The Eastern Partnership: The burial ground of enlargement hopes?

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Series Details Vol.9, No.4/5, September / December 2011 p448-466
Publication Date September 2011
ISSN 1472-4790
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The enlargement of the European Union (EU) to the East in 2004 and 2007 has triggered new questions on the nature of EU governance. The EU is proud of its enlargement policy, which it considers to be one of the most successful EU policies. It wants to extend the prospect of membership to handpicked candidates, for example, some countries of the Western Balkans, Turkey and Iceland. This offer was not on the table when the request came from aspiring Eastern neighbouring countries. What are the reasons for this differential treatment of aspiring Eastern countries? How can we understand what determines post-2007 EU enlargement? Might enlargement of the EU towards Former Soviet Republics (FSRs), EU ‘Eastern partners’ like Armenia, Georgia, Moldova, Ukraine and perhaps even Belarus, come onto the table any time during the foreseeable future? What would be the determining factors?

Following Pierson's (2000) ‘increasing returns’ theory, we argue that, despite formal refusal from the EU, each country may increase its chances by complying with EU enlargement-type conditionality. These countries’ aspirations may also be favourably viewed if there were external factors that would render their accession more advantageous to the EU.

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