The EU, NATO and the Integration of Europe: Rules and Rhetoric

By Frank Schimmelfennig | Go to book overview

Introduction

The study of enlargement: political relevance and
theoretical neglect

Eastern enlargement is a defining process in the international politics of the New Europe. Since the end of the Cold War, the major West European regional organizations – the European Union (EU), the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and, to a lesser degree, the Council of Europe (CoE) – have become the fundamental institutional structures in the “architecture” of the new Europe. They have developed into the centers of gravity in pan-European institution-building and into the dominant loci of decision- and policy-making for the entire region. The borders of these organizations have replaced the East–West line of the Cold War as the central cleavage in the European system. “Europe” has increasingly come to be defined in terms of these organizations, the “Europeanization” or “Europeanness” of individual countries has come to be measured by the intensity of institutional relations with these organizations and by the adoption of their organizational values and norms.

Immediately after the dissolution of the Eastern bloc, all European organizations began to create a diversified array of institutional relationships with the Central and Eastern European countries (CEECs) – reaching from observer status to some form of association.1 A few years later, the Western organizations set out to expand their membership to the East in the biggest enlargement rounds in their history. The membership of the Council of Europe grew from fourteen to twenty-two members between 1950 and 1988. Since then, it has doubled. Both the EU and NATO made their principal decisions on Eastern enlargement in 1997.

At its Madrid summit in July 1997, NATO invited the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland to become members; they joined in May 1999. At its November 2002 Prague summit, NATO embarked upon a further

1 The “Central and Eastern European countries” are defined here as the European successor states of the Soviet Union and the other formerly communist states in Europe.

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