Keynote Address: The Politics of East Central Europe 30 Years after the Fall of the Berlin Wall

Keynote Address: The Politics of East Central Europe 30 Years after the Fall of the Berlin Wall

Saturday, November 9
6:00 PM |  Auditorium, Eck Visitors Center


Ekiert Web 2Grzegorz Ekiert, Harvard University

During the first two decades after 1989, countries of East Central Europe experienced a fast and successful democratization process, followed by a relatively painless transition to a market economy. Consolidation of liberal democracies and emergence of working market economies across the region opened the door to their accession to NATO and to their membership in the European Union. By 2004, it seemed that countries of the region became “normal” European democracies with respectable economic performance and generous welfare state. Any lingering concerns about the stability of their newly established democratic order and their commitment to the rule of law and liberal values could be safely put to rest.

Yet, the third decade of post-communism witnessed ascendance of ultra nationalist leaders and governments that have presided over the marked erosion of democratic commitments and liberal principles. In particular, FIDESZ In Hungary and PiS in Poland have begun deliberate assault on judicial independence, independent media, the rule of law and fundamental values of the European integration often with violation of their countries’ constitutions and despite the concerns of their European partners. Increasing shift to authoritarian rule and away from Europe in these two countries is especially puzzling, since they were leading reformers under the communist rule, led the region away from communism and were considered the success stories of post-communist transformations. This address will focus on explaining trajectories of political developments in the region since 1989 and ways to understand the current rise of nationalism and unfolding authoritarian backsliding.

Grzegorz Ekiert is Laurence A. Tisch Professor of Government at Harvard University, Director of the Minda de Gunzburg Center for European Studies, and Senior Scholar at the Harvard Academy for International and Area Studies. His research and teaching interests focus on comparative politics, regime change and democratization, civil society and social movements and East European politics and societies. His current projects explore civil society development in new democracies in Central Europe and East Asia, state mobilized contention in authoritarian and hybrid regimes and patterns of political and economic transformations in the post-communist world. He is the author or editor of several books, edited volumes and special issues of journals. His papers appeared in numerous social science journals in the US, Europe and Asia and in many edited volumes. He is also Member of the Advisory Board of Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin fur Sozialforschung, External Examiner in Politics, Public Administration and Global Studies at the University of Hong Kong and Member of the Club of Madrid Advisory Committee.