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The recording of the panel discussion titled “A Region Torn and Fragmented? Authoritarian and Democratic Dynamics in Central Europe in the Context of the War in Ukraine” organized on June 29, 2023, in cooperation with the Nations in Transit program of Freedom House is now available on AUTHLIB’s YouTube channel.

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.

The panel explored the dynamics of internal and external threats to liberal democracy in Central Europe, and their interplay in the context of the war. It sought 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

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