Europe faced significant challenges to its stability in 2017. Support for traditional political parties, trade unions, and institutions fell. Political populism, economic anxiety, and attacks on liberal values shook the region. The media space became increasingly polluted, stoking polarization, extremism, and xenophobia. Consequently, liberal democracy has weakened across the region.
In Central Europe’s new democracies, illiberal politics, far-right movements, and intolerance rose. The Eastern Partnership states that inked EU Association Agreements have been slow to enact reforms, leading to growing political instability and public dissatisfaction. In the EU aspirant countries of Southeastern Europe, most democratic transitions are stagnating or have regressed. Compounding the region’s specific post-communist and post-conflict challenges were the common problems of corruption, weak institutions, and political polarization. Russia exploited these difficulties, seeking to undermine the EU, destabilize its new democracies, and block European integration.
In response, NED expanded its support in Europe, focusing especially on accountability for governments and political parties. Proreform political parties and civil society organizations promoting good governance remain a priority. Civic groups are holding elected officials and politicians responsible for their promises and performance, fighting corruption, and countering internal and external attempts to destabilize transitions. NED also increased its support for independent outlets and investigative journalism networks to expand a free media space.
NED’s country priorities for Europe are those whose transitions showed promise initially but are now imperiled (Ukraine, Moldova), and those with autocratic or dysfunctional governments (Belarus and Bosnia and Herzegovina). NED also reengaged with the EU’s New Member States to defend post-1989 progress, and to counter Russian and other forces who seek to weaken democracies in Europe.
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