Coming full circle? Differential empowerment in Croatia’s EU accession process

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Series Details Vol.23, No.8, September 2016, p1199-1217
Publication Date September 2016
ISSN 1350-1763
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The process of European integration brings a profound transformation to the political opportunity structure in candidate countries, creating new possibilities for previously marginalized actors. Studying the differential empowerment of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) active in the area of rule of law during and after Croatian membership negotiations, this contribution makes two related claims: on the one hand, Croatian NGOs succeeded in strengthening their position during the final stages of the pre-accession period by actively using new European Union [EU] related opportunities. On the other, an overreliance on EU leverage posed important temporal and substantive limits on NGO empowerment and led to a rapid decline of their relevance in the post-accession phase. These findings shed light on the importance of actors’ strategic choices for the functioning and outcome of differential empowerment, and suggest that both the EU and candidate country NGOs need to place more emphasis on fostering improved domestic practices of civil society inclusion throughout the accession process.

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