The populist backlash in Central and Eastern Europe reveals the absence in the new democracies of checks and balances and of truly independent media to serve as a counterweight to creeping authoritarianism. It also shows the return of dormant strands in the region's political culture and thus its potential vulnerability to the authoritarian temptation. These developments are contributing to widespread estrangement from the postenlargement EU in the older member states. If current trends continue, with new members backsliding on democratic practice while pursuing a strident defense of "national interests," we could see internal EU ties loosen to the point where the Union becomes little more than an enhanced free-trade zone.