Has liberalism gone missing in East Central Europe, or has it always been absent?

fenceThe refugee crisis highlights that it is time to reassess the contribution of East Central Europe’s mainstream parties of ‘liberals’ who are better at winning elections than at being liberal. James Dawson and Seán Hanley, experts in Central and East European politics at UCL, investigate.

Images from Hungary showing security forces turning tear gas and water cannon on refugees from behind a newly fortified border will come as little surprise to many observers of East Central Europe.

The government of Victor Orbán has systematically exploited the refugee crisis to ramp up a long-standing rhetoric of nationalist intolerance and consolidate its grip on power by passing a raft of emergency powers, further eroding Hungary’s once robust legal checks and balances. Such actions have drawn a storm of international opprobrium – including harsh criticism from the governments of Austria, Croatia and Serbia, all of which have taken a more humane and pragmatic approach to managing the influx of refugees. Continue reading