We've detected an outdated browser.

You may want to consider updating your browser. International Policy Digest requires a modern browser in order to view the website properly.

Click here for information on how to update your browser.

Continue Anyways
Freedom House

Tag Archives | Freedom House

Goulash Democracy? Viktor Orban’s Hungary and Western Misconceptions

|
Viktor Orbán, Hungary's firebrand Prime Minister. Photo: Pietro Naj-Oleari

For many, the first word that comes to mind when thinking about Hungary is goulash.

Viktor Orbán, Hungary’s firebrand Prime Minister. Photo: Pietro Naj-Oleari

Like stew, made from a collection of unlikely ingredients, “goulash” seems an apt metaphor for Hungarian politics today, which has a confusingly mixed image of setbacks and achievements. Depending on who one talks to, Hungary’s current government is either undermining democracy or a shining example for its region. Parliamentary elections are due to take place in a few weeks’ time and, even more confusingly, the country’s firebrand Prime Minister, Viktor Orbán, is leading in national polls, despite the fact that his international image is regularly pummeled with accusations of authoritarianism.

According to the established narrative in the West, he has in mind one goal: to obtain and hold on to power. In support of the narrative, many point to criticism coming from the European Union. It is true that the Union tends to its flock with a heavy hand, punishing any transgressions coming from its member states. In the past four years, Hungary has seen a plethora of accusations delivered from Brussels over its democratic credentials, especially on the topics of electoral reform and economic programs.

Continue Reading →

From Lisbon to Barcelona: Forgotten EU Instruments

|
European Union flag flying outside of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin. Rock Cohen/Flickr

European Union flag flying outside of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin. Rock Cohen/Flickr

The cynical and misleading claim currently circulating European Union (EU) policymaker circles is: ‘multiculturalism is dead in Europe’. Truth be told, the EU has silently handed over one of its most important debates – that of European identity – to the wing-parties for years. In turn, it is no wonder that recent selective foreign policy actions serve to challenge EU-member cohesion.

Europe’s economic unity, its fundamental future realignment as well as the maintenance of its overall public standing are embodied in the credibility of its strategic neighborhood and its enduring partnership. The reinvigoration of the EUs “everything but institutions” transformative powers including the European Neighborhood Policy, primarily that of the Barcelona Process, and the Euro-Med partnership (OSCE) remains a forgotten lever of consequential progress available.

By correlating the hydrocarbons with the present political and socio-economic landscape, scholar Larry Diamond’s research suggests that 22 states in the world, which earn 60 percent or more of their respective GDP from oil (and gas), are non-democratic/authoritarian regimes. All of these nations maintain huge disparities, steep socio-economic cleavages, sharp political inequalities and lasting exclusions, not to mention extremely dismal human rights records.

Continue Reading →

Russia unlikely to see Reforms Post-Medvedev

|
Dmitry Medvedev at the G8 Summit in Canada. Source: Kremlin Press Office

There is a Russian proverb, “Не пеняй на зеркало, коли рожа крива,” which loosely translates as, “Don’t blame the mirror for your ugly face.”

Dmitry Medvedev at the G8 Summit in Canada. Source: Kremlin Press Office

Ironically, Russia’s ruling elite are not blaming themselves for the shortcomings of the so-called, Putin-Medvedev tandem. Two recent developments in particular have prompted this dilemma within the elite class. First, in mid-March, President Medvedev’s Chief of Staff, Sergei Ivanov, voiced his mistrust in various country rankings prepared by international organizations, such as Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index, which placed Russia at 143rd along with Belarus, Nigeria and Azerbaijan among 183 countries. He spoke of the need to create Russia’s own corruption ranking.

Then came the Times Higher Education World Reputation Rankings “Top 100 Universities by Reputation” ranking for 2012, where not a single Russian university made it to the top 100. Two days after Mr. Ivanov’s statement, Russia’s Education Minister, Andrei Fursenko, promptly announced in response that Russia will create its own “international and universally recognized” university reputation ranking system, which would rival the Times’ rankings. Fursenko was in fact reiterating an almost forgotten statement made by Vladimir Putin in February 2011 regarding the “need to be very cautious about standings, and work out a self-made objective method of evaluating the quality of education.”

Continue Reading →