Democracy is deteriorating in many Eastern European countries. The Freedom House warns of this in a new report. Poland and Hungary in particular are in a downward spiral. According to the influential research body, this is partly because the rule of law is being eroded further and further.
The think tank speaks of an” unparalleled democratic decline ” in the past decade. In Hungary it is the biggest democratic decline in the last 17 years, when the think tank started monitoring. According to the researchers, both countries can no longer be called full democracies.
Freedom House points out, among other things, that the main parties in Hungary and Poland are attacking the principles of democracy and are openly guilty of “anti-democratic practices”.
The researchers cite as an example the plight of free media in Poland. Recently, a large Polish media company was acquired by state oil giant PKN Orlen. Orlen acquired at one time about twenty regional newspapers and 500 news sites. At the same time, the Polish state is the largest shareholder in the oil company. The Hungarian Fidesz party of President Orbán used this tactic earlier.
In addition, judicial independence in Poland is under pressure. Judges who make statements that the government does not like are subject to disciplinary or even criminal prosecution. This is not possible in a constitutional state. Judges should not be afraid that if they make a decision, they will face the penalty box themselves.
The Freedom House report examined 29 countries in Central and Eastern Europe. This includes looking at how free countries are in terms of voting and freedom of expression of citizens. The scope for political pluralism has also been analyzed. Among other things, researchers look at whether there is a free opposition or whether it is being opposed.
The think tank uses five scales. Poland scores slightly better than Hungary, but the decline in democracy there has been worse in the last five years than in Hungary. According to the researchers, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Slovenia are doing well.
The governments in Hungary and Poland are democratically elected, but it is questionable whether voters support these practices. He points out that when the current Polish government under President Andrzej Duda won the elections in 2015, reforms of the rule of law were not on the agenda.
But once in power, his party dedicated Justice and Justice (PiS) to it. For many voters, the judiciary is abstract and a far-from-their-bed show. That’s why the government gets away with it.
Freedom House says that the European Union must act quickly now. For example, large-scale sanctions against corrupt administrators and politicians must be implemented. In addition, according to strong, the EU should not be afraid to start more court cases against the countries at the European Court and, if necessary, stop providing budgets from the European funds.