Post-Communist Transition Under the Umbrella of Uneven EUropeanisation: East Central Europe, the Baltic States and the Balkans

Milenko Petrovic

A quarter century after the collapse of East European communism, there is little doubt that the simultaneous transitions from communist dictatorship to multiparty democracy, and from a command economy to a market economy, have been successful (or relatively successful) almost exclusively in those states which were able to tie their post-communist reforms to the European Union (EU)’s conditional offer of membership. A clearly established and remarkably strong correlation between the levels of progress in accession into the EU on one side, and success in post-communist political and economic transition on the other, has become a historical fact that has been recognised in a large body of literature for some time (see e.g. Bideleux 2001; Grabbe 2006; Pridham, 2001, 2005; Schimmelfennig 2008; Schimmelfennig et al. 2006; Vachudova 2005). However, while Mongolia is the only postcommunist country to date which, due to a specific constellation of

M. Petrovic (*)

University of Canterbury, Canterbury, New Zealand e-mail: This email address is being protected from spam bots, you need Javascript enabled to view it

© The Author(s) 2017

Fish, Gill, Petrovic (eds.), A Quarter Century of Post-Communism Assessed, DOI 10.1007/978-3-319-43437-7_3

domestic and external factors,1 has been able to substantially democratise and marketise itself without relying on the EU’s accession opportunity; the reasons why this opportunity has not been used with the same effectiveness in all three regions of post-communist Europe, to whom it was initially offered in the early 1990s, remain far less obvious. While many scholars (particularly those from the ‘structuralist camp’),2 EU officials and political analysts tend to explain the Balkan states’ slower progress with post-communist reform and EU accession in comparison to the countries of East Central Europe (ECE) and the Baltics as being more or less an ‘expected outcome’ of the different structural capacities of these groups of states to adopt EU (i.e. ‘Western’) values and norms, and consequently meet the EU accession conditions, this chapter focuses on the importance of ‘practical policy’ measures and agent- driven actions for causing these post-communist regional differences. Not denying the relevance of some historical factors, particularly the importance of some specifics of their communist legacies linked to their pre-communist structural socio-economic (dis)advantages, this chapter argues that the main reason for the different post-communist trajectories of the Balkan states, when compared to those of the ECE and Baltic states, lies primarily in the politically determined different levels of assistance and support received from the EU for conducting post-communist reforms.

While the lack of EU and Western assistance in the Balkan states during the early stages of post-communist transition in the 1990s was primarily caused by poor decisions made by domestic political elites who at the time did not express a strong desire for reform or closer relations with the EU, external factors bear a large amount of responsibility for the insufficient level of EU support for reforms that the so-called Western Balkan states have received since the mid-2000s. This chapter identifies the negative impact of the changed EU approach towards further enlargement after it began feeling ‘enlargement fatigue’ in the aftermath of its 2004/2007 enlargement, which led to the adoption of tougher accession conditions for the new candidates from the Western Balkans, as being particularly important in this regard. These tougher conditions will be investigated in greater detail in the third section of this chapter, which follows an assessment provided in the first two sections of the importance and the main forms of the received foreign assistance for post-communist reform by the three groups of countries which were perceived as potential EU members from the very beginning of their post-communist transition.

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