According to multiple reputable assessments of the state of democracy throughout the world, democracy is undergoing a period of decline. While the COVID-19 pandemic and restrictive measures related to it have, undoubtedly, contributed to the deficit, democratic backsliding and dissatisfaction with democratic governance extend beyond lockdowns and closings. Rising polarisation, populist motivated policy decisions targeted towards quick political victories and the proliferation of information manipulation have all eroded societal interpersonal trust in public institutions. This public confidence is, notably, an essential ingredient that otherwise safeguards democratic processes and the delegated powers of government.

GLOBSEC Trends 2021, which measured trends and shifts in public attitudes in 10 Central European countries, found widespread distrust in public institutions, dissatisfaction with how national governments are managing the COVID-19 pandemic and knowledge gaps regarding the meaning behind democracy. The results come as an intensive smear campaign is waged across the region against liberal democratic principles and policies.

To better understand these patterns, GLOBSEC, in cooperation with nine organisations from the region, explored how narratives undermining democracy and/or cohesion travel the information space in 10 countries – Austria, Bulgaria, Czechia, Hungary, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Slovakia. Case studies on specific countries were conducted by researchers from respective organisations. This report, however, provides an overarching assessment of similarities and central patterns concerning the Central European landscape vis-à-vis actors and messages weakening democracy and unity in the transatlantic space.

The study identified 11 drivers and provides 11 recommendations to counter them. Explore domestic, foreign and cross-cutting drivers identified via case studies and read recommendations on how to counter them in the report below.

This research was supported by the National Endowment for Democracy.