Reporting Democracy Report Warns of ‘Democratic Emergency’ in Region

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Report says democracy in Central and Southeast Europe was being eroded even before COVID-19 erupted, and cautions that the coronavirus pandemic has made a bad situation worse.

Democracy is deteriorating across Central Europe and the Balkans says “Democracy after Coronavirus”, the first annual trends report published on Thursday by Reporting Democracy, a cross-border journalistic platform run by BIRN, a leading regional non-profit media network.

“Even before coronavirus, the patient had underlying conditions, including allergies to good governance and a weakened immunity to populist excesses. Now, in some countries at least, the pandemic has turned chronic malaise into a democratic emergency,” the report says.

Marking the first year of the Reporting Democracy initiative, BIRN’s “Democracy After Coronavirus” report highlights the key “signals to watch” as the political and social consequences of the coronavirus crisis come into view.

They include increasingly autocratic regimes, assaults on transparency and media freedoms, disregard for the rule of law, profound demographic and social changes in the region as well as heightened geopolitical tensions in an increasingly divided Europe.

The report seeks to examine the political implications of the pandemic, but also proposes some key remedies, such as greater support to free media, more parliamentary oversight, judicial independence and respect for the rule of law.

“While democracy’s sickness has an air of inevitability in the midst of the pandemic, it is too early to say if the prognosis is terminal. Many analysts believe the patient can be saved if given the proper intensive care,” the report concludes.