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Orbán’s illiberal ‘tentacles’ in the Western Balkans: What implications for EU enlargement?

Western Balkans / DISCUSSION PAPER
Berta López Domènech

Date: 06/03/2024
Since Viktor Orbán was elected as Prime Minister of Hungary in 2010, the country has undergone a sharp and unprecedented transformation into an “illiberal state”. Orbán's influence has expanded beyond Hungary by aligning with far-right leaders within the EU and inspiring the authoritarian behaviour of Balkan politicians with questionable democratic credentials, such as the Serbian President, Aleksandar Vucić, and the President of Republika Srpska, Milorad Dodik. 

This expansion has been facilitated by the EU’s misguided policy towards the Western Balkans, which long prioritised stability over democracy and overlooked authoritarian tendencies of regional political leaders who promised to deliver peace without a genuine commitment to the rule of law and fundamental rights.

This Discussion Paper stresses the need for the EU to change strategy and prioritise democracy as the best mechanism to ensure security and stability in the region. This means having a stronger stance against democratic backsliding and vocally condemning any attacks on the rule of law in candidate countries while, in parallel, empowering the democratic and reform-oriented civic and political forces in the enlargement countries.

Read the full paper here.
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