ALBERTO PIZZOLI/AFP/Getty Images
European Expansion
The EU Embrace

The excitement over EU enlargement has faded, but the benefits of Europe’s institutions already extend past its borders.

Published on: February 7, 2018
Dimitar Bechev is a research fellow at the Center for Slavic, Eurasian, and East European Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. His new book, Rival Power: Russia in Southeast Europe, is published by Yale University Press.
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  • Otis

    “…the rule of law is being put to the test in Hungary and Poland, where governing parties seek to perpetuate their control over the state.”

    So what? In my experience, all governing parties, by various means, seek to perpetuate their control over the state – in democracies, by getting themselves reelected. I am suspicious of the current lamentation about a “slide to autocracy” in countries that have free elections with a wide choice of parties; where there are no political prisoners; where opposition groups freely organize demonstrations and participants are not beaten, arrested, or fired from their jobs; and where there is a free and lively press with ample criticism of the current governments. Poland’s PiS and Hungary’s FIDESZ are now firmly ensconced in power because a) opposition parties were inept or out of touch (or both) when they were in power; and b) the Polish and Hungarian electorates are satisfied, not brainwashed.

    There is much to criticize in the policies of both governments, but a cluster of bad policies (along with some genuinely good and popular ones) do not constitute backsliding from democratic commitments. Their reluctance to take refugees does not make Poland or Hungary illiberal democracies. Nobody consulted with them before throwing open the doors to a million immigrants to the EU, and they are under no obligation to accept immigrant quotas decreed by someone else. And I have to think that something like Poland’s judicial reform would have been applauded rather than denigrated in Brussels if it had been devised by some appropriately post-modern, politically correct government instead of the prickly Polish nationalists of PiS.

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