Can the young democracies of East-Central Europe cope with the double impact of transformation and integration? / Michael Dauderstädt. - [Electronic ed.]. - London, 1997. - 60 Kb, Text . - (Europe 2000)
Leicht veränd. Online-Version der Broschüre: Young democracies under strain. - Electronic ed.: Bonn: EDV-Stelle der FES, 1997

© Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung

Summary of the Five Main Arguments:

  1. Even in the case of sustained economic growth, the transformation process in East-Central Europe will increase economic and social differentiation and create a significant group of worse-off and disgruntled individuals.
  2. Because of specific structural problems (missing democratic traditions, value patterns, party systems, and in general, a weakly developed civil society), the emerging democracies in East-Central Europe are particularly vulnerable to those groups who have suffered under the reforms and become critical of the new system.
  3. Transformation and social differentiation are thus eroding popular support for democracy in East-Central Europe. Moreover, these democracies do not have a cushioning social welfare system nor fresh democratic political alternatives.
  4. Joining the EU would have ambivalent consequences for the democratic stability of East-Central Europe. While it would provide an anchor of stability, it would at the same time accelerate not only the transformation process, but social differentiation and political polarisation.
  5. Western assistance and the implementation of an accession strategy thus require specific measures to deal with the risks of social instability.

Six years after the revolutions that ended Communism, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary, the four countries that this study will examine, have made broad-ranging progress in the transition from Soviet-dominated party dictatorships and planned economies to free-market democracies integrating into Europe.

  • All four countries possess democratic constitutions and the respective enabling laws and institutions. In numerous elections, they have chosen democratic governments and successfully carried out the transfer of power among competing parties and governments.
  • Economic reform has made significant progress in all of the countries. According to estimates of the EBRD, the private sector is producing at least 60 percent of the GDP. Following a deep recession from 1990 to 1993, the economies of all four countries are again growing.

But the democracies of East-Central Europe contain elements that analysts[2] find problematic, including a high degree of centralism, presidential systems[3], low voter turnout, high voter fluctuation, minority questions, regional conflicts, overextended social welfare systems, lacking international competitiveness, insecurities in the face of deepening European integration and global economic dependence. What makes the situation in East-Central Europe still critical is the conjunction of challenges to democracy both traditional (centralism, voter turnout, minorities, etc.) and modern (overextended social welfare systems, integration, globalisation) in the context of a legacy of old structures and entirely different historical experiences and expectations. The argument of this paper is thus that while they should not be over-dramatised, there are significant risks to democratic stability in East-Central Europe; the specific character of these risks stems from the context of transition and the prospect of European integration.

© Friedrich Ebert Stiftung | technical support | net edition fes-library | März 1998

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