Former Soviet Countries Lagging Behind In Democracy

Contact: Michael Goldfarb
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New Freedom House Study Reveals Growing Democracy Gap in Europe
Russia Displays Further Setbacks

NEW YORK, May 24, 2004 – Europe is facing a widening and worrisome democracy
gap, according to a major new report released by Freedom House today.

The study, Nations in Transit 2004, shows that the enlargement of the
European Union on May 1 formalized a new divide between the stable,
democratic nations of Central Europe and the Baltics and the weaker
post-Communist states that continue to lag behind in key areas of democratic

The study is available online at:

Country-by-country summaries are available at:

“The findings of this year’s Nations in Transit study make clear that much
remains to be done to extend the benefits of liberal democracy and free
markets to the majority of post-Communist countries in Europe and Eurasia,”
said Freedom House Executive Director Jennifer Windsor

“Western leaders must renew efforts to support political and economic reform
in the post-Communist countries. At the same time, they must press
slow-to-reform governments harder for tangible improvements in securing
basic rights, promoting free and independent media, supporting the rule of
law, and introducing effective and transparent governance,” she said.

The study also showed worrisome setbacks in Russia, which continues to
backslide in key areas of democratic practice. According to Nations in
Transit 2004, President Putin’s policies “have sought to centralize power,
leaving little room for a vibrant civil society, independent media, or
political opposition… While Russia has emphasized the importance it places
on maintaining strong ties to the West, it is headed in an increasingly
authoritarian direction.”

In Nations in Transit 2004, the eight new EU members from Central and
Eastern Europe held their position as the highest ranking countries in the
study, showing the strongest overall performance in the six key areas of
democratization tracked: electoral process; civil society; independent
media; governance; corruption; and constitutional, legislative, and judicial

Freedom House found that the non-Baltic post-Soviet states have regressed
over the life of the study. Russia has registered the most significant
decline in scores since last year, with Azerbaijan, Moldova, and Ukraine
also showing significant downturns. Continued poor performance was
documented throughout the Central Asian countries, which include some key
U.S. allies. “While there were some bright spots in the past year-especially
in Georgia-the longer-term outlook for democracy in the non-Baltic former
Soviet states remains bleak,” said Nations in Transit editor Amanda

Nations in Transit covers two countries, Armenia and Georgia, that have been
selected for enhanced U.S. foreign assistance as part of the Millennium
Challenge Account (MCA), for which over $1 billion in foreign aid funding
under the program has been allocated. Their selection was based on a number
of criteria set out by the Bush Administration, including commitments by
those nations’ governments to “ruling justly.” Nations in Transit 2004
suggests some cause for concern regarding Armenia’s democratic trajectory,
particularly in the areas of free and fair elections, independent media, and
human rights. Georgia’s performance since the “Rose revolution” of last
November suggests more promise in this regard.


The Nations in Transit survey, produced annually, provides comprehensive
analysis of transitions in 27 post-Communist countries (plus Kosovo) by
tracking progress and setbacks in electoral processes; civil society;
independent media; governance; corruption; and constitutional, legislative
and judicial frameworks. It also provides a unique set of comparative
ratings based on a scale of 1 to 7, with 1 representing the highest level of
democratic development, and 7 the lowest. The 2004 study covers the period
January 1 through December 31, 2003

The eight countries joining the European Union on May 1 remained the
highest-ranking countries in the study. The majority of ratings improvements
documented in Nations in Transit 2004 were confined to countries in the
Balkans. (Serbia, Montenegro, and Kosovo were rated separately this year for
the first time and are not included in the ratings summaries. However,
historical ratings for Yugoslavia are included in the appendix). The
majority of setbacks in ratings were experienced in the non-Baltic countries
of the former Soviet Union.

Largest Declines in Russia

Russia experienced ratings declines in the greatest number of categories (5
out of 6), followed by Azerbaijan, Moldova, and Ukraine (4 out of 6 each).
The overall backward movement exhibited among the non-Baltic former Soviet
states in key areas of democratic reform suggests a growing resistance or
unwillingness of government leaders to push forward with positive changes.
Russia, in particular, has failed to lead by example in the region, where
its influence remains pervasive.

Electoral process.
(+) Three countries experienced ratings improvements for electoral process:
Bosnia, Bulgaria, and Estonia.
(-) Six countries experienced declines in electoral process: Armenia,
Azerbaijan, Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan, and Ukraine.

Civil society.
(+) Seven countries showed gains for civil society: Albania, Bosnia,
Bulgaria, Georgia, Macedonia, Romania, and Slovakia.
(-) Five countries experienced setbacks for civil society: Azerbaijan,
Belarus, Moldova, Russia, and Ukraine.

Independent media.
(+) Three countries experienced improvements for independent media: Albania,
Estonia, and Latvia.
(-) Seven countries showed declines in independent media: Armenia,
Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Macedonia, Moldova, Russia, and Slovakia.

(+) Four countries showed progress in their ratings for governance: Bosnia,
Macedonia, Slovenia, and Tajikistan.
(-) Five countries showed regression in their ratings for governance:
Georgia, Moldova, Russia, Ukraine, and Turkmenistan.

Constitutional, legislative, and judicial framework.
(+) Four countries had ratings improvements in this category: Bosnia,
Bulgaria, Latvia, and Macedonia.
(-) Four countries experienced setbacks in their ratings for this category:
Azerbaijan, Croatia, Russia, and Ukraine.

(+) Only two countries showed improvements in their ratings for corruption:
Bosnia and Macedonia.
(-) Five countries showed regression in their ratings for corruption:
Albania, Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, and Tajikistan.

The full Nations in Transit report is available online at: