Freedom Barometer Europe is a project of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom for East and Southeast Europe. This project evaluates the attained level of freedom in European and Central Asian countries, as a diagnostic tool for journalists, CSO, and political activists, as well as public policy practitioners working in this region. Its main goal is to provide an up to date and an easy to use tool for people without deep expertise in important topics covered by this index. The Freedom Barometer can be used to get acquainted with the current situation in the field, but also to follow results of different reforms and how complex social phenomena have evolved through the years. It also provides us with a good benchmark, indicating weak and strong spots of all countries included, and serve as a focal point for discussions on improving the existing situation.
In contrast to most other indices, this project is not limited to simply one aspect of freedom, be it political or economic. Instead, the Freedom Barometer combines the most significant elements of economic, civil and political freedom with a classically liberal perspective.
However, as there is no need to reinvent the wheel, we use the data of existing indices and combine them in a new way. Also, in order not to overburden our new Barometer, we have limited ourselves to 10 main variables applied to three different categories, namely, political freedom, rule of law and economic freedom.
The degree of POLITICAL FREEDOM is measured based on the level of Free and Fair Elections, the Absence of Unconstitutional Veto Players and the Freedom of the Press. Free and fair elections are the basis of any democracy. Unconstitutional veto players can beleaguer democratic processes. Therefore, we have included these as a variable in the Freedom Barometer in order to determine whether elected officials effectively have the power to govern. Freedom of the press is the third component of political freedom. Article 19 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights underlines: “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.” Because freedom of the press is seen as both a prerequisite for free and fair elections and as being highly political in nature, this variable forms part of our political freedom dimension.
In terms of the RULE OF LAW, the Freedom Barometer comprises the following three variables: Independence of the Judiciary, the level of Corruption and Human Rights Protection. Independence of the judiciary constitutes an elementary part of the freedom of the individual and, as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights demands: “All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination.” As independence of the courts and checks and balances are mutually dependent upon each other, both of these aspects are combined in one variable. Without an independent constitutional court or other independent legal institutions, true separation of powers is impossible. Corruption contradicts equal treatment and represents a violation of the rule of law, and high levels of corruption correlate negatively with high levels of judicial integrity; thus, both factors are interlinked in complexity. Human rights protection, as a fundamental element of freedom, constitutes the third variable of the rule of law dimension. Without the rule of law, there cannot be effective human rights protection. Without respect for human rights, the rule of law is unthinkable.
The relationship between ECONOMIC FREEDOM and functioning democracy is a widely accepted fact and is the reason for its inclusion in the Freedom Barometer. Included variables come from the Index of Economic Freedom of the Heritage Foundation, and comprise Tax Burden and Government Spending (Size of Government), Trade Freedom (Freedom to Trade Internationally), Financial Freedom, Labour Freedom and Business Freedom (Regulation of Credit, Labour and Business). However, due to methodological reasons, Security of property rights section is complied using the methodology of the Economic Freedom of the World by Fraser Institute, by applying it to the primary sources of Doing Business Report of the World Bank and Global Competitiveness Report of the World Economic Forum. These are major rallying points for liberals around the world.
The Freedom Barometer was first developed within a ''Freedom Barometer Asia'' project of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation Regional Office for Southeast and East Asia in Bangkok as a means to measure freedom, in all its complexity, in selected Asian countries. Since 2013, this methodology has been consistently applied to a European context, first with the inclusion of the Western Balkan countries, and later covering almost all European and Central Asian countries.