The Real Tragedy of Central Europe

Trouble in the Region is Trouble for Everyone Involved

24 December 2019

Wojciech Przybylski


Today’s illiberal manifestations in Central Europe are part of a larger global trend in which the liberal world order is being questioned and trust in the pillar institutions undermined. However, these undemocratic movements also have their local roots.

The understanding of Central Europe from over thirty years ago – as part of the West captured by the Byzantine East and represented geographically by Europe behind the Iron Curtain – has been fading away over the three decades of successful transformation. The nations of Central Europe have regained independence and restored their place in the West mostly by following prescribed directions.

Ralf Dahrendorf

This was not an imitation game, yet the pace at which authoritarian rule was replaced by rule of law and democratic institutions left many, like Ralf Dahrendorf, wondering whether consolidation of democracy will not require a few more generations. The long list of success stories that followed in all dimensions of political, social and economic performance would take up a great deal of space.

At the peak of this continuum, the region has become so successful that even the first signs of democratic backsliding, corrupt schemes and centrally exploited social polarisation were not considered as serious new trends but merely as hick-ups. Democracy was being feted around the world and Central Europe was enjoying the limelight. But where there is hubris, there is imprudence.


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Wojciech Przybylski


Political analyst heading Visegrad Insight's policy foresight on European affairs. His expertise includes foreign policy and political culture. Editor-in-Chief of Visegrad Insight and President of the Res Publica Foundation. Europe's Future Fellow at IWM - Institute of Human Sciences in Vienna and Erste Foundation. Wojciech also co-authored a book 'Understanding Central Europe’, Routledge 2017. He has been published in Foreign Policy, Politico Europe, Journal of Democracy, EUObserver, Project Syndicate, VoxEurop, Hospodarske noviny, Internazionale, Zeit, Dziennik Gazeta Prawna, Onet, Gazeta Wyborcza and regularly appears in BBC, Al Jazeera Europe, Euronews, TRT World, TVN24, TOK FM, Swedish Radio and others.


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