The rise of self-proclaimed illiberal democracies in East Central Europe arguably constitutes one of the most formidable – albeit perhaps still underestimated – challenges the EU is currently facing.
Whether and how the EU should react has been debated. All sides portray the EU’s role in these illiberal regimes as that of an outsider. But a closer look at the political-economic functioning of these nations suggests that the EU – through its structural development funds – is actually part of their illiberal model. That, in turn, suggests that cutting funding from Brussels could be a potentially powerful incentive to bring them back into line.