A new wave of dissidents in the east can turn back Europe’s populist tide

Natalie Nougayrède in The Guardian:

Europe’s outlook can appear bleak these days: the Brexit downward spiral continues, both Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel are weakened, and Italy’s far-right-dominated, not-so-funny commedia dell’arte only seems to be getting worse. But turn your gaze a bit further east, and there is good news to be found. In central Europe, grassroots democratic movements seem to be gaining ground. In some ways they are much more valiant and persistent than those found in western European countries. They could reshape the EU in ways few people care to anticipate.

I’ve just travelled to Slovakia, where I saw thousands demonstrate on Bratislava’s central square against corruption and for a “decent” country. Crowds stood in the cold listening to an array of activists, mostly students and artists, making the case for people power against the graft and cynicism of those who govern. The Slovak protests are organised every Friday evening not far from an improvised memorial, made of pictures, flowers and candles, honouring Ján Kuciak, a 27-year-old investigative reporter who was brutally murdered in February alongside his fiancee. Things haven’t been the same since that double murder, with an outpouring of anger and larger street demonstrations than those of the 1989 revolution in what was then Czechoslovakia.

Each country has its own story, of course, but events in Slovakia are part of a wider trend across the region: a new generation of central Europeans are mobilising to salvage democratic values they feel are under threat.

More here.