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The State of Liberalism in Central and Eastern Europe

October 6, 2018 in Economics

By Tanja Porčnik

Tanja Porčnik

Not that long ago, we had the pleasure of analysing not only the
progress the countries of Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) have
made toward liberalism [1] with the introduction of liberal public
policies and institutions, and flourishing of liberal democracies
[2], but also to deliberate a course to structure and implement
further reforms towards liberalism in these countries.

The last couple of years however have seen the citizens of
several CEE countries witness the erosion of hard-earned
liberalism, while privately and publicly weighing on how to prevent
populists in power from further trampling citizen’s freedoms and
rights. Admittedly, in those countries, the persuasion that liberal
democracies are stable has been shattered.

To examine what has occurred in CEE, the analysis is divided
into two parts: i) political rights and ii) personal and economic
freedoms. We shall examine regional and national trends.

First, political rights in CEE have been in retreat.
Accordingly, the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Democracy
[3] shows the level of political rights in CEE has
declined from 6.43 to 6.39 on a ten-point scale in the period
2011-2017, with half (eight) of the countries decreasing their
ratings and half increasing (see Figure 1). At a country level, the
largest deteriorations in political rights in CEE have occurred in
the Czech Republic (-0.49), Macedonia (-0.52), and Montenegro
(-0.58). The largest increases in political rights occurred in
Estonia (0.30), Latvia (0.40), and Bulgaria (0.45).

Second, the Human Freedom Index [4] reveals that
personal and economic freedoms have been under assault globally
since 2009, primarily due to the rise of nationalism, populism, and
hybrid forms of authoritarianism being sold as viable alternatives
(see Figure 2). Accordingly, the global freedom rating has declined
from 7.05 to 6.93 on a ten-point scale in a 2008-2015 period, with
about half of the countries in the index increasing their ratings
and half decreasing. During the same period, freedom in CEE
increased from 7.82 to 7.90.

Of the 12 major categories that make up the index, all but five
have seen some improvement since 2008 in CEE (see Figure 3).
Movement (-0.42), Size of Government (-0.30), and Religion (-0.23)
saw the largest decreases since 2008, while Regulation (0.32),
Freedom to Trade Internationally (0.34), and Sound Money (0.56) saw
the largest increase.

Of 16 CEE countries included in the latest Human Freedom Index,
the top three jurisdictions in order were Estonia, Lithuania, and
Latvia. At the bottom were Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and
Macedonia (see Figure 4).

Notably, Figure 5 reveals Poland (-0.10), Hungary (-0.15), and
Montenegro (-0.21) losing the most freedom in the last year
analysed. While weak rule of law is a common problem …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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