Portugal and the EU’s Eastern Enlargement: A logic of identity endorsement

Martijn Schukkink, Arne Niemann


This paper addresses the puzzle of why Portugal has consistently supported the EU’s fifth enlargement. We argue that standard explanations, based on welfare maximisation, geopolitics, or rhetorical action, cannot persuasively account for this policy choice. Instead, we advance an alternative explanation – subsequently referred to as ‘identity endorsement –that is based on a logic of appropriateness where behaviour is shaped by aspects of similarity and congruence, and where the development of Portuguese identity has constituted what has been perceived as appropriate in the context of Eastern enlargement. We argue that EC/EU membership has provided Portuguese political elites with a renewed collective identity, in which a choice for membership has been equated with a choice for democracy, stability and openness. Portuguese support for Eastern enlargement has consistently been based on these concepts that originated from Portugal’s own period of accession negotiations. By fully supporting Eastern enlargement, Portugal could act together with the ‘European core’, and Portugal itself would become more ‘core’, i.e. more European. For Portuguese political elites, supporting Eastern enlargement thus constituted an act of ‘identity endorsement’, i.e. the confirmation, (re-)production and reinforcement of existing identity constructions. We tentatively suggest that the notion of identity endorsement may also shed light on other empirical puzzles related to European integration.


Central and Eastern Europe; democracy; discourse; enlargement; European identity; Europeanisation; identity; Portugal; post-Communism; sociological institutionalism; political science

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