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What Europe can do to reverse democratic backsliding 🎧

A conversation with Dan Kelemen about the successes and failures of stopping democratic decline in Hungary and the rest of Europe.

- February 19, 2024
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán (cc) European Union 2015 – European Parliament, via Flickr.

The European Union prides itself on being a cooperative community of liberal democracies. Yet, the E.U. increasingly faces problems with countries that are backsliding. The most notable example is Hungary’s government under Viktor Orbán, which has been holding the E.U. hostage over aid to Ukraine and has been blocking Sweden’s NATO membership.

Hungary is using this leverage to get a free pass on rule of law violations – and hopes to access billions of euros in E.U. funding that remains frozen over the concerns of other E.U. members about corruption, judicial independence, and individual freedom in Hungary.

I talked about these issues with Dan Kelemen, the McCourt Chair at Georgetown University’s McCourt School of Public Policy. Dan has written extensively about these issues and has been a vocal critic of the European Commission and European politicians for ignoring Hungary’s backsliding. 

We spoke about the E.U. role in helping Hungary and other Eastern European countries become a democracy in the first place, why Hungary has been backsliding, and what the E.U. can or should have done about it. We also take a deeper look at the problem of democratic backsliding as a looming threat – but not necessarily an irreversible phenomenon. We spoke before Hungary’s president Katalin Novák resigned over pardoning a man convicted of helping to cover up sexual abuse in a state-run home for children. 

Hear our conversation using the audio player below. You can also subscribe to our podcast on Apple Podcasts.