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When Does the EU Make a Difference? Conditionality and the Accession Process in Central and Eastern Europe



A number of recent studies examining the accession of states from Central and Eastern Europe into the European Union have provided a much more sophisticated understanding of when, why and how the EU shaped, directed and occasionally determined change in the region since 1989. Although acknowledging the EU was at times a motor of change, its power was limited to particular points in the accession process and varied significantly across policy areas. Even in cases such as Slovakia, often used to demonstrate the power of EU conditionality, the influence of the EU on domestic actors and policy change has been exaggerated. The EU's ‘transformative power’ is at its greatest when deciding to open accession negotiations, a finding which has implications for the EU's ability to enact change in Croatia and Turkey.