Central and Eastern European EU member states have made little progress in correcting their severe under-representation in the bloc’s institutions, according to the “Geographical Representation in EU Leadership Observatory 2022” conducted by European Democracy Consulting.
“Beyond slight improvements in the fairness of overall representation over the past three years, very little has actually been accomplished in terms of appointing citizens of Eastern and Central Europe to more visible positions,” says the Observatory 2022, which was published on January 30.
“While there are a number of other factors at play, it is clear that the absence of these countries from leadership positions is sure to further alienate their citizens from the union,” the report argues.
The report, which looked at the top 91 positions in the EU, found that Western and Southern Europe together had received over 80% of all appointments since the EU’s 2004 enlargement, and over 90% of appointments to EU institutions – the most prestigious and publicly visible positions. There was a “clear and continued under-representation of Central and Eastern Europe”, the report said.
Eastern Europe (the Baltic states, Poland, Romania and Bulgaria), which represents 21.4% of the EU by the number of states and 13.7% by population, has had 8.7% of all appointments since 2004. Central Europe (Czechia, Slovakia, Hungary, Slovenia and Croatia), which represents 17.9% of the bloc by number of states and 6.2% by population, has had 5.4% of all appointments since 2004.
“With Central and Eastern Europe representing 40% of member states and 20% of the EU’s population, their almost complete absence from EU leadership positions becomes indefensible,” says the report.
The report points out that it is not surprising that citizens in Central and Eastern Europe feel less connected with the EU than other regions. The two regions also contain the only countries that are controlled by radical right-wing and Eurosceptic governments: Hungary, Poland and Slovenia.
At the last European Parliamentary elections in 2019, nine out of 11 countries from Central and Eastern Europe were under the EU’s average turnout and four out of five Central European countries were the four least-voting countries in the EU, with rates ranging from 30% down to 23%.
Looking at the 2019-2021 period, the report says that Western and Southern Europe gathered 70% of the 60 appointments, while Eastern Europe took 13.3% and Central Europe had 8.3% (5 appointments).
For the year 2021 alone, of the 13 new mandates, eight (or 62%) went to Western Europe, three to Southern Europe (23%), one to Northern Europe and to Eastern Europe (8% each), and none to Central Europe.
Pro rata for the regions’ number of member states, Western and Southern Europe still received close to 62% of appointments in 2019-2021, while Eastern Europe received 13% and Northern and Central Europe 8% each, when each should have received 20% if the division were equal.
There was a better picture when adjusted for population, over the 2019-2021 period, with Eastern Europe achieving 15% and Central Europe 20.5%, i.e. an equal share.
However, appointments from Central and Eastern Europe remain concentrated in EU agencies – the least prestigious and visible bodies – representing 80% and 63% of their posts respectively over the three-year period, compared with one third for Western and Southern European members.
In that period Eastern Europe only had a single appointment to a leadership position in a European institution (Ilze Juhansone, the Latvian Secretary-General of the European Commission), while Central Europe had none.