Western Europe is often looking on by the member states which joined after 2004 with concerns and also prior to that with some level of skepticism, due to historical and cultural differences. However, this makes also Europe so different. A continent which was fighting each other for centuries trying to unite despite of all economic and cultural differences.

Western countries trying to expand their reach and overweight the influence of Russia and building economical common ground while trying to not to push too much on the culture. New member states receiving loads of funds to reach certain economical standard but in giving this the EU is forgetting about where these people are coming from. Deep communism where everybody could steal anything, and nothing was missing. People used to bribery, people used to dictatorship and censorship were faced with the open culture and liberalism in western Europe and were not able to cope, as they never experienced anything like that. Have you ever quit your 9to5 Job and started your own company? Suddenly no one tells you what to do and nobody cares. Either you perform or die. You have to do your own marketing, job searching, fight to get the best education and get money for it. Or for healthcare.

Nobody taught the population which grew up as ants in a haystack with firmly defined roles what it means to have democracy. After the iron curtain fell people had high hopes but were not able to navigate the new normal. People started to compare the “good old times” with the “independence” Suddenly all the safety nets where slowly eroding. While it is a nice idea to have all this safeties, but exactly this led to the fall of soviet union and not even Russia was able to change this and had to transform. Populist politicians telling people that with the EU money they will reach the level of Switzerland in matter of 20 years. But as the cultural part was left untouched, it started to live its own independent live. Generation born after the 50s, was in ’89 – 39 year old and in 2010 – 60. Or those who were born in time of the “normalization” in 1968 – is currently around 50. This are the most people you see in the productive population and also meet in the most leading positions (due to age) If you look into politics you see in Poland – Jarosław Kaczyński born in 49, Czech Republic – Andrej Babis born in 54, Hungary – Victor Orban in 63. In Slovakia did recently the situation changed, but until then was led by Robert Fico – born in 64. People who represent all what socialism was teaching them – corruption and censorship and most of the productive population was used to this stile for a lifelong. To that I must state that it is not 1 generation but at minimum 3 and those leaders are feeding the nostalgy further while knowing how to navigate corruption undermining the legal state. Slovakia did a turn and after the shooting of journalists people voted for a more liberal party, which would have had potential, but then covid came. Slovakia new elected leader tried to steer the country as it where an entrepreneurship, again forgetting the now 70 year old communist background of the most of the population and problems which the past regimes caused.

Leaders not able to communicate that democracy is a cultural change lost their folks along the way. Only promises where left and the productive generation feels betrayed. What they received was democracy supporting corrupt unlawful governments. New generations where born which had to navigate the debris of Communism, debris of all the communist monuments – flat build estates, parks and infrastructure. Trying to make sense what are their parents talking about and what are they seeing in the west while traveling. Many migrated away, because they could not make sense of all this, some stayed and trying to support the small liberal fronts and somewhere convinced enough to support the anti-democratic parties and some used the situation and to form populist parties to promise anything to the desperate people which feel left alone.

The EU has done its great deal to support the change from socialism to capitalism in economic terms but the second part of the money coin is the culture – the way of thinking was left on its own.

The chaos and splitting of population were even accelerated due to covid pandemic and social media, where disinformation are flooding the internet. Nowadays where facebook is always in our pockets. Word liberal has become anarchist and nationalist a fascist. You are either for EU or against, Eu is doing what it can in their limited competencies or it is an dictatorship, you are either for vaccination or the perception there is none pandemic, or you are acknowledging climate change or it’s a nonsense and dictatorship. No middle, only insulting.

The fear of Mrs. Ursula von der Leyen about the future of democracy is real. Democracy means working together, this means the leading party to listen to the smaller parties which represent the national interests or pro globalization interests. The reality is not black and white it is colorful – it is not either pro or contra. Fortunately, the young generation growing up sees more and more, only the democratic parts of the society and the cultural change is slowly catching up the money part. But it will take another 2 generations so the kids growing up in Poland will have the same democratic experience as the kids in Portugal, until then we need to work hard to support the lawful and democratic state, propagate the culture of co-working and not working against, a culture that “everyone is the blacksmith of his own fortune” and is a free person therefore cannot be harassed by any means.

I hope then people will understand that populistic, repressive and corrupt parties/leaders which pursue only their own interests or those of a small group have no place in 21st century.

Martina Bednar is a member of European Liberals for Reform, the ALDE Individual Members as well as the Austrian national party Neos.

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