Almost two decades after the fall of communism, the political landscape of Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) is marked by vivid contrasts. The good news is that ten former Soviet-bloc countries are now firmly anchored within the European Union, the democratic club established by West European democracies half a century ago. Moreover, a recent wave of democratic change from Ukraine to the Balkans suggests that even those countries which initially failed to achieve a democratic transition may get a second chance. The bad news is that several CEE countries in which democracy is allegedly consolidated have recently displayed signs of backsliding (even if these are not captured in their still very good Freedom House ratings). Meanwhile, the complexions of the Rose and Orange revolutions are looking less rosy, and the new dispensations in Ukraine and Georgia sometimes seem not so different from the old ones.
To be sure, such generalisations need to be qualified. Eastern Europe in the old sense is no more, and we see a variety of different trajectories of democratisation in post-communist countries. Still, it is possible to identify certain common patterns and issues. The real question is not “Is democracy facing an imminent threat?” Instead, we should ask “What kinds of democracies are emerging after the transitions in East Central Europe, and what are their vulnerabilities?” and “What is the significance of their troubles from a Europe-wide perspective?”