Democracy is not a fait accompli project, and as we learned in the recent years not even older, Western democracies can overcame every social injustice which could cause political tensions. According to the recent diagnoses of the crisis of democracy, in the post-democratic state – Colin Crouch puts it – we can witness the depletion of democracy. It has no real substance anymore, but reduced to a bunch of mere procedural rules. The important decisions, which are affecting the lives of whole nations, are still made in dark backrooms; elected bodies have no real impact on them. As a result citizens tend to pull back to their own niches, searching for individual strategies. The decline of voters’ turnout demonstrates this phenomenon.
Furthermore, the growing quantity of digital data stored by private and public bodies makes the individual even more vulnerable. In the light of the above mentioned trends it is no wonder that in the recent years transparency of decision-making and the means and modes of political participation are lying in the center of attention. Social movements, NGOs and emerging political parties are heavily criticizing and supervising the way authorities governing, making decisions and handling personal data. In Hungary as well elsewhere in Central and Eastern Europe we witness a double challenge. After the democratic turn in 1989 the civil society just started to unfold, European integration began, but at the same time the CEE countries faced with the same problems like Western-European countries (the weakening of political identification, the decline of state sovereignty, the growing power and influence of multinational companies). Moreover, paternalist state, the hierarchical social relations vis-á-vis the clients in the bureaucracy and the general servilism also hinder civil entrepreneurship.
While the perceived shortcomings of democracy in the member states of the EU make voters more exposed to anti-democratic populism, the EU has less means for intervention. We are in a vicious circle: if the EU acts on behalf of the general European principles, it will be accused of not respecting sovereignty and interfering without the consent of the people, which fuels populist politicians again. The papers in this volume addressing this problem, some from a rather subjective, others from a more objective perspective. Gábor Horn, the chairman of Republikon Foundation writes about combating illiberalism as a moral duty, while Nick Tyrone contemplates the moral and legal relativism by the “Putinistas of the world”. In his contribution Gerald Frost analyses the British-European relations and the role of referenda in the EU. The policy paper of Republikon Institute suggests that the EU and EU officials should be more visible agents on the national level. Finally, the paper by Krisztina Arató and András Varga assesses the legal and political aspects of safeguarding member state democracies.