After the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 what ought to be an unstoppable process, of transforming communist societies into modern neoliberal societies, began. Democracy defeated communism and it seemed as if it won the final victory over totalitarianisms in Europe. At that time, the story of the victory over fascism thus received its logical historical epilogue. Despite all the difficulties of the transition period, political scientists believed that the development of democracy was almost linear and without obstacles.
However, the time has shown that not every European state was fully ready to commit to democracy, to preserve and maintain it and now we are facing the turnover, from democratic to autocratic regimes, as some analytical reports show.
This paper analyses levels of democracies in Central-Eastern and Southeastern European states, one by one, in the period of the past 15 years. The aim of the paper is to show how the level of democracy decreased or increased over the years in each of the states of these two European region, while trying to discover possible causes of such alterations. For the purposes of this paper, Freedom House Democracy scores and the Democracy index by the Economist Intelligence will be used, as they are the most relevant sources of such data known so far. Ratings of Freedom House democracy scores are ”based on a scale of 1 to 7, with 1 representing the lowest and 7 the highest level of democracy. The Democracy Score is a straight average of the seven indicators and is also expressed as a percentage, where 0 represents the lowest and 100 the highest level of democracy”.  The Economist Intelligence Unit’s index of democracy, on a 0 to 10 scale, is based on the ratings for 60 indicators, grouped into five categories: electoral process and pluralism; civil liberties; the functioning of government; political participation; and political culture. Each category has a rating on a 0 to 10 scale, and the overall Index is the simple average of the five category indexes. The index values are used to place countries within one of four types of regime:
- Full democracies: scores greater than 8
- Flawed democracies: scores greater than 6, and less than or equal to 8
- Hybrid regimes: scores greater than 4, and less than or equal to 6
- Authoritarian regimes: scores less than or equal to 4
Starting point of the analysis will be the Western Balkans states: Albania, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Kosovo, North Macedonia and Serbia.
According to the Freedom House, Albania’s democracy percentage was around 46 out 100 with the democracy score being 3.7 out of 7. Thus, Albania is marked as a ‘Transitional or Hybrid Regime’ with no score changes in 2022. According to the Democracy Index report by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), from 2021, Albania’s overall score was 6.11 out of maximum 10. It is thus, evaluated as a ‘Flawed democracy’. Based on the EIU’s reports in the period of 15 years (from 2006 to 2021) Albania recorded apporoximately the same Democracy Index scores every year although it was marked as a ‘Hybrid regime’ all the way until 2019, as it’s democracy scores were below 6.0. More precisely, in 2019, Albania’s overall score was 5.89, year before it was 5.98, in 2006 it was 5.91 while the lowest rated 5.67 was in 2013 and 2021
These results show that democratic regime in Albania did not have any significant or extreme changes, that it stayed on the approximately same level over the years but also that it never reached a ‘Full democracy’ level
With the highest democracy percentage of 54.15 out of 100, and highest democracy score of 4.25 out of 7, when compared to all other analysed Western Balkans states, Croatia is the only state marked as a ‘Semi-Consolidated Democracy’ by the Freedom House. Even though its corruption rating declined from 3.75 to 3.50 because of many scandals in the government, its Local Democratic Governance rating improved from 4.25 to 4.50 in 2022, resulting in no democracy score changes as compared to the previous year’s analysis. Looking at the EIU’s reports, Croatia also has the highest Democracy Index overall score of 6.50 in 2021, out of all of the states listed from the WB’s region. Also, Croatia is the only state of them all which had this overall score above 7, or more precisely 7.04 in 2006 and 2008, which still wasn’t enough for Croatia to be marked as a ‘Full democracy’.
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Less than Albania’s, Bosnia and Herzegovina’s democracy percentage, as measured by the Freedom House, in 2022 was 38.10 out of 100, marking it as ‘Transitional or Hybrid Regime’, with democracy score also being a bit lower than Albania’s, 3.29 out of 7. As explained in the Freedom House report, National Democratic Governance as well as Civil Society rating in Bosnia and Herzegovina declined, both by 0.25, which consequently led to decrease in its democracy score in 2022, when compared to 2021. One of the reasons for such a decline in these two ratings, generally speaking is the fact that in 2021 Bosnia and Herzegovina had the most severe political crisis since the end of the war at the beginning of the 1990’s, with many issues that are holding back its democratic processess. As the EIU’s 2021 Democracy Index report shows, Bosnia and Herzegovina has an overall score of 5.04, making it a ‘Hybrid regime’ in 2021 and it also didn’t have any greater changes in the scores in the past 15 years. This report also shows that the highest scores recorded, were in 2006 and 2008, when it had an overall score around 5.7. However, differently from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina never had a status different from the ‘Hybrid regime’ in the analysed period of time.
Again, another ‘Transitional or Hybrid Regime’, according to the Freedom House, with a democracy percentage being 47.00 out of 100 and democracy score 3.82 out of 7 is Montenegro. This democracy score remained the same when compared to 2021, as National Democratic Governance rating improved but Judical Framework decreased, both by 0.25. By the EIU’s analysis, this state was marked as a ‘Flawed democracy’ in 2021, with the overall score of 6.02 and it also didn’t have any extreme changes in this score in the period from 2021 to 2006. Its highest score, 6.57 was in 2006 while the lowest, 5.65 was in 2019.
With democracy score being 3.25 out of 7 and democracy percentage 36.50 out of 100, Kosovo is also marked as a ‘Transitional or Hybrid Regime’ by the Freedom House. This state’s democracy score showed to have slighltly improved since 2021 by 0.9, as it went from 3.14 to 3.25. Because of the stabilazed leadearship and efforts to improve judical system, Kosovo’s National Democratic Governance and Judical Framewrok and Independence rating have improved, one by 0.50 and another by 0.25, which consequently resulted in the higher democracy score. Unfortunately, it is not possible to analyse this state’s democracy fluctuations in the period of 15 years, as EIU’s reports excluded Kosovo. Therefore, Kosovo can’t be found in the Democracy Index 2006-2021 tables, like previously and furtherly listed states.
In 2022, North Macedonia has a democracy percentage of 47.02 out of 100 and democracy score of 3.82 out of 7, making it also a ‘Transitional or Hybrid Regime’ with no score changes when compared to 2021, as Freedom House shows. Just like Montenegro, this state had an overall score of 6.03 in the EIU’s analysis, and this score’s most drastical change was by almost 1.0 in the period of two years, between 2014 and 2016.
Last state on the list of the Western Balkans states with a ‘Transitional or Hybrid Regime’ as its democracy percentage in 2022 is 46.43 out of 100 and democracy score 3.79 out of 7, as Freedom House shows is Serbia. When compared to 2021, this state shows to have its Civil Society, Independent Media and Corruption ratings decline, all by 0.25 making its democracy score go from 3.89 to 3.79. However, Serbia’s overall Democracy Index score was every year, in the period from 2006 to 2021, above 6.0, making it a ‘Flawed democracy’, according to the EIU. More precisely, in 2021, its overall score was 6.36, the highest was in 2014 and 2015 when it was 6.71 and in 2006 wasn’t much lower, as it was 6.62.
From the Western Balkans region, we will now move to the leftover Southeastern European states, namely Bulgaria, Moldova, Greece and Romania.
According to the Freedom House, Bulgaria is a ‘Semi-Consolidated Democracy’, with democracy percentage being 58.33 out of 100 and democracy score 4.50 out of 7, in 2022 and with no score changes when compared to 2021. As the EIU Democracy Index table in the period of 15 years shows, in 2021 Bulgaria’s overall score was 6.64. This table shows that Bulgaria’s score decreased in the last two years, as it was above 7.0 from 2015 to 2019. However, even during this period of four years Bulgaria was always a ‘Flawed democracy’.
With far less democracy percentage of 35.00 out of 100 and democracy score being 3.11 out of 7, differently from Bulgaria, Moldova is marked as a ‘Transitional or Hybrid Regime’ by the Freedom House. However, same as Bulgaria, this state also didn’t have any score changes in 2022 when compared to 2021. As we can see from the Democry Index table, over the 15 years, Moldova didn’t have any drastical changes in its overall score but even the small changes that it had, resulted in its fluctuations from ‘Hybrid regime’ to ‘Flawed democracy’ lables from year to year.
Due to the fact that Freedom House excluded Greece from its analysis of the Democracy scores, this paragraph will only examine the EIU’s Democracy Index report and Greece’s scores during the 15 years period of time. As shown in the table, from 2021 to 2006, Greece mostly had its overall score above 7.0, meaning that during most of the years it was labled as a ‘Flawed democracy’. However, Greece was labeled as a ‘Full democracy’ in 2006 and 2008, as its overal score was 8.13, in both years.
Romania is also marked as a ‘Semi-consolidated democracy’ in 2022 by the Freedom House, as its democracy percentage is 55.95 out of 100 and its democracy score is 4.36 out of 7, even though this score declined by 0.2 because of the decline in the Local Democratic Governance, when compared to 2021 results. As EIU report shows, its overall Democracy Index score has declined over the period of 15 years, as in 2021 it was 6.43, while the highest was in 2006 and 2008 being 7.04. As Romania maintained its overall score above 6.0 it was always labled as a ‘Flawed democracy’, never being even close to be a ‘Full democracy’.
Central and Eastern European states will also be analysed the same way. In this category, we will examine democracies in Poland, Ukraine, Belarus, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia and Hungary.
First state from this region’s list is considered to be a ‘Semi-Consolidated Democracy’ by Freedom House as its democracy percentage is 58.93 out of 100 and its democracy score is 4.54 out of 7 in 2022. Because of the scandals and issues related to reporductive rights and the European Convention on Human Rights that we all had a chance to witness in 2021, Poland’s National Democratic Governance rating declined in 2022, which led to a slight decline of Poland’s democracy score by 0.03. This state, is by the EIU labled as ‘Flawed democracy’ as its ovarall Democracy Index score is above 6.0. More precisely, in 2021 this score was 6.80, in 2014 it was 7.47 which is the highest score in the last 15 years and the lowest was in 2019, when it was 6.62. As it can be seen in the table below, Poland didn’t have any drastical changes in its overall score during the analysed period from 2006 to 2021.
This Eastern European state is by the Freedom House ratings in the category of a ‘Transitional or Hybrid Regime’ with the democracy percentage of 39.29 out of 100 and democracy score of 3.36 out of 7, in 2022, which remained unchanged from 2021. Moreover, in 2021, as EIU shows, Ukraine’s overall score for the Democracy Index was 5.57, which is a bit lower when compared to its scores in the previous years. Its higher score was in the period beetwen 2006 and 2016, as it was above 6.0.
With the lowest democracy percentage of 2.98 out of 100 and the lowest democracy score of 1.18 out of 7 in 2022, when compared to all of the other MOSO states, this Eastern European state is labled as a ‘Consolidated Authoritarian Regime’ by the Freedom House. It is worth mentioning that Belarus’ democracy score even declined from 2021, as its Civil Society, Independent Media and Corruption ratings declined. Belarus also has the lowest overall score according to the EIU’s Democracy Index reports. In the period of 15 years, this state never even reached 4.0 of the score, meaning that it it was always stuck in the category of an ‘Authoritarian regime’.
According to the Freedom House, Czech Republic is a ‘Consolidated Democracy’. In 2022, its democracy percentage was 75.60 out of 100, while its democracy score was 5.54 out of 7. Comparing these results to the results from 2021, we can see that this state’s democracy score declined from 5.57. Reasons for such a decline lie in the decline of Czechia’s Judical Framework and Independence rating as well as Corruption rating, even though its Civil Society rating improved by 0.25. Nevertheless, in 2021 Czech Republic’s overall score, as EIU Democracy Index analaysis show, was pretty much high – 7.74. Moreover, looking almost 10 years back in the time, we can see that Czech Republic was in the category of a ‘Full democracy’, as it had its overall score above 8.0 from 2006 to 2013.
This Central European state is also a ‘Consolidated Democracy’ as Freedom House shows. Its democracy percentage, in 2022, was 70.83 out of 100 and its democracy score was 5.25 out of 7, which actally declined when compared to the previous year. Such a decline is a consequence of Civil Society and Corruption ratings’ decline. EIU’s Democracy Index 2021 reports show that throughout the period of 15 years, Slovakia maintained its overall score above 7.0, with the exception in 2020 when the score was
below by 0.03, meaning that this state preserved its tag of a ‘Flawed democracy’.
With the democracy percentage being 78.57 out of 100, democracy score being 5.71 out of 7, in 2022, Slovenia is also marked as a ‘Consolidated Democracy’ by Freedom House. Although a few of the ratings in different categories have improved or declined from 2021, because of legislative issues, administrative irregularities, corruption scandals and issues related to the Constitutional Court, Slovenia’s democracy score decreased only by 0.15, i.e. from 5.86 to 5.71. Although this state was very close to reaching an overall Democracy Index score of 8.0 in 2008, it stayed however in its position in the category of a ‘Flawed Democracy’, as EIU shows.
This Central European state, last one from this category to analyse is the only state from this list of states labled as a ‘Transitional or Hybrid Regime’ by the Freedom House, with itd democracy percentage of 44.64 out of 100 and democracy score being 3.68 out of 7. As Freedom House also shows, Hungary’s democracy score even declined in one year period of time, because Independent Media rating decreased by 0.25 due to surveillance of journalists, shrinked space for independent media and villated journalists’ freedom of speech. As EIU’s table shows, Hungary’s overall score for Democracy Index was between 6.50 and 7.50 from 2006 to 2021.
Lastly, Baltic states -Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, will also be separately examined in the following part.
In 2022, this state’s democracy percentage was 79.76 and democracy score was 5.79 out of 7, making it a ‘Consolidated Democracy’ according to Freedom House’s categorization. Because Latvia’s mistakes related to asylum rights of irregular migrants on its borders, its Judical Framework and Independence rating declined in the period of one year, which led to a slight decrease of its democracy score. When observing EIU’s 2021-2006 Democracy Index table, it is obvious that Latvia managed to maintain its overall score above 7.0, but never reached a score higher than 7.50, meaning that it never changed its category of a ‘Flawed democracy’.
Same as the previous state, Lithuania is also a ‘Consolidated Democracy’ as Freedom House ratings show. In 2022 its democracy percentage was 77.38 out of 100 and its democracy score declined from 5.68 in 2021 to 5.64 out of 7. This democracy score decline happenned also because of a problematic parliamentary decision regarding migrants’s asylum and movement rights. Again, just like Latvia, Lithuania also preserved its overall score for the EIU’s Democracy Index ratings above 7.0 in the analysed period from 2006 to 2021.
Another ‘Consolidated Democracy’ – Estonia, by the Freedom House’s ratings had a democracy percentage of 83.33 out of 100 and democracy score of 6.00 out of 7 in 2022. This democracy score only sglightly decreased from the one in 2021, as Estonia’s Corruption rating declined when a Center Party returned to Estonian government despite the fact of the indications of its corruptive actions during the COVID-19 crisis. During the period of 15 years, from 2021 to 2006, EIU’s report shows that in 2021 Estonia had an overall score of 7.84, that its highest score was 7.97 in 2018 but that it never in this period managed to go over the score threshold of 8.0 and become a ‘Full democracy”. Thus, according to the EIU’s categoprization, Estonia is a ‘Flawed democracy’.
 The Economist Intelligence Unit Limited 2022, ”Democracy Index 2021: The China challenge”