Central and Eastern Europe: Power, Fairness, and the Future of Democracy

May 30, 2018
03:00 pm - 04:30 pm

About the event

After the revolutions of 1989, Central and Eastern Europe was an exciting place to watch, with democracy seemingly poised to take root. Yet, nearly thirty years later, Westerners who had invested so much in promoting democracy in the region look in disbelief at the reemergence of illiberal politics. A flurry of explanations about this “backsliding” of democracy have been cited, with some observers stressing global trends while others cite the gravitational pull of the communist past. In her presentation, Bulgarian human rights defender Dimitrina Petrova offered an alternative explanation of the celebrated but misconceived idea of “transitions to democracy,” as well as some reflections on the current political landscape in Central and Eastern Europe. She assessed the transformative potential of civic activism in the region and asked if democratic values and human rights are still shaping young people’s aspirations for a better world. She concluded by providing insights into where activism in the region might go next. Rodger Potocki offered comments.


  • Dr. Dimitrina Petrova, Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellow

With comments from: 

  • Roger Potocki, Senior Director for Europe, National Endowment for Democracy

Moderated by: 

  • Christopher Walker, Vice President for Studies and Analysis, National Endowment for Democracy


About the Speakers

Dr. Dimitrina Petrova is a Bulgarian human rights defender and political analyst. Before returning to Bulgaria in early 2017, she was executive director of the Equal Rights Trust, a London-based NGO she established to promote a holistic approach to nondiscrimination and equality worldwide. From 1996 to 2006, she was based in Hungary, where she served as the founding Executive Director of the European Roma Rights Centre. In parallel, she taught human rights politics and other subjects at the Central European University. In 1990-1991, she was a member of the Bulgarian Parliament, to which she was elected as a result of her activism in Bulgarian dissident groups under communism. As an MP, she participated in the drafting of the 1991 Constitution. She has conducted in-depth research projects in more than 60 countries around the world, and her writings include over 100 publications on political and social issues, human rights and equality. She has also served as an editor of two journals and of a series of thematic and country reports. She holds a PhD from the University of Sofia.

Rodger Potocki is senior director for Europe at the National Endowment for Democracy, where he has served for more than 29 years. Rodger oversees NED’s grant-making programs in Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, the Balkans and Central Europe. He has written frequently on political developments in Central and Eastern Europe, and taught the history of the region at Georgetown University. He holds an MA in Russian and East European Studies from Yale University and was a Fulbright Scholar at Jagiellonian University in Poland.


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