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ECPR Journals Virtual Special Issue

Distrust Unbound: Perceptions of Corruption on the Path to EU Membership. What Next?

Europe (Central and Eastern)
 
Democracy
 
European Union
 
Presenter
Simona Guerra
University of Surrey
Authors
Simona Guerra
University of Surrey

Abstract
With the fifth enlargement (2004-07), for the first time, the European Union (EU) had set criteria for the candidate countries to accomplish and, although transition periods were applied to some chapters, pervasive corruption linked also to the short term impact of the privatization process affected the EU’s policies towards enlargement and citizens’ perceptions of the EU institutions. Ten years on, the first Central and Eastern European EU member states can have lessons for countries in the region that are poorer or least democratic, as Susan Rose-Ackermann poignantly observed.
This paper examines trust towards national and EU institutions before and after joining the EU. In the post-Communist region, levels of trust towards national institutions are generally lower compared to the European and international ones. Politicians and political parties are the most distrusted actors, undermining the social and political fabric, in particular in countries undergoing the process of democratization. An overview on levels of trust of data from the Eurobarometer and European Social Survey shows that the EU is perceived as more efficient where levels of support are higher; or beforer joining the EU. The long waiting, a controversial membership and the impact of the financial crisis are likely to create distrust towards the EU institutions and more contested debates at the domestic level.
This analysis addresses how this may affect not just the EU’s policies, as democratic conditionality, towards candidate countries, but how it can impact on the quality of democracy in countries undergoing the process of democratization; the final debate, therefore, that this analysis would address is on the role of perceptions and the quality of democracy in Central and Eastern Europe ten years on.
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