What did the European Parliament elections reveal in Central Europe?

As four days of voting for the 2019 European Parliament (EP) elections closed on May 26, crowds await results from the European Union’s 28 member states and the new composition of the EP for the next five years.  CC-BY-4.0: © European Union 2019 – Source: EP

The European parliamentary elections, held in May, came at a time of political soul-searching for the countries of Central Europe – the so-called Visegrad group of the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia – as they wrestle with European integration, constitutional democracy, and national identity. Though closely tied, the four countries are responding in different ways.

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NDI Partner Organizes Ukraine’s Largest Pride March

On June 23, NDI partner KyivPride joined other LGBTI groups in organizing the largest Pride march ever in Ukraine, gathering about 8,000 participants from across the country. The event marks a substantial step forward for Ukraine’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex communities, which remain largely marginalized in social and political life. The event took place during the active parliamentary election campaign and against a backdrop of targeted far-right activism that has resonated with only a small subsection of the Ukrainian public.

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One Person Can Make a Difference: Success Stories of Roma Advocacy in Slovakia

Three Roma activists in eastern Slovakia: Rudolf, Stefan and Igor

The Roma, whose numbers are estimated at more than 10 million, make up Europe’s largest minority group, and are also the largest socially and economically-marginalized population. Across the continent, Roma face systemic discrimination in employment, education, healthcare and housing. This leads to poor quality of life, lower life spans, higher school delinquency rates and higher unemployment rates in comparison to their fellow non-Roma citizens. According to official EU statistics, anywhere from 33 to 58 percent of Roma children will experience segregation in public schools and, on average, only 12 percent of Roma between the ages of 18 and 24 will have completed high school.

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Young Voices, Old Problems: The Case of North Macedonia

The author with university students

Diogenes the Cynic once remarked that the “foundation of every state is the education of its youth.” More than 2,300 years later, cynical was an accurate description of the 27 teenagers who were rolling their eyes at me in an overheated classroom. My lesson that day was on the importance of civic engagement, but these young people had been taught their entire lives that young voices do not matter in politics.  
 

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Taking Wing: “In the land of blood and honey”

Freedom, equality and solidarity should not just be a catchphrase, but a guaranteed right to all citizens. After the horrifying events survived by today’s youth in Bosnia and Herzegovina, we learned the most valuable lesson: don't hate. In the country where war memories are still fresh, there are young people who do not want that to ever happen again. And at a very young age, I learned that I am equal and can determine my future. Following the return from my studies, I knew things were not how I wanted them to be in BiH. I didn’t like the fact that we are divided, that the unemployment rate is high and that only a few opportunities for youth exist. While some people tend to let things go and wait to see what happens, I did not want to be observer. I wanted to be a participant. I became involved in politics to stand up and make a change.

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Cybersecurity in Ukraine: Deep Dives vs Broad Brush

Volodymyr Kaplun and Chris Doten opening conversation on emerging cybersecurity threats in Ukraine

The internet has never felt like a scarier place. Whether from sophisticated nation-state actors or freelancing hackers, democracy and human rights organizations face dangerous threats online. Despite the risks, civic and political players must be active in the digital arena with their country’s citizens to have an impact. NDI is working to help these organizations engage online and stay safe. Ukraine is in a dangerous digital neighborhood so political parties, civil society organizations and elected officials have a heightened need for cybersecurity.

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Sorting Truth from Truthiness in the Digital Age

Illustration by Jesper Frant

“Who you gonna believe” – as the comics say – “me, or your lyin’ eyes?” When it comes to politics, cognitive bias has always given citizens a strong push to believe “their side,” whatever the evidence to the contrary suggests. As disinformation swamps the internet, the problem has become much worse with lyin’ evidence that’s all too easy to believe. Increasingly, information is forged or manipulated. Convincing but fake, this disinformation fuels hyper-partisan hatred, bolsters conspiracy theories and undermines critical democratic institutions. But identifying disinformation is only one piece of the puzzle. What we need is a way to stop forged information entirely; a way to prove that content is original and legitimate.

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A Once in a Generation Opportunity - LGBTI Rights in the Western Balkans and Turkey

Representatives from NDI staff and the NDI Equal Voices Advisory Council with the Equal Rights Association co-Executive Directors Dragana Todorović and Amarildo Fecanji.

 

“This is a once in a generation opportunity,” declared Dragana Todorović, Executive Director of the LGBTI Equal Rights Association for Western Balkans and Turkey (ERA), during a recent meeting with NDI staff in Washington, DC. The “once in a generation opportunity” Dragana referenced alludes to a shared political entry point for most member groups: the chance to use the European Union (EU) integration process to advocate for greater LGBTI rights and inclusion at the national level. Leveraging this opportunity now could establish mechanisms and norms for LGBTI equality, such as national action plans – new or strengthened legislation and LGBTI CSO visibility in a mainstream political processes – that would have an enduring impact for years to come.

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To protect their democracy, Slovak youth gather in largest protests since the fall of communism

(Photo: Maros Kalina)

In recent weeks, Slovakia has experienced massive protests at a scale unseen since the fall of the communist regime in 1989. The protests have been organized throughout the country by young people in their early 20s, many of whom haven’t been engaged politically before. In fact, many of the youth now protesting were born into democracy and barely remember the fight against the authoritarian regime of the late 90s, let alone life under the Soviet-aligned government that came before it. The protests we are currently witnessing, initially fueled by the unprecedented murder of investigative journalist Jan Kuciak, have already resulted in the resignation of the minister of interior and, later, of Prime Minister Robert Fico’s cabinet. While the protests triggered the resignations, civic unrest toward Fico’s cabinet already existed due to accusations of corruption and alleged mafia ties to political elites. However, Slovaks are now demanding Za slusne Slovensko – “Decency in Slovakia” – which means politics clean of corruption, mafia connections and attacks on journalists.

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