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Academic Panel 1: Regional Security and the Retreat of Liberalism in Europe

Academic Panel 1: Regional Security and the Retreat of Liberalism in Europe


Title: Eastern European democracies: “sovereign” and “illiberal”. The Russian-Hungarian game of adjectives and its implications for regional security

This paper analyzes the trajectories of the Visegrád Four regionalism against the background of the crisis of the international liberal order. Drawing on hegemonic stability theories, it argues that, although illiberal developments and Euroskepticism in the Visegrád Four (V4) states pose a local challenge to the liberal order, the persistence of the regional format itself depends on the presence of the ‘Euro-Atlantic’ institutions, i.e. European Union and NATO, which stabilize Central Europe in many key respects. Outsourcing important political, security and economic agendas to Euro-Atlantic institution allowed the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia to preserve the V4 as an ‘ad hoc’ regionalist format, in which they actively addressed only some issues and crises. Following the latest trends in the IR literature, the paper thus conceptualizes recent changes in the V4 as a form of “embedded illiberalism”/”embedded revisionism”, whereby illiberal developments are combined with a high degree of dependence on the existing liberal order.

Author: Dr. Aliaksei Kazharski, Researcher, Comenius University in Bratislava, Slovakia


Title: Is it the time for thinking about arms control by Europeans?

The demise of the INF treaty has been met with a sigh of despair in Europe. For many Europeans, the departure of the Cold War treaty meant both a security challenge, and a sign of times. Europeans were concerned about the imminent death of the treaty that was meant to ultimately make sure that nuclear war would not be fought in (or over) Europe. Equally worryingly, however, European leaders saw it as a sign of times when Russia is increasingly assertive, and the US is not interested in arms control.

Europeans feel that they cannot wait until the two countries find the will to start negotiating a new treaty which could replace the INF. Some scholars suggested initiatives as an option for European countries to negotiate with Russia directly, either on a bilateral basis or through EU-wide initiative. It is not difficult to see problems with such proposals, most importantly that Europeans do not have the appropriate technological capabilities.1 Ultimately, even if a pan-European INF-like system could be a part of a Europe-wide security arrangement including Russia, its conclusion is unlikely today, not least because of Russia’s posturing.

For European countries, therefore, the challenge is a perfect epitome of their strategic predicament in 21st century – to a large degree reliant on the United States of which strategic interests seem to diverge, and squeezed by challenges which Europeans cannot completely control. Therefore, how should Europeans think about next steps in reacting to the INF’s demise?

While Europeans should coordinate with the United States within NATO, they should also realize that the problem provides a different type of challenge to Europe than to the United States, and therefore they need to consider that not all solutions developed by the United States are also suitable to Europeans.

This paper aims at proposing ways to think about arms control in Europe (by Europeans) as well as thinking about possible solutions (as well as discarding those which are unlikely to work). In principle, the paper will argue that European countries should focus on two-pronged strategy to respond to the end of INF might: deterrence, and building of diplomatic coalitions with Asian countries.


1 Kühn, U. (2019). Arms control without arms to control? European Leadership Network. Retrieved from

Author: Dr Michal Onderco, Assistant Professor of International Relations, Erasmus University Rotterdam, The Netherlands


Title: Populism, Migration and the Far right: Ontological insecurity in Europe

The western world is facing a number of crises and risks to its security and existence. While few of them threaten the lives of its citizens, they all seem to create a sense of angst and insecurity about the future for many ordinary people. This implies that the greatest security challenge facing people across Europe and the west today is perhaps not physical, but involve a sense of fear and anxiety that people experience over their daily lives. In this presentation, I address the particular narratives and discourses that respond to increased feelings of uncertainty, anxiety and fear, so called ‘ontological insecurities’, and their connections to the social and gendered imaginaries of populist politics. Recent focus on the relationship between populist politics and masculinity points to some underlying questions concerning the emotional appeal of particular social imaginaries, often in terms of reconstructed pasts, memories and femo-nationalism. To understand how power works through emotional discourses and narratives, I discuss how they come to naturalize fears, trauma and melancholia, played out in myths about ‘feminists’, ‘the nation’, ‘the people’, ‘the establishment’ and ‘the immigrant others’, but also how such myths justify the imagined ills of western society and how they constitute both remedies to and origins of ontological insecurities.

Author: Professor Catarina Kinnvall, Department of Political Science, Lund University, Sweden