For our readers, we perform quarterly briefs which monitor the state of democratic security in Central Europe.
This project aims to enhance the quality of public and expert-level debate on the future policy directions in the EU while nurturing collaboration amongst civil society as a means to shore up democratic resilience in the region. This project is financed by the European Union.
Below find a limited selection of trends in key areas, but for a more complete picture, download the report.
CEE Democratic Security
Source: Lieve van Woensel, Kjeld van Wieringen and Mario Damen, EU strategic autonomy 2013-2023: From concept to capacity. EPRS, 2021/2022.
Democracy and Citizenship
Attitudes toward liberal democracy 73% of the Czech respondents believe that having liberal democracy with regular elections and multiparty system is better for their country, while 27% declared that having a strong and decisive leader who does not have to bother with parliament is more beneficial. In Hungary, these numbers are 74% and 26%, respectively; in Slovakia, 67% and 33%; and in Poland 66% and 34%.
Evaluation of democratic governance When asked how democratically their countries are being governed today on a scale from 1 (not at all) to 10 (completely democratic), Central Europeans ranked the democratic governance in their states in the following way: Polish and Slovak respondents gave their states a score of 4.9, Hungarians – 4.3, and Czechs – 5.5.
Participation in politics According to the data gathered by the Economist Intelligence Unit as part of the Democracy Index, the rate of political participation fell in Hungary and Slovakia, remained at the same level in Czechia, and recorded a slight increase in Poland between 2006 and 2022.
Women in political representation In 2023, the share of women in the national houses of parliament in Poland reached 28.3%, 23.0% in Czechia, 22.7% in Slovakia, and 12.6% in Hungary. These indicators for all the CEE countries are below the EU average at 30.8%, and the OECD countries average at 33.8%, and Hungary is the country with the lowest percentage of women in parliament in the EU.
Rule of Law and Illiberalism
Perceived judicial independence In Poland, only 23% of the respondents rate the national justice system as very or fairly good, compared to 33% in Slovakia and 35% in Hungary. Out of the CEE states, the perceived independence of courts and judges among the general public is the highest in Czechia – 65% of the respondents rate the justice system as very or fairly good.
Corruption perception According to Transparency International’s 2022 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), which ranks 180 countries around the world by their perceived levels of public sector corruption and assigns each state a score between 0 (highly corrupt) and 100 (very clean), corruption perception level has increased in Poland since 2015 and in Hungary since 2012. In 2022, Poland scored 55 and ranked 45th, and Hungary scored 42 and ranked 77th. Slovakia and Czechia both saw a positive trend, as perceived corruption has decreased between 2015 and 2022. In 2022, Slovakia scored 56 on the scale and ranked 49th, and Czechia 56 and ranked 41th.
Media Freedom and Disinformation
Struggle for press freedom and independent media In 2023, the World Press Freedom Index compiled by Reporters without Borders ranked the situation of press freedom as “satisfactory” in Czechia and Slovakia and “problematic” in Poland and Hungary. Czechia was ranked 14th out of 180 countries evaluated by the index, Slovakia 17th, Poland 57th, and Hungary 72th.
Exposure to disinformation As the EU Barometer Media & News Survey from 2022 shows, CEE citizens’ exposure to disinformation and fake news is particularly pronounced. 28% of the EU citizens declared being very often or often exposed to disinformation and fake news in the previous 7 days. 29% of Czechs, 33% of Poles, 36% of Slovaks, and 46% of Hungarians report facing disinformation often or very often.
Global threat perception
Stance on Russia According to the GLOBSEC Trends 2022 surveys, there has been a significant spike in perception of Russia as a security threat among the CEE states between 2020 and 2022. In Poland, around 90% consider Russia as a threat to their country’s security (68% in 2020), compared with 84% of Czechs identifying Russia as a security threat to their country (43% in 2020), 62% of Slovaks (20% in 2020), and only 45% of Hungarians (25% in 2020).
Stance on China Fewer Central Europeans identify China as a security threat to their countries, however the negative perception of China has increased between 2020 and 2022. In Czechia, 51% identify China as a security threat, 43% in Poland, 29% in Slovakia, and only 21% in Hungary. Perception of the U.S. and Germany as strategic partners In Poland, 73% perceive the U.S. as a strategic partner for their country, compared to 41% of Czechs, 29% of Slovaks, and 13% of Hungarians. There is more enthusiasm among the CEE citizens when it comes to the perception of Germany as a strategic partner for their states. 74% of Czechs perceive Germany to be Czechia’s strategic partner, compared to 64% of Slovaks, 58% of Hungarians, and 48% of Poles.
Migration, gender equality, and climate change
Migration perceived as a threat 73% of Czech respondents declared that migrants threaten their identity and values. 68% of Slovak respondents, 59% of Hungarian respondents, and 51% of Polish respondents agreed with the same statement.
Attitude toward climate change Across the CEE, the attitudes toward climate change vary when compared to the EU average. According to the 2023 Eurobarometer Survey, 77% of Europeans think climate change is a very serious problem at this moment. 87% of Hungarian respondents, 69% of Polish respondents, 64% of Slovak respondents, and 48% of Czech respondents agree with the same statement. The same survey reveals that in 2023 63% of Europeans declared taking action to fight climate change. 72% of Slovaks admit to taking action to fight climate change, 61% of Hungarians, 47% of Czechs, and only 39% of Polish respondents admit to that.
Gender Equality While the EU’s Institute for Gender Equality research indicates that the conditions leading to greater equality between men and women have improved in the last three years, the Gender Equality Index (expressed as score from 1 to 100, where a score of 100 would mean that a country had reached full equality between men and women) in the CEE states has persisted at a lower rate than the EU average. In 2023, the Gender Equality Index reached 70.2 for the EU, 61.9 in Poland, 59.2 in Slovakia, 57.9 in Czechia, and 57.3 in Hungary.
Gender pay gap As of November 2022, the gender pay gap in the EU is at 13% (defined as the difference between the average gross hourly earnings of working men and women). In 2022, the gender pay gap in Poland is at 4.5%, the lowest among the CEE states and way below the EU average. However, the gender pay gap in Slovakia, Czechia and Hungary has remained significantly above the EU average, at 15.6%, 16.4%, and 17.2% respectively.
Attitudes towards LGBTI The Rainbow Index by ILGA Europe reflects how the laws and policies of each country impact the lives of LGBTI people on a scale of 0 (gross violations of human rights, discrimination) to 100% (respect of human rights, full equality). In 2022, Poland scored 13% on that scale, Czechia 26%, Hungary 30%, and Slovakia 34%.
Policy Brief: EU Migration and Enlargement Ambitions Fall on Deaf Ears in CEE – Democratic Security Brief Jul – Sep 2023. The EU and member states must prepare civic education plans to address social anxieties and real challenges of accepting an increasing number of migrants into the EU democracies. Click here to read the brief
Policy Brief: CEE Electoral Polarisation Puts EU and Ukraine at Risk – Democratic Security Brief Apr – Jun 2023. Civil society actors in Poland and Slovakia must help mitigate growing political polarisation and counteract smear campaigns from extreme right parties to safeguard free and fair elections as stipulated by the EU Democracy Action Plan. Click here to read the brief
Policy Brief: Centre of Gravity – But Not for Democratic Security – Democratic Security Brief Jan – Mar 2023. The EU’s overall democratic security developments are impacted by the events in CEE countries, which are amplified due to the ongoing war. Click here to read the brief
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