How are 10 countries in Central & Eastern Europe (CEE) navigating a year into the pandemic according to its citizens? What proportions of adults in CEE are planning to get vaccinated? How has the pandemic affected the popularity of world leaders? How is the EU perceived in relation to vaccination negotiations? Is the support democracy stronger or, on the contrary, did the sympathies towards undemocratic regimes and their practices rise? How do people perceive the imprisonment of Alexei Navalny or human rights abuses in China?

For a sixth year, we are introducing our flagship report – GLOBSEC Trends 2021 – providing another insight into the minds of Central and Eastern Europeans by offering answers to these pressing questions and much more.

While the report can be found below, here are our key findings:

Germany – a beacon of stability in a time of distress

Against the backdrop of pandemic-fuelled uncertainty, Germany has emerged as the most important strategic partner in the region according to 57% of respondents. Berlin is followed at a distance by Washington (35%) and Moscow (23%). Apart from Poland and Romania, where the US was more preferred, Germany was the most commonly selected strategic partner in every surveyed country.

EU and NATO remain overwhelmingly popular across the CEE region

Support for EU membership, favoured by 78% of respondents on average across the region, remains resolute. Attitudes towards NATO membership are also largely positive, with 73% of respondents, on average, affirming their backing.

China’s human rights violations are on the radar in CEE

More than 50% of respondents in every surveyed country, apart from Bulgaria, believe that human rights are being systematically violated in China.

Russian and Chinese vaccine diplomacy efforts fail to garner public support

Russian and Chinese vaccine diplomacy has been met with only limited success, with merely 5% of people in the region expressing a preference for the Sputnik V vaccine over alternatives and less than 1% for Chinese vaccines like Sinovac.

While the willingness of people to get vaccinated has increased, some COVID-19 conspiracy theories still persist

Acceptance of the narrative asserting that public authorities are overestimating the number of COVID-19 cases amounts to at least 20% of the population in every surveyed country.

National governments perceived as incompetent in handling the pandemic.

In 8 out of 10 countries, a majority of respondents judge their governments to have handled the pandemic badly. Since October 2020, the number of respondents with this critical view has soared in 5 countries.

Trust in medical and scientific authorities underpins vaccine interest

Whereas only 53% of CEE respondents, on average, are interested in getting the COVID-19 jab, this figure grows to 63% among those who trust leading medical experts and scientists.

National governments perceived as incompetent in handling the pandemic.

In 8 out of 10 countries, a majority of respondents judge their governments to have handled the pandemic badly. Since October 2020, the number of respondents with this critical view has soared in 5 countries.

Democracy does not equate to liberal democracy

The identification of democracy as an ideal governance system has plummeted by 15 percentage points and seen its buy-in fade in 9 of 10 surveyed countries when the word “liberal” is added before democracy. This reflects a significant backlash against liberalism as a term in many parts of the region.

Support for more stringent social media regulations gains momentum in CEE

More than 50% of respondents in 7 out of 10 countries agree that social media should be more strictly regulated, yet considerable differences between countries are present.