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27th Nov 2022

Political decline overshadows good economy in new EU states

Rising partisanship in central Europe has diverted the ruling elites from their efforts to continue political and economic reforms, American NGO Freedom House suggests in its 2007 report on countries in transition.

"Economic progress in Central Europe is increasingly overshadowed by political turmoil," said Roland Kovats, director of Freedom House Europe, when presenting the publication in Budapest on Thursday (14 June).

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"In too many countries, we are seeing the problem of ruling elites who have focused on concentrating political party power. Rising partisanship has diverted time and attention away from the real work of consolidating reforms and building sound institutions," he added.

The report, which analyses the political developments in 29 countries from Central Europe to Eurasia, argues that of the new EU member states, Poland has suffered the most significant democratic decline.

Its authors comment that under the leadership of twin brothers president Lech Kaczynski and prime minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski, "the country started to look inward, taking revenge on the beneficiaries of Communism."

Within the democratic score suggested by the Freedom House, Warsaw got the thumbs down for the government's tendency to concentrate power, its efforts to curtail civil society and its lack of respect for the judiciary and for media independence.

Other central European countries also showed a decline, according to the study.

Hungary experienced a crisis of confidence in political leadership last year after the post-election comments of prime minister Ferencs Gyurcsany, while the shift in the ruling coalition in Slovakia lead to political nominations in the constitutional court.

In the Czech Republic, the study points out that the five-month stalemate between the left and the right after last year's election "took the country down a path of failed negotiations, growing rivalries, and dead-end 'solutions' to the crisis."

"By drawing attention to the democratic backsliding in the Visegrad countries, one hopes that leaders in Bulgaria and Romania may avoid similar pitfalls," said Jeannette Goehring, managing editor of Nations in Transit 2007.

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