August 14, 2020

Political Attacks on Eastern Europe Watchdogs Compound Threats to Democracy

By Jeff Cirillo

Poland’s embattled commissioner for human rights, Adam Bodnar, marked the end of his term in office yesterday with a warning about the future of Poland’s democracy — and his own institution. Like counterparts across Central and Eastern Europe, known collectively as ombudspersons, Bodnar is an independent government watchdog investigating violations of human rights and the Constitution. This role has made him a target for Poland’s increasingly authoritarian government, part of a pattern threatening institutions that have become a bulwark against democratic backsliding in Europe.

Eroding the power of ombudspersons risks the loss not only of influential advocates for human rights and freedoms, but also of consistent watchdogs of public administration.

Bodnar, who took office under a previous government in September 2015, brought a legal challenge in 2016 against a new anti-terror law pushed through by the new ruling party, a measure that he said violated constitutional rights to privacy and free expression. Retribution was swift. The ruling Law and Justice party exerted intense political pressure, while the Parliament slashed the office’s budget by 20 percent and changed regulations to make it easier to remove the commissioner’s legal immunity. President Andrzej Duda’s narrow – and challenged — re-election victory on July 12 makes it less likely that any successor to Bodnar could be truly independent, as originally intended. Duda began his second term on Aug. 6.

Read the full article in Just Security.

  • Podcast
    • April 2, 2021
    Technology Policy in the Transatlantic Alliance, with Frances Burwell and Tyson Barker

    Frances Burwell and Tyson Barker join Andrea Kendall-Taylor and Carisa Nietsche to discuss transatlantic technology policy, the EU’s Digital Compass, and where the U.S. and Eu...

    By Andrea Kendall-Taylor, Carisa Nietsche, Frances Burwell & Tyson Barker

  • Commentary
    • The Hill
    • March 12, 2021
    How the United States can protect democracy from China and Russia

    Beijing and Moscow present distinct challenges and use different tactics to pursue their goals....

    By David Shullman & Patrick Quirk

  • Commentary
    • Foreign Policy
    • March 9, 2021
    All Politics Is Personalized

    Leaders are amassing more power relative to their political parties so politics more strongly reflects the leader’s preferences rather than being a bargaining process among mu...

    By Andrea Kendall-Taylor, Erica Frantz & Joseph Wright

  • Podcast
    • March 5, 2021
    Europe–Russia Relations Today, with Kadri Liik and Dmitri Trenin

    Kadri Liik and Dmitri Trenin join Andrea Kendall-Taylor and Jim Townsend to discuss the current state of Europe-Russia relations and how the United States should approach Russ...

    By Andrea Kendall-Taylor, Jim Townsend, Dmitri Trenin & Kadri Liik

View All Reports View All Articles & Multimedia