Croatia and the European Union: A social constructivist perspective

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Series Details Vol.27 No.2, June 2006, p101-114
Publication Date June 2006
ISSN 0144-2872
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The liberal intergovernmentalist approach, with its emphasis on rational state behaviour in terms of optimizing economic benefits, through an asymmetric bargaining process, with state preferences shaped by domestic societal pressures, does not sufficiently explain Croatia's enthusiasm for European Union (EU) integration. This article advances three main arguments in support of this position. Firstly, it argues that the liberal intergovernmentalist approach is based on the analysis of the five major treaties which have characterised history making decisions in the EU and hence it privileges the perspective of ‘important’ states and is not equipped to explain the behaviour of Eastern European candidates and aspirants in the enlargement process. Secondly, it further argues that liberal intergovernmentalism does not take into account factors directly conditioning Eastern enlargement, least of all the Copenhagen criteria of 1993, which explicitly placed political criteria as the primary condition for starting accession negotiations. Finally, liberal intergovernmentalism overlooks another important element – the psychological factor of being a ‘part of Europe’, geographically, historically and culturally therefore wanting to belong. To overcome this weakness, social constructivism is presented as a valuable analytical tool for understanding the dynamics of European integration.

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