The AUTHLIB consortium and the Nations in Transit program of Freedom House cordially invite you to the online discussion titled
A Region Torn and Fragmented?
Authoritarian and Democratic Dynamics in Central Europe in the Context of the War in Ukraine
Thursday, June 29, 2023
4:00 p.m. – 5:30 p.m. CEST / 10:00 a.m. – 11:30 a.m. EST
The years when democracy used to be the only game in town in Central Europe are over. Executive aggrandizement, the demolishing of liberal constitutionalism and the rule of law, populism, nationalism, illiberalism, and culture wars have challenged and often successfully undermined democratic institutions and the political culture underpinning liberal democracy in the region.
The post-1989 transformation of Central Europe was often seen as the pinnacle of the Third Wave of Democratization. Now, the region is torn and fragmented along different democratic and illiberal-authoritarian development paths. The likes of Czechia, Slovenia, and the Baltic States demonstrate remarkable resilience to the challengers of liberal democracy, as the latest Nations in Transit report of Freedom House shows. Hungary and Poland are unmistakably moving in an authoritarian direction. Meanwhile, Bulgaria and Slovakia regularly swing between illiberal and liberal democratic periods. In the whole region, elections are increasingly plebiscites about strongmen and their illiberal political offers. While, with the exception of Hungary, Central European countries emphasize their unity in face of Russia’s war against Ukraine, their domestic developments clearly point in the direction of regional fragmentation.
This panel will explore the dynamics of internal and external threats to liberal democracy in Central Europe, and their interplay in the context of the war. It will attempt to identify potential entry points for strengthening democratic resilience across the region, including lessons learned from already closed autocracies.
Petra Guasti, Associate Professor, Charles University
Roman Hlatky, Assistant Professor, University of North Texas
Alexandra Karppi, Research Analyst, Freedom House
Zsuzsanna Végh, Visiting Fellow, The German Marshall Fund of the United States
Dániel Hegedűs, Senior Fellow, The German Marshall Fund of the United States
More about the speakers
Petra Guasti is an Associate Professor of Democratic Theory at the Charles University in Prague, and a Senior Research Fellow at the Czech Academy of Sciences. Between 2022 and 2025, she is a co-PI of SYRI (National Institute for Research on the Socio-Economic Impact of Diseases and Systemic Risks). In SYRI, she also leads a PA5 working on polarization & populism. Petra received her doctoral degrees in political science from the University of Bremen (2014), political sociology from Charles University in Prague (2007), and habilitation in political science at the Goethe University Frankfurt (2021). In AUTHLIB, Petra leads the work package on minipublics. Her research focuses on reconfiguring the political landscape and revolves around representation, democratization, and populism.
Dániel Hegedűs is a GMF Senior Fellow focused on Central Europe. He writes and speaks extensively on populism and democratic backsliding in Central and Eastern Europe, and the European and foreign affairs of the Visegrad countries. He is frequently quoted in outlets such as AFP, the Financial Times, the New York Times, Euractiv, EU Observer and Der Spiegel. He has studied political science, history, and European law at the Eötvös Loránd University Budapest and Humboldt University in Berlin. Prior to joining GMF he worked in different research, lecturing, and project-management positions at Freedom House, the German Council on Foreign Relations, the German Institute for International and Security Affairs. He has taught at the Institute for Eastern-European Studies at the Free University Berlin, Humboldt University in Berlin, and the Eötvös Loránd University Budapest.
Roman Hlatky is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of North Texas. He received his Ph.D. from the Department of Government at the University of Texas at Austin, where he was also the manager of the Politics of Race and Ethnicity (PRE) Lab. During the 2019-20 academic year, he was a Fulbright Research Fellow at Comenius University. Roman works at the intersection of race and ethnic politics, public opinion, and voting behavior. Much of his work focuses on Central and Eastern Europe and investigates the connections between deepening globalization and integration, and nationalist counter-reactions. He researches questions related to the effects of European integration (especially when it comes to migration and the rights of ethnic minorities) on public opinion, political party strategies, and vote choice. He is also interested in identity-based prejudice, both its causes and effective ways to reduce it.
Alexandra Karppi is a research analyst covering the Western Balkans and Central and Eastern Europe for Nations in Transit. Prior to joining Freedom House, Alexandra was an Associate Program Officer for the Western Balkans at the Center for International Private Enterprise. She has also held research and editorial positions at the Institute for Social Research in Zagreb, Central European University’s Center for European Neighborhood Studies, and the Post-Conflict Research Center, a Sarajevo-based NGO. Alexandra holds an MA in Russian, Eurasian, and East European Studies from Columbia University’s Harriman Institute and a BA in Political Science and Slavic Studies from Columbia College.
Zsuzsanna Végh is a Visiting Fellow at the German Marshall Fund of the United States. Her analytical focus lies on Central and Eastern Europe, especially the foreign and EU policies of the Visegrad countries, the state of democracy, and the role of the populist radical right in the region. Zsuzsanna has extensive experience working at the intersection of policy analysis and academic research. She is a lecturer and PhD candidate at the European University Viadrina where she focuses on Central and Eastern Europe’s radical right and its impact on foreign policy. She has been an associate researcher at the European Council on Foreign Relations and authored reports for Freedom House’s flagship project, Nations in Transit, on her native Hungary. She was a ReThink.CEE Fellow at GMF in 2019-20. Previously, she worked at the Center for European Neighborhood Studies of Central European University.
This event takes place in cooperation with the Nations in Transit program of Freedom House in the framework of the “AUTHLIB – Neo-authoritarianisms in Europe and the Liberal Democratic Response” project.
Photo credit: wjarek / Shutterstock.com