Democracy promotion and safeguarding after accession: Does the EU matter?

Lady Justice

Democracy promotion and safeguarding after accession: Does the EU matter?

Tuesday, 7 March 2023 - 5:00pm to 6:45pm
Seminar Room, European Studies Centre
Eli Gateva (DPIR, Oxford)
Jonathan Scheele (SEESOX)
Othon Anastasakis (St Antony’s College, Oxford) and Mihail Chiru (DPIR, Oxford)

In person and online.

If you choose to attend online, please register with Zoom.

Democracy is one of the founding values of the European Union (EU) and a guiding principle in its external relations. In the course of the Eastern enlargement, the Union emerged as one of the major democracy promoters. However, the assaults on democratic institutions in some EU member states have undermined the assumption about the positive impact of EU membership on democratic consolidation and sparked a lively discussion whether the Union can safeguard democracy. The EU’s responses to democratic backsliding have attracted a lot of scholarly attention, however, research remains largely confined to the study of sanctions. With the aim to reorient the debate, the article proposes a novel framework to study the EU’s impact after accession and analyses the influence of the Union on democratic reforms in Bulgaria and Romania. Both countries are fascinating cases to explore. Upon accession in 2007 they became the only member states subject to post-accession monitoring through the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism (CVM). Conceived as a short-term instrument to address several ‘outstanding issues’ in the areas of judicial reform and the fight against corruption, the mechanism is yet to be revoked. Despite the limited sanctioning power of the CVM, the trajectories of Bulgaria and Romania have diverged. Thus, challenging the perceived wisdom that EU interventions only matter before accession. The article advances the argument that identifying and exploring the key mechanisms through which EU membership can empower and constrain domestic actors is critical to understanding the differentiated impact of EU democracy promotion and safeguarding.

Eli Gateva joined the Department of Politics and International Relations at Oxford in July 2020, having previously held academic posts at the University of Manchester, Queen Mary University of London, University of York and University of Nottingham. She was a Visiting Fellow at the LSEE – Research on South Eastern Europe based at the European Institute of the London School of Economics and Political Science (2015-2017). She is a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. Her main research interests include European Union politics, EU conditionality, EU Enlargement policy, democracy, East European Politics and anti-corruption policies. She has recently contributed to Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Politics. Her monograph European Union Enlargement Conditionality (Palgrave Macmillan, 2015) explores the nature and evolution of EU enlargement conditionality. Her current research analyses the impact of post-accession conditionality on the quality of democracy in EU member states.

Othon Anastasakis is the Director of South East European Studies at Oxford (SEESOX), Direstor of the European Studies Centre (ESC), and Senior Research Fellow at St Antony’s College, Oxford. He is Associate at the Department of Politics and International Relations; Affiliate of the Centre for International Studies; Affiliate of the Oxford School of Global and Area Studies (OSGA); former Director of the European Studies Centre, St Antony's College, Oxford (July 2012-October 2015). He teaches “South East European politics and European integration” for the OSGA and “EU politics” for the Department of Continuing Education, Oxford. He is currently the Principal Investigator of two research projects: “Greek Diaspora Project at SEESOX”; and the OX/BER funded “Migration Diplomacy and Turkey-EU relations”. He is also an Adjunct Professor at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada; Region Head of Europe in Oxford Analytica. His research interests include Balkan comparative politics, global and regional geopolitics, transition and democratisation in Southern and South Eastern Europe, Greek foreign policy, Greek-Turkish relations, European populism and extreme right, Russia in South East Europe, Greek and South East European diaspora, Turkey and the EU, Turkish foreign policy in the Balkans, EU’s enlargement.

Mihail Chiru is a Departmental Lecturer in Politics in the Department of Politics and International Relations and a Tutor at Christ Church College. He received a PhD (awarded Summa Cum Laude) in Comparative Politics from the Central European University. Before joining DPIR, Mihail was a Departmental Lecturer in East European Politics at Oxford School of Global and Area Studies (OSGA). He previously taught at the University of Southampton and at the Central European University and conducted postdoctoral work at UCLouvain (Belgium) and Median Research Centre (Romania). His current research focuses on two agendas. The first assesses the responses of the European Parliament to the democratic backsliding crises in several EU Member States and whether backsliding has contributed to the consolidation of an East-West cleavage in the EU. The second research agenda is centred around the evolution of programmatic linkages between citizens and political parties in Eastern Europe. His work has been published in journals such as Journal of European Public PolicyJournal of Common Market StudiesParty Politics or European Union Politics.