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Download PDF A Wider Europe: The Process and Politics of European Union Enlargement (Governance in Europe Series)

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This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves. This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access. Creating stability around the EU is also one of the core objectives of the European Security Strategy.

Google Scholar. CrossRef Google Scholar. Mayer, and J. Friiss and A. European Commission, European Neighbourhood Policy. Strategy Paper , p. This follows the line of the medium-term strategy on relations with Europe as presented by the Russian government in This document proposes a strategic partnership between the EU and Russia, which is a leading force in the CIS countries surrounding it. See M. Schimmelfennig and U. Several elements from the study by Schimmelfennig and Sedelmeier are mentioned in other publications as well.

See in particular H. In May a new centre-left parliamentary majority suspended the centre-right president. It used emergency ordinances to remove constitutional checks on the impeachment procedure, including a weakening of the constitutional court and a lifting of the 50 percent participation quorum for the referendum required to validate the impeachment. Centre-right governments and party groups in the European Parliament made it clear that they were opposed to using Article 7 against the Hungarian government.

Without this threat, the EU was unable to challenge the broader underlying problems. The Commission was merely able to bring about some incremental changes on isolated issues that had a separate basis in EU law and made it possible to use infringement procedures to obtain compliance. By contrast, the Romanian government complied fairly swiftly and comprehensively with the demands of EU institutions to redress the breaches of democratic principles.

However, it might depend on a fairly demanding constellation of favourable conditions that make it possible both to use social pressure effectively and to make material threats. Ten years after the first eastern enlargement, attitudes in the EU towards further enlargement — both among publics and among Member State governments — have become noticeably more negative.

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Of course it should not be forgotten that the incumbent Member States were also rather reluctant about the enlargement. The Member States did not acknowledge enlargement as a shared objective until ; it took until to start accession negotiations with the first post-communist countries; and, as mentioned above, the accession treaties were distinctly unfavourable to the new members.

Even in Member States, where the government was among the strongest supporters of enlargement, such as Germany or Austria, public opinion was distinctly negative. Nonetheless, public opinion has become noticeably more negative about enlargement since A recent review of the literature on public opinion towards enlargement in the EU reveals increasing hostility among EU citizens.

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And even when earlier surveys still indicted net support, underneath the aggregate support there was considerable, and growing, opposition in many of the old Member States, most notably France, Germany and Austria. In these countries, public opposition to enlargement remains strongest. There also seems to be an east-west divide in attitudes towards further enlargements: in all old Member States, except for Spain, a majority of the population opposes further enlargement, while in the post-communist Member States — except for the Czech Republic and Slovakia — the majority supports enlargement.

Although there is still a gap between the attitudes of elites and public opinion, the position of Member State governments towards further enlargements has become more openly hostile, partly in response to public opinion. Just as public opinion is most opposed to the accession of Turkey and Albania, these two countries also are the main focus of open opposition from Member State governments.

This constitutional change was a response to perceived public opposition and evidence that the failed ratification of the draft Constitutional Treaty in France was partly due to hostility to opposition to enlargement even if the treaty had no link to enlargement. The uncertainty surrounding ratification of the Treaty of Lisbon after the failure of the Constitutional Treaty, combined with the economic and financial crisis from , made the member states and the Commission reluctant to accelerate the ongoing enlargement processes.

Moreover, although the Commission recommended granting the status of an official candidate country to Albania, a number of Member States in the Council have so far — as of May — opposed even such a symbolic step. At the same time, the negative impact of hostility to enlargement on the prospect of further enlargements should not be overstated. There has been much progress towards membership across the would-be members in South-East Europe, maybe with the exceptions of Bosnia-Herzegovina, where progress remains limited, and Turkey, with which accession negotiations opened in have stalled at least partly due to the failure of the Turkish government to recognise the Republic of Cyprus as well as recent restrictions on civil liberties by the AKP government.

Otherwise, however, Croatia joined in July Montenegro and Serbia have started accession negotiations. Kosovo — although not recognised by five member states — has concluded the negotiations for a Stabilisation and Association Agreement. The condition that the EU could only enlarge if it was able to absorb new members without jeopardising the momentum of European integration had been one of the criteria listed by the Copenhagen European Council in It had been controversial for being a condition that was outside the control of the candidate countries and could therefore become an instrument for reluctant member state governments to stall enlargement.

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To a large extent, the slower progress towards EU membership of the candidate countries in south-eastern Europe can be attributed to their specific characteristics that made the starting conditions for meeting the demands for EU accession more challenging. Without doubt, the domestic conditions in the current candidate countries are less favourable than they were in the post-communist countries that joined in The state of democracy, economic development and state capacity were and still are generally more problematic, not least due to legacies of the violent break-up of Yugoslavia.

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But is the slow progress of their accession processes entirely due to these structural differences, or have attitudes in the EU also changed as a result of negative experiences with previous eastern enlargements? Did eastern enlargement have a negative impact on the effectiveness of EU decision-making and on the implementation of common policies and rules?

One of the concerns about eastern enlargement was how the dramatic increase in the number of Member States — from 15 to 25 in , 27 in and 28 in July — would affect the functioning of the EU. A much larger membership could be expected to have a negative impact on the legislative capacity of the Council of Ministers. The increase in numbers and increasing heterogeneity of Member State preferences threatened to thwart effective decision-making not only in areas that explicitly required unanimous agreement. In addition to the challenge of enlargement for decision-making in the Council, there were also concerns that the need to accommodate representatives of the new members in other EU institutions.

Notably for the Commission and the European Parliament, enlargement could lead to indigestion.

Adding more Commissioners and Members of the European Parliament from new Member States to these institutions — originally conceived for six member states — could impede effective internal working and efficient allocation of tasks. The existing academic literature on the impact of enlargement on the decision-making capacity of the EU finds no evidence that the decision-making machinery has become paralysed. The functioning of the EU after enlargement is characterised by gradual adaptation rather than complete transformation. The adaptation has been more far-reaching in the Council and with regards to the negotiation mode and culture, rather than to the output of the process as such.

A general challenge in assessing the impact of enlargement on decision-making is that it is difficult to establish a clear counterfactual argument: in the absence of enlargement, should we have expected legislative output to remain at the same level as prior to enlargement, or would idiosyncratic factors have led to an increase, or even a decrease? Still, it might have been expected that more participants in Council negotiations would at least lead to a decrease in the speed of decision-making even if the quantity of the output remained constant.


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Yet although a longer perspective on the impact of the various EU enlargements between and suggests that enlargement indeed reduces the speed of decision-making, 15 studies of eastern enlargement in particular demonstrate that on the contrary, the speed even increased slightly. Notwithstanding the continuity in the quantity of legislative output, there are indications that the nature and quality of decision-making has changed after eastern enlargement.

There appears to have been a drop in the proportion of salient or innovative legislation, with less debate in the Council and the Commission and more negotiations in closed-door meetings between the Council and the EP. However, Council decision-making is neither characterised by a new east-west divide, nor have votes become more contested than prior to enlargement. Indeed, concerns about the ability of the post-communist countries to apply the large body of EU law, the acquis communautaire, were a main reason for scepticism about the desirability of eastern enlargement.

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In turn, the EU made progress towards accession conditional on progress with alignment. At the same time, a key finding of these studies raises concerns about the durability of compliance after accession. This finding implies that there might be a temporal limit for EU conditionality to sustain domestic reforms once accession changes the incentive structure for the governments of the new member states. Such leverage is obviously much weaker than the threat of withholding membership altogether. Data on infringements of EU law by the European Commission suggest that the new Member States perform not only better on average than the old Member States.

Most of the new Member States have a better compliance record than almost all of the old Member States. The new members also correct incidents of detected non-compliance cases faster than the old members, and are significantly less likely to be referred to the ECJ by the Commission for continued non-compliance. A more sceptical interpretation of these findings is that the good record of the new members relies primarily on good formal transposition of EU law into national law, but that it contrasts with serious problems when it comes to the practical application of EU law on the ground.

By the same token, however, another study of practical implementation in a somewhat larger number of policy areas and Member States cautions against generalising from the area of social policy about compliance in the post-communist member states.


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It concludes that while practical implementation in post-communist members is prone to more shortcomings than formal transposition, these problems are not of a different nature and on a different scale than the ones encountered in western and southern Europe. Instead, the negative impression about the preparedness of the two countries for membership is mainly based on their lack of progress with regard to issues that the EU continues to monitor regularly through the so-called Cooperation and Verification Mechanism CVM.

It entails annual monitoring by the Commission of progress with regard to the reform of the judiciary, the fight against corruption, and against organized crime. However, these issues are not as such part of EU law; 24 the Commission does not monitor them in the other older Member States and decided against proposing the use of CMV when Croatia joined. Another sense in which the earlier eastern enlargement might have negatively affected current attitudes towards further enlargement is through immigration. Concerns about labour migration from poorer eastern Member States not dissimilar to concerns in the original EEC about migration from Italy to the other five members led the incumbent Member States to reserve the right in the accession treaties to suspend the free movement of workers for up to seven years after accession.