Democracy’s Second Wind in CEE

METROPOLE and GLOBSEC will be cooperating on a range of activities, initiatives and events in the upcoming months to promote democracy in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE)

Democracy. The fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union were watershed moments in Central and Eastern Europe, stoking optimism in open markets and in international systems that seemed to make financial regulation less essential. Many heralded a new golden age. With the end of communism and the oppression of a command economy, democratic systems and open markets would surely blossom; capitalism and free societies would follow. 

It didn’t quite turn out that way. Now, 30 years later, we are not in the world we expected. Idealism and commitment allowed Central Europe to establish free democratic societies and grow their wealth. They also paved the way to join the EU. But the transition also saw give-away privatizations, corruption and kleptocracy. The new democratic institutions, which must be based on trust, regulatory frameworks and the rule of law, often took too long to build, leaving vacuums for local strongmen. Not everywhere, and not indefinitely. But still, it has been a tangle of successes and disappointment.

Today, Central Europeans are increasingly taking to the streets in defense of democracy and human rights: Last summer in Warsaw, thousands protested government interference with an independent judiciary. In Budapest in January, workers, students and families defied the cold to protest punishing new working hours; in Slovakia in February, following the murder of journalist Ján Kuciak; in Prague in June, the largest crowds since the fall of communism protested PM Andrej Babiš, accused of fraud and cooperating with the secret police. 

So, while it has been an “unfinished revolution,” the peoples of CEE have what looks very much like a powerful second wind, and the clear determination to reclaim the transformation to social democracy, regulated market economies and the rule of law they had hoped for.   

To support this, METROPOLE is joining with GLOBSEC, in Bratislava, as media partner. In the announcement that follows, the organization presents its program of events and action for 2019 and beyond.

Recommitting to our Democratic Values:
The GLOBSEC Democracy Declaration

by Roger HiltonGlobsec Logo

The fabric of democracy returned to Central and Eastern Europe in the wake of 1989, and the 30 years anniversary is a cause for celebration, a time to remember earlier pain and to forge a new future. Given the current threats to the long-term viability of democracy in  Europe and abroad, GLOBSEC believes both citizens and leaders should recommit themselves to democratic principles as well as a rules-based order. 

To commemorate this watershed moment, we are proud to present The GLOBSEC Democracy Declaration. As history has confirmed, democracy requires maintenance, reflection and engagement to making those values real. The Declaration’s official release at the 2019 GLOBSEC Bratislava Forum in June signaled ours and our partners’ dedication to championing democratic principles – and calls on all international leaders as well as citizens to commit, too.

GLOBSEC has set about celebrating significant democracy milestones that took place throughout 1989 in the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia. Since late June we have spotlighted these important moments by releasing archived photos on our Twitter page, accompanied each time by an article giving historical context and featuring the hashtag #GLOBSECDD.

From September through December, the GLOBSEC Democracy Declaration Dialogue will host a series of public debates as an extension of our annual Tatra Summit, screen documentaries and films, and host special democracy events. We are especially excited about showcasing video testimonials, featuring international people from all walks of public and private life who reflect on 30 years of democracy. Our efforts will culminate with a month-long awareness campaign to highlight the Velvet Revolution’s most critical moments and what followed. This initiative will complement the December 2019 Château Béla Central European Strategic Forum.

This is a time for action: Everyone has a part to play in maintaining a vibrant democratic system in Central and Eastern Europe and beyond. For this reason, the call to sign the Declaration remains open to all those who wish to unceasingly and unequivocally pursue and promote democratic values. To date, signatories include the Ministers of Foreign Affairs from Bulgaria, Slovakia, and Lithuania, as well as the Secretary General of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), Thomas Greminger. All in all, defenders of
democracy from 19 countries have signed.

Central and Eastern European states have an integral role on the European and Trans-Atlantic stage and must remain dynamic to help solve regional and global problems. Consequently, the region must remain determined in its pursuit of solidarity and a democratic future. As the GLOBSEC Democracy Declaration Dialogue unfolds, we sincerely hope to maximize attention to this transformational moment in European history, and stoke reflection, discussion and engagement to ensure the preservation of democratic values today and tomorrow.

Dardis McNamee
Dardis McNamee is the Editor in Chief of METROPOLE. Over a long career in journalism she has written for The New York Times, Conde Nast Traveler in New York, the Wall Street Journal Europe and Die Zeit in Vienna, as well as having been a speechwriter to two US ambassadors to Austria. She was awarded the 2007 Kemper Award for Excellence in Teaching for her work at the Department of Media Communications for Webster University Worldwide. In 2010, she was granted Austrian Citizenship of Honor (Ehrenstaatsbürgerschaft) for outstanding contributions to the Austrian Republic


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