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The AUTHLIB consortium cordially invites you to the online discussion titled


Populist Leaders and Foreign Policy: Sovereigntism on the Rise?

Monday, April 29, 2024

3:00 p.m. – 4:30 p.m. CET / 9:00 a.m. – 10:30 p.m. ET




In recent times, populist leaders and parties have gained increasing prominence on the international scene, from President Donald Trump in the United States to Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and his Fidesz party or Italy’s Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni and her Fratelli d’Italia. Beyond the domestic scene, their influence on their countries’ foreign relations is also growing.

Scholars have traditionally focused on the effects of populism on domestic politics and policy, but newer academic inquiry is increasingly interested in the foreign policy implications of populist leadership. The working paper titled “Populist Leaders and Foreign Policy Rhetoric: A Comparative Study of Hungary and Austria” presented at this discussion examines the national security strategy documents of Austria and Hungary, as well as of parliamentary debates and public speeches of populist actors, to ascertain whether there has been an increase in sovereigntist foreign policy rhetoric in these countries. Through a mixed methods analysis, the research assessed whether there are similarities in Austria and Hungary in foreign policy communication on topics such as immigration, the EU, and Russia.

Beyond exploring changes in the foreign policy rhetoric of populists, the discussion will also touch on the international policy implications of such actors assuming power in Europe and beyond.


Paper presented by:

Erin K. Jenne, Professor, Department of International Relations, Central European University

Mehmet Yavuz, Doctoral Researcher, Doctoral School of Political Science, Public Policy and International Relations, Central European University



Dean Gibson Schafer, Post-doctoral Fellow, CEU Democracy Institute



Dániel Hegedűs, Senior Fellow, The German Marshall Fund of the United States



More about the speakers:

Erin K. Jenne (Stanford University, PhD) is a professor at the International Relations Department at Central European University in Vienna, Austria, where she teaches MA and PhD courses on mixed qualitative and quantitative methods, ethnic conflict management, international relations theory, nationalism and populism, foreign policy analysis and international security. Jenne received her PhD in political science with concentrations in comparative politics, international relations and organizational theory. She has received  numerous grants and fellowships, including a MacArthur fellowship at Stanford University, a Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs (BCSIA) fellowship at Harvard University, a Carnegie Corporation scholarship, a Senior Fernand Braudel fellowship at European University Institute (EUI) in Florence, and was co-principal investigator for a Minerva Grant from the US Office of Naval Research to conduct research on the subject of soft power. Her first book, Ethnic Bargaining: The Paradox of Minority Empowerment (Cornell University Press, 2007) is the winner of Mershon Center’s Edgar S. Furniss Book Award in 2007 and was also named a Choice Outstanding Academic Title by Choice Magazine. The book is based on her dissertation, which won the Seymour Martin Lipset Award for Best Comparativist Dissertation. Her second book, Nested Security: Lessons in Conflict Management from the League of Nations and the European Union (Cornell University Press, 2015) explores how emerging domestic struggles can be contained through soft power mediation. She has published numerous book chapters and articles in International Studies Quarterly, Security Studies, Regional and Federal Studies, Journal of Peace Research, Civil Wars, International Studies Review, Research and Politics, Journal of Democracy, Nationalities Papers and Ethnopolitics. She was an associate editor for the Journal of Foreign Policy Analysis and has served in several capacities on the Emigration, Ethnicity, Nationalism and Migration Section of the International Studies Association and the Comparative Politics Section of the American Political Science Association. She has taught courses on longitudinal case study analysis and mixed methods research at the ECPR Summer School. She won the CEU Teaching Excellence Award in 2018 and the CEU Research Excellence Award in 2022.

Mehmet Yavuz is a PhD candidate at the Central European University. He works on the role of ideology in authoritarian regimes in his dissertation, where he is trying to understand whether authoritarian regimes’ use of ideological claims as a communication tool makes them more stable and popular. His dissertation research employs several techniques, such as expert surveys, text-as-data approaches, and econometric tools. His broader research interests include authoritarian regimes, illiberalism, quantitative text analysis , quantitative methods in political science, and causal inference in observational studies. He is currently working on publishing his dissertation papers as journal articles. Besides his dissertation, Mehmet works for the Horizon Europe Project AUTHLIB – Neo-Authoritarianism in Europe and the Liberal Democratic Response where he contributes as a text analysis expert and is working on producing two papers on measuring illiberalism using text-as-data. Over the last few years, he has been involved in many research projects as an external collaborator or research assistant in institutions like the International Labor Organization and the University of Vienna. Mehmet gets employed as a teaching assistant at the Department of Political Science and the Department of Undergraduate Studies at CEU. He is the co-recipient of the Outstanding Teaching Assistant award of the Department of Political Science both in 2022 and 2023. In Fall 2023, he taught the MA level “Math Refresher” and “Remedial Political Science” courses as the main instructor.

Dean Schafer is Post-doctoral Fellow at the CEU Democracy Institute and researcher on the AUTHLIB – Neo-authoritarianisms in Europe and the Liberal Democratic Response. He completed his PhD at The Graduate Center, City University of New York. His research focuses on the values and incentives that shape coalition building in backsliding democracies. Broadly, his interests include political economy, comparative democracy and autocracy, and data science methods. He scrapes social media data to get leverage on the attitudes, networks, and behavior of political elites, which is especially useful in hard-to-observe settings such as authoritarian countries. His work has been published in Party PoliticsSouth European Society and Politics, and Nationalities Papersas well as public-facing outlets including The Democracy Paradox and Foreign Policy in Focus.

Dániel Hegedűs is a senior fellow at the German Marshall Fund of the United States 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.

This event takes place in the framework of the “AUTHLIB – Neo-authoritarianisms in Europe and the Liberal Democratic Response” project.


Photo credit: Ian Timberlake via Shutterstock

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