Countries of Central Europe had a great opportunity in 1989 to restore their freedom. At the time of the transition people believed that implementing the achievements of the Western World, like democracy, rule of law, human rights, capitalism and market economy will change their lives overnight and will bring Paradise to earth. Thirty years after the transition one may easily find that the Paradise is lost. Central European countries, especially Poland and Hungary are often blamed for being illiberal, populist or xenophobe. Is this really the case? And if it is, where has the enthusiasm gone?
Political transition of 1989 proved to be a milestone in Central European history. Western World achievements might have been overestimated but there is no reason for considering the transition as something mistaken. Instead, we should think of how Paradise can be regained.
After the transition period, in the vast majority of Central and Eastern European countries new constitutions were enacted which laid democratic rule and the rule of law. (The two exceptions are Poland and Hungary with their ‘late’ constitutions, encated in 1997 and 2011.) The paper’s hypothesis is that the stability of the constitutions, the frequency of amendments as well as of constitutional crises and their intensity reflects the commitment of the members of the given society to the constitutional principles and constitutional structures of their country. To illustrate this connection, the paper presents case studies from Hungary, Moldova and Romania related to constitutional crises and constitutional amendments.
Institutional transition to democracy has started when Poland became democratic state ruled by law. Societal transition started with the emphasis of pluralism and equality. Institutional transition formally ended with the 1997 Constitution. Yet, democracy means also an inclusive practice of civic action and decision making. From this perspective, the end of societal transition would mean profound social and political changes. The tension affects the main promise of democracy that includes civic self-governance and efficiency of institutions. Since 1997 institutions developped but it was accompanied by civic practice in a weak and non-linear manner. The 2015 election can be perceived as a pivotal change that brought undermining of legal constitutionalism foundations. At the same time, civic self-governance has been still not realized. Thus, the authors ask whether democracy can be ensured by strengthening legal constitutionalism or by means of deliberative and participatory democracy?
The Czech Constitution is in many respects a typical transitional constitution, with many reflections on the previous undemocratic regimes. The aim of the paper is to analyse to what extent it is the result of the Czech Constitutional identity, or which concrete elements of Czech Constitutional Identity are source of the resistance of Czech institutions against undemocratic trends.
First the paper defines the Constitutional Identity in the Czech Republic both from the perspective of Czech Constitutional Law and European Law in order to identify the key components of Czech Constitutional Identity, important for democracy and rule of law, and their impact on Czech constitutional practice. The second part will then be dedicated to analysis of functioning of mechanisms protecting Czech Constitution against undemocratic tendencies and breaches of rule of law (composition of Parliament, separation of powers, Constitutional Court), both from perspective of constitutional and European law.