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Roundtable: Still Post-Communist? Central Europe a Quarter of a Century after the First Free Elections

Europe (Central and Eastern)
Democracy
Institutions
Political Parties
RT01
Miloš Brunclík
Charles University
Open Section

Thursday 14:00 - 15:30 (08/09/2016)

Building: Faculty of Law Floor: 1 Room: FL100

Abstract

In the period following the 'year of wonders' (Timothy ​G. Ash) Central European countries found themselves in a rather similar situation. Despite certain differences the countries faced the same challenges of democracy building and its subsequent consolidation. Furthermore, these countries had to deal with their post-communist legacies that had permeated not only political institutions but also political behaviour and attitudes of citizens. The buzzword of the first decade after the fall of communist regime became 'return to Europe', which meant not only a major re-orientation of foreign policies of Central European countries, but also building new political institutions and political parties modelled on West European examples. ​​Shortly after the breakdown of communist regimes R. Dahrendorf (1990) argued that constitutional change can be made within six months, whereas societal change would take six decades. At the turn of the millennium a number of scholars argued that Central European countries were consolidated democracies, perhaps with the exception of Slovakia that had just got rid of V. Mečiar and his 'illiberal democracy' (F. Zakaria). Similarly, Jacques Rupnik argued in 1999 that 'the word postcommunism lost its relevance'. Indeed, in contrast to a number of East European countries, Visegr​a​d countries, Slovenia and the Baltic countries seemed to embody success stories of democratic transition and consolidation.​ ​ However, about one decade later it seems as if there was an illiberal and/or Eurosceptical backlash: Hungary is ruled by V. Orbán, R. Fico dominates the politics in Slovakia, the Law and Justice party took power in Poland, and the two most visible political figures in the Czech Republic are M. Zeman and A. Babiš. Some argue that these recent developments indicate 'departure' from Europe and revival of the old division between the old West democracies on the one hand, and new democracies on the other hand.​ ​ Thus, how should we assess Central European democracies now? Do democratic systems and their institutions in Central Europe work properly? Do political parties in the region carry out their functions? What are the peculiarities of political participation in the region? What kind of experience can be drawn from the past two or three decades of democratic development of Central Europe and what kind of recommendations can be made for the future? ​The Roundtable shall address these questions in relation to a comparison with West European countries: Are Central European countries (their polities and societies) standard in the sense that they do not differ qualitatively from West European countries? Should variations be looked for between West Europe and Central Europe, or rather among single European countries irrespective of their position in 1989? And finally, is the adjective 'post-communist' still relevant for Central European democracies?

Title Details
Roundtable speaker: Petr Kopecky View Paper Details
Roundtable speaker: Kevin Deegan Krause View Paper Details
Roundtable speaker: Aleks Szczerbiak View Paper Details
Roundtable speaker: Jerzy Wiatr View Paper Details