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Divide and conquer: the EU enlargement's successful conclusion?

David L. Ellison ()
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David L. Ellison: Institute of World Economics, Centre for Economic and Regional Studies, Hungarian Academy of Sciences

No 161, IWE Working Papers from Institute for World Economics - Centre for Economic and Regional Studies- Hungarian Academy of Sciences

Abstract: More conventional analyses of EU accession suggest that the Central and East European countries have successfully completed a lengthy negotiation process and won the ultimate prize – EU membership. The analysis presented in this paper is more critical of this view. It focuses in particular on some of the more problematic features of the final EU membership agreement, as well as the potential for future change from within the New Europe. Focusing in particular on bargaining outcomes with respect to the CAP and the Structural and Cohesion Funds, the EU accession process has led to an agreement that is fundamentally slanted in favour of the Old Member States. While the New Member States can claim marginal gains from this process – they do receive some CAP and Structural and Cohesion Fund payments – the “discrimination gap” is large and significant. Moreover, the imbalance in the distribution of resources is likely to have a market distorting effect on the fortunes of the New and Old Member States. Weighing these points against the many costs of the accession, this paper questions whether the overall balance for the New Member States is positive or negative. The final section of the paper asks whether the imbalance in the distribution of EU resources can be overcome now that the New Member States are officially in the EU. Given the relative power of states within the EU decision-making framework, this paper argues that the large member states tend to dominate the decision-making process. Reform proposals made within the context of the new Constitutional Treaty do little to resolve this problem. Thus it is unlikely that the New Member States will be able to make substantial progress in resolving this imbalance in the near future (the chances are greater with the Structural and Cohesion Funds, much smaller with the CAP). This paper provides strong support for more traditional intergovernmentalist arguments about what drives decision making within the European Union. Moreover, it suggests that even with EU membership in the New Europe, the basic contours of the decision made at the December 2002 Copenhagen Summit are likely to continue to shape future EU policy debates.

Keywords: EU accession; East European countries; EU membership; CAP. Structural and Cohesion Funds (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2005-07
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