Budapest, Hungary – Central European countries are still lagging behind their Western neighbours in terms of political and economic freedom, a new study has found.
According to the latest Freedom Barometer Index, a Europe-wide annual ranking published by the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom, Visegrad Group countries rank among the EU’s worst performers.
Lodged between Portugal and Slovenia, the Czech Republic comes first among Central European countries, but only 17th Europe-wide.
The Czech Republic comes slightly ahead of their neighbours in Slovakia (25th) and Poland (27th).
Hungary, where rights activists and international observers have long accused the government of Viktor Orban of cracking down on all types of democratic institutions, undermining the rule of law and pointed to a dangerous concentration of power in the hands of the Prime Minister and his allies, comes at the 32nd position in the ranking – the lowest among EU member states right after Greece and Bulgaria.
A range of recent international rankings similarly pointed to the deteriorating situation in terms of rule of law and corruption or economic freedom and ease of doing business in Central Europe as a whole.
Overall, the ranking is led by Switzerland, followed by Finland, Ireland, Denmark and the Netherland. The rest of the top 10 freest nations in Europe comprises Norway, Sweden, Iceland, the United Kingdom and Luxembourg.
Published every year by the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom, the Freedom Barometer Index evaluates the level of freedom among European countries based on three main criteria: political freedom (including freedom of elections and freedom of the press), rule of law (corruption, independence of the judiciary, human rights protection) and economic freedom. It’s primarily meant as a tool for journalists, political activists and public policy-makers working in the region, according to the authors of the ranking.
Main photo credit: Anita Szeicz