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Conference paper


Geoffrey Pridham ; Department of Politics, University of Bristol, Bristol, United Kingdom

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The author deals with the issue of the impact of the process of accession to the European Union on the democratization of postcommunist countries and investigates whether the policy of democratic conditionality, evolved by the EU in the 1990s in relation to the postcommunist countries, is conducive to the desired objectives. The problem is analyzed on the example of two EU candidate countries, Slovakia and Romania. A more detalied analysis shows that the EU’s method of democratic conditionality has not been precisely spelled out and that the political conditions for EU membership have evolved during nineties. EU representatives have no clear concept of democratic consolidation. The evolution of democratic conditionality has resulted in shifting the focus from the mere formal application of democratic institutions and the protection of human rights (for example, by adopting certain laws or procedures) to the implementation of these institutions and to some long-term goals (for example, the reform of the court system and public administration, anti-corruption campaign, genuine improvement of the position of national minorities). The Slovakian experience during Mečiar’s reign shows that the pressures for the implementation of the political conditions are ineffective if a national government does not consider the EU accession as its top priority. Nevertheless, an indirect impact was felt in the form of a change of the political majority within the electoral body which resulted in the change of the government in 1998. Dzurinda’s government reacted positively to the political conditioning and carried out a series of reforms, despite occasional difficulties in achieving consensus on contentious issues (law on minority languages, administrative reform). In Romania the impact of democratic conditionality was rather negligible before the change of government in 1996; even later it has not brought about a permanent democratic consolidation due to the instability of the centre-right governments that have demonstrated a bigger readiness to fulfil political conditions: primarily to improve the institutionalized child-care system and to provide for a better protection of national minorities rights. The return to power of socialdemocrats in 2000 accelerated democratization, but in general the progress of Romania in the EU accession process has been lacking due to its economic hardships and the ineffectiveness of the state administration. The author concludes that the experiences of both countries confirm the fact that there is a palpable link between the dynamics of the EU accession and the evolution of democracy. EU’s pressures regarding the political conditions may have an immediate impact but are much more efficient when the “stick” of the conditionality is combined with the “carrot” of EU accession in the foreseeable future.


European union, accession states, democracy, democratic consolidation, democratic conditionality, Slovakia, Romania

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