National Interest, State Power, and EU Enlargement

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National Interest, State Power, and EU Enlargement
and EU Enlargement
National Interests, State Power,
and EU Enlargement
Andrew Moravcsik and Milada Anna Vachudova*
Some fifteen years after the collapse of communism, the uniting
of Western and Eastern Europe through a substantial enlargement of the EU is perhaps the most important single policy instrument available to further a more stable and prosperous continent. Eight postcommunist states have concluded negotiations
with the EU for full membership in 2002, and several more are
poised to do so later. In this article, we seek to outline in the very
broadest strokes the most important structural forces of national
interest and influence underlying the dynamics of enlargement
itself and its future consequences for EU governance. We do not
claim our analysis is comprehensive, only that it seeks to capture
the most significant of the underlying forces in play.
The apparent success of enlargement and the terms on which
it is taking place have surprised many analysts and aroused many
critics. Most commentators treat enlargement as a radical break in
the history of the EU. They find the prospect of enlargement itself
mystifying and invoke idealistic motivations on the part of European governments to explain it. At the same time, many criticize
the EU for taking too long to enlarge and for imposing burdensome conditions on the candidates. Still others fear that enlarge-
* We would like to thank Thomas Oatley for his comments and to acknowledge the research
assistance of Marius Hentea and Patrick Toomey. We have deleted many footnotes, including references to work by ourselves and others providing empirical support for the claims
made below. The article draws in particular on Milada Anna Vachudova, “The Leverage of
International Institutions on Democratizing States: The European Union and Eastern
Europe” (Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies [RSCAS] Working Paper No. 2001/33)
(Fiesole, Italy: European University Institute, 2001); and Andrew Moravcsik, “Europe’s Integration at Century’s End,” in Andrew Moravcsik, ed., Centralization or Fragmentation?
Europe Facing the Challenges of Deepening, Diversity, and Democracy (New York: Council
on Foreign Relations Press, 1998). A fully footnoted version is available online at http://
East European Politics and Societies, Vol. 17, No. 1, pages 42–57. ISSN 0888-3254
© 2003 by the American Council of Learned Societies. All rights reserved.
DOI: 10.1177/0888325402239682
ment without substantial federalizing reform will mean gridlock
and crisis for the EU’s institutions.
In this article, we challenge these conventional presuppositions. The EU enlargement process and its likely consequences
for the future are hardly mysterious when viewed from the perspective of national interests and state power—and this viewpoint also offers a more optimistic prognosis for the future. Just
as occurred in the past, leaders of current EU members are promoting accession because they consider enlargement to be in
their long-term economic and geopolitical interest. While some
interest groups in current member states oppose enlargement
because they will bear a disproportionate share of the short-term
costs, the EU bargaining process is working this out much as it
has prior conflicts about the uneven distribution of the costs of
integration projects that are beneficial overall. East European
states take part in the laborious accession process because EU
membership brings tremendous economic and geopolitical
benefits—particularly as compared to the uncertain and potentially catastrophic costs of being left behind as others move forward. While the candidates have had to comply with the EU’s
requirements and acquiesce to certain unfavorable terms, EU
membership has remained a matter of net national interest. On
balance, the sacrifices demanded of them seem entirely in keeping with the immense adjustment, and the immense benefits,
involved. Most requirements, meanwhile, have motivated East
European governments to implement reforms that improve the
state and increase aggregate economic welfare.
Looking forward to the consequences of enlargement, we find
little reason to predict that enlargement will cause the gridlock of
EU institutions or, indeed, that it will significantly change the
course of European integration at all. The applicant countries are
numerous, backward, and diverse—and indeed their bargaining
power will increase once they are members. Yet as they are
absorbed into the EU’s decision-making process, new members
are likely to do little more than reinforce existing trends in EU
politics, such as growing conflict over the budget and increasing
cooperation outside of the first pillar.
East European Politics and Societies
Negotiating enlargement
Each previous round of EU enlargement has gone through a parallel and predictable negotiation process. In these rounds, applicant countries have consistently found themselves in a weak
negotiating position vis-à-vis their EU partners and accordingly
have conceded much in exchange for membership.
To see why, it is helpful to introduce a few insights from basic
bargaining theory. In interstate negotiations involving the EU,
relative bargaining power tends to track relative preference
intensity—one key element in the “liberal intergovernmentalist”
theoretical synthesis that undergirds many studies of major EU
bargains and of international cooperation more generally. The
logic is straightforward: those countries that gain the most by
engaging in more intense interstate cooperation—more precisely, those for whom cooperation is most attractive relative to
unilateral (or mini-lateral) policy making—have the most intense
preferences for agreement. They are thus willing to compromise
the most on the margin to further it. In the language Robert
Keohane and Joseph Nye introduced to international relations
theory, interstate bargaining outcomes reflect patterns of “asymmetrical interdependence”—all other things equal, more “interdependent” countries tend to benefit more from liberalizing mar1
kets and are, thus, willing to make concessions to do so. Within
the EU, such beneficiaries tend to be (all other things equal)
those countries that are smallest in gross national product (GNP)
terms, for which the increased economies of scale of entering the
European market are of greatest marginal significance. The existence of distinct comparative advantages in relevant export sectors further shapes their specific interests. Once the back and
forth of negotiation is complete, the subjective sense for such
countries is often of having bargained poorly, because they are
forced to make disproportionate concessions during the negotiations. Yet in fact this is a function of the large overall net benefit to
them, which also swiftly compels ratification and implementation of the resulting agreement.
1. Robert O. Keohane and Joseph S. Nye, Power and Interdependence (Boston: Little, Brown,
National Interests, State Power, and EU Enlargement
The negotiation of the original Treaty of Rome during the mid2
1950s, one of us has argued, offers a striking illustration. Just as
the logic above would predict, the country whose foreign minister had initially proposed the customs union and that benefited
the most per capita from its realization, the Netherlands, was
forced to make the greatest concessions on the margin to achieve
agreement. The result was that the treaty was viciously criticized
by Dutch politicians and the public—more so, perhaps, than in
any other of the six original member states, even though (or precisely because) nonratification by the Netherlands was never a
realistic option. The obverse case in the 1950s was that of France,
which, as Alan Milward and others have shown, achieved almost
all of its negotiating goals in large part because, as a large and
macroeconomically uncompetitive country, French nonratifi3
cation was a realistic possibility up until the final moment. Add
to these structural economic realities a general German tendency
to be somewhat more forthcoming to cement geopolitical alliances—a constant of European integration until, and beyond,
1989—and bargaining outcomes within the EU are close to what
basic bargaining theory predicts.
Since the beginning, this same pattern has characterized EU
bargaining over enlargement. Specific interstate concessions and
compromises have tended to reflect the priorities of the EU’s core
countries, and disproportionately the most powerful among
them, even as more peripheral countries benefit as much or more
overall. Enlargement negotiations with Britain, Ireland, Denmark, Greece, Spain, Portugal, Sweden, Finland, and Austria
track this pattern. In each case, bargaining demands by applicant
countries for recognition of their particular circumstances were
stripped away one by one until a deal was struck that disproportionately reflected the priorities of existing member states. Thus
Britain in 1973, though relatively poor, ended up a large net contributor to the EU budget. Ireland, Denmark, Greece, and Spain
were subsequently forced to accept agricultural arrangements
2. Andrew Moravcsik, The Choice for Europe: Social Purpose and State Power from Messina to
Maastrich (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1998), 60-67, 86-158, 479-85.
3. Alan Milward, The Reconstruction of Western Europe, 1945-51 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984), 220; Moravcsik, Choice for Europe, 148.
East European Politics and Societies
not particularly well suited to their particular comparative advantages, and often involving lengthy transition periods, and no special financial benefits. In the 1990s, the enlargement to include
Sweden, Finland, and Austria imposed full membership on countries that initially sought greater market access in the context of a
less comprehensive commitment.
So it has been, and so it is likely to remain with the current
applicants from Central and Eastern Europe. EU member states
and the eastern applicants will both benefit from the basic fact of
EU enlargement, but the applicants will benefit more and thus
desire it more. This asymmetry of interdependence and thus power
is evident from the simple fact that the collective GNP of the next
ten applicants for membership totals no more than 3 to 5 percent
of the fifteen current EU members (the EU-15)—less than any
other enlargement of the EU except lone Greece. This is roughly
the weight of Mexico’s economy as compared to that of the
United States.
Since 1990, the expected political consequences of this fundamental asymmetry have been evident. They are clearest in the
form of the preaccession process, in which applicants must satisfy the Copenhagen criteria and adopt the EU acquis in its
entirety to qualify for membership. Until recently, the negotiations have been little more than a process of checking that the
candidates have adopted EU law, chapter by chapter and page by
page. The requirements are massive, nonnegotiable, uniformly
applied, and closely enforced. The transition from communism
has meant not only building a market economy from the ground
up but also creating a modern regulatory state capable of implementing the EU’s acquis, now far more substantial than during
any previous wave of enlargement. This itself imposes a heavy
burden in the sense that the EU compels new applicants to transpose and implement standards of internal democracy, state
administration, and detailed regulatory protection that the EU-15
have had a half century to accommodate. It also imposes something of a double standard in a handful of areas, chiefly the protection of ethnic minority rights, where candidates are asked to
meet standards that the EU-15 have never set for themselves.
Some EU rules even appear ill considered, unsuited to transi46
National Interests, State Power, and EU Enlargement
tional economies, or ill suited for particular countries. And the
intrusive verification procedures that follow these standards are a
tough blow for national pride.
Yet for the construction of a well-functioning market economy
and a strong, democratic state—long-term goals that are hardly
contested—the requirements for EU membership have been, on
balance, positive. They have promoted valuable reforms: creating an independent civil service, overhauling the judiciary,
improving oversight of financial markets, and blocking bailouts
of uncompetitive but influential sectors. To be sure, applicants
have had to divert their meager public resources from health and
education to implementing an acquis devoted primarily to the
regulation of economic production. Still, locking the applicants
into the EU legal and regulatory frameworks promises to limit
corruption, improve administrative capacity, attract foreign
investment, and altogether facilitate fuller insertion into the EU
and global economy—thereby bringing substantial returns to the
national budget over the long run. Entering the EU is expected to
raise output and growth rates by stimulating entrepreneurship,
foreign direct investment (FDI), and technology transfers.
Studies indicate that because of raised investor confidence, FDI
inflows have been concentrated in those postcommunist states
that are on track to join the EU. One study forecasts long-term
total gains to the new member states ranging from €23 to €50
The economic reforms demanded by the EU, including the
withdrawal of the state from many areas of the economy, do
impose a large adjustment cost on economically and politically
vulnerable countries. Applicants have had to expose industry to
competition from Western firms; sharply decrease state subsidies
to weak sectors; and privatize relatively quickly large enterprises,
banks, and state utilities. Yet many of these reforms are an integral part of completing the transition to market capitalism and
4. Richard E. Baldwin, Joseph F. Francois, and Richard Portes, “The Costs and Benefits of Eastern Enlargement: The Impact on the EU and Central Europe,” Economic Policy 24 (1997):
125-76. See also Heather Grabbe, Profiting from EU Enlargement (London: Centre for European Reform, 2001); and Bartlomiej Kaminski, “How Accession to the European Union Has
Affected External Trade and Foreign Direct Investment in Central European Economies”
(Policy Research Paper 2578) (Washington, DC: World Bank, 2001).
East European Politics and Societies
attracting foreign investment, particularly on the European continent. The absence of EU pressure might well mean much greater
rent seeking by elites in control of “gradual” reforms. Twelve
years on, the evidence is indisputable that the EU frontrunners
that have reformed the most rapidly have also registered the
highest rates of economic growth and suffered the lowest
increase in income inequality—as compared to their eastern and
southeastern neighbors that opted for more gradual reforms after
In recent years, the EU has of course also imposed some more
narrowly self-interested conditions. These are in precisely those
areas where advanced industrial democracies have customarily
crafted such exceptions, not just within the EU but also within the
General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), World Trade
Organization (WTO), and North American Free Trade Agreement
(NAFTA). The applicants have been forced, again in accordance
with our theoretical expectations, to sacrifice some portion of the
benefits of membership over the short and medium term. They
will receive lower (albeit still substantial) subsidies from the
Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and from the Structural and
Cohesion Funds than did the previous poorer applicants. Outlays
from the EU budget to new members have been capped at 4 percent of their gross domestic product (GDP), far lower than their
predecessors. This effectively limits their receipts and protects
those of the richer existing members. The applicants will also have
to accept special provisions related to some areas of European
integration, including long transition periods for certain benefits
such as the free movement of labor and equal access to the EU’s
agricultural subsidies. Finally, elements of the Schengen Accord
will be grandfathered into the treaty, effectively making any
third-country citizens found to be illegally residing in EU countries the financial and legal responsibility of the states, generally
new members, through which they entered the EU. Many of the
special provisions reflect the demands of narrow special interests
or the concerns of voting publics in the existing members.
5. Joel S. Hellman, “Winners Take All: The Politics of Partial Reform in Postcommunist Transitions,” World Politics 50 (January 1998): 203-34; World Bank, Transition the First Ten Years:
Analysis and Lessons for Eastern Europe and the Former Soviet Union (Washington, DC:
World Bank, 2002).
National Interests, State Power, and EU Enlargement
Many view these unfavorable terms of accession as prima facie
unreasonable, but the logic of bargaining outlined above suggests a more nuanced conclusion. The applicants are forced into
concessions precisely because the basic benefit offered to
them—membership—is of such great value. This benefit so outweighs the costs—particularly those of exclusion—that applicants make concessions even when no coercion is threatened.
Take structural funding, for example. In any other context except
one in which even higher transfers have been made, a transfer
totaling 4 percent of the recipient’s GDP would be recognized as
an almost unprecedented act of international solidarity. Such is
the logic of “asymmetrical interdependence.” The only circumstance we can envisage that could perhaps lead to absolute
losses for enlargement countries is one in which the agricultural
sectors of new members were both denied any effective subsidy
and were entirely unable to withstand market pressures from
subsidized products originating in Western Europe. Yet for the
moment, a situation so extreme does not appear to be emerging
from the negotiations.
The puzzle posed by enlargement is thus not so much why the
accession countries are so anxious to enter but why the existing
EU-15 are willing to let them in. Here, too, the final tally of
enlargement’s costs and benefits is the subject of considerable
debate. Frank Schimmelfennig has argued that economic and
geopolitical interests cannot account for the EU’s decision to
embark on such an ambitious and costly enlargement. Instead,
confronted by the power of norm-based arguments, the West
talked itself into a commitment to admit countries that share its
liberal values—and this “rhetorical entrapment” has subsequently sustained enlargement despite the fact that mere association for East European states would have better served the EU’s
6. Frank Schimmelfennig, “The Community Trap: Liberal Norms, Rhetorical Action, and the
Eastern Enlargement of the European Union,” International Organization 55 (winter 2001):
47-80. See also Rachel Epstein, “International Institutions and the Depoliticization of Economic Policy” (Paper presented at the European Consortium for Political Research [ECPR]
Workshop “Enlargement and European Governance,” ECPR Joint Sessions of Workshops,
Turin, Italy, 22-27 March 2002).
East European Politics and Societies
Scholars who consider EU enlargement as a triumph of supranational entrepreneurship or of norms over interests point to the
costs of making East European states full members as opposed to
mere associate members. While there is no doubt that a measure
of idealism played a supporting role in the decision to enlarge,
we would do well to consider the context of national interests
and power. Interstate idealism seems never to be as powerfully
professed as when it runs parallel to material self-interest. Three
points suffice.
1. The overall effect of enlargement is modest. The ten new members, we have seen, represent less than 5 percent of the current EU
GDP and thus can have relatively little impact. Rhetorical idealism
can flourish when the impact is marginal.
2. Distinct material benefits, however modest, accrue to the EU-15.
The candidate countries will add to the internal market 100 million
new consumers in rapidly growing economies. One study projects
that the EU-15 countries will gain about €10 billion from enlargement over the long term, considerably more than the cost to the
EU budget of having the new members.7 Perhaps more important,
the geopolitical stabilization and economic revitalization of the
European borderlands is likely to dampen nationalist conflict and
make illegal immigration more manageable. Some of a more
“Gaullist” persuasion even believe that the EU will thereby gain
greater clout as a geopolitical actor. Rhetorical idealism can flourish when measurable economic and geopolitical benefits are on
3. These benefits come at a more limited cost to the EU-15 than some
initially expected—though, of course, some member states and
interest groups do bear a disproportionate share of those costs.
Industrial trade, for example, already has been nearly fully liberalized with little disruption to the EU’s sensitive sectors, such as
steel and textiles. The safeguard measures allowed for EU producers under the association agreements will thus disappear largely
unnoticed. Agricultural trade also has been largely liberalized with
few disruptions—indeed, it is the candidates that worry about the
dumping of cheap produce after enlargement. Even for some of
the key players that seem to have the most to lose, the costs do not
outweigh the benefits. Germany, for example, with its high unemployment and proximity to eastern labor, may face adjustment
costs in the short term, but along with Austria, it is predicted to
have the highest overall permanent net increase in GDP from
7. Baldwin, Francois, and Portes, “Costs and Benefits of Eastern Enlargement,” 125-76.
National Interests, State Power, and EU Enlargement
enlargement. Rhetorical idealism can flourish when the economic
costs are marginal or sunk.
There is, of course, the visible and controversial matter of sharing the EU’s pricey financial transfers with new members. As we
have seen, agreement on how to distribute monies from the EU’s
Structural and Cohesion Funds, and from the CAP, is almost certain to come largely at the expense of the candidates, whose poor
regions and poor farmers will have to accept a phase-in of transfer payments. The EU will hammer out a compromise between
recipients, contributors, and reformers, much as it has in past
rounds of enlargement. Here there is, however, one wild card.
One cannot exclude a scenario resembling that of Britain in 1975,
when popular rejection of EU membership threatened to trump
net national interest. Even if the new members are better off in
absolute terms, getting into the EU in 2004 with new member
farmers getting much lower payments, Poland in particular
warns that in these circumstances, the referendum on entering
the EU may not pass. This may well afford the candidates some
extra bargaining leverage. To be sure, there will also be losers
among traditional beneficiaries of the CAP in Western Europe.
But here the pressure of enlargement dovetails with the longstanding trend (powered by the fierce desire of several existing
EU members and the EU’s trading partners) toward CAP
reform—a trend that reflects, ultimately, the declining number of
farmers in Western Europe and renewed pressure from net contributor countries like Germany. Again, only rejection by referendum, we believe, could derail the process.
As with the accession countries, the highest costs among the
EU-15 may be political rather than economic. Enlargement is
unpopular with EU voters, many of whom associate it with rising
illegal immigration, international crime, and unemployment.
While there is little evidence that enlargement will contribute
measurably to any of these problems (to the contrary!), EU politicians have nonetheless had to satisfy restive publics. In the short
term, the asymmetry of power between the EU and the candidates in the accession process has made such accommodation
relatively easy: new members will not be allowed to lift their
East European Politics and Societies
internal Schengen borders for many years, they will be required
to reinforce their external borders, and they will wait for up to
seven years after accession before their citizens enjoy the right—
at least in the abstract—to live and work anywhere in the EU.
Before the decade is out, the issue may disappear, as stagnant
population growth in the EU is likely to leave old members
scrambling to attract workers from the new members or third
Overall, there is little reason to believe that enlargement runs
counter to the interests of either existing or new members. Each
is acting in response to structural imperatives predicted by basic
bargaining theory and revealed in the behavior of their EU
Consequences for the applicant countries
This is not, however, the end of the story. Once in, new EU members have tended to do substantially better for themselves, primarily because they can work more effectively within formal
decision-making rules to promote their interests. Membership
effectively reverses the power relationship between core and
peripheral members of the EU. The broad trend in EU politics
over the next two decades is likely to be heavily influenced by
this shifting balance of power.
Again, basic bargaining theory provides an instructive guide.
EU members can enact treaty change only by unanimity. In any
such exercise, therefore, each EU member wields substantial bargaining power vis-à-vis its EU partners. While each is formally
equal, the precise distribution of bargaining power depends on
patterns of asymmetrical interdependence. Specifically, it reflects
the extent to which various countries favor new reforms. (Here
the threat of expulsion from the EU has but a fraction of the credibility of the threat of exclusion from joining at all.) Typically, the
core members and the richer countries have proposed and most
intensely favored new initiatives (e.g., the Single European Act,
the single currency, strong regulatory protection, a common policy on immigration, foreign policy cooperation), thereby casting
the newer and poorer member states in the role of effective veto
National Interests, State Power, and EU Enlargement
players. Small-country veto players, not least new members, are
therefore likely to find themselves in a far more advantageous
position. The result, theory predicts and history confirms, is
likely to be a series of concessions and side payments from core
countries in exchange for the support of others.
Over the years, this power has been wielded by successive
applicants in different ways but with broadly similar consequences. In 1975, two years after the Tory government under
Edward Heath had negotiated British entry—on terms so strikingly unfavorable that Britain, though never a wealthy country by
per capita EU standards, has been a net contributor to the EU
budget ever since—a Labour government under Harold Wilson
called for a referendum. Afraid that the British would vote no,
thereby embarrassing the entire institution and triggering a
wholesale renegotiation, the French and Germans established a
system of regional funding that transferred substantial resources
to Britain. Public-spirited justifications were later concocted, but
Helmut Schmidt was more brutally honest when he referred to
regional policy as a bribe covered only by “swimming trunks
with ‘regional policy’ written on them.” In successive waves of
negotiation, the Greeks, Spanish, Portuguese, and Irish benefited
in similar ways. The “Club Med” countries threatened to block
various initiatives—the Single European Act, the Maastricht
Treaty—unless financial transfers were upped. The result was the
construction of a set of international financial transfers on a scale
unknown since the Marshall Plan. At their height, structural funds
accounted for 8 percent of Portuguese GDP.
There is every reason to believe that the bargaining power of
the eastern candidates will similarly improve once they become
full members, and there is little reason to doubt that they will use
it. Indeed, the veto threat is in many ways likely to be greater than
in the past. The next twelve prospective new members are highly
diverse, but they are also numerous and almost certain to agree
that any financial advantages old members enjoy over them
should be reversed. If they join forces, they will collectively have
the ability to block unanimous votes, such as those on budgetary
8. Moravcsik, Choice for Europe, 258.
East European Politics and Societies
matters. Given that it will be difficult for the EU to settle the budget for 2007 onwards prior to enlargement, the candidates will
already be full members by the time the EU starts the next epic
round of budgetary negotiations. Moreover, they will also be able
to block votes by qualified majority (108/345 = 31 percent) in a
quite unprecedented fashion—a reflection of the radical overrepresentation of smaller countries in the EU system. (If fewer new
members enter in the first round, this threat of course recedes.)
The long transition periods and unequal benefits currently being
imposed on the applicant countries have instructed them that
only by playing tough in EU bargaining can they get a better deal,
just as they learned in the 1990s that only full membership would
give them full access to the EU market. For all these reasons, new
members are nearly certain to deploy their voting power in an
effort to secure a greater share of EU spending. In the next section, we consider to what extent they will succeed.
Consequences for the European Union as a whole
The conventional view is that the increase in the number of member states and the greater diversity of their views will not only create pressure for financial transfers, as we have just seen, it will
also trigger breakdown or gridlock in the EU’s decision-making
process. The proper answer to this threat, many maintain, is more
extensive use of qualified majority voting. While the precise level
of transfer payments is difficult to predict, we argue in this section that wholesale pessimism about the viability of EU decision
making with up to twenty-seven diverse members greatly exaggerates the pitfalls ahead.
Some believe that the prospect of gridlock increases with the
number of actors because the threat comes from the random likelihood of an individual veto under unanimity, which increases
exponentially as the EU enlarges. Yet—the cases of Thatcher’s
9. Interview with Michel Petite, 1998. This back-of-the-envelope argument recurs in many
European Commission publications. For the similar political science orthodoxy on numbers,
see Kenneth A. Oye, “Explaining Cooperation under Anarchy: Hypotheses and Strategies,”
in Kenneth A. Oye, ed. Cooperation under Anarchy (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University
Press, 1986), 1-23. This argument, following the institutionalist paradigm, assumes high
transaction costs—a widespread assumption that we have challenged elsewhere.
National Interests, State Power, and EU Enlargement
Britain under agricultural subsidies, Greece over Macedonia, and
the Irish referendum notwithstanding—the binding constraint on
EU policy making is not generally imposed by the probability of
individual vetoes. Instead, it is imposed by the level of conflict of
interest among blocks of states. Diversity of interest, not the number of members per se, is the real issue.
Can diversity be translated into an effective voting power by
new members acting as a block? This scenario is widely viewed
as the major threat to the functioning of the EU, and it is so
viewed primarily because new members are unlikely to support
great strides forward in European integration. This is indeed
plausible. Even after joining in 2004, they will be working to satisfy the requirements for membership in parts of Schengen and in
the EMU and will hardly be on the lookout for more grands projets. None, moreover, are particularly enamored with the EU’s
supranational institutions. Euro-skepticism is rising among applicant countries that have endured pressure for unpopular concessions in the negotiations and that have received stiff report cards
from the Commission every autumn for almost a decade.
Yet this is unlikely to cause a logjam, let alone threaten the current achievements of the EU, for three reasons.
1. The new members are not all that unruly. Budgetary policy aside,
there is little evidence that they will import divergent or
destabilizing policy agendas into the EU. On most issues they will
instead join existing coalitions. This of course means that certain
voting coalitions will be strengthened. In some areas, such as
immigration, new members and old members tend to see eye to
eye: keeping foreigners out is popular, east and west. Elsewhere
may be some fascinating twists and turns. Poland may turn out to
be France’s greatest nemesis in the competition for agricultural
subsidies, but after entry, Poland could presumably also be
France’s staunchest ally in preserving a generous CAP. At most,
however, this would mean a slowdown in further integration, not
a threat to the existing acquis, since most existing EU policies are
deeply enough embedded in both the laws and societies of the
member states as to be effectively irreversible.
2. Current core member states have no consensual grand projet that
could easily be stalled by the vetoes of unruly new members seeking budgetary side payments. This has been the lesson of three
successive treaty amendment exercises over the past decade. Nor
East European Politics and Societies
would it be easy for new members to employ their voting power
in qualified majority votes to block legislation, since the internal
market is largely complete and legislation moves forward at a
slower pace than ten years ago. Today, EU governments are
instead prioritizing policy areas that lie partly outside of the first
pillar, such as foreign policy, immigration policy, and monetary
3. In precisely these areas of current interest outside of the first pillar—and some within it—flexible institutional mechanisms other
than majority voting can be used to combat gridlock. In recent
years, nearly every major initiative in the EU has involved only (or
has provisions to involve only) a subset of EU members: EMU,
social policy, foreign policy, environmental policy, and so on. The
trend is toward differentiation, flexibility and ad hoc arrangements. In many of these areas—foreign policy and flanking policies to EMU being prime examples—uniformity is not required for
effective policy making. From the perspective of collective action
theory, the EU is more about coordinating “coalitions of the willing” than avoiding “free riding.” Isolationist new members can sit
it out with neutral old members, countries with geographical
interest and expertise can work together—and no harm is done.
Finally, and most cynically, member governments no doubt favor
flexibility, though they do not say so in public, as a means to avoid
placing themselves in a position where poorer countries can
extort financial side payments. Overall, as Heather Grabbe has
argued, flexibility provides an institutional mechanism to ensure
greater decision-making efficiency when “the ability and willingness of member-states to be integrated in the EU’s policies . . . vary
much more than in the current Union.”10
It is tempting—and none too difficult—to construct scenarios
whereby increased diversity will undermine domestic order in
new member states of the EU and thereby undermine the EU’s
common institutions, politics, and culture. But few of these scenarios withstand close analysis. Enlargement is in fact more likely
to reinforce current EU trends toward slower legislative and
reform output; greater budgetary conflict over structural funding;
more pressure to reform the CAP; greater “pillarization” of governance; a stronger Council vis-à-vis the Commission; more
recourse to flexibility and coalitions of the willing; a shift in focus
from deepening to widening; and above all, an emergent “consti10. Heather Grabbe, “The Governance of the EU: Facing the Challenge of Enlargement,” New
Economy 9 (June 2002): 115.
National Interests, State Power, and EU Enlargement
tutional compromise” in which the regulation of much of the
economy is internationalized but social, cultural, educational,
and other policies remain largely national. Die-hard federalists
view this compromise as a prima facie sign of failure; they have
provoked a constitutional convention to re-inspire Europeans to
move the metaphoric “bicycle” of European integration forward.
But it is not a failure. Instead of proving Europe’s constitutional
compromise bankrupt, enlargement reveals its maturity and
durability. This is true both in the sense that further deepening is
no longer necessary to solidify prior reforms and that widening to
include new members, for all of their diversity and backwardness, takes place with relative ease and without a major change
of course. At the same time, the EU will have had a hand in building the most unified, prosperous, and free continent of Europe in
modern history.
East European Politics and Societies
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