The Context, the Actors and the Effects of the Eastern Enlargement of the European Union

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Abstract

This paper deals with the conceptualization of the European Union (EU) Eastern enlargement. The author shows to what extent it is necessary to analyze the Eastern enlargement in the context of the already completed EC/EU expansion, and to remind the reader of the often overlooked connection between the processes of enlargement and those of integration deepening. The characteristic features of the eastwards EU enlargement, including the difference between the general factors of expansion and the specific features of Eastern enlargement are also demonstrated, with special attention paid to the nature and the position of the actors and the supposed effects of enlargement. In the conclusion, the author defines, based on the analyses, some of the research perspectives that should be observed in further political science research.

1. Introduction

Although the enlargement of the European Union (EU) is one of the most topical whole-European political subjects, the phenomenon of the "enlargement" itself is inseparably associated with the progress of the European Community (EC), and later the EU, from their early beginnings. The process of European integration is irrevocably linked with EC/EU enlargement, and is formed in a far-reaching manner not only by single and narrowly conceived enlargement acts, but also by the context, aspects, and consequences that accompany each enlargement. This is also the case with the phenomenon comprehensively called the EU Eastern enlargement. It is apparent that the research on this complex process presents a very contemporary research challenge. It is needless to add that at the same time, it is - from a theoretical and methodological point of view - a very complex topic, which is often underestimated.

This point of view will enable us to understand the main motive of this article. This essay is directed at the conceptualization of the issues of Eastern enlargement of the EU. Its objective is to prove to what extent it is necessary to analyze the Eastern enlargement in the context of the already completed EC/EU enlargement, and to remind the reader of the often overlooked connection between the processes of enlargement and the processes of integration deepening. The characteristic features of the eastward EU enlargement, including the differences between the general factors of expansion and the specific features of Eastern enlargement are demonstrated, with special attention paid to the nature and the positions of the actors and the supposed effects of enlargement. The conclusion defines, based on the analyses, some of the research perspectives that should be observed in further political science research.

2. The Connection of the Integration and Enlargement Processes

Three different interconnected forms of the enlargement - of the physical area, of the political and economic influence, and of the EC/EU (former EEC) power relations - can be distinguished in a general sense. 1) The most liberal form of enlargement is the cultivation of special bilateral agreements or treaties with the groups of countries; these treaties are aimed at the strengthening of the regional and global influence of the Communities (this form includes e.g. the special relations with Russia and the treaties with African countries). 2) The second, narrower form of enlargement consists in increasing the number of "associate" members. The adoption of the association agreements often represents preparation for future full EU membership, but in no case does the associate membership exclusively serve this purpose. The increase in the number of associate members may be aimed at the creation of substantial relationships with the countries bordering the anticipated or already existing EU area (North African countries), or it might act as a certain compensation for the countries that are applying for membership, but that are not expected to enter the EU, even in a long-term perspective (Turkey). …