After joining in 2004, the Central European countries have been neglected in part, in terms of control and verification of the consolidation of the preconditions both for the first of the three Copenhagen criteria, the so-called political criterion, and the third criterion concerning the capacity to fulfill the obligations of membership also in terms of policies. Countries were considered mature and functioning democracies when it is only the Czech Republic. The democratic "crisis" that has developed Hungary during 2011 stems in part from cultural and identity issues that are still open but is also composed of dynamics affecting also other NMSs which have been neglected.

After 2004 the attention towards the EU’s new member states (NMS) in Central Europe has greatly diminished. However 2004 was neither the end of the transition process, nor the achievement of what is called "active membership". The post-accession phase was equally critical then the pre-accession phase, but the risks of a further strain on worn social systems and not yet fully  consolidated civil societies have been largely neglected, also by the EU itself, as recognized by various analysis.

Meanwhile, the increased pressure from the outside, ie by the Community institutions (the acquis can be cited for the Schengen area, the process of accession to EMU, the Maastricht criteria and budget cycle, the pressure for cooperation institutional mechanisms in Europe) and from within the NMS , by the strengthening expectations of a social improvement (welfare and cohesion) chased and delayed for two decades, destabilized already weakened governments in 2005-2006, causing a series of political crises.

The global crisis of 2008-2009 has therefore affected countries that were already in a "post-accession" crisis and represented a double shock: not only it has removed the prospect of real convergence in terms of GDP per capita, but also it moved away, given the structural constraints in terms of available resources and the mounting social crisis, the perspective of qualitative convergence towards the Lisbon objectives in terms of a system based on high levels of public services and investments in human capital.

So the at first sight "counter intuitive" result of the 2010 EBRD’s  "Life in Transition" survey is not surprise. After 5 years from the first time  the survey took place (in 2006) an average decline (with the exception of Bulgaria) of 10% is found in the new member states  (with a peak of 20% in Slovakia) in support for democracy while the support, coupled to the side to the market economy, has risen in the former Soviet Union area represented the Commonwealth of Independent States. In 2010, among the emerging European countries more supportive of democracy there was no new EU member state, but only CIS countries plus Mongolia and Turkey.

The NMS have nearly equal levels of political freedoms and civil liberties of Western EU countries, but show a significant delay in the participation and political culture,  a reflection of widespread anomie in terms of social norms and values ??and weakness in the democratic development. Only one EU country of Eastern Europe, the Czech Republic, can be considered a full democracy. Although the formal democracy and democratic institutions are operating in the CEECs, much of the substantial democracy, to say a political culture based on trust, is absent. A crucial factor behind this absence is due to the fact that the transition has produced a wide range of voters who feel disgruntled losers. Another problem is that in the region party politics is fragmented, reflecting a low-rooted parties and lack of voter identification with them.

The pact between the political elites and a part of the electorate had already broken in previous years, when the sacrifices required by the pre-accession continued to focus among the "losers" of transition and not among the winners, bringing to a collapse in confidence in institutions and political participation, and the phenomenon, exacerbated after 2004, of weak coalition governments with little legitimacy because of the growing gap of democratic participation.

However, the economic crisis of 2008-2009 probably has led in some countries to the dissolution of  the tacit agreement among NMS political elites and the European institutions. In the tacit agreement the surrender of a newly regained national sovereignty was exchanged with an increase in stability and economic security. The economic crisis of 2008-2009 showed the opposite: the deep economic and financial integration between old and new member states, which was formed twenty years of transition and (in the second decade) EU pre-accession, has acted as a direct transmission mechanism and not as a shield from the negative economic stimuli. An event so inevitable, but no less disruptive in terms of perception of their role for many of the various national actors.

A series of low legitimacy executives governments have become crisis governments and there has been an acceleration of the phenomenon of distorted or "perverse" participation, i.e. the jump in the support for extreme right-wing or  populist and anti-system political formations , thanks to the return to the vote of protest of marginalized groups further exacerbated by a worsening of the socio-economic situation that found voice in these parties.

The combination of three "stress" factors, namely the global crisis, the EU's institutional crisis (delay in adapting to the institutional structure to the new policies and to the international context)and the crisis of post-accession has strengthened in the NMS nationalist and anti-European cultural and political components, which not only characterize them-selves in political terms but also economic terms.

In Hungary, one of the most advanced in the transition process, with a very high degree of economic openness, we are witnessing, if not to a rejection of a number of instances, no doubt, to a detachment from the broader “Europeanization” process, consisting also in a series of troubling signs in terms of maintenance of democratic values??.

To start  a law deemed by many observers at home and abroad repressive against media (press, radio and television), then the approval in April (after no debate and circulation of drafts) of the new Constitution with elements in a manner that the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe defined "at risk for democratic principles "(in particular the provisions for the adoption of 32 cardinal laws, "sarkalatos" in hungarian, to be passed with qualified majority of two thirds for legislation pertaining to fiscal, cultural, religious, moral and socio-economic domains plus judiciary and Constitutional Court), and finally legislative action limiting the independence of the central bank, element" symbol "of the success of the transition crowned Hungarian EU entry in 2004.

On the purely economic side are reported the transfer of private pension funds to the state budget and the acquisition by the government of companies considered strategic. It should be noted that the dynamics mentioned above are not sufficient alone to explain this escalation and certainly no small part was played by the catalytic role of the leading party of the coalition, Fidesz, which enjoys a more than two thirds parliamentary majority that allows it to amend or enact laws even of constitutional level (cardinal laws) without parliamentary debate. Fidesz during the previous term of a center-right government (1998-2002) of a series of claims and initiatives such as the Status Law, a controversial law that extends a series of rights to Magyar minorities present in neighboring countries (Slovakia, Romania, Serbia).

The Fidesz has embarked on a program of radical restructuring of the institutions of reference of the economic, administrative, cultural, and legal systems  with authoritarians methods, according to German observers particularly critic and concerned, dangerously close to the spoils system, to say nothing of the escalating rhetoric against Roma and anti-Semite who is one of the distinguishing features of Jobbick party. a far-right party that has majority in the eastern depressed parts of the country's.

Much should be added regarding the national and cultural identity and the role of capital, as well as the cultural heterogeneity between urban elites and the rest of the country.  But beyond the more or less obvious remarks on the causes, we can not escape, however, the question of whether Hungary is an isolated case or the front-runner of a new trend that could affect other states, thus strengthening the front of those who want an indefinite postponement of the next enlargements after the entry of Croatia.


(by the Analysis Group of Informest)



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