The Race to EU Membership

Does the Acceleration Matter?

In: Southeastern Europe
Georgi Dimitrov Department of European Studies, St. Kl. Ohridski University of Sofia, Sofia, Bulgaria,

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Kaloyan Haralampiev Department of Sociology, St. Kl. Ohridski University of Sofia, Sofia, Bulgaria,

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In 2020, the European Commission proposed a new framework of the EU’s enlargement policy, justified by the deficiencies of the Bulgarian and Romanian EU membership. This article provides empirical evidence from the accession negotiation process that Bulgaria and Romania didn’t belong to a common group, separated from the other post-communist societies, which joined the EU in 2004. Our analysis identified several patterns of accession, distinguished by the number of negotiation chapters closed and the pace at which that was accomplished, which are counter-intuitive. They all fall under the rule: exceptional final outcomes are achieved by countries, which accelerated to the greatest extent. The acceleration matters a lot but it didn’t count in the Fifth enlargement. This ought to be remedied in the case of the Western Balkan, since any discrepancy between a country’s performance and its political evaluation hampers the credibility of EU accession, which in turn diminishes pro-European efforts.

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