Romania Outsmarting the EU’s Smart Power

If ever a test case was perfectly designed for Europe’s smart power, it is the situation of Romania, Bulgaria and Slovakia. These countries break the circularity of the argument over the EU’s transformative power. They were not invited to join the EU after they were successful in their transitions, but rather as their transitions hung in the balance and the power struggle between the old and the emerging elites was far from over. They were invited in the express hope that EU accession would be a strong enough incentive to drive these transitions back on track with greater speed and purpose. And considerable success followed in all three cases, most notably in Slovakia. They managed to accede by the deadline and, despite immediate setbacks after accession, their democratic institutions resisted. Nevertheless doubts persist that their Europeanisation is no more than superficial, lacking any real substance. Romania is a particularly challenging case. It had the worst Freedom House Nations in Transit democracy scores of all EU accession countries, and these did not improve convincingly after joining. According to Freedom House, Romania is still the only accession country on the wrong side of the consolidation dividing line. Even the accession process presented a far from linear evolution: Freedom House downgraded Romania three times during this interval.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *