Central Europe Does Not Need Saving

Benjamin Tallis and Jakub Eberle have a piece in Politico on why Central Europe doesn't need saving from outside (as some claim) but instead that we who live in the region have to take responsibility.

Central Europe is commonly seen as a region where democracy is in peril. But while Czechs, Slovaks, Poles and Hungarians are certainly facing populist threats, so are many Western countries.

What makes the discussion in Central Europe different is that the criticism of populism is all-too often grounded in ugly stereotypes — of a backward region whose pliable, powerless populations are simply pawns in a much bigger game. To make matters worse, this view is propounded by Central Europeans themselves.

Recently the Czech journalist Jakub Patočka argued that there’s little hope for post-communist countries of defeating populism because of their supposedly “failed transformations.” Help, Patočka argued, has to come from the European Union.

Arguments like Patočka’s — and they are far too common — are not only misleading; they are deeply damaging. It is misleading to represent Central Europeans as in need of saving from the outside. Substantial — if imperfect — progress has been made since 1989.

Portrayals of Europe as split between powerful Westerners and powerless Easterners unable to resolve their own issues promote the same culture of resignation that has allowed Czech President Miloš Zeman and other populists to flourish...

You can read the full article published by Politico here.

Jakub Eberle is a research fellow at the Institute of International Relations Prague and deputy editor-in-chief of New Perspectives.

Benjamin Tallis is a senior research fellow and coordinator of the Centre for European Security at the Institute of International Relations Prague, and editor-in-chief of New Perspectives.