Central Europe slipping away from democracy?


SLOVAKIA ALENACivil society activists are expressing concern that Slovakia, which currently holds the Presidency of the European Union, is considering a draft amendment which calls for the mandatory registration of foreign funded NGOs.

Maina Kiai, the UN Special Rapporteur on rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, retweeted the view of the European Center for Not-for-Profit Law that this is “alarming news.”

SLOVAKIA HUM RTSIt might seem that Central Europe, once home to Nazis and Stalinists, is slipping back into totalitarianism, notes Alena Krempaska (above), the program director at the Bratislava-based Human Rights Institute (ILP), the victim of a recent violent assault.

But it’s not that simple, she writes for The New York Times:

People are not voting for the far right because of their fascism. They vote for these parties because they are looking for an alternative to a mainstream that has failed them. Twenty-seven years after the fall of Communism and 12 years after joining the European Union, the promised Western standards of living are nowhere in sight. The post-Communist economic dream has disappointed many. It took 15 years just for living standards to return to where they were before 1989. Poverty is soaring. In Hungary, 35 percent of the population lives below the poverty line.

Krempaská was attacked by two unidentified men, notes FIDH, an international human rights NGO federating 178 organizations from 120 countries, supported by the National Endowment for Democracy, the Washington-based democracy assistance NGO. She was pushed on the floor, beaten and insulted, and was told by her assailants that the attack aimed at sanctioning her “links with the social-democratic party,” even though the ILP is an independent NGO, and has no partnership whatsoever with any political party.

“To prevent the entrenchment of the far right, Central Europe desperately needs a new progressive force with a vision for how to respond to people’s needs,” Krempaska contends. “Progressives should have a plan to fend off economic hardship and insecurity to stop people’s legitimate concerns being transferred into bigotry, xenophobia and hatred. If this alternative does not emerge, the consequences will be disastrous.”


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