really as popular as they seem? From Donald Trump in the US to Viktor Orbán in Hungary, the forces of illiberal, nationalist populism are on the rise across the West. […]

Presburg Castle in Bratislava

Putting the Fox in Charge of the Hen House?

On July 1 Slovakia took over the EU Council Presidency. Until now the government led by Prime Minister Fico refuses to assume responsibility in the refugee situation and attracted attention with islamophobic and populist comments. Is it now able to play the intermediator in Europe?  How strong is the consensus on values in present-day Europe? […]

Skopje

Law and Justice Party Demolishes Democratic Consensus

Few countries can boast a story of transformation success as Poland’s. Does the newly elected PiS-led government in Warsaw pose a threat to the country’s democratic achievements? The European Commission has just initiated an unprecedented inquiry into the rule of law in Poland. The aim of the inquiry is to assess whether laws passed by […]

Russian President Vladimir Putin (left) with the Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán © kremlin.ru

Towards a Putinization of Central Europe?

With the migrant crisis ongoing, Central European countries are increasingly inching towards populism and nationalism. Russian President Vladimir Putin may well become a model for some. How can Europe avoid the rift? If the Eurozone crisis stoked great divisions between northern and southern Europe, the ongoing migrant crisis has already led to sharp conflict between […]

Ralf Breth, the Head of OSCE Mission to Skopje, during a conference on good practices for political party and campaign financing in Skopje, October 2013 © OSCE/Silke Tittel (CC BY-ND 4.0)

Too Small, Too Personal

Media laws in Macedonia and Slovenia are largely in line with international standards. Yet to guarantee a transparent system and independent reporting this is not enough. In April 2014 the Republic of Macedonia held its fourth general parliamentary election in the last 8 years along with a regularly scheduled presidential election. As usual it was […]

© Ocean Photography/veer

Progress and Roll-Back of Europeanization

Ten years after their accession to the European Union, Poland is seen as a model of development while Hungary is turning to a populist, in some ways illiberal, nationalism. These diverging trends highlight how fragile attachment to Western orientation and institutions potentially is. The nations of Central-Eastern Europe provide an interesting case study of the […]

Victor Orban during a debate in the European Parliament on the political situation in Hungary, January 2012 © European Union 2012 EP/Pietro Naj-Oleari

Good Voters and Bad Voters

Why some votes will not count in Hungary’s elections and why the BTI 2014 has classified the country as a “defective democracy.” Since it took office in Budapest and gained a two-thirds majority in the Hungarian parliament, the right-wing conservative FIDESZ government has acquired the nickname of “legislation factory” – and rightly so. The Orban […]