The dramatic decline of democracy in East-Central Europe (ECE) has attracted worldwide attention, presenting a significant challenge to European models of liberal democracy. This timely book tackles the heart of this region's complexity, unpacking the socio-economic, political and cultural developments of the ECE countries.
Attila Ágh demonstrates the key turning point in 2010, when the region's political trajectory shifted from chaotic democracy to authoritarian rule. Moving beyond the narrow spectrum of political 'event history' deployed by ECE parties and governments, the author offers a complex analysis of the changes to the region, exploring the deep, systemic causes of hard populism. Examining the fascinating relationship between ECE countries, Europe and the world, Ágh outlines the future of democracy in the region, exploring perspectives of re-democratization by the new generation raised under the auspices of EU democracy.
Declining Democracy in East-Central Europe provides researchers in both political and European studies with a unique insight into the rapidly diverging pathways of European democracies. Ágh's detailed approach to the ECE region will also benefit experts in regional studies, moving beyond political narratives of individual countries and analysing the region as a whole.
'Attila Ágh's book investigates the largely neglected domestic developments in the East-Central member states since the fall of the iron curtain and their subsequent accession to the European Union. Ágh's analysis is comprehensive, well-informed and illustrates how a mixture between external conditionalities and domestic developments, predominantly a persistent systemic distrust and lack of deep-seated Europeanisation have contributed towards the rise of neopopulism in the region. Ágh warns of the "a decline in all respects of democracy, governance and sustainability as a complex deficit" as part of a general trend of democratic backsliding in the ECE region.
Ágh's analysis is a crucial and overdue contribution to the academic and public debate on the future of the EU beyond the current narrow focus on Brexit and the revival of the Franco-German partnership. He illustrates that the biggest risk for the survival of the European project post-Brexit lies in the manifestation of East-Central Europe as a 'blind spot', a warning which should be a wake-up call to Western political elites.'
– Christian Schweiger, Chemnitz University of Technology, Germany
Attila Ágh, Professor Emeritus, Institute of Political Science, Budapest Corvinus University, Hungary.