The European Union and Democratization

By Paul J. Kubicek | Go to book overview

4

The European Union and Romania

The politics of constrained transition

William Crowther

The post-communist political transition in Central Europe has been the subject of nearly continual debate among scholars interested in the process of democratization during the course of the past ten years. Analysts have argued over such issues as the importance of institutional versus cultural factors, the impact of the character of the transition, and the relative weight of internal and external variables in shaping democratization. If anything has become clear through the accumulation of comparative research, it is that the processes involved are highly complex, and that uni-dimensional approaches fail to provide adequate explanation of outcomes. This chapter examines the role of the European Union's (EU) efforts to promote democratization in Romania's post-communist transition. It argues that the European Union, along with other international actors, has in fact exerted substantial influence over the direction of Romanian domestic politics. This influence, however, must be seen as one element among many that have interacted to produce what has been a particularly problematic road toward democratic consolidation. In particular, the circumstances of the immediate post-communist transition, the political configuration that this produced, and Romania's distinctive political culture stand out as key factors in the transition process.

That Romania is in fact a case of difficult democratization is if anything "over-determined." It is often cited as an archetypical example of the problems that beset the post-communist countries. The absence of independent associations; political culture shaped by long-term Ottoman occupation and a predominantly Orthodox religious tradition; a low level of economic development; and a highly repressive communist experience all argue against a smooth democratization process. The country's abrupt and violent overthrow of its communist leadership also predispose it toward an authoritarian successor regime.

Yet counter to these influences are strong impulses in the opposite direction. First, the lodestone of Romania's foreign policy strategy since the early transition period has been integration into Western economic and security structures. Along with this has been the effort to construct a network of international relationships designed to bolster security and advance

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