Compliance in the EU enlargement process: The limits of conditionality

Bernard Steunenberg, Antoaneta Dimitrova


In this article we analyze the effectiveness of EU conditionality. Viewing accession negotiations as a bargaining game, we find incentives to defect exist if the final date of accession is known, but conditions for cooperation prevail if the date is not known. Therefore we find that regardless of domestic conditions, EU conditionality is not equally effective throughout the period of preparation of a candidate for accession. Its effectiveness decreases sharply when the accession date is set and at that stage, as empirical evidence shows, the EU accepts the candidate’s state of reforms as sufficient. This can lead to potential problems with the transposition of EU directives just before and after accession. Our empirical overview shows that by means of breaking the process of enlargement into multiple stages and attaching conditions to the attaining every stage, the EU has aimed to prevent candidates from abandoning reform efforts by increasing their uncertainty about the final date of accession.


enlargement; implementation; game theory; Central and Eastern Europe; political science; law; economics

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