Interview: “Illiberalism was born out of post-Communist trauma”

Stephen Holmes, is a Professor of Law at the NYU School of Law, New York and co-author, together with Ivan Krastev, of The Light That Failed. A Reckoning published in October by Allen Lane (an imprint of Penguin Books). In a work of startlingly original political psychology, two pre-eminent intellectuals propose that the post-1989 world order has been characterised by 30 years of what they call The Age of Imitation – a period of Western democratisation in which Eastern European values would be bent to the liberal fiscal, cultural and moral politics of “integration”.

State capture is a joint venture, not a solo act: informal networks and democratic state building

By Veronica Anghel | Bologna

In assessing the state of liberal democracy in contemporary Europe, significant scholarly and public attention has been paid to the role of leaders. Post-Communist countries in particular are often the focus of scholars who announce a ‘democratic backsliding’ engineered by populist ‘strongmen’. This article suggests that in consolidating EU democracies, such attention is disproportionate in reference to the actual de-democratising effect of the emerging ‘strongmen’. It draws attention to the systemic conditions that allow such leaders to surface, and focuses on state capture (the extraction of private benefits from the state by incumbent officeholders) as a joint-venture practice that precedes and outlives individual political lives and acts as a brake on further democratisation.

Interview: Adapting Europe to 5D warfare

Julian Lindley-French

Motto: Europe’s elites have not forgotten their history, they are just ignorant of it.

We sat down with Professor Julian Lindley-French, Senior Fellow of the Institute of Statecraft, London.

Q: Two years ago, in Norway, NATO organised one of the most important exercises since the Cold War, and especially since the security environment shifted dramatically in 2014. What does Trident Juncture 20181 tell us about NATO’s readiness and ability to reinforce an exposed ally?

A: We have a dangerous asymmetry between General Gerasimov’s “30 days crash force” and NATO. The issue is that in 30 days the Russians can cause chaos. Beyond the Enhanced Forward Presence (EFP), the Tailored Forward Presence in South-Eastern Europe, the Very High Readiness Joint Taskforce (VJTF) and even in the case of the NATO Response Force (NRF), we are looking at 30 days’ notice to move. The NATO dilemma is that the bulk of its forces could not move in any strength prior to “D plus 30”. The problem with the Kremlin is that there is a direct link between its sense of domestic vulnerability and this huge Russian force of arms.

It is a mixture of political weakness and local military superiority. My great fear is a worst-case scenario in which Russia would present Europe with a territorial fait accompli. It would achieve a limited political and military victory [editor’s note: e.g. crossing the border into one of the Baltic states and seizing a piece of territory] before NATO would mobilise and would ask: do you want to go to war over the Baltic states?

My sense is that European politicians, faced with such a scenario, would not act. It is important to demonstrate that we can again undertake Article 5 operations, but you’ve got to look at how long it takes to get everything in place. That is the weakness. We should never underestimate General Gerasimov and his staff.

Military power still has a major role to play in influence. We’ve got to understand that Realpolitik and Machtpolitik is back.

Professor Julian Lindley-French

They’ve looked systematically at our weaknesses, at our seams, and worked how to exploit them if the President gives the “go ahead” order. Vostok 182 was testing aspects of this. The problem is that our forward-deployed forces are simply not backed up with anything to get there in time. If you can’t move the heavy forces quickly, to wherever you need them in an emergency to back up your forward-deployed forces, you lose deterrence value.

That is why the latest NATO initiative – the so-called Four Thirties3 (developing 30 mechanised battalions, 30 air squadrons, four combat vessels ready to use within 30 days or less) – will plug a dangerous gap between the spearhead forces, the immediate follow-on forces (the NATO Response Force), and the bulk of NATO forces, which would take up to 120 days to mobilise in an emergency.

Q: “Fort Trump” in Poland or “Fort NATO” on the broader eastern flank? What should be prioritised – political cohesion in NATO or, for the sake of a credible bilateral deterrent message, a Fort Trump in Poland? In a way Warsaw is tired of waiting for Old Europe to provide credible security guarantees. Another solution is the proposal of Gen. Ben Hodges to fix the mobility problem in Europe.

A: It will take years to fix the mobility problem. Let me be really radical. Do you really think that the Americans and the British will use NATO in an emergency? The Americans plus the three major European powers (Britain, France, Germany) wouldn’t wait for a committee meeting in NATO to act. The bilateral US-Polish thing makes sense in terms of dealing with the issue. It doesn’t make sense in keeping NATO together.

But if NATO is not actually delivering deterrent value, what’s the purpose? If it is all about being nice to each other when being nice makes us more insecure, there comes a point when that is simply too dangerous. I would strongly argue that the Polish have a point.

Photo: Shutterstock

But the key issue here is Americans not being overstretched. The Chinese and the Russians are coordinating, and they will make life for America as difficult as possible. The problem with this equation is a weak Europe. If Europe would be stronger that wouldn’t be an option, but it is. It all comes back to Europeans not doing enough. The only option is to make the trans-Atlantic relationship work.

Q: The collapse of MENA and the massive influx of immigrants into Europe massively changed the political climate; to some extent it has produced a tribalisation of Europe. On the one hand we have this need to prepare for the return of great-power competition, while at the same time Europe should have the operational ability to wage post-9/11 campaigns to stabilise fragile and failed states.

A: This is NATO’s “360 degrees” dilemma. It is not only geographical (east, south, north and west); it is also across the conflict spectrum. If you are not prepared to invest in high-end power projection capabilities, then at least invest in mass. The UK is investing in highend assets.

What you need for stabilisation is a lot of mass. The Italians, the Spanish, even the Germans should be investing in mass. If you cannot be the top of the spear force, then you provide the bulk behind it. This cannot go on. It is a Groundhog Day.

We have this range of threats – from mass movement of people, terrorism, instability, to high-end strategic peer competitors. We have to cover both. Britain is investing in essentially a high-end small force built around a maritime amphibious Navy to go with the Americans. But we are not investing in a continental army. In a sense we are going back to a very British, 19th-century army – a small professional expeditionary force.

It’s like a SWAT team for high-end operations. But the real bulk is in the Navy. The Queen Elizabeth4 is a good way of buying influence with the Americans, but not a very efficient way of defending Central and Eastern Europe. What this means for continental Europe is that you need France and Germany to lead the defence of the continent. Europe is too dependent on over-stretched American combat forces.

Q: The conclusion of the bi-partisan Congressional Commission on the Pentagon’s National Defense Strategy is that “deterrence is weakening and war is becoming more likely” as the perception that the US can decisively defeat military challenges is fading. The background is the return of great-power competition, as well as the erosion of the US’ military edge. Why this crisis? What are its implications for Europe?

A: It’s classic IR (international relations) theory. Robert Gilpin talks about cycles of systemic change. What happened is that the cycle of systemic change has accelerated because of the nature of globalisation.

The reality is a hegemon at the end of its time. For about 20 years after the end of the Cold War we thought about America as the hegemon and us like the hegemonites, and we’ve become complacent. Revisionist powers with anti-status quo agendas have emerged.

The trouble is that we in Europe are living in a community fantasy. Everyone outside Europe understands spheres of influence, balances of powers, zero sum-game geopolitics. That is the stuff of statecraft. Europe is the exception.

Military power still has a major role to play in influence. We’ve got to get our heads around that because of what happened in history, and understand that Realpolitik and Machtpolitik is back. I would love the world to operate in the community logic so central to the idea of the European Union. But the essential struggle in South-East Europe is a struggle between zero-sum Machtpolitik and the community concept of international relations.

Q: How would you describe the changing character of war and conflict today? What is driving it? How should we describe the Russian and Chinese ways of war? The British Chief of Defence Staff usually quotes Chris Donnelly (at the Institute for Statecraft) who said that Russia aims at creating “new strategic conditions. Their current influence and disinformation campaign is a form of “system” warfare that seeks to de-legitimise the political and social system on which our military strength is based. And this undermines our centre of gravity, which they rightly assess as our political cohesion.”

A: The revisionist powers are practising what I call a systematic fight of 5D warfare – the use of force to underpin a strategy of Disinformation, Destabilisation, Disruption, Destruction, and all leveraged together by Deception.

The unfree world is engaged in a continuous war at the seams and margins of the Alliance, employing all the above for comparative strategic advantage. They combine to form a new method of warfare that spans the hybrid, cyber, hyper warfare spectrum.

Future war will be a complex matrix of coercive actions, all of which will form part of a new escalation of conflict designed to blackmail the target into accepting what could be perceived as unacceptable actions. China and Russia are studying our societies; they are looking at our alliances and working on our vulnerabilities to apply pressure, in pursuit of revisionist ends, using a myriad of coercive means.

The Russian objective is a sphere of influence, an implicit rebuilding of a Warsaw Pact, in forcing countries in Central and Eastern Europe to look back at Moscow, instead of Brussels or Washington. Russia’s strategic goal is to conduct a continuous low-level war at the seams of democratic societies, and on the margins of both the EU and NATO, to create implicit spheres of influence.

China’s objective is the domination of its near abroad and keeping the Americans out. For both Russia and China this is a strategic competition and military power is the key ingredient. In many ways it is an arms race similar to the pre-WWI world where we have these autocratic regimes determined to change the international system.

Q: Are you worried about the imbalance on the Eastern Flank, especially in the Black Sea region?

A: What we need to carry out is a series of mega-exercises where we develop the capacity to move large amounts of forces quickly. The primary weakness of the Alliance’s deterrence posture is the lack of a heavy conventional reserve force able to support front-line states in strength, quickly, and across a broad conflict spectrum, if the threat comes from several directions at once.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution is revolutionising warfare to such an extent that future war will be conducted simultaneously from the low end of the conflict spectrum to the high end.

Professor Julian Lindley-French

We need a big exercise in Central Europe that will move in different directions, able to support the national forces under pressure. We need a rapid-reaction heavy force. That is the plug that is still missing between our forward deployed forces and the whole NATO command structure; that could take between 90 and 120 days. The American presence in Europe is not big enough (around 3 BCTs – Brigade Combat Team5). The Europeans are going to be effective first responders in a crisis. But such an answer should be built around mass.

If we can demonstrate to an adversary that the threshold is too high to act – that is what deterrence is all about. It is not Russia that worries me now. Russia is being aggressive in its near abroad because of the nature of the regime. Russia is not systemically threatened. It is because Russia is so vulnerable domestically that it becomes more dangerous and its actions become really threatening. The simple fact is that the Russian military is too big for an economy half the size of the UK. This is dangerous.

Q: In your writings you talk about “coercive escalation” as a way for Russia to intimidate its victims and prey [upon them]. What role do these very specific investments in A2/ AD capabilities play in this broad, coercive escalation ladder? What is their implication for deterrence calculus, and for the ability to defend the most exposed US allies?

A: The anti-access/area-denial bubbles in Kaliningrad and Crimea are the basis of coercive operations. Let’s take the Suwałki Gap. Imagine the Russians gradually putting more pressure.

We have the Enhanced Forward Presence (EFP) in the Baltics, an information campaign started, a destabilisation operation started; we see the wrapping-up of the forces in Kaliningrad and Belarus, and you got this increased pressure that basically says to NATO, “pull your troops out, we are going to close the Suwałki Gap, take the Baltic states back and there is nothing you can do about it.”

What we could do about it is start holding exercises which give the impression of neutralising Kaliningrad or even Crimea. The problem for the Russians and Gerasimov is that they don’t have sufficient mass themselves to cover the huge Russian borders. What we are not doing is being systematic in our analysis of how we would make life uncomfortable for President Putin and General Gerasimov.

Q: How would the Fourth Industrial Revolution (with AI and big data) change war?

A: A revolution in military technology is underway that will be applied in future on the twenty-first century’s battle space by enemies armed with AI, big data, machine-learning and quantum-computing. The impact of the Fourth Industrial Revolution on changing war is incredible.

 It is revolutionising warfare to such an extent that future war will be conducted simultaneously from the low end of the conflict spectrum to the high end. The new technologies and the interactions between them are changing the character and conduct of war. They accelerate the pace of warfare, accelerate the speed of conflict and shorten the decision action cycles.

When you’ve got machine learning so fast that when humans intervene, it actually makes the whole process less efficient; when you have swarms of drones actually talking to each other about how to exploit vulnerabilities in defence systems – this is going to completely change warfare. Quantum computing will be essential if we are going to be able to defend against hyper-war.

It is about understanding and seeing the patterns. One of the big problems in 5D warfare is understanding when an attack is actually an attack. That will need high-level computing power. Add the hypersonic weapons and we will have the perfect storm.

I made this film about the sinking of the HMS Queen Elizabeth. It was about swarms of intelligent drones launched by an unmanned underwater Russian vehicle backed up by Iskander anti-ship missiles, and it showed how vulnerable a contemporary deployed NATO maritime task-force can be because they haven’t invested in proper defence systems.

This is the message I come back to. Europeans need to demonstrate firepower, but it should be 21st-century fighting power. The Fourth Industrial Revolution will change the nature of fighting power. The Americans, the Russians and Chinese are driving this forward. The Americans are offsetting the future and the Europeans are not, and this could create a massive interoperability gap. The true test of solidarity is that we need to invest in the right capabilities.

This interview is published in conjunction with Small Wars Journal.

The ambivalence of the Zelensky presidency

By Andreas Umland | Kiev

Many political experts both in and outside Ukraine have reacted negatively or very negatively to the meteoric political rise of Ukrainian comedian Volodymyr Zelensky. Indeed, Zelensky’s presidency could prove problematic in various ways. His 2019-2024 term as Ukraine’s head of state may prove to be an even more ambivalent enterprise than those of the other two top contenders in this year’s presidential elections, the opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko and the former president Petro Poroshenko, would have been. Still, for all the apt scepticism, there is also – as in the case of certain positive aspects of Tymoshenko’s and Poroshenko’s unsuccessful bids for president – a bright side to Zelensky’s victory. One can identify at least three major risky or negative, but also three relatively encouraging dimensions of his rule.

Development disparities and Europeanisation in Central and Eastern Europe

Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) is facing a historical turning point, as the European Union is in the process of implementing a project of deeper integration in various domains—from energy and public finances to security and foreign policy. For CEE countries, the process of Europeanisation has brought about significant gains, both financial (in terms of economic growth and development) and normative (in terms of the quality of democracy and governance).

However, human rights and rule of law are increasingly being challenged by anti-establishment or Eurosceptic parties in the EU. The nationalist and sovereignist platforms are gaining force. Beyond the posturing of incumbents, such as Viktor Orbán in Hungary, Jarosław Kaczyński in Poland, or more recently, Matteo Salvini in Italy, power is coming under increasing contestation by the Rassemblement National (National Rally) in France, the Freedom Party in Austria and the Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) in Germany.

So, how will the political balance tilt in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) beyond the European elections? It is unlikely that the nationalist parties will be able to impose a drastic shift in the policy agenda (either in the European Parliament or in the individual nations). Although increasingly loud nationalist and Eurosceptic sentiments are resonating within leading political parties across Europe, the fact remains that integrationist policies have indeed taken effect at a steady pace and will likely continue to do so. With regard to the major threats that Europe is facing nowadays (i.e. migration, security, competitiveness on global markets) there is simply no solution at an exclusively national level—only together can member states prevail.

Still, within CEE there are persistent sentiments of being left behind: from Macron’s two-speed Europe project and the increased perception that Germany shapes Europe, to the persistent developmental divisions, there is mounting pressure for a new approach towards the newer member states in Europe. How will the EU address these sentiments in CEE?

The main offer so far has been based on investing in efforts to overcome the development divide and the feelings of inequality and unfairness that it breeds, with the aim of strengthening resilient pro-European attitudes. While this might be a useful long-term response to short-term outbursts of discontent, any integrationist agenda or political platform (see the recent efforts by the French president Emmanuel Macron and the German chancellor Angela Merkel) at the EU level should be as inclusive as possible towards CEE member states, whose nationalist parties are currently gaining ground. Secondly, CEE member states should seek increased partnership in terms of energy, transport and digital infrastructure, to mention only the most important areas of intervention. In the face of Russian posturing and cyber threats, CEE must seek security through interdependence.

Regional specialisation and factor endowment

The current global economy can be characterised by the term ‘New Economy’, that is, economic growth driven by new, highgrowth industries that are on the cutting edge of technology. While the term ‘new economy’ has been popping up since the early 1990s, there is an argument to be made in favour of current developments.

On the one hand, there has been an increase in the use of disruptive technologies in economic sectors, and innovative solutions for financing are clearly paramount in this overall context. On the other hand, the institutional and regulatory frameworks are increasingly responsive to these new developments, and whether they are adequate or not, it is clearer than ever that there has to be dialogue between the financing sector and European & national regulators in a meaningful, considerate manner. There is no one-size-fits-all economic model for development across Europe; not all the member states have reached the same level of development and convergence.

In CEE for example, Romania and neighbouring countries are good examples of how to move from a low-value economy to a higher value-added economy. Achieving this transition is very important in order to achieve sustainable development. It is also the right recipe to escape the middle-income trap in these countries.

The middle-income trap refers to a situation where the level of wages in a country stagnate as a result of its own economic development; more specifically, when the economic model based on low wages (e.g. manufacturing) changes given a certain increase in wages, but at the same time, the development of new high value-added industries lags behind.

The path to sustainable growth is very much influenced by the availability of factors of production in a given country. For example, Romania benefits from very high-quality human capital (e.g. trained and skilled professionals), but very poor infrastructure.

As such, we see a value increase in human capital-intensive sectors such as ITC, where we no longer see the highest frequency in call–centre-type activities, but rather in high-tech and RDI-intensive activities. In contrast, due to the poor infrastructure, there is slow progress in the industrial sectors reliant on physical activities and logistics. Industrialisation is essentially hampered by the very poor infrastructure. Also, the issue of financing is important for economic agents, particularly SMEs.

In Romania 75% of SMEs are self-funded; furthermore, approximately half of them display no activity, and of those that are active, many do not report profits. Therefore a vicious cycle develops between lack of capitalisation in the start-up segment and the lack of sophistication in developing markets.

Subnational disparities

New division lines are appearing in the European Union, without the historical disparities of development between the member states and regions having necessarily been resolved. The divisions within the different categories of the population both across Europe and within member states are currently just as important as the traditional divides across member states.

Regional divisions are persistent in the EU, and they no longer align to the classical categories of old vs. new member states. The latter are facing challenges of convergence, or catching up, as the European Commission has recently labelled many of them as ‘lagging regions’.

However, although CEE is still struggling with low incomes in some of its regions, high economic growth rates have been recorded across the area as a whole, as opposed to older member states in Southern Europe (i.e. Portugal, Spain, Italy and Greece) whose lagging regions are marked by low economic growth. Many of the EU member states have seen rising regional inequality, as convergence stalled during and since the economic crisis. Social divisions have become increasingly apparent according to various Eurobarometer data from the past decade.

Many of the EU member states have seen rising regional inequality, as convergence stalled during and since the economic crisis.

Social divisions have become increasingly apparent according to various Eurobarometer data from the past decade.

The values and beliefs of European citizens reflect new division lines on top of the persistent socio-economic ones, as social insecurity across Europe has been amplified by the economic crisis in Southern Europe and its strong negative social impact, as well as the current migration crisis. Capital cities are increasingly behaving very differently from rural areas in elections (e.g. Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria, UK, and increasingly Romania, as the latest European elections showed urban voters’ preference for liberal and cosmopolitan platforms to sovereignist and anti-EU rhetoric), according to different alignments of values: as the major cities remain predominantly liberal and cosmopolitan, the rural areas are increasingly turning to traditional or even fundamentalist values.

Economic divisions were meant to be tackled from the very beginning of the cohesion policy and the integration process. Still, economic grievances persist and amplify social and cultural insecurities. According to a recent survey of CEE states, EU membership has made prosperity more achievable for countries in transition, but has also made the consequences of failure more apparent. EU-wide income inequality declined notably prior to 2008, driven by a strong process of income convergence between European countries; but the Great Recession broke this trend and pushed inequalities upwards, both for the EU as a whole and across most countries.

Also, according to recent surveys, both inter- and intra-generational mobility has stagnated or decreased in several member states. Nevertheless, in a number of CEE countries (such as the Czech Republic) citizens still believe they are better off economically than they ever were before. Furthermore, several regions in CEE countries have changed their status from ‘less developed regions’ to ‘developed regions’ over the course of the current multiannual financial frameworks (MFF 2014-2020).

While member states in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) have showcased steady economic growth over the past years, the area still lags behind its Western counterparts. It now stands at a crossroads, attempting to avoid the ‘middle-income trap’. In order for this region to continue its path to prosperity, it must enhance the competitiveness of its domestic SMEs and push forward in new technologies and innovation.

Drivers of economic development: Romania’s local business environment

In the current context, in which global markets are marked by growing uncertainty, ensuring sources of capital for investments is one of the paramount conditions for achieving and sustaining economic growth and development. For the EU member states, there is the added benefit of accessing EU structural funding for investments, besides the capital markets, national budgets and public-private partnership. Whatever the source of funding might be, it is necessary to identify the specific needs of a given economy, and to prioritise investment projects according to those needs. It is clear that in the case of Romania there is an essential need to develop several priority infrastructure projects. However, it is often difficult to properly understand and address the investment needs from a national, or increasingly a European view-point.

Meanwhile, in a context in which structural funding is mostly directed to projects that provide ‘European added value’, decreasing attention is paid to local needs and opportunities. In a recent paper with George Ștefan, we present an original metric to assess economic activity at the local level: the Local Business Environment Index (LBEI).[i]

In the development of this metric we explored a large set of variables that are disaggregated at municipal level. Following the extant literature on the different drivers of economic development, we proposed four major axes of assessment: entrepreneurship, innovation, investment financing, and support from public authorities.

The highest scores in the 2018 overall ranking of the level of attractiveness of the local business environment went to cities of various sizes: Bucharest, Cluj-Napoca, Timișoara, Alba-Iulia and Sibiu. Each municipality has a different distribution of its specific strengths. Interestingly enough, it is not just the capital city of Bucharest that dominates the different components of the LBEI.

In the case of the sub-index for Innovation for example, the rankings are dominated by Timișoara, Cluj and Sibiu, and not the capital city of Bucharest. In the case of the sub-index for Entrepreneurship, the top-ranking city is Cluj, and not Bucharest. As such, we can see that there are elements (competitive advantages) that define some Romanian cities and lead them to excel in certain areas over others.

The two-tier approach of the EU might shelter Western countries from economic and social risks, but it also fuels tensions with new member states.

These rearrangements in the ranking of Romanian cities in the sub-indexes of our proposed LBEI metric show the extent to which there are specific local and regional economic opportunities and challenges. In the cities that occupy the top positions, the economic growth rate and general development level surpass those of many Western European cities.

It is important to understand the drivers of this economic performance, as this is key to remedying the disparities across the wider EU.

Rethinking CEE: Bridging the divides

It is becoming increasingly obvious that the two-tier approach of the European Union might shelter Western countries from economic and social risks, but it also fuels tensions between old and new member states. Economic development in many of the newer member states has been robust, albeit heavily concentrated in major cities.

As shown in the case of Romania, the economic development of many cities in Central and Eastern Europe depends on the extent to which these are integrated into the larger European market: whether in terms of innovation or access to capital, connectivity remains a central driver. Social integration often comes by way of economic integration. For Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) the path to further economic integration into the European Union lies through (1) market linkages (e.g. integration into regional value chains, development of high value-added economic agents, increased FDIs) and (2[ii]) institutional and policy instruments (e.g. adopting the Euro, EU-funded investment projects).

In terms of institutional performance and policy choices, political will and knowledge are essential in order to further economic integration and effectively reduce disparities. For example, in the upcoming Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF 2021-2027)2, the process of negotiation will be very important as the EU may lose a net-contributing member state through Brexit, which would cause a deficit in EU budget revenues estimated at over €10 billion.

Central and Eastern European (CEE) member states are generally net beneficiaries from the EU budget, and are heavily invested in programmes such as those funded through the Cohesion Policy and the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) which specifically address the current disparities. As far as Romania is concerned, it draws approximately four times the amount of money from the EU budget as it contributes. Still, it is important to maintain the same level of absorption of EU funds, as these are the third largest source of financing for public investments apart from the national budget and capital loans.

At this stage, it looks likely that Romania will be allocated more resources than in the previous financial year (in current prices), but the conditions of eligibility and the context are considerably different, making it harder to draw the pre-allocated funding. Other CEE countries whose regions have moved from ‘less developed’ to ‘more developed’ are likely to see their funding diminished, but they have a great deal of experience in using the available funds optimally (e.g. Poland, Hungary).

Overall, the negotiations for the future MFF will be more difficult for CEE member states in the coming period. With the growing concerns regarding the future and sustainability of the European construction, we should rethink the Central and Eastern European region not as a peripheral area, but rather as a region in which further integration will yield higher rewards for the EU as a whole.

This shift towards the core of the EU is based on three elements. Firstly, there is a sociological component: in CEE member states there is still a predominantly pro-European attitude, in contrast to the increasing wave of Euroscepticism in Western Europe.

Secondly, there is an economic element, as CEE has also presented a strong economic outlook over the past years, making it a key market for larger European economies such as Germany. Finally, there is a geopolitical argument, as many CEE countries have strong incentives to increase their interconnectivity with Western Europe, so that they are sheltered from instability, such as that in neighbouring Ukraine.

[i] Volintiru, Clara & Ștefan, George (2018). ‘Economic Development and Opportunities in Romania: Local Business Environment Index (LBEI)’. Aspen White Paper; cf. Volintiru, C. et al. (2018). ‘Economic Development and Innovation at Local Level-Local Business Environment Index’, Romanian Journal of European Affairs, 18, 5

[ii] 2. Dăianu, D., Fugaru, A., Mihailovici, G., and Volintiru, C. (2018). ‘Multiannual Financial Framework Post-2020: Risks and Opportunities’, European Institute from Romania (IER) Strategy and Policy Study, no. 1/2018 [in Romanian].

Orbán as an export product– and the high demand in South-East Europe!

Interview Dimitar Bechev (North Carolina)

Interview with Dimitar Bechev, research fellow at the Center for Slavic, Eurasian, and East European Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and non- resident Senior Fellow at the Atlantic Council. In 2017, he published “Rival Power. Russia’s Influence in South- East Europe” at Yale University Press.