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Political Science in Europe

Membership and Conditionality Effects on Democratic Development

Europe (Central and Eastern)
Comparative Politics
European Union
Nicole Lugosi
University of Alberta
Nicole Lugosi
University of Alberta
Lori Thorlakson
University of Alberta

This paper focuses on the polity dimension of Eastern enlargement in the EU and the broad processes of democratic development and consolidation both leading up to and following from membership. How has enlargement affected democratic development in new member states, including the role and functioning of intermediary institutions and relations between state and society? What theoretical tools might we identify to better assess the success of democratic practice in new member states?

Drawing from both literature on conditionality and democratic development in the postcommunist member states and candidate countries, we contrast the effects of conditionality and membership on democratic development. This dual focus is important because the leverage of conditionality might exert pressures that operate differently—and in different directions—from the pressures generated by EU membership.

While the conditionality literature is well-suited to evaluations of institutional performance, it offers little guidance to attempts to assess the foundations of democracy including intermediary associations and relationships between state and society, such as value orientations, citizen engagement and political parties. Assessing these underpinnings is difficult, not least because of the complexity of the task of developing meaningful indicators of democratic performance. We also focus on how the experience of EU membership can affect democratic development. For instance, the EU as a polity, and the process of EU integration is marked by its emphasis on elite centered decision-making, low transparency and low public engagement (Raik, 2004; Grabbe, 2001).

This paper is conceptual. Using the cases of the postcommunist member states of the EU, it aims to generate a typology of conditionality and membership impacts on democratic development. This task involves the careful development of indicators of democratic success and backsliding that are informed by a broad understanding of democratic theory and practice.
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