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Europeanization and Domestic Compliance:

Arolda Elbasani
European University Institute
Arolda Elbasani
European University Institute
Open Panel

Abstract

Research on post-communist transformations, by and large, holds EU enlargement as a successful attempt of institutional transfer in the candidate countries merging out of communism. While EU proved to be successful in the first wave of enlargement in the East, we know much less about its effects in “borderline” cases that lack the will and/or the capacity to pursue required reforms, thus posing a real challenge to EU institutional transfers. The paper analyses the effects of enlargement in challenging domestic environments focusing in the area of public administration reform in post-communist Albania. Differently from the classic Europeanization literature, the bottom-up approach used here, seeks to bring to the fore the crucial role of domestic agency to download and some times mitigate European modesl in the national arena. Evidence from the case study shows that governing actors have used EU integration as a means to further their strategic goals – they have preferred to talk the talk of reform, including the creation of a new de-politicised model of state bureaucracy, in order to reap the benefits associated with EU integration and broader external assistance. Yet, they tend resist implementation of reforms that curtail the political control of the state and the ongoing system of spoils built throughout the post-communist transition. The EU broad thresholds on administrative reform and the weak association between assessment of reform and rewards have left ample space for the governing actors to merely pay lip service to the administrative criterion while getting full control of a politicized administration.