Renewing the promise of democratic transitions in Central and Eastern Europe
In recent years, observers have expressed deep concern about the level of ambition shown by the countries of Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) in implementing democratic and market reforms. In response, the Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE), a US-based institute created by the National Endowment for Democracy, launched a project aimed at renewing the promise of democratic transitions. As the final output of this project, a Declaration was drafted asserting the crucial role of democratic values and free-market principles for Central and Eastern Europe. This Declaration was launched at a conference that was co-organised by CEPS and CIPE on June 1st. In his welcoming remarks, Daniel Gros underlined the importance of tackling rule-of-law breaches, in order to avoid an erosion of the fundamental values on which the EU is based, and highlighted the crucial link between democracy and market values. Partners in the project from the four countries under observation (Hungary, Slovakia, Bulgaria and Poland) then introduced their key research findings, shedding light on the triggers and the reasons behind democratic backsliding. After officially launching the Declaration, CIPE Board Member Kim Holmes highlighted the importance of the transatlantic alliance and the US interest in a free and progressive Europe. A second panel discussed the contribution of the EU institutions in the democratisation process and the important connection between political elites, economic enterprises and citizens. To close the conference, the International Republican Institute (IRI), an NGO based in Washington, presented the results of an extensive survey it recently conducted of the political views of citizens in the Visegrad countries towards the EU. The respondents ranked economic problems and the fear of poverty at a higher level than the potentially negative impact of migration. This conference functioned as an important stepping stone towards a renewed dialogue between all stakeholders concerned with the state of democracy in Central and Eastern Europe.