Demos, “Britain’s leading cross-party think-tank,” this week released a report on the current state of democratic values in Europe. The report, entitled “Backsliders,” found significant deterioration in core democratic indicators in many parts of Europe, largely due to the financial crisis of the previous decade. According to the report, the last decade has seen a rise in far-right parties, increasing corruption, weakening of judiciaries and hardening attitudes toward minorities.
Attitudes toward homosexual minorities improved slightly across Europe, but worsened in Central and Eastern Europe.
The Demos report monitored 22 indicators across five broad areas, including rule of law, rights and freedoms and tolerance of minorities. The report combined data compiled by the World Bank, the CIRI Human Rights Database and the European Values Study.
The report found that, overall, Europe has become less tolerant towards minority groups in the last 15 years, with Muslims bearing the brunt of that deterioration in attitudes.
In the Central and Eastern European region, Hungary was singled out in the report as one of the worst “backsliders.” Of particular concern was the emergence of the Jobbik Party, whose primary target is the Roma minority in the country. The party is also notorious for its anti-Semitic platform.
The report notes that: “Across Europe, we find that Roma were considered the least desirable neighbour, followed by homosexuals and Muslims.”
When asked about which neighbors they would least like to live near, the only group that saw a decline in the level of intolerance was homosexuals, dropping from 30.25% of respondents in 2000 to 27% in 2008. All other groups (Muslims, Jews, Roma, immigrants) saw a rise in intolerance levels, with Muslims seeing the largest increase (from 17.95% to 22.07%).
In 2008, the last time the European Values Study was conducted in 47 countries and regions, Roma were the least desired neighbors overall (39%), followed by homosexuals (27%) in 2008.
The study notes that, while “attitudes toward homosexuals softened between 2000 and 2008, the aversion remains strong in Eastern Europe, thereby raising the EU average.”
The countries with the strongest anti-homosexual attitudes “were, unsurprisingly, based in Eastern Europe: Lithuania, Romania, Bulgaria, Poland and Estonia.”
The report also emphasized that the level of reported discrimination towards homosexuals in Eastern Europe was very low, probably due to the fact that many cases of discrimination go unreported because homosexuals continue to hide their orientation.
Increases in opposition to minorities rose in the Czech Republic, Latvia and Slovenia.
The ranking of EU countries for tolerance of minorities was heavily populated in the lower range by Central and Eastern European states, with Slovenia, Estonia and Lithuania taking the bottom three spots in 2008.
The report singled out Greece and Hungary as the most worrisome “backsliders” in democratic values overall, but it also urged special attention be given to Bulgaria and Romania, which the Demos report finds are the EU’s worst performers regarding democracy.
Northern Europe again proved to be the most democratic region of Europe, led by Denmark and Sweden.
Read the full report here.
Tables below rank countries based on their tolerance of minorities overall, and homosexuals in particular, in 2000 and 2008.