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Bringing the topic of democratic backsliding into the JUST SOCIETY-project

My name is Julie Holmegaard Milland, and I am the new Administrative Coordinator on JUST SOCIETY, taking over for Siff Lund Kjærgaard, while she is on maternity leave. I have a MA in Political Science from the University of Southern Denmark, which focused on international cooperation and analysis. 

I wrote my master thesis: Democratic Backsliding in Central and Eastern Europe from 2000-2021: A revised theoretical framework on leverage, linkage, organizational power, and gatekeeper elites in the first half of 2021, and I was stressed about my job situation after turning in my master thesis. Luckily, Marianne called me one day and asked if I was interested in joining JUST SOCIETY. I had to ask: “Well, what is the project about?” and Marianne replied: “It’s an interdisciplinary project that has a legal perspective but also has a focus on welfare issues such as equal access to welfare rights and redistributive policies.” She asked me to think about it and get back to her the next day, but there was no doubt, it was going to be a resounding “Yes!”. 

I was especially drawn to the project’s legal perspective and focus on challenges to equal access to justice. In my master thesis, I focused on how democratic backsliding has created unequal access to the judicial systems in Central and Eastern Europe from 2000-2021. Democratic backsliding is characterized by the undermining of democratic institutions, such as the Rule of Law, judicial impartiality, and media freedom. My contribution to JUST SOCIETY is therefore my knowledge on and experiences from studying democratic backsliding, democratic norms, rule of law, and challenges with equal access to justice.

My interest and knowledge about democratic backsliding were deepened during my internship at the Danish Embassy in Budapest in the second half of 2020. As part of my daily job, I assisted with political analyzes on Hungary’s democratic situation, and I gained substantial insights into the challenges of EU policy implementation in Hungary, a country that has experienced what many observers call a process of democratic backsliding. A process that Bermeo (2016) defines as “the state-led debilitation or elimination of any of the political institutions that sustain an existing democracy”. In Hungary, the democratically elected Viktor Orbán and the governing party Fidesz have succeeded in centralizing power, removing “checks and balances” with the government, severely limiting media freedom, and undermining the Rule of Law. Hungary has become what Levitsky and Way (2010) label a “Competitive Authoritarian regime”, a hybrid regime that consists of both democratic and autocratic elements. Hungary’s move away from liberal democracy and the EU’s democratic norms has challenged the EU’s normative power and has challenged the efficiency of the EU’s existing mechanisms. 

I am truly happy that Marianne’s asked if I would join the team and I look forward to an interesting and busy semester where we will begin producing the JUST SOCIETY course, organizing our second webinar series about “Challenges to equal access to justice and welfare rights in the Global South” as well as hosting the conference “Addressing the Rule of Law and Welfare in the Sustainable Development Goals”. I also look forward to learning more about the challenges to ensuring equal access to justice and welfare rights across our partner countries in the Global South. 

Julie Holmegaard Milland

17 September 2021

References 
Bakke, E., & Sitter, N. (2020). The EU’s Enfants Terribles: Democratic Backsliding in Central Europe since 2010. Perspectives on Politics, 1-16.

Bermeo, N. (2016). ON DEMOCRATIC BACKSLIDING. Journal of Democracy, 27(1), 5-19.

Levitsky, S., & Way, L. A. (2010). Competitive authoritarianism: Hybrid regimes after the cold war. Cambridge University Press.

 

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Last Updated 19.10.2021