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ECPR Journals Virtual Special Issue

Why Poland but not Ukraine? How we Learned the Wrong Lessons from the Case of the European Union's Eastern Enlargement and the Pitfalls of Comparative Research Design

Europe (Central and Eastern)
European Union
Antoaneta Dimitrova
Departments of Political Science and Public Administration, Universiteit Leiden
Antoaneta Dimitrova
Departments of Political Science and Public Administration, Universiteit Leiden

This paper aim to reassess the last enlargement taking into account the methodological challenges inherent in doing research in groups of similar cases in a quasi-experimental design. A rich and varied body of research exists on the last enlargement, its course and effects, a multitude of ‘Europeanization East’ processes. While there are dissenting voices, the majority of studies conclude that the EU was quite successful in promoting reform in candidate states and guiding them to become, albeit sometimes imperfect, democracies and market economies. The EU policy makers learned that lesson too, from research and practice: conditionality worked and the enlargement process (not so much the outcome) was designated the Union’s most successful tool to promote its values, norms and rules abroad and to support stability and prosperity in the region. Yet since 2004 the EU itself is suffering from a host of criticism about new member states and future enlargement, sometimes called ‘enlargement fatigue’. Governments and parliaments in aspiring member states like Bosnia and Herzegovina, candidate states like Macedonia and partner states such as Ukraine are not adopting EU promoted reforms and recommendations. Negotiations with several key neighbours have stalled or even failed. The paper tries to examine the conditions and variables which have converged in the last enlargement and identify the key variation along several dimensions that may be responsible for the EU ‘losing’ its attractiveness and transformative power.
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