Is it really a step backward?
Recent developments in Romania have raised a lot of questions about the future of the country’s democracy. Similar questions were raised about Hungary in past months, and for similar reasons. In every post-communist country in Central and Eastern Europe, we have seen periods of quick transition followed by times of “stability”. Poland and Slovakia are the best examples.
The “solidarity movement” took over the government in Poland at the beginning of the nineties, followed by the post-communist government and once again by the reformers. Together, these provide a good example of the different stages of development. For the first time in twenty years of transition, Poland now has the first government to remain in power for longer than one term; they’ve held the reins since 2010.
Despite the ups and downs in this transition time, the most important question is whether the transformation process is, in fact, happening. Sometimes there are steps backward, driven by different lobbies or interest groups. The most decisive factor in creating a successful transition is the commitment of the political elite to the success of the transition.
Since the beginning of transition in the year 1989, we have seen many different directions of development in the post-communist countries. The first example is the reunification of the German Democratic Republic (East Germany) with the Federal Republic of Germany. From the political and economic point of view, this transition is finished, but the opinion polls shows us that in the minds of the people there is still a strong perception of an unfinished transition. Another example is Slovakia, with five million inhabitants, which became independent from Czechoslovakia in 1992. After a period of political tension under Prime Minister Meciar, Slovakia followed the fast track of transition and became a member of the European Union and the Euro-zone.
The two lessons we can learn here are (first) that transition takes time and (second) that each country proceeds along its own path at its own pace. The current situation in Hungary or Romania is comparable to similar situations in years past in other transition countries in Central Europe. The Fidesz majority in the Hungarian Parliament will create lots of problems for the Hungarians, but consider Poland where, a few years ago, the twin brothers declared the “fourth republic”. Who remembers that today? Do you remember Valdimir Meciar, the autocratic Prime Minister of Slovakia, and his fight against President Kovacs? It’s important to remember these several examples when assessing the current situation in Romania. What all these countries need is simply more time for their young democracies and market economies to become more successful.