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Behind the Headlines

Undermining Democracy: Challenges to Democracy in Central and Eastern Europe

Democratic values and institutions are being increasingly undermined and eroded in established and transitioning democracies across central and Eastern Europe. Providing perspectives on these serious developments in Poland, Hungary and Germany, this Forum explored the implications for Ireland and Europe more widely and considered what measures could be taken to safeguard the rule of law and democratic principles so fundamental to the idea of Europe.

The Erosian of Constitutional Democracy

  • Dr Oran Doyle (School of Law) analysed the sorts of constitutional changes that erode constitutional democracies and what can be done to protect against them, with a particular focus on Hungary.

Missing Most of the Signals: Orban, Kaczynski and Trump - State Capture by Demonizing 'them'?

  • Dr Jacqueline Hayden (Department of Political Science, School of Social Science and Philosophy) discussed how in trying to understand why democracy is under threat in countries once regarded as leaders in the process of democratic transition in Eastern Europe we need to look deeper than the quality of democratic institutions alone and focus on psychological legacies of the transition itself as well as  the relationship between national collective memory, social trust and political legitimacy.

The Good Change in Poland

  • Dr Aneta Stepien (Department of Russian and Slavonic Studies, School of Languages, Literatures & Cultural Studies) explored  how  ‘Law and Justice’, the ruling party in Poland, redefines the idea of democracy, using anti-EU, and increasingly anti-German, rhetoric.

Germany and the Rise of the New Right: A Second Weimar?

  • Professor Juergen Barkhoff (Department of Germanic Studies, School of Languages, Literatures & Cultural Studies) reflected on how, until recently, Germany was pretty much the last country in Western and Central Europe that did not have a strong right wing, populist and xenophobic party. This was widely seen as a result of Germany courageously confronting its Nazi past. Today, within a year, the ‘Alternative for Germany’ has risen from obscurity to 15% and the democratic middle is eroding fast. Is this the result of Angela Merkel’s brave humanitarian gesture to open the country for refugees last summer or rather the result of underlying long-term trends? Is the Federal Republic today in danger of becoming a second Weimar? 

For a full news story on this event, please click here

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