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  • Author: Attila Ágh x
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Politics and Policy in East-Central Europe in the Early 21st Century: Synergies and Conflicts Between Policy Regimes and Political Systems

This paper is a short summary on the ECE reforms. The focus of this research has been "complying with Europe", i.e. the necessary transformations in ECE due to the Europeanization process.

Europeanization and Democratization in ECE: Towards Multi-Level and Multi-Actor Governance

The main message of this paper is that in the EU, the deficit is bigger in the effectiveness or performance than the often-mentioned democratic deficit. Therefore, it is more important and urgent in the EU to reform the "performance" than "democracy", although it may be even more important to emphasize that in the participatory democracy, it is in fact impossible to separate them, since the active democratic "participation" itself is the most important factor of "performance". This paper addresses first of all the challenges to the new member states against the background of the current institutional reform in the EU (Lisbon Treaty), which has demanded enhanced structural adjustments, such as public-administration reforms in the new member states. In addition, it also deals with extending European governance to two regions, the West Balkan states and the Eastern neighbours, i.e. altogether with the relationships of deepening and widening from the special aspect of public administration reforms. Basically, to a great extent, the West Balkan states and the new neighbours have similar problems as the new members: in both cases, there is an institutional "Bermuda Triangle" at the level of meso-politics, where the top-down efforts of Europeanization and Democratization "disappear". In short, the next step of democratic institution-building in the East-Central European new member states as well as in both the Balkan and the Eastern new neighbour states is creating or further developing the multi-level and multi-actor democracy that can be an institutional channel for their bottom-up Europeanization and Democratization.

Abstract

This paper, in addition to describing the historical trajectory of party systems in the new European Union member states in general, describes the particular cases of five new Eastern-Central European (ECE) member states (NMS-5, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia), and the recent emergence of new, second party systems that have recently emerged after the collapse of their first party systems. The main message of this paper is that the historical transformations of the NMS- 5 can best be described using a matrix of four party types: 1) populist, 2) Eurosceptic, 3) protest, and 4) extreme-right. Although Eurosceptic parties have been in the forefront of recent analysis, the other three forms included in this matrix are equally important, and even enhance the understanding of Eurosceptic parties in the NMS-5. Like the international literature, the focus of this paper is also on party developments, but includes a complex approach that accounts not only for political, but also for socio-economic, developments in the NMS-5.

Abstract

Brexit and Donald Trump’s victory in the 2016 US presidential election has launched a wave of discussions in the international media and political science literature on “authoritarian populism” and a “populist explosion.” Although this paper also reflects on this new wave of populism in the West, it concentrates on the connections between democracy’s decline and the so-called populist explosion in eastern central Europe (ECE) and closely investigates the Hungarian case within the context of ECE. This paper describes populism in ECE as a product of the transition from fading facade democracies to emerging velvet dictatorships. These velvet dictatorships rely on the soft power of media and communication rather on the hard power of state violence. Paradoxically, the ruling anti-elite populist parties have developed a system of populism from above, managed by the new politico-business elite. Populism (social and national) and Euroscepticism are the two most basic, and twin, terms used to describe these new (semi)authoritarian regimes. Populism and Euroscepticism are convertible; they are two sides of the same coin as they express the same divergence from the EU mainstream. Therefore, this paper introduces the term: Eupopulism.

Abstract

We live in a “post-neoliberal world”, as it has been discussed in the mainstream literature, but the vital link between neoliberalism and neopopulism has been rarely discussed. Nowadays in international political science it is very fashionable to criticise the long neoliberal period of the last decades, still its effect on the rise of neopopulism has not yet been properly elaborated. To dig deeper into social background of neopopulism, this paper describes the system of neoliberalism in its three major social subsystems, in the socio-economic, legal-political and cultural-civilizational fields. The historical context situates the dominant period of neoliberalism between the 1970s in the Old World Order (OWO) and in the 2010s in the New World Order (NWO). In general, neoliberalism’s cumulative effects of increasing inequality has produced the current global wave of neopopulism that will be analysed in this paper in its ECE regional version. The neopopulist social paradox is that not only the privileged strata, but also the poorest part of ECE’s societies supports the hard populist elites. Due to the general desecuritization in ECE, the poor have become state dependent for social security, yet paradoxically they vote for their oppressors, widening the social base of this competitive authoritarianism. Thus, the twins of neoliberalism and neopopulism, in their close connections—the main topic of this paper—have produced a “cultural backlash” in ECE along with identity politics, which is high on the political agenda.

Abstract

The Europeanised, progressive intelligentsia in East-Central Europe (ECE) made a fundamental mistake in the nineties that amounts in some ways to the ‘treason of intellectuals’ and the basic reassessment of these naïve illusions has only begun nowadays. Motivated by the radical change in the ‘miraculous year’ (1989) the progressive intellectuals uncritically accepted and supported the Europeanisation in that particular form as it entered into the chaotic days of the early nineties, since they naively thought that its negative features would automatically disappear. In good faith, they created an apology for the established neoliberal hybrid and they sincerely defended this perverse Europeanisation against the increasing attacks of the traditionalistnativist narrative. With this action they have been unwillingly drifting close to the other side by offering some ideological protection for the ‘really existing’ neoliberal hybrid instead of criticising this deviation from genuine democratisation in order to facilitate its historical correction. However, due to the emergence of the neoliberal hybrid, the ‘external’ integration by the EU has resulted in the ‘internal’ disintegration inside the ECE member states. There has been a deep polarisation in the domestic societies and after thirty years the majority of populations in the ECE countries feel like losers, and they have indeed become losers. This controversial situation needs an urgent reconsideration, which is underway both in the EU and in the ECE as a self-criticism of the progressive intelligentsia. Thus, this paper concentrates on the reconsideration of the main conceptual issues of Europeanisation and Democratisation in ECE.1

Abstract

In recent decades, the most remarkable feature of East-Central European (ECE) states has been their engagement in a deconsolidation process that necessitates the reconceptualising of European Studies and the theory of democracy. In the early ’90s, during the “revolution of high expectations,” consolidation was the key term in the conceptual framework of the transitology paradigm, but this approach was questioned increasingly in the 2000s and rejected in the 2010s. In its place, deconsolidation was introduced as one of a wide array of similar terms referring to the decline, backsliding or regression of democracy and later as one of a whole “other” family of opposite terms like (semi-)authoritarian system and competitive/elected autocracy. Indeed, rather than a transition to democracy, a tendency to transition to authoritarian rule has been observed in the ECE states in general and in Poland and Hungary in particular. In the last quarter century, the twin terms of Europeanisation and democratisation, which denote normative approaches, have been the main conceptual pillars of analyses of the ECE states. It turns out, however, that the opposite processes of de-Europeanisation and de-democratisation can now also be observed in these countries.

Abstract

This theoretical paper discusses the controversial development of civil society in the new member states (NMS) over a quarter century of systemic change and after 10 years of EU membership. In doing so, it attempts to elaborate a new conceptual framework for the decline of top-down democracy and the return to democratisation as a bottom-up process. This study of the bumpy course of NMS civil society analyses the gap between large formal legal institutions and small local informal ones and emphasises the need for participatory democracy if democracy in the NMS is to be sustainable. In fact, in this quarter century, two faces of informal institutions have emerged, reflecting the tension between genuine civil society organisations and large corrupt clientele networks. The mass emergence of these “negative” informal institutions has led to a situation of state capture and a democratic façade often analysed in the NMS academic literature. The study concludes that after the political and policy-learning processes of the last 25 years, there are now some signs of a participatory turn in the bottom-up process of NMS democratisation.

Abstract

Analyses of populism in East -Central Europe (ECE) necessarily depart from the general crisis of representative democracy in the EU and describe the ECE as a specifi c regional case reflecting the failure of the catch -up process. The first part of this article adopts this “classical” approach and considers the backsliding of ECE democracy alongside the rise of populist identity politics in the global context. In the second part, I turn to the historical trajectory of ECE populism as a “nested” or two -level game in the EU context of ECE developments. The third part of this article outlines the main contradictions in this process that has led to what I call the Juncker paradox. To understand this paradox, we need to return to what the Commission noted in the early 2010s as the Copenhagen dilemma: aft er the EU accession of ECE states, the EU had no means to control rule -of -law violations and, in fact, supported autocratic populist ECE regimes through European transfers. This article explains the worsening of this situation in the late 2010s as the EU polycrisis caused Juncker’s Commission to focus on Core -based priorities and marginalise rule -of -law violations in ECE. This inaction and neglect have produced a special case of negative externalities - the Juncker paradox - that has largely been counterproductive and further strengthened anti -EU populism in all ECE countries, especially Hungary and Poland. Despite this situation, I conclude that Juncker’s 2017 State of the Union address should be a turning point in the EU’s policy towards ECE; in particular, it should promote a better understanding of the regional situation and more effective enforcement of the rule of law.

Abstract

In the last decade there has been a process of rolling-back Europeanization efforts in the EU’s new member states (NMS), a process intensified by the global crisis. This de-Europeanization and dedemocratization process in the NMS has become a significant part of a more general polycrisis in the EU. The backslide of democracy in the NMS as a topical issue has usually been analysed in terms of macro-politics, formal-legal state institutions, party systems, and macroeconomics. The most significant decline of democratization, however, is evident in the public’s decreasing participation in politics and in the eroding trust. This decline in systemic trust in political elites in the NMS has been largely neglected by analysts. Therefore, this paper concentrates on this relatively overlooked dimension of declining trust and social capital in the NMS. This analysis employs the concepts of governance, trust, and social capital to balance the usual formalistic top-down approach with a bottom-up approach that better illustrates the divergence between East-Central Europe and the Baltic states’ sub-regional development.