Europeanization via enlargement and post-communist transformation

The process of EU enlargement is largely credited with having supported postcommunist reforms in the candidate countries in the East, with democratization being faster and less prone to reversals in countries sharing a strong promise of membership (Pop-Eleches 2007a: 142). Indeed, enlargement policy is often credited with the quick, coinciding and, to some degree, convergent reforms in CEE countries which were included in the first wave of Eastern enlargement concluded in 2005, with Romania and Bulgaria succeeding in 2007 (Schimmelfennig and Sedelmeier 2006).

Analytically, the Europeanization perspective on post-communist transformation draws on the large literature that analyzes the impact of the EU on member states’ polity, politics and policies. The focus here is to connect European and domestic politics by shifting attention from the European-level orientation of classic integration theories to the domestic level of change (Vink and Graziano 2008: 4). The research agenda also goes beyond a narrow notion of ‘impact’ by absorbing concerns of both institutionalization, i.e. the development of formal and informal rules, procedures, norms and practices; and complex modes of interaction between the EU and domestic level, instead of a unidirectional impact of Europe (Vink and Graziano 2008: 17).

Empirically, Europeanization via enlargement extends the scope of research to include the distinctive ways in which the EU affects post-communist applicant countries. The EU’s relations with its candidates are different from those with its member states, and so are the instruments at its disposal, especially the pressure of conditionality. In addition, during the Eastern enlargement, the EU has developed a range of tools that enable and complement its policy of conditionality — prescription of required reforms, aid and technical support, systematic monitoring, political dialogue, benchmarking between different candidates and the gate-keeping of accession according to a candidate’s demonstrated progress (Grabbe 2003: 312— 16). Besides, candidate countries coming from state socialism became subject to Europeanization while undergoing large-scale regime change involving the installation of new democratic and market economy rules, and, sometimes, even the creation of new states (Dimitrova 2004). This did not only prove to be an immense process of transformation, but it also meant that multiple reforms had to advance together in a rough balance in order to prevent general failure. A Europeanization perspective to post-communist change should, therefore, analyze the influence of the EU at the intersection of the EU enlargement pressure and the scope and challenge of post-communist transformation.

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