Author Archives: Martina Hrvolova

A Call for Democratic Re-engagement

Protest in Warsaw, Poland. Photo by Lukasz Kaminski.

Every year on September 15, the United Nations’ International Day of Democracy offers an opportunity to reflect on the state of democracy and the challenges facing it. This year’s theme spotlights the need to strengthen democratic institutions against a backdrop of increasing disparities of economic opportunity.

In Central and Eastern Europe, those disparities have become more prominent in recent years, heightening the need to re-examine assumptions about the region’s transitions. Although the region made great strides in building democratic institutions and growing market economies over the course of two decades, the quality of—and support for—democracy has started to decline. Corruption has become a way of life in Hungary, where the government doles out public money based on political loyalty and friendships. In Poland, the government has exerted undue influence over the judiciary system, depriving citizens of their fundamental democratic freedoms.

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Democratic Backsliding in Bulgaria

Protest in Sofia, February 2013, via Wikimedia Commons

The Institute for Market Economics (IME), an independent economic policy think tank in Bulgaria, has sought to define the main challenges to democracy, investigating their roots and identifying possible solutions. In addition to its research, IME recently conducted two surveys. The general sentiment in both surveys confirms that there is a perception of democratic backsliding. Forty-five percent of experts and 61 percent of students polled believe that the quality of democracy in Bulgaria has worsened in recent years, while only 25 percent of experts and 18 percent of students have seen positive developments. The leading challenge to democracy, as identified by IME surveys and roundtable discussions, is state capture. This is the catalyst for problems in the judicial system and widespread political corruption. These trends are compounded by a closing media environment that is increasingly dominated by a politically dependent media.

The latest CIPE Feature Service article examines IME’s key findings and provides recommendations for various stakeholders, including the government, political parties, civil society, media, businesses, donors and the population at large.

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Strengthening the Capacity of an Albanian Business Coalition in Policy Advocacy

A CIPE partner in Albania, Center for Economic Research (ACER), recently had a great reason to celebrate: their efforts to have Albania’s tourism VAT decreased had finally been successful. This outcome was the result of and the national tax administration recognized the work of the ACER-supported National Business Forum (NBF), including the recent release of the Forum’s priorities for economic reforms focusing on taxation, informality, and public private dialogue, which included a recommendation to reduce the tourism VAT.

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