Ambiguous Identities

CE Europeans Value Their Membership in Western Institutions but Feel like Outsiders

22 July 2021

Aliaksei Kazharski

Visegrad Insight Fellow

Recent opinion polls in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) show somewhat contradictory results. The majority remains committed to democracy but there are strong sympathies for autocratic leadership, too. Central Europeans value their EU and NATO membership, yet many do not feel to be a part of the Western world, seeing themselves situated between the East and West. 

In his introduction to the recent study of public opinion in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) published by the Bratislava GLOBSEC Policy Institute, Ivan Krastev makes two important arguments. First, the CEE publics have developed what he calls a ‘tenant mentality’ with respect to the EU and NATO.

In other words, while benefiting from membership in these institutions, they often see them as something external to themselves. Indeed, public campaigns like the one launched in Slovakia under the slogan We are NATO are telling as they are clearly an effort to change this perception pattern.

Second, as Krastev points out, despite being an integral part of Western institutions, Central and Eastern European publics often place their countries in between the East and the West rather than in the West, with the in-between option gathering a regional average of 49 per cent of support in June 2021. This shared geopolitical attitude is interpreted as a sign of regional cohesion, Krastev argues. If so, this cohesion is notable, considering that the region is otherwise often described as being made up of very different countries with conflicting interests, and therefore, historically incapable of advancing a united geopolitical project of its own.

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Aliaksei Kazharski

Visegrad Insight Fellow

Visegrad Insight Fellow. Researcher at the Institute of European Studies and International Relations of the Comenius University in Bratislava and a lecturer at the Department of Security Studies of Charles University in Prague

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