28 Stories that Defined 2022

A selection of stories by Visegrad Insight published in 2022 that defined democratic security in Europe

27 December 2022

In 2022, democracies in CEE were alive and kicking. Despite the Russian war and autocratic trends, we saw political and civil society breakthroughs. Visegrad Insight published hundreds of voices on democratic security in Central Europe that were republished across dozens of media partners in national languages. Check 28 stories that defined the passing year.

Democratic security is top of news in the CEE region. Don’t miss out on what’s ahead. For a limited time, we are offering a 50 per cent annual discount for this next year. Spread the news on democratic security in CEE to your friends.

Share this code before 10 January 2023: V4XMAS

By subscribing or donating, you gain access to analysis, forecasts and scenarios by leading analysts and reporters who monitor democratic risks and develop policy debate from Central Europe on Central Europe.

1. The Rise of A Right-wing Party Is Undermining the Prominence of the Estonian-Russian Conflict At Home

A primer to Estonian party politics from January 2022. See how far Estonia has come from one year ago. By Merili Arjakas, Marcin Król Fellow.

2. The Realist Illusion About Russia and Ukraine: A Response to Stephen Walt

What really causes the “Ukraine crises”? Realists claim that strategic competition of great powers is a given, an inevitable reality. Still, history has already proven them wrong, wrote Aliaksei Kazharski, Visegrad Insight Fellow, ahead of the war.

3. European Future Decided Over Ukraine

Russia undermines the whole post-cold war security architecture. The developments in eastern Europe back in February continue to shape the future of Europe and the world, wrote Oksana Forostyna, Marcin Król Fellow, in her ominous prediction three weeks before the invasion started.

Read a foresight report published two weeks before the war:
How Nine Central and Eastern European Countries Will Respond.

4. Putin is Evil, Not Mentally Ill, a Psychological Explanation

The West’s attempts to rationalise Moscow’s moves miss the point, argued Roman Kechur in an interview with Volodymyr Semkiv

‘He is a colossus on clay feet. Putin will do one or more other evil things. This will kill more people. But the verdict has already been passed. And it will be implemented soon enough.’ Is Putin really mentally ill? Is he able to press the ‘nuclear button?’ What role does Ukraine play in the St. Petersburg backyard against the ‘cool guy with thin skin?’ Roman Kechur is the President of the Ukrainian Confederation of Psychoanalytic Psychotherapies.

5. Why Russians Are to Blame for Putin

The ‘Z’ cult says more about society than Marina Ovsyannikova’s TV stunt, wrote Iryna Podolyak, former Deputy Minister of Culture of Ukraine, in early March 2022. Let’s not delude ourselves  — Russian society is no different from Putin today. And she added, “Good Russians do not exist”, provoking a broad debate.

Read a cautionary analysis to curbing extremism:
Banning the Z Symbol in CEE Will Backfire

6. Orbán Ends the Budapest–Warsaw Axis

Regardless of the electoral result in Hungary, Poland will now stand apart, remaking the Central European dynamics. The divergence over Russia’s war on Ukraine is only part of the answer, predicted Wojciech Przybylski, Editor-in-Chief of the Visegrad, in April. 

7. The Crisis in Bosnia and Herzegovina

The news that the European military force in Sarajevo, EUFOR Althea, will be receiving reinforcements was positively received in Bosnia, and Herzegovina, stated Július Lőrincz. The current system is, unfortunately, the result of the escalation and perpetuation of tensions and chaos, especially by the generation of politicians that emerged from the war in the first half of the 1990s and their career successors. 

8. The Future of Europe Is Not Only Written in Budapest and Warsaw

The Hungarian and Polish governments must also face up to the fact that they have little appeal to anyone other than their own voters, argued Viktória Serdült in May. In the long term, neither the Hungarian nor the Polish governments can ignore the results of the Conference on the Future of Europe, where European citizens clearly stated that they wanted a more united and democratic Europe.

Do not forget to check how this war ends for Europe. Read our biggest foresight report:

10. The Integration of the Western Balkans Into the EU Is Also Blocked Because of the War in Ukraine

The Czech Presidency was struggling to decide how to proceed, wrote Barbora Chrzová and Petr Čermák

In almost ten years, none of the Western Balkan states has achieved significant rapprochement with the EU. The whole process is mutually blocked. On the Western Balkan side, the reluctance to implement key reforms and to settle their internal and mutual disputes — on the EU side, the inability to find consensus among the Member States on the speed and manner of further enlargement.

11. Slovenia’s New Government Rejects ‘Orbán’s Visegrad.’

Prime Minister Robert Golob’s new government set out an EU course for the country. With the election of a new centre-left government in Slovenia.

Albin Sybera, Foresight Editor, asks whether the government will learn from the mistakes of the Czechs and bring about politics immune to the challenges of an illiberal opposition.

12. What Will Come from This Year’s NATO Summit?

The Madrid NATO summit set NATO’s strategic direction for the next decade and beyond while responding specifically to the new security crisis facing the region with the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

FAQ section explainers provided by: Michal Baranowski, Andrew Michta, Radu Albu-Comănescu, Matej Kandrík, Sigita Struberga, Velina Tchakarova and Marcin Zaborowski.

13. The ‘Damned if You Do, Damned if You Do Not’ Approach Does Not Help Poland Push German Policy Towards Ukraine Forward

Those cunning Germans – says Kaczyński – and it is not on a comedy show. Despite seeming agreement between Germany and Poland on the importance and cruciality of an appropriate reaction to the Russo-Ukrainian war, relations remain tense. By Adam Leszczyński, Marcin Król Fellow. 

14. Beneficial Owners With Benefits of Secrecy

Data from the registers of beneficial owners is crucial for identifying money laundering, including Kremlin money. Yet, we see some EU and Member State institutions moving towards keeping this data locked up. By Krzysztof Izdebski, Marcin Król Fellow.

15. China’s Belt and Road Just Got Shorter

While the Baltics opt out of China’s regional initiative, the EU looks at visa bans for Russians, and Poland deals with the severe pollution of its second-largest river. Our Weekly Outlook reported in mid-August.

16. Commission Finally Gets Serious on Hungary

More from the Visegrad Insight Futures team in September.

The EC recommended suspending 65 per cent of EU funds to Hungary while more mass graves are unearthed in Izyum after Ukrainian liberation from Russian occupation. Meanwhile, many CEE leaders in London paid their respects to the Queen, and Russian influence in the elections across the continent remains a serious concern. 

17. Russia Loses the (Former) Soviet Union…Again

Putin’s fiasco in Ukraine forces central Asian countries to turn their backs on Moscow, wrote Vitaly Portnikov, Future of Ukraine Fellow.

The days of Vladimir Putin holding court in Central Asia have ended. Now, he must listen to former sycophants tell him the limits of his influence while seeing leaders from Beijing, Brussels, and Washington replace him.

18. How Bulgaria Is Slowly Breaking Free of the Russian Gas-embrace

All it took was an initiative for Sofia to realise the possibilities in the energy market, reported Ognyan Georgiev, Marcin Król Fellow. 

Contrary to popular thinking, Bulgaria has never depended on Gazprom for resources. Nevertheless, the circumstances Bulgaria finds itself in today were challenging to predict earlier in the year, if not impossible. As Sofia will conquer the winter without Russian gas for the first time in generations, new possibilities in the energy sector are emerging.

19. Elections in the US Signal Shift to Isolationism 

As Republicans were poised to win in both congressional houses, American isolationism could hit the mainstream, leaving funding to Ukraine a lingering question, argued Miles R. Maftean, Editorial Director at Visegrad Insight.

20. How Chinese Investment Props Up Orbán and Erodes Democracy

China plays a system-supporting and system-legitimising role in the Orbán regime through investment. It provides lucrative business opportunities for the Hungarian Prime Minister’s clients that help him to maintain power. These strengthened relations also help him to depict Hungary as a key global player, the graces of which are sought even by a superpower. By Edit Zgut-Przybylska, Visegrad Insight Fellow.

21. NATO Needs a New Framework Nation from Central Europe

With Paris and Berlin notably absent, Europe needs direction from further east, assessed Radu Albu-Comănescu, Visegrad Insight Fellow. 

If we were to say the truth, in 2022, Europe cancelled its common geopolitical future due to deep divisions, some of which were meticulously cultivated in the past. The EU cannot move beyond the level of economic construction or perhaps geo-economic if the much-claimed strategy of decoupling, autonomy and resilience is put into practice despite Germany’s pleas for China.

22. Romania’s Turn in the 3SI Presidency

There is no time like the present to push for more excellent connectivity in the region. Throughout the trans-Atlantic space, the war in Ukraine has generated an amalgamation between the need for immediate action and the need for longer-term planning and vision, between continuous adaptation to the impact of the war and preparation for “the day after”. By Alina Inayeh, advisor to GMF President Heather Conley.

23. Backlash Over Schengen Veto

Austria and the Netherlands’ vetoes over Romania’s and Bulgaria’s integration in the Schengen space were considered arbitrary in Bucharest and partially justified in Sophia. By Adrian Mihaltianu and Spasimir Domaradzki

24. Why the Czech Republic Should Lead NATO’s Eastern Flank

Prague’s experience with the EU Presidency shows it is ready for a more substantial role, argued Martin Ehl, Senior Fellow.

The centre of power is shifting both in Europe and among NATO allies. With their resilience and support for Ukraine during the Russian invasion, Central Europe has shown that it should hold a more dominant position. Poland is struggling with the rule of law violations, so the Czech Republic offers a logical alternative.

25. Explainer: Slovak Government Falls After No-Confidence Vote

The vote of no confidence has caused a meltdown in Bratislava, with speculations running rampant. A turbulent week in Slovakia ends with a successful no-confidence vote against Eduard Heger’s minority government. The rocky situation has left Bratislava in political turmoil, and some suggest it could undermine democracy. By Matej Kandrík, Marcin Król Fellow.

26. The Age of Russian Disinformation and War

Russia’s belligerent use of propaganda and misinformation reaches new levels, warns Alina BârgăoanuMarcin Król Fellow. 

The concept of Russian disinformation vs misinformation has been known widely in the Western world since the Brexit campaign and the 2016 US presidential elections. However, the concept’s nuances have only recently begun to be understood since the various themes are so subtle and multipronged that many segments of society fail to see how they are being targeted.

27. Data Shows How New EU Sanctions Are Devastating the Russian Economy

Contrary to Moscow’s propaganda, the sanctions are crippling Russia’s economy, shows Bohdan BernatskyiFuture of Ukraine Fellow. 

The Kremlin has been bombarding its domestic and international audiences with propaganda that the EU sanctions aren’t hurting Russia, but this is false. The ninth round will have an even more significant impact on the troubled economy, but they must be enforced more stringently.

28. Conservative Policies Failing Demographic Challenges

Cash incentives have done little to increase fertility rates in Poland and Hungary. Poland and Hungary have had a steady demographic pattern for the last several decades: their populations are shrinking. Fidesz and PiS believe promoting traditional values and restricting reproductive rights would increase birth rates, but time has shown this could not be further from the truth. Instead of the baby boom, we have a baby doom, writes Paweł Marczewski, Marcin Król Fellow.


Your Central European Intelligence

Democratic security comes at a price. What is yours?
Subscribe now for full access to expert analysis and policy debate on Central Europe.


Weekly updates with our latest articles and the editorial commentary.