Coming together or drifting apart? The EU’s political integration capacity in Eastern Europe
This contribution assesses the EU’s external political integration capacity: its ability to promote democracy and governance effectiveness in non-member and new member states. Based on macro-quantitative data, we examine the political trajectory of Central European, South-east European, and post-Soviet countries. We find that democracy and governance effectiveness have improved overall in the past 20 years. However, Eastern Europeans have been moving on distinct sub-regional paths and have been unable to catch up with the old member states. Our analysis of the EU impact shows a robust effect of EU accession conditionality. By contrast, we do not find a systematic effect of conditionality in the absence of membership incentives. Once countries become members, the EU’s political integration capacity weakens, too. Finally, we observe that the EU has a stronger effect on governance effectiveness than on democracy.