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Dramatic parliamentary elections in Bulgaria: will Borissov transfer power peacefully?

The election results in Bulgaria could be understood as a victory for its civil society. The outcome may bring about changes that could strengthen democracy and make politics in the country more transparent.

April 14, 2021 - Radosveta Vassileva

We are still searching for our strategy with Russia

An interview with Linas Linkevičius, a Lithuanian politician and diplomat and former foreign minister (2012–2020). Interviewers: Adam Reichardt and Maciej Makulski

April 11, 2021 - Adam Reichardt Linas Linkevičius Maciej Makulski

The Baltic states. Three peas in a pod?

The three Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania are often together associated as a bloc, with a similar history, culture and politics. While there are some commonalities among the three countries, there are also some key characteristics that make them quite different from each other.

From the outside, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia are usually viewed as one – “the Baltics”. However, their fates have only been intertwined during the last century. Prior to the end of the First World War, Lithuania had been closely connected with Poland, while Estonians and Latvians had been under Baltic German domination for seven centuries, no matter whether the ruling power was Sweden, Poland or Russia. Lithuanian and Latvian are the two surviving Baltic languages, whereas Estonian belongs to a completely different language family, together with Finnish and Hungarian.

April 11, 2021 - Andres Kasekamp

The Baltic phoenix

The dissolution of the Soviet Union resulted in defragmenting of the world map into fifteen pieces – most of which were new entities. However, three of them somehow seemed particularly familiar – Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, jointly known as the Baltic states. Their re-emergence in Europe created many legal questions as they all began to claim renewal of their previous statehoods existing in 1918-1940.

Anti-Soviet tendencies on the Baltic coast exploded at the time of Mikhail Gorbachev’s perestroika. The desire for independence and the struggle for historical truth in the Baltic republics spawned social movements which emphasised the statehoods of the Baltic states, deprived as the result of the USSR’s invasion in 1940.

April 11, 2021 - Grzegorz Szymborski

Russians in Estonia. We are not “them”, we are “us”

Access to good education, healthcare, social welfare and general public services has all contributed to the often difficult process of better integrating mostly older generations of Russian-speakers into Estonian society. The relative ease of conducting everyday life, the security of state support and the prospect of a European future for their children have bound Russians with Estonia over the last three decades.

Estonia’s Russian-speaking community became irritated by a recent speech of the Estonian president, Kersti Kaljulaid, on Estonia’s Independence Day on February 24th, where she emphatically called on fellow citizens “with a different cultural and linguistic background” to understand “(us), Estonians”. The way she chose to address Russian-speakers and other non-ethnic Estonians living in the country – paraphrased as “you, who are different, need to understand us, Estonians” – signifies the lack of understanding in the president’s office of the sensitivities of “the Russian question” from the perspective of Russian-speakers.

April 11, 2021 - Kristina Kallas

How far right politics derailed Estonian higher education success

Estonia’s success story in education recently made a U-turn. In less than two years, a grand coalition of populist parties have affected Estonia’s international reputation and diplomatic relations, exerted pressure on civil society and the media, contributed to social polarisation, and undermined human rights. The coalition collapsed in January, but not before some serious damage was caused.

In recent years Estonia, an innovative e-state with a population of only 1.3 million, attracted much attention of world leaders, academics and venture capitalists thanks to its high-tech digital society and high performance in education. Fundamental reforms of the Soviet educational system took off in the early years of Estonian independence.

April 11, 2021 - Anastasiia Starchenko

What’s behind Moscow’s possible escalation in Donbas

The latest ceasefire introduced in July 2020 was the only, albeit significant, achievement regarding Donbas in the last years. Recent signs, however, indicate that the situation may dangerously escalate in the coming weeks.

April 11, 2021 - Piotr Andrusieczko

We need innovation and courage to rejuvenate democracy

A conversation with Basil Kerski, director of the European Solidarity Centre in Gdańsk. Interviewer: Iwona Reichardt

IWONA REICHARDT: With 2020 behind us, we are now entering into the third decade of the 21st century. There is a sense that the beginning of each decade can indicate a certain change which determines the years to come. 1989 and 1991 marked the beginning of a new post-Cold War order; the first decade of the 21st century was marked by the terrorist attacks on September 11th 2001; while the second decade of this century started a bit earlier, with the 2008 financial crisis. This time we have the COVID-19 pandemic which started in 2020. In a way, all of these events were surprises as well….

BASIL KERSKI: It is hard to say whether decades are a good measure to describe political and economic phenomena, but let's say that this is some sort of ordering perspective. We must distinguish between two things. First, the breakthrough events are always preceded by some processes that are visible and predictable. Only then, do we see their effects. When it comes to 1989 and 1991, I think that the process that everyone had expected was the democratisation of Central Europe.

February 3, 2021 - Basil Kerski Iwona Reichardt

Russia in the starting blocks for the 2021 parliamentary election

The 2021 State Duma election will be the most important stress-test for the Russian regime in the run-up to a possible transition of power in the coming years. The Kremlin has responded to real or imagined threats linked to this election with a new wave of highly repressive laws. However, this authoritarian overreaction may backfire, thus confirming the Kremlin’s fears of a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Parliamentary elections in Russia are about much more than just window-dressing. They serve to legitimise the authoritarian regime in the eyes of the public as well as verify the efficacy of the state administration machinery. The tangible unease among the Kremlin’s decision-makers, provoked by an unfavourable economic future and a worrisome evolution in the social mood, has accelerated efforts to consolidate authoritarian rule.

February 3, 2021 - Maria Domańska

2020’s electoral lessons: Moldova, Georgia and Ukraine

Recent elections in Moldova, Georgia and Ukraine have proven that positive democratic changes are difficult to achieve but are still very possible. Even though oligarchs retain much of their power, political newcomers, civil society and the diaspora are turning into key players shaking up the status quo.

The political transformations that occurred in Moldova, Georgia and Ukraine in the second half of 2020 will have long-lasting consequences on the democratic development of these critical countries in the region. Each of them has made qualitative steps forward, leaving behind more oligarchic-centric rules of the game.

February 3, 2021 - Denis Cenusa

When institutions fail, boycott and street protests remain the only instrument

Georgian NGOs and election watchdogs have labelled the October 2020 parliamentary elections as “the least democratic and free among the elections held under the Georgian Dream government”. As a result, the united opposition parties have boycotted entering into the new parliament and protests continue on the streets of Tbilisi, calling for fresh, free and transparent elections.

Once a frontrunner in democracy in the region, Georgia now faces a crisis of democracy. What was supposed to be the country’s first predominantly proportional parliamentary elections that would strengthen representation and bring in a diverse, pluralistic parliament resulted in the opposite happening. Georgia’s 2020 parliamentary elections became known as “the least democratic and free” in the Georgian Dream’s rule by the country’s leading NGOs and election-watchdogs.

February 3, 2021 - Anastasia Mgaloblishvili

Lithuanian elections provide new opportunities and women empowerment

In October 2020 the election to Lithuanian parliament (the Seimas) took place and brought new political power to Lithuania for the upcoming four years. More women have been empowered in leadership – the three parties that will make up the centre right coalition are led by women. This election marks a change in Lithuania’s political culture and gives more assurance for trust, democracy and gender equality.

During the two rounds of elections to the Seimas on October 11th and 25th, 141 parliamentarians were elected to represent Lithuania’s parliament for the next four years. The results of the elections show that the Homeland Union-Lithuanian Christian Democrats won the elections with the most seats (50) in the Seimas. The previous ruling party, the Lithuanian Peasant Popular Party, won 32 seats while the Social Democrats and the Liberal Movement received 13 mandates each. The Freedom Party, founded in 2019, won 11 seats, and the Labour Party won 10 seats. The new ruling coalition was formed by the Homeland Union, the Liberal Movement and the Freedom Party, which together secured a majority of 74 seats.

February 3, 2021 - Kristina Smolijaninovaitė

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