The CSS Blog Network

A Tale of Two Illiberalisms: Why Is Poland Failing Where Hungary Succeeded?

Courtesy of Walkerssk/Pixabay

This article was originally published by IPI Global Observatory on 2 August 2017.

The European Union has threatened to sanction Poland unless it drops legal reforms that undermine the independence of its judiciary. The Polish legislation mirrors earlier changes in Hungary, leading many analysts to draw parallels between the broader challenges to liberal democracy by the two regimes.

There are certainly similarities between the goals and rhetoric of Fidesz, the ruling party in Hungary since 2010, and PiS (Law and Justice), in power in Poland since 2015. Both appear to be following the same template: First, target the highest courts and the judiciary, then restrict the independence of the media and civil society, and finally transform the constitutional framework and electoral laws in ways that enshrine their hold on power. Viktor Orban of Fidesz and Jaroslaw Kaczynski of PiS share the same goals, have had lengthy meetings together, and have repeatedly vowed to protect each other from potential EU sanctions.

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Building a Viable Ukraine: Can the EU Deliver?

Image: Wanderherr/Wikimedia

It has been clear for some time that EU governments, and most of their publics, find the thought of extending military support to conflict-ridden Ukraine wholly unpalatable.  Debates regarding the pros and (mostly) cons of sending European military aid and European peacekeepers have run their course throughout European capitals without much enthusiasm.

Against this background another struggle has begun to receive the attention of pundits, and rightly so. It is the long and arduous battle for a viable Ukrainian state, one that is built on a functioning democracy, a competitive economy, and the rule of law. This vision entails a process that The Economist has aptly termed de-oligarchisation and—most importantly—the ultimate objective of countering corruption.  If this vision is to succeed, the EU and Ukraine will have to demonstrate that they are as committed to each other as they claim to be. » More

Peace Through ‘Good Enough’ Justice?

Celebration honoring the grand opening of a justice center in Nawa, Afghanistan. Photo: isafmedia/flickr

In his article ‘Why Developing Countries Prove so Resistant to the Rule of Law’, Barry Weingast notes that transplanting institutions and policies directly from developed societies into developing ones rarely helps to produce the long-term economic growth and rule of law that western donors want these countries to attain. As part of this week’s editorial plan focus on international public law in action, this blog will suggest that traditional justice systems can help build sustainable peace in post-conflict situations.

Weingast explains that the reason why western ideals of constructing fully fledged democracies under the rule of law fail to materialize lies in the fact that reform efforts do not understand the role of violence in structuring the ‘natural state’ (generally referred to as fragile state). In natural states – which most post conflict countries belong to – access to state privileges is limited to the elite, and the provision of services is limited to those that support the elite. Order and the absence of violence rest upon a system of rights and privileges that provides elites incentives to cooperate rather than fight. For those sections of society that do not belong to the elite, incentives like the provision of basic services are often used to quell unrest and maintain a semblance of stability. In such countries, the constitution is easily pushed aside for the sake of political leaders’ interests. » More

A Reading List on: Corruption and Asset Recovery

“Corruption undermines Governments’ ability to act and serve their people. It siphons off the finance intended to reduce poverty and discourages investment in economies,” (Helen Clark, Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP))

There is no doubt: the existence of corruption can poison the legitimacy of otherwise stable and secure governments. When the state itself is corrupt, how can it hope to encourage the rule of law among its citizens? Furthermore, corruption is directly linked to poverty and insecurity, and can severely stifle development in education and health. This syllabus on corruption and asset recovery aims to share some insight into the issue of corruption and efforts to combat it across the globe. » More