Press release

NEW REPORT: Freedom in Europe Presented a Mixed Picture in 2022

Hungary received the largest score decrease in the region, while Slovenia made the largest gains.

WASHINGTONFreedom in Europe presented a mixed picture in 2022, with six countries experiencing declines in their political rights and civil liberties even as six others made improvements, according to a new report released today by Freedom House.

The report—Freedom in the World 2023: Marking 50 Years in the Struggle for Democracy—finds that peace and freedom in the region have been threatened not only by Moscows invasion of Ukraine, but also by a series of important elections that signaled the growing strength of right-wing populist parties, which often stray from democratic principles and seek cooperation with authoritarian powers.

While free expression is generally protected across most of the region’s 42 countries, the European Union was plunged into spyware scandals in 2022 after the mobile devices of journalists and politicians came under surveillance in Spain, Greece, Hungary, and Poland.

Other report findings on Europe include:

  • The largest one-year decline in the region took place in Hungary, which is rated Partly Free and lost 3 points on Freedom in the World’s 100-point scale, for a new aggregate score of 66.
  • The largest one-year improvement was in Slovenia, which is designated as Free and gained 5 points, for a new aggregate score of 95.
  • Finland, Norway, and Sweden have the highest aggregate scores in the region and the world. All received 100 points and are rated Free.
  • Turkey, with 32 points, is designated as Not Free and has the worst aggregate score in the region. 
  • Some 82 percent of the region’s people live in countries rated Free, while 14 percent live in Turkey, the only Not Free country.

Beyond Europe, Freedom in the World 2023 finds that global freedom declined for a 17th consecutive year in 2022 as 35 countries suffered deterioration in their political rights and civil liberties. A total of 34 countries made improvements during the year, however, meaning the gap between the numbers of countries that improved and declined was the narrowest it has ever been since the negative pattern began. The report suggests that the struggle for democracy may be approaching a turning point, and offers recommendations on how democratic governments and societies should work together to roll back authoritarian gains.

The new report includes scores and narrative assessments on political rights and civil liberties for 195 countries and 15 territories around the globe. This year’s edition, the 50th in its series, covers developments in 2022 and provides a brief analysis of long-term trends. The report’s methodology is derived in large measure from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1948. 

The report identifies a number of steps that democratic governments can take to protect and expand political rights and civil liberties. They include:

  • Help Ukraine win. Democratic governments must maintain unwavering support for Ukraine and its people, whose cause is crucial to the future of freedom. This should include providing the weapons and technical and security assistance necessary to help ensure Ukrainian success on the battlefield.
  • Stop enabling authoritarians. Democracies must address corruption and kleptocracy head on by closing the many financial loopholes that allow authoritarian rulers to hide or launder stolen assets in democratic settings.
  • Be clear and unapologetic about the virtues of democracy and tireless in efforts to uphold and defend it. Democratic states should make the protection of freedom and democracy a fundamental component of all international policy efforts—including in foreign, security, and economic affairs—and every diplomatic engagement. Human rights concerns should be raised in meetings with foreign counterparts at all levels.
  • Dramatically ramp up support for human rights defenders and for countries and regions at critical junctures. Democratic governments should help human rights defenders and civil society groups remain active in their home countries whenever possible, and provide technical assistance and training. When democracy advocates come under threat, their foreign partners should provide medical, legal, and psychosocial support as needed.

View the report’s complete recommendations here. Click here to read additional report press releases: GlobalAfrica, Americas, Asia-Pacific, Eurasia, Middle East.

Freedom House is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that works to create a world where all are free. We inform the world about threats to freedom, mobilize global action, and support democracy’s defenders.