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Has EU Enlargement Been, and Will It Continue to Be, a Success? An Evaluation of EU Enlargement's Effects on Policies Pursued by Candidate Countries

Hlavac, Marek (2010): Has EU Enlargement Been, and Will It Continue to Be, a Success? An Evaluation of EU Enlargement's Effects on Policies Pursued by Candidate Countries.

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Abstract

In this paper, I discuss whether enlargement has been a successful external policy of the European Union (EU). In particular, I evaluate the policy’s success based on its effects on the policies candidate countries have pursued. I argue that the prospect of entering the European Union has promoted beneficial democratic, economic and social reforms in candidate countries, and therefore can be judged to have been a success.

I focus on two sets of enlargement rounds where the potential for the EU’s influence on candidate countries’ policies was greatest: the 1980s rounds, during which Spain, Portugal and Greece – three countries with then-recent histories of dictatorship – were admitted; and the 2004/2007 rounds, during which twelve new Member States acceded, mostly from the post-communist Central and Eastern Europe.

I conclude that enlargement has, indeed, been a success: The prospect of entering the European Union (EU) has prompted candidate countries to pursue political, economic and social reforms that have contributed to the consolidation of democracy, to improvements in their human rights records, as well as to the betterment of their market economies. Finally, I discuss whether the enlargement process is likely to continue to be successful in improving the candidate countries’ policies, both in the Western Balkans (the likely next focus of EU enlargement), but also in potential further expansions.

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