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Nations In Transit Report Launched At RFE/RL HQ

PRAGUE - RFE/RL President Jeffrey Gedmin and Freedom House's Lisa Mootz at the launch of Freedom House's Nations in Transit 2009 report.
Freedom House's Nations In Transit 2009 report was formally launched at an event at RFE/RL's Prague headquarters on Tuesday. The annual report monitors democratic development in 29 nations from Central Europe to Central Asia, including the recently independent state of Kosovo. RFE/RL President Jeffrey Gedmin opened the event, highlighting the report's importance and relevance, in particular on the eve of President Obama's upcoming trip to Russia.

Freedom House representative Vladimir Shkolnikov told the attendees that "it was a bad year" for democracy -- there were declines in democracy scores for 18 of the 29 countries covered by the report. "Looking through the history of our reports, I could not find another year with such an overwhelming decline," he said. Sholnikov explained however, that this bleak outlook was not a sudden change during the year 2008, but rather a continuation of negative trends that have been developing over several years.

One of the most striking aspects of this report was the categorization of Kyrgyzstan and Russia as "consolidated authoritarian regimes" -- Freedom House's lowest ranking in the Nations In Transit report -- for the first time in the 13-year history of the study. Azerbaijan also took the distinction of having the worst single-year decline in democracy scores of any of the countries surveyed. Shkolnikov also mentioned the danger posed by the rising popularity of extremist groups in the new EU member states, as well as the failure of the so-called "color revolutions" to result in sustained improvement in democratic development in those countries (Ukraine, Kyrgyzstan, and Georgia).

The event concluded with a lively question and answer session, preceded by comments from several experts who contributed to the NIT 2009 report, including Freedom House's Lisa Mootz, RFE/RL's Bruce Pannier, and Jeremy Drucker of Transitions Online.

More information:
- Nations In Transit 2009 Overview Essay
- NIT 2009 Methodology
- NIT 2009 Data Tables
- Individual country reports can be found here.