The tides of illiberalism in central and eastern Europe are in partial retreat in the face of popular mobilization in defense of the rule of law that deserves western support. This trend, though uneven and not irreversible, is heartening: some of the region’s countries have taken a wrong turning over the past decade, betraying the civic democratic promise of the 1989 anti-communist revolutions, FT analyst Tony Barber writes:
It would be a mistake to think that well-judged EU policies, backed by the US, have contributed to the new trend. The role of what we used to call the world’s leading liberal democracies has been relatively small. Rather, illiberalism is on the defensive mainly because hundreds of thousands of the region’s citizens, impatient with politicians who feed corruption and bend justice to their own purposes, have risen up against it.
The most prominent examples are Romania, Slovakia and the Czech Republic. In all three countries, the rule of law was eroding under pressure from politicians borrowing populist methods from Viktor Orban and Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the Hungarian and Polish leaders. In Romania and Slovakia, it is a grim fact that it required public revulsion at murder to stop the rot.
Moreover, the Czech, Romanian and Slovak protests have been directed largely against corruption, cronyism and abuses of the law rather than in support of the western-style liberal norms embraced by the pro-democracy revolutionaries of 1989, Barber adds. RTWT