Academic journal article Romanian Journal of European Affairs

Historical Evolution of Conditionality Criteria in External Relations of the EU with CEEC. from the Cold War to the Accession: An Insider's Perspective

Academic journal article Romanian Journal of European Affairs

Historical Evolution of Conditionality Criteria in External Relations of the EU with CEEC. from the Cold War to the Accession: An Insider's Perspective

Article excerpt


The concept of conditionality means that an action, a result or a benefit depends on a specific attitude. It is linked to the idea of conditions that comes from the world of psychology that dictionaries define as "a process in the behaviour of an organism in a particular response that becomes more frequent or more predictable in a given environment, as a result of having associated it with a stimulus or a reward."

The geographical distribution of power in the world establishes certain impositions from some countries on others when that influence is exercised through economic and business conditions on one hand, and politics on the other, either by way of collaboration or by force. In the first case it is due to the imbalance of political or economic power between States and, in the second situation, it is due to situations resulting from conflicts where conditions are included in a peace treaty. A third case of conditionality can be found in the framework of the internal relations of organizations and in this sense it may refer to the criteria of conditionality of the EU in its external relations and, mainly when candidate countries apply for membership.

One should distinguish the concept of conditionality from others that sometimes seem to be related. I mean trade retaliation in the language of international trade policy, where sanctions can affect different areas of international relations: political, economic, scientific-technical, cultural, etc. Conditionality may also have one or more actors in the case of bilateral conditionality, imposed by a state to one or more other states and multilateral conditionality, when the influence comes from an international organization or institution.

We can also talk about internal or external conditionality when we refer to the action of an organization within the framework of their responsibilities towards members of the organization, as it is in the case of the European Union. On the other hand external conditionality refers to autonomous actions in the relations between States. As for the reaction and the effects of applying conditionality to trade and economic relations there is a generally accepted principle that the more developed and powerful the offending State is in its economy, the lesser the effectiveness of sanctions is.

Positive conditionality

Basically the action of conditionality is applied by means of two tools: incentives and sanctions. In the first case we have the example of a positive conditionality when granting benefits, concessions, exemptions or privileges to others in international relations.

These incentives can influence the behaviour of a State in a number of different ways depending on the relationship between both States, although it is possible to impose conditionality criteria in a relationship of equals. Positive conditionality may affect relations between States in order to maintain a status quo or to obtain a convergence with certain goals or specific objectives, mainly in an increase in trade and economic co-operation, although sometimes this involves improving political or military relations. It is clear that a net advantage for only one side does not always occur.

Agreements on trade and economic cooperation with Romania and other agreements with some former COMECOM member countries, like the trade agreement for industrial products signed by the European Economic Community and Czechoslovakia, are among the most significant cases where a clause of conditionality was not included. Nevertheless in the preamble of such agreements there was a reference to the Final Act of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe and the respect for democratic principles and human rights but it was not an essential element of the agreements2. However there is another group of trade agreements and trade and economic cooperation agreements signed with the EEC that included an explicit reference in the agreement as an essential element and this involved only unilateral obligations. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.