IDM Short Insights 15: Update on the court ruling of Poland's Constitutional Tribunal
To be effective and just, representative democracy should mirror the demos. Women constitute about half of the society, but do they enjoy a respective representation? The EU is a front runner in this regard. The situation varies greatly among the Member States, but on average women comprised 33% of national parliaments and cabinets in 2020, four were heads of state. A far cry from gender parity.
Women have more seats at the political table, but not necessarily more say. A greater formal representation does not automatically translate into more even power distribution. Social attitudes and biases do not cease to exist overnight because of new regulations and quotas. Women politicians often face more hateful personal attacks, struggle to have their voices heard and be taken seriously: not only in the parliaments, but also in media and society.
“Sofa gate” showed that the authority gap still exists and even top female politicians face blatant gender discrimination. As Ursula von der Leyen stated after that incident: "This shows how far we still have to go before women are treated as equals." If this happens to President of the European Commission, then what about women at lower positions of power?
Woman quotas, in place in ten EU countries, can be one solution, but not a panacea. Challenging gender stereotypes, engaging women into politics, offering them leadership opportunities, can be some other ways to achieve a gender balanced political representation sooner than in 145 years!
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More on this subject:
Article: “Demokratische Lösung für Belarus?” (German)
Report: “Global Gender Gap Report 2021”
In July 2021, Hungary’s prime minister distributed his “demands” for the future of Europe as advertisements in several European dailies. One of them deals with the role of non-governmental (NGOs). According to Viktor Orbán, too many decisions are made by NGOs. As we have observed it before, the prime minister uses exaggerations, emotionalization, misleading information and other populist means to strengthen the narrative of transnational actors such as the EU institutions, international and NGOs as a threat to Hungary’s national interests. Nevertheless, as an experienced politician Orbán always bases his critics on legitimate issues. Disregarding the exaggeration, the Hungarian government addressed an existing tension relationship: On the one hand, we have powerful supranational structures like lobbies and including the WTO, the ECB and civil society (CSOs) that shape, advocate and follow certain political agenda. On the other hand, as their leading decision-makers are not elected by the European electorate they lack democratic legitimization.
The outsourcing of problem-solving capacities to the supranational level is rooted in the formative experiences of the First and Second World War as well as in the trustful hope to assure peace in the following. With more regulation power and influence of supranational structures, the national governments’ power has decreased. Parallelly, social movements and their leading organizations have tremendously gained momentum and professionalized since the 1980s – also under major influence from western actors. The supranational structures have become a major addressee for CSOs. EU institutions, NGOs and international organizations have often been used for mediation in domestic conflicts, or to apply international pressure on governments.
One needs to understand that current EU policies are based on long-lasting presumptions and experiences that are not necessarily shared by all member states. For example, the histories of civil society in Western and Eastern European countries differ in many ways. When considering these different paths, we can explain better why the prime minister’s harsh rhetoric against NGOs find such a fertile breeding ground. In Hungary, the concept of NGOs and independent associations is comparably young and strongly shaped by the western model. Therefore, many perceive established NGOs as imported hence foreign subjects. In addition, the self-image of domestic civil society actors is deeply rooted in the ideas of . In many post-soviet countries, the so-called third sector suffers from decades of collective mistrust towards any form of civil engagement. When tackling current issues of participation and democratization, these legacies have to be taken into account. This starts with understanding the differing connotations of civil society terminology. Undoubtedly, the EU needs to strengthen the stability and independence of civil society actors, in particular their strategic litigation to uphold Human Rights. When tackling the civic spaces and developing policies, the EU must consider domestic contexts better. For this, the EU needs to include the local actors more in shaping policies in order to say goodbye to western-centric presumptions and foster comparative civil society research with long-term perspectives.
More on this subject:
Article: “Demokratische Lösung für Belarus?”(German)
Article: “Wie sich Regierungen und Oligarchen Medien kaufen” (German)
Publication:“Ausgebrannt? Rettungspläne für die Demokratie” (German)
The book byDr. Erhard Busek und Dr. Emil Brix, which was originally written in German, has just been published in English by Routledge Publishing House as “Central Europe Revisited - Why Europe’s Future Will Be Decided in the Region”
“The volume explores the role of Central Europe in the 21st century, the importance of the European Union, the significance of a transforming Central Europe for European unity, and what happens when we marginalise Central Europe. The view of the authors is unequivocal: European integration will only succeed when the Central European countries from Poland to North Macedonia, from the Czech Republic to Romania and Moldova, will be seen as being at the heart of Europe. The European Union needs to build more common and fair ground between "old" and "new" member states. According to the authors, any further move towards a "Europe of two speeds" would lead to a break-up of the EU.” (from the book cover)
For more information on the English edition please visit the website of the publishing house.
In November 2021 it will also be published in Czech.
We are looking forward to translations into other languages!
Mindsets, attitudes, opinions, perspectives… every individual perception of the world is strongly influenced by the environment and circumstances in which the personality grows up, lives and is socially active. These personal, and to a certain extent imaginary, constructs then significantly affect the actions of each person. Looking at the socio-political map of Europe, one can observe various patterns of different political, societal, or cultural developments in specific regions. It is precisely this variety of developments linked to diverse contexts that produce differing perceptions that will fundamentally shape the future of Europe and of the European project. Far-reaching global cha() affecting our lives are very often - especially in the region of Central, Eastern (CEE) and Southeastern Europe (SEE) - perceived as negative ones not only because of their nature but also due to the unpreparedness of the population for these. For the latter, these are easily misused by national political elites within their political agendas to create emotionally and non-rationally based constructs with the purpose to cement their path to gaining political power.
The Covid-19 pandemic proved itself to be another expression of these differing patterns all over Europe when it comes to security, responsibility and solidarity. As it happened already during previous crisis, the nationalist and protectionist forces played a leading role in the management of the state of emergency. However, the future of Europe does not lie in such individual approach based on a nation-state concept. The only answer to the current global challenges we are all facing is a decisive and, above all, collective, jointly procedure. The European path of division and national competition that we have witnessed in recent months is in the long-term unsustainable and does not represent an effective tool in understanding and addressing the challenges of our time such as climate change, economic or demographic shifts. In of common solutions, the abandonment of individualism and so-called national sovereignty must be applied in all spheres of human life - both socially and politically.
In order to achieve this, it is necessary to leave behind the outdated nation-state perception based on strong nationalism and often anti-democratic principles and establish “beyond-the-nation-state" thinking. By doing so, various historical developments and experiences must be taken into account, as well as the current circumstances upon which the main arguments of national conservative and radical (“patriotic”) political groups are based. This is particularly true for the region of CEE and SEE, where divisive identity-based nationalism has strong roots and is being widely practiced. While turning our back on the concept of national sovereignty and identity or various ideological struggles, it is obvious from the very nature of the worldwide challenges that minor states on a comparatively small continent, such as Europe, are not able to deal with the above-mentioned global trends alone. A reality that continues to be misunderstood or disregarded by the population across the continent. Therefore, the European Union must use all its available tools and communication channels, and if necessary, create new ones, to explain and correctly tackle this issue. And even though transnational might be imperfect, the global socio-political developments suggest that the future of Europe is inevitably going to be a post-national, pan-European one.
More on this subject:
European Values on the Road to the Balkans: Changes, Challenges, Visions
A report from a discussion with Deputy Prime Minister of Montenegro Dritan Abazović, which took place in Vienna School of International Relations and was coorganised by the Institute for the Danube Region and Central Europe and Austrian Institute for European and Security Policy.
by Mykhaylo Nychyporuk
On 1 September 2021, inside the Festsaal of the Vienna School of International Studies, a conference on the European Values on the Road to the Balkans was held. The event had a special guest – the current Deputy Prime Minister of Montenegro Dritan Abazović – and was moderated by the Director of the institution, Ambassador Emil Brix, who gave a short introduction in which he called the guest ‘a symbol of hope for Montenegro, but also for the integration of the Western Balkan countries’.
The main topic of the discussion was the possibility of Montenegro’s membership in the European Union which, in the words of the Deputy PM, should happen as soon as possible. Montenegro finally changed its government after thirty years; Dritan Abazović and his colleagues from the new coalition represent this change, so he considers it his duty to make it happen. The politician sees in EU membership a first step towards improvement, as it would give Montenegrins hope that the situation in the country will not remain the same, and that improvement is possible. Other very important points stressed by the speaker were ‘open border Europe’ and the fight against corruption, organized crime, and drug smuggling in Montenegro in order to encourage the young people who have left the country to return. All the aforementioned issues make citizens feel unsafe, as the state seems to be unjust and unable to protect them.
One important distinction pointed out by the guest was that the country needs new people, not young people, as it is not the age that makes difference in this sense, but the ideals of a person. In summary, the most important factor in this sense is the readiness of embracing democracy and ‘crushing the autocratic system’. To do so it is crucial to work with personnel who have not been contaminated by the corrupt politics of the 1990s. Nevertheless, the Deputy Prime Minister is highly optimistic and convinced that the process of building a new political elite in his country has already started and is going quite well at the moment, even if there are still some problems to be solved. The vision promoted by his party in the government is directly linked to more liberal politics, sustainable environment, and a more cosmopolitan Europe without borders.
After the talk with the Deputy Prime Minister began the discussion. The first question had to do with the ambitions of his party, which currently has only 5% of the people’s votes, and how he wants to increase this percentage. He claims that the goal is not to expand the range of the supporters, but to convince the people that change is possible, as the Montenegrin population have lost faith in politics. He believes that even 5% may be enough to show the other 50% that change is possible, that there is an alternative, and that there is still hope.
The second question regarded the position of the government on the inauguration of the new bishop of the Serbian Orthodox Church, to happen on Sunday 5th September. This situation worries the international community so much that Serbian human rights activist Sonja Biserko appealed, together with 120 other important public activists, against the increasing influence that the Serbian Orthodox Church continues to exercise in Montenegro. In his answer Abazović expressed his concern about the inauguration, yet he highlighted the fact that as a member of the government he must assure the right of free expression to all the religious communities in the country, guaranteed them by the constitution; the same right which gives the opposition the freedom to protest against it. This specific issue has roots in a 100-year-old schism between the Montenegrin and the Serbian Orthodox churches and cannot be solved immediately by the new government. The problem with this is linked to the will of some people to use the church as a tool for political advantage.
The third question touched upon the unwillingness of some EU countries (e.g. France) to accept Montenegro’s EU membership and how the country will balance its relations with Russia after joining the union. The answer mentioned that the unwillingness of some is not a general refusal, that a positive result is still palpable, and that skepticism in these cases it is a common thing. As to Russia, the politician remarked the fact that Montenegro must maintain its sovereign decision to follow its foreign policy path of becoming an EU member, and that there cannot possibly be anything personal in it; Montenegro is not a global superpower whose aim should be to balance the peace in the world.
Then there were two last questions about the slow progress of reforms inside the Montenegrin political system and the lack of meritocracy, and about how the state will be able to repay the Chinese loan for the construction of highways in Montenegro without renouncing its sovereignty. In the first case the Deputy PM replied by acknowledging the existence of those two issues, and that although there are already some notable changes, the process requires more time, as the country is still at the beginning of its rebuilding process. The Chinese question is directly linked to the lack of infrastructure in Montenegro, which urges representatives to look abroad for investments. Once the news about the Chinese loan was mentioned by Abazović himself in Brussels, the Montenegrin financial problems became clear to the EU and highlighted the issue, so many European banks started to contact Montenegrin representatives to offer their help. The Chinese deal was an extremely bad one for Montenegro, for the highway law that the government passed to manage this specific project gave too many privileges to the investors and meant too large debts for the country, which in case of nonrepayment must give China control over a certain non-specified part of its territory. The responsibility for any kind of problem will lie in a Beijing court. The Deputy is convinced, though, that his country will be able to repay the loan.
The conference is ended by director Brix, reassuring Abazović of the support from the Austrian side in its aim to become a member of the EU and wishing him all the best.
The climate is changing, not only in regard to weather extremes or melting glaciers, but also in our public sphere. As extreme positions go viral and the spread of false information rests uncontained, a toxic atmosphere is in the making. Both foreign and domestic actors intentionally deceive the public with misleading information that fuel conspiracies gradually weakening the arenas of democracies.
Disinformation is a phenomenon with a history. Its deceiving strategies were not invented by contemporary populists such as Donald Trump, but they go back a long way in the history of political communication. Researchers and EU decision-makers are struggling with the observation that public spheres of Central Eastern Europe (CEE) and Southeast Europe (SEE) seem to provide a more fruitful platform for disinformation campaigns than in other regions of the continent. Current headlines featuring political leaders such as Viktor Orbán in Hungary, Ivan Janša in Slovenia, Aleksandar Vučić in Serbia or Mateusz in Poland might prove this perception.
In fact, the public spheres of the countries mentioned are showing severe deficiencies. Democratic institutions lack trust due to corruption scandals and historically rooted tribalism, unresolved conflicts separate the political elite, ethnicity-based identity politics lead to a high level of political and societal polarization – all together these deficiencies are accelerated and instrumentalized by populists in order to maintain their power.
For too long, have the neighbor countries of CEE and SEE as well as the institutions of the EU passively observed the erosion of the media ecosystem in the region. While the cohesion funds’ resources went into modern infrastructure, less tangible factors of social and cultural cohesion have been neglected for much too long.
In addition, the stalling enlargement process on the Western Balkans lost leverage for change and created a generation disillusioned from the promises of EU integration. The effects of post-truth politics tackle the needs for orientation and belonging. If we do not act immediately, narratives of colonialism and the promotion of exclusionist conservative ideas will spread further. Increasing violence towards vulnerable groups such as the LGBT+ community, ethnical minorities as well as journalists is alarming.
The current focus of EU actors on foreign interventions regarding disinformation is missing the point as domestic contexts and actors enable and strengthen, often even initiate disinformation campaigns to create noise in the arenas while pushing forward their egoistic interests. Qualitative journalism will always lag behind this noise as negativity and emotion is more powerful than reason. Therefore, we need to understand the psychological unrest behind these conflicts. As mentioned, disinformation is a phenomenon with a history.
Investigating and negotiating the history of the region, particularly in regard to the interdependencies and entanglements between East and West, poses the biggest and most urgent challenge. We will not successfully tackle the melt-down of social coherence by fighting only the superficial threats of disinformation. We will not contain the societal climate change at all by just creating algorithms, tools and sanctions. A healthy atmosphere for discourse and negotiation can only become a collective goal if we invest in intensive regional cooperation, enable a dialogue without taboos and support every single voice that is committed to these efforts.
More on this subject:
Publication: “Ausgebrannt? Rettungspläne für die Demokratie” (German)
Publication: “Rechtsstaatlichkeit im Donauraum” (German)
Article: “Wie sichRegierungen und Oligarchen Medien kaufen”
The need for a reform of the EU institutional set-up has been ignored for far too long. However, the way it is designed is now causing slowness and status-quo on questions such as enlargement, the environment or foreign policy. To overcome these apathies, the EU should firstly moderate the weight a single member can have. All decisions on the European level need to be taken with a qualified majority instead of unanimity. Plus, the reform of the institutional set-up needs to provide safeguard mechanisms, which will prevent one or a few heads of state or government to interfere with decision-making and/or work against the democratic principles in their country.
A European body that would represent the regions (a second chamber next to the European Parliament, with representatives from the European Regions replacing the Council of ministers) should be created to work to ensure that civil society is better listened to, consulted, and understood, and finally to promote mutual understanding. By granting both the EP and the Council of Regions the right of initiative, not only the role of the structural and cohesion funds would gain more importance but also the influence of national governments on European decision-making would be more balanced. Building a second chamber as a kind of a senate is necessary and would furthermore help to develop the common foreign policy of the EU.
Brave and bold steps need to be taken. The conference on the Future of Europe is one possibility. However, the pressure from the civil society on the decision makers to really work on restructuring governance in Brussels needs to be increased.
In order to launch a break-through reform of the institutional set-up, a European referendum held jointly, and not separately in each member country, could foster discussion beyond national politics and provide a real basis for a reform of European governance. A legal basis for holding such a referendum needs to be passed. Another possibility to be discussed could be that a negative outcome would not hold the whole process of a treaty reform as is has been the case, amongst others, in 2005 and 2008, but rather if the decision is to remain in the EU under the new treaty or to leave.
Book: “Renaissance des Dialoges - 30 Stimmen zu Europa” (European Dialogue)
Publication: “Ausgebrannt? Rettungspläne für die Demokratie” (German)
After long disputes, the USA and Germany reached an agreement on the controversial Nord Stream 2 project. What implications will it have for the EU, which was divided over this issue? Why is Germany pursuing the pipeline?
Anlässlich der Parlamentswahlen in der Republik Moldau organisierte das Institut für den Donauraum und Mitteleuropa (IDM) in Zusammenarbeit mit der Politischen Akademie eine weitere Podiumsdiskussion im Rahmen der traditionellen Veranstaltungsreihe zu Parlamentswahlen in unseren Zielländern. Sie können die Onlinediskussion auf dem IDM-YouTube-Kanal ansehen.
Für seine Verdienste um die internationale Anerkennung Kroatiens und die Stärkung der kroatisch-österreichischen Beziehung hat Dr. Erhard Busek den hohen Orden des Fürsten Branimir mit Halsband erhalten. Die Verleihung durch Botschafter Daniel Glunčić fand am 12. Juli 2021 in der Botschaft der Republik Kroatien in Wien statt.
Das IDM Team gratuliert!
Der hohe Orden des Fürsten Branimir (Red kneza Branimira s ogrlicom) ist eine staatliche Auszeichnung der Republik Kroatien. Sie wird seit 1995 an Personen verliehen, die das Ansehen und den Ruf Kroatiens auf internationaler Ebene gefördert haben. Bisher hatte in Österreich nur Helmut Zilk und Franz Morak den Orden erhalten.
Meldung auf Kroatisch: https://fenix-magazin.de/priznanje-dr-erhardu-buseku-u-becu-uruceno-visoko-hrvatsko-drzavno-odlicje-red-kneza-branimira-s-ogrlicom/
In vielen nationalen Fußball Ligen herrschen derzeit die “zusätzlichen Regeln zur Nationalität der Spieler”, die eine bestimmte maximale Anzahl an Fußballspielern aus nicht-EU Ländern in Fußballvereinen vorschreiben. Doch diese Regelungen haben den Effekt, dass zahlreiche Fußballspieler in Europa strukturell benachteiligt werden. Das Unterscheiden zwischen EU-Bürgern und Nicht-EU-Bürgen trifft vor allem Spieler aus kleineren südosteuropäischen Ländern wie Nordmazedonien, Serbien oder Bosnien-Herzegowina. “Sie haben zu vielen europäischen Topligen einen erschwerten Zugang”, so Schäffer in einem Interview mit fussball.news. Der Deutsche Fußball-Bund und die Deutsche Fußball Liga dienen hier laut Schäffer als Vorbild: In Deutschland können nämlich Spieler aus allen 55 UEFA Mitgliedsstaaten ohne Beschränkungen spielen.
Schäffer plädiert für ein engeres Zusammenwirken aller europäischer Länder und nicht nur jener, die Teil der Europäischen Union sind. Im Fußball sieht er hier eine mögliche Vorreiterrolle und fordert eine Vereinheitlichung der “zusätzlichen Regeln zur Nationalität der Spieler” in allen 55 Mitgliedsverbänden, da es auch ein Ziel der UEFA ist, Chancengleichheit und Fairness im europäischen Fußball herzustellen und die Menschen und Fußballer in Europa noch mehr zu vereinen.
Das vollständige Interview können Sie auf der Website von fussball.news lesen.