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Declining Democracy in East-Central Europe

The Divide in the EU and Emerging Hard Populism

Attila Ágh

The dramatic decline of democracy in East-Central Europe has attracted great interest world-wide. Going beyond the narrow spectrum of the extensive literature on this topic, this book offers a comprehensive analysis of ECE region – Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia – from systemic change in 1989 to 2019 to explain the reasons of the collapse of ECE democratic systems in the 2010s.
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Chapter 8: ECE regional politics and the increasing core–periphery divide

Attila Ágh


Since the global crisis, the core–periphery divide has deepened in the EU between the most developed core countries and the ECE countries, which has been most manifest in the deep violations of the rule of law by Poland and Hungary. The ‘Copenhagen dilemma’ emerged in the EU because after the accession the EU had no legal tools to correct the divergence from democracy in ECE. As the increasing conflicts have demonstrated, the legal toolkits – the infringement process and the Article 7 procedure – have not been effective in enforcing the rule of law in ECE. The refugee crisis has increased the regionalization process in ECE, but at the heavy price of confrontation with EU mainstream developments. It is a big challenge both for the next EU leadership to solve this problem of divergence in ECE and for the ECE governments to comply with EU rules and values.

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