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The effects of the Eastern enlargement, the biggest so far, are still felt across the European Union (EU). Many warned the EU was about to overreach the limits of its integration capacity. More than a decade later, this book presents a broad-based and systematic evaluation of the 2004–2007’s enlargement and its impact on the EU.
In contrast to widespread scepticism, our results show that the EU’s integration capacity has been strong. Credible accession conditionality and pre-accession assistance have had a positive impact on democracy, governance capacity, and economic transformation, at least before accession. After accession, EU institutions have proven resilient. Eastern enlargement has not affected negatively the legislative capacity of the EU. It has not led to a deterioration of compliance and implementation of EU law either; initial differentiated integration has quickly returned to normal levels.
This generally positive assessment stands in stark contrast with increasing public opposition to future EU enlargements. We identify some less known sources of such opposition: the lack of communication and political debate about enlargement between EU leaders and their citizens. Public opposition undermines the credibility of EU conditionality, which is crucial for having a positive impact on neighbouring countries in the future.
The chapters in this book originally appeared in a special issue in the Journal of European Public Policy.