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The EU Accession and Strengthening of Institutions in East Central Europe: The Case of Poland

Written by Lena Kolarska-Bobin´ska, this article appeared on the first issue of Vol. 17 of the journal East European Politics & Societies, in February 2003.

In the countries of Central and Eastern Europe, Poland in particular, the process of democratic consolidation has been slower than was expected in 1989. At the beginning of the transformation period, the development of a market economy seemed more challenging and time-consuming than the introduction of democracy. After all, freedom and democracy were widely and commonly desired, while competition and privatisation were treated with awe and apprehension.
After twelve years, one could argue that the market economy is quite stable and its institutions work quite effectively, despite the fact that the current economic growth is relatively low and the unemployment rate considerably high. Yet what causes anxiety is the quality of democracy. Sociologists describe the nature of the current political system as ostentatious or decorative democracy, which is unable to work out new solutions or to foster compromises, while society has demonstrated a growing tendency to withdraw from public life. At the same time, the disillusionment with the functioning of public institutions intensifies.

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