September 2000 - In his opening remarks, Zbigniew Brzezinski outlined three categories of democracy: functioning, malfunctioning, and fictitious. Functioning democracies are characterized by political and economic pluralism. Poland represents one of the most successful "functioning democracies" in the post-communist world. Malfunctioning democracies, such as many former Soviet states today, may aspire to democracy, but are crippled by legacies of the communist past. In fictitious democracies, the organs of the Communist Party remain but the regime pursues limited, reformist economic and social policies, such as in China. Brzezinski also pointed out that wide-scale, growing poverty impedes the movement toward democracy in many post-communist countries.
After all the hard work that the international community has put in establishing and funding the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and the huge and prolonged efforts expensed at processes of European Union accession, it must be extremely disappointing to international actors to accept the profound illegitimacy that both the ICTY and much of EU institutions face in the region today.
May 2002 - A major reorientation in Russian policy toward the Balkans is underway. For much of the 1990s, Moscow tried to keep the West out of southeastern Europe. A senior Russian official starkly outlined the choice that faced Russia in the region: "[Russia] cannot help being interested in whether [it] will have economic relations with a [Balkan] country which guarantees stability in the Balkans or a country which aspires to join NATO and is contributing to the creation of dividing lines between Russia and Western Europe."
In their literature, culture and early twentieth-century politics, the Czech people have a history of emphasizing moral virtue, tolerance, and respect for human dignity and freedom. Sadly, there is a growing chasm in Czech society between pre-revolution aspirations and post-revolution reality. The Czech Republic is infected with the destructive kind of nationalism found in other parts of East Central Europe, and now is characterized by a xenophobic citizenship law and violence against Roma. Will the Czechs ultimately honor their legacy of liberal humanism? The answer will speak volumes on the compatibility of nationalism and constitutional liberalism in the heart of the European continent.