Conference Report: Effects of EU Enlargement

TEPSA, in collaboration with its member institutes, organised on 22/23 October 2008 at the Fondation Universitaire in Brussels a conference on “Effects of EU Enlargement”.

Participants included representatives from TEPSA’s member institutes in the new member states (Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Hungary, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovenia) and the old member states (Austria, Finland, Germany, Netherlands) as well as from 3 new member states not yet represented in TEPSA’s network (Malta, Slovakia, Romania). Also present were officials from the European Parliament and the European Commission, as well as a number of diplomatic missions and other organisations.

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The first part of the conference analysed vertical effects of accession on the new member states, particularly in the economic, social and foreign policy fields, and tried to synthesis them. The second part of the conference referred to horizontal effects of enlargement on the EU’s polity and policies from an academic and policy-making perspective. The final session included a presentation of the recently published book “Institutions of the Enlarged European Union”.

The interdisciplinary conference succeeded in its main goal to bring together researchers and practitioners working on the issue of EU enlargement. Speakers from the new member states presented first research results with regard to effects of accession on their respective home countries. Interestingly, a certain accession “fatigue” in the new member states was identified which was explained by the fact that EU membership was a goal itself and a post-accession strategy was mostly not developed. With regard to the European level it was argued that enlargement did not constitute a ‘critical juncture’ for the EU’s institutional framework.

However, it was made clear by all speakers that it is difficult to draw cause-effect links with regard to enlargement and thus to differentiate between enlargement, transformation and adaptation processes. Many global and domestic factors should be taken into account as potential explaining variables as well. Furthermore, it was stressed to differentiate both between short-term, mid-term and long-term trends and country-specifics. For the future, more specialised studies are needed to measure effects of enlargement on specific economic sectors, policies or domestic institutions in the new member states but also in the old member states and the EU’s polity and policies.
Future challenges will be to analyse impacts of enlargement both on the domestic and European level in order to learn lessons for future policy-making with regard to EU enlargements and for the EU’s finalité as well.

Therefore, follow-up conferences on that topic could be planned. The conference’s results will be the object of a publication by TEPSA, also trying to identify future challenges for research and policy-making.

For further information please contact Anne Schmidt (anne.schmidt[at]tepsa.be).

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