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Accession's Democracy Dividend: The Impact of the EU Enlargement upon Democracy in the New Member States of Central and Eastern Europe

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One of the main factors in ensuring the widespread support for accession to the European Union amongst the various populations of Central and Eastern Europe is the perception that it will serve to entrench and strengthen the process of democratisation after the fall of Communism. The purpose of this article is to examine this claim, that accession will provide a ‘democracy dividend’ in this fashion. To this end, the article begins by examining the political conditionality of the accession process, and the extent to which the process of democratisation can be understood as a result of ‘external’ pressures. It also discusses the extent to which the effectiveness of political conditionality is likely to survive after the accession takes place. The article then moves on to consider the effects of accession upon democracy in the states of the region by looking in detail at three areas that have been particularly important: the role of national parliaments, the new constitutional courts, and the tendency towards decentralisation and regionalism. The article concludes by noting that, although not all of the developments discussed are necessarily good for democracy in the region, the real dividend coming from the accession process lies in the fact that, on a macro-level, membership in the EU will make the democratic transition in Central and Eastern Europe practically irreversible.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Department of Law, European University Institute, Florence and Faculty of Law, University of Sydney

Publication date: July 1, 2004


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