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The role of the European Union in the democratisation of Central and Eastern Europe

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  1. Introduction.
    1. The concept of 'consolidation of democracy'.
    2. The qualitative and quantitative aspects of democracy.
  2. The consolidation of democracy, a question of democratic survival?
    1. The proposition by Andreas Schedler.
    2. Appropriate criteria for a regime to evaluate whether a democracy can be considered as consolidated or not.
  3. The state of democratic consolidation in the CEECs, a contrasted overview.
    1. The situation in Belarus.
    2. Distinguishing the approach by A. Schedler and by Peter A.
    3. Defining precisely the risks of democratic breakdown and democratic erosion.
    4. The CEECs which have joined the EU.
    5. The study by Peter A. Ulram and Fritz Plasser on political culture.
    6. Distrust in 'official' actors.
  4. Conclusion.

In the concept of « consolidation of democracy », two aspects can lead to misunderstanding. Firstly, one can interrogate on the direction towards which such a consolidation is supposed to tend, as the word « consolidation » implies that democracy already exists, as something is bound to exist if it is in a consolidation phase. In other words, what is « more democracy » compared to « less democracy », or ?basic democracy?? Secondly, the nature of democratic consolidation itself: is it only a phase of democratisation or a continuous process characterising democracy? Since the establishment of the first « modern » democracies at the end of the eighteen century, there have been many interpretations of what should be the main features and characteristics of a democratic regime. Indeed, for the last two centuries, the word democracy has been used in various occasions and to describe highly different forms of governments, some of which were not democratic at all. So how democracy could be defined? This question, which could seem simple at first sight, has been, and is still a source for debate in the world of political science. Indeed, when looking for more precise definitions of democracy than these by Abraham Lincoln, who asserted that democracy was « the government of the people, by the people and for the people », or by Winston Churchill, who described democracy as « the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried », it is relevant to highlight that there is a plurality of approaches among researchers in political science. This plurality is based on qualitative and quantitative tensions within the concept of democracy, also sources for many controversies between specialists of the democratisation processes.

[...] Indeed, as far as the qualitative aspect is concerned, it is significant to underline that the scope of democratic rule varies from one point of view to another, restraining sometimes to some institutional and political features, while including in some other cases economic, social and cultural dimensions. Moreover, concerning the quantitative aspect, more subjective and likely to feed controversies than the previous one, it introduces another variable, in the evaluation of democracy in all the fields we have mentioned previously, that is to say the level of democratization that has been reached in these fields. [...]

[...] As we have mentioned it previously, the European Commission has often claimed for a clarification in the prerogatives and functioning of the institutions of the candidate countries. However, the study reveals that there is still a visible lack of trust towards institutions such as the Parliament, the Government or political parties in the CEECs. Concerning the President, the degree of trust depends on the power the Constitution provides him with. For instance, it is high in the Czech Republic, because the president does not have large prerogatives. [...]

[...] These two points make a difference between the countries such as Russia, Ukraine or Belarus and central European countries, such as Czech Republic for instance, which have surely be for decades or centuries under authoritarian rule, but whose society has also been sooner in contact with democratic ideas, which is favourable for the rooting of democratic rule. But let's return on the study. One of the first point that is relevant in order to evaluate the state of democratic consolidation (by which I mean here democratic stabilization), is the satisfaction of the population with the new regime. [...]

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