Europe's new democracies poised to weather global economic slump

25 Mar 2009

In a challenge to the sceptics, Jan Zielonka of Oxford University argues in the new issue of Development and Transition that emerging democracies in Central and Eastern Europe will survive the global economic slump intact.

‘The economic slowdown in Central and Eastern European countries will be deep, but this newly democratized region has ample recent experience of reform and adjustment which might actually make it better positioned to withstand political crises’, says Zielonka in the lead article.

Development and Transition is a joint publication of UNDP and the London School of Economics that focuses on Central and Eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). The April issue is devoted to ‘Reform of the State’ and features eight articles by UNDP authors and a number of contributions by outside scholars and experts.

The publication is being presented today at a major forum in Athens on democracy and development hosted by the National Bank of Greece. Keynote speakers from the Greek side include Prokopios Pavlopoulos, Minister of the Interior, and Yiannis Papathanassiou, Minister of Economy.

Representing UNDP is Kori Udovički, UN Assistant Secretary-General, and Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi, UNDP’s newly appointed Democratic Governance Practice Director.

The newsletter argues that governance failures lie at the heart of the global economic crisis. Despite current ad hoc efforts to increase the state’s role in the economy, governance models that would address both the failings of state reform and the needs of the bottom billion have yet to emerge.

 ‘These issues are particularly pressing in the middle-income countries of Europe and Central Asia, where governance reforms are recognized as the solutions to problems of development, transition, and democracy’, write James Hughes of the London School of Economics and Ben Slay of UNDP in the editorial note.
 
Tony Verheijen of the World Bank writes that the economic crisis could open windows of opportunity for state reforms across the region. ‘The latter part of this decade could … create the circumstances needed for a key breakthrough in reforming administrative governance systems, which is long overdue’, he argues.

The newsletter also describes a dramatic governance success story. An article co-authored by Salim Muslumov, Chairman of Azerbaijan’s State Pension Fund, shows how e-governance instruments have helped modernize Azerbaijan’s pension system. Millions of Azerbaijani retirees today receive their monthly pensions via bankomats, and incidence of pension fraud and clerical errors have been sharply reduced.