Freedom House: Romania, the only country in Central Europe that registered improvement in 2013


Romania was the only country in Central Europe that registered improvement in terms of democracy in 2013, Nations in Transit 2014 — the 18th edition of Freedom House’s comprehensive report on post-communist democratic governance shows.
As in every year for the past 10 years, the average democracy score in Europe declined in 2013, with 16 countries suffering downgrades, 5 improving, and 8 not registering any score change. According to the report, countries were rated on a scale of 1 to 7, with 1 representing the highest and 7 the lowest level of democratic progress, Romania getting a Democracy Score of 3.46 as an average of these rating. Romania got a 3.00 rate for electoral process, 2.50 for civil society, 4.25 for independent media, 3.75 for national democratic governance, 3.00 for local democratic governance, 3.75 for judicial framework and independence and 4.00 for corruption.
The report also shows that democratization trends in Central Europe are more nuanced, and certainly less dire, than in Eurasia. In the 25 years since the collapse of communist rule, nearly all the countries in the region have consolidated their democratic institutions and created strong protections for civil society organizations and the media. Elections are free and fair, and the public has high, if sometimes unmet, expectations of inclusion in the discourse of policymaking. For all these achievements, the role of money in politics, the pliability of judicial institutions, and economically weakening media sectors all raise concerns about the durability of democratic gains.
Collectively, the Nations in Transit ratings of the countries that joined the EU in 2004 and 2007 have declined, rather than improved, since accession. In 2013, the only country to register a net improvement was Romania, one of the region’s poorer performers, whose snational government returned to normalcy after a presidential impeachment attempt and related disruptions in 2012.
The report notes that by the end of 2013, Hungary’s democracy score was one full point worse on the 1–7 scale than in 2004, when the country entered the EU. Public protests — sometimes on a massive scale — drew attention to the persistence of political corruption, most notably in Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, and Slovenia. Bulgaria’s largest protests in 15 years brought down the centre-right government of Prime Minister Boyko Borisov in February 2013. Despite public protests over government corruption and austerity measures introduced in 2012, Slovenia is still Nations in Transit’s best performer, just ahead of Estonia. High-level corruption scandals have been occurring for years in the Czech Republic, but the trend has gained momentum recently, possibly because of a more proactive prosecutor general’s office. Poland also received a downgrade to its corruption rating in Nations in Transit 2014. Although the system of institutions tasked with combating graft in Poland is well developed and efficient, a steady accumulation of new cases over several years suggests that public figures are undeterred by the prospect of punishment and that corruption is more entrenched.
Freedom House also points put that Russia served as the model and inspiration for policies that have led to an uninterrupted retreat from free institutions throughout Eurasia and in 2013 brought a new and alarming level of repression. “Russia’s negative influence on the governance practices of its neighbours became more pronounced in 2013, as replicas of Russian laws restricting “homosexual propaganda” and foreign funding of NGOs appeared in several Eurasian countries,” says the report.